Poolman & Rowe

Visit: www.generalpublic.org.uk

Birmingham-based artists Poolman and Rowe (now known as General Public) are interested in the role that they as artists might fulfill in the city's spaces in a genuinely useful (or occasionally useless) sense. Their usual approach is to develop long-term projects that occur over a period of years. Using strategies such as the public offer or invitation, they try to create spaces in which conversations might occur between contemporary art practice and wider society. The work produced as a result of this sits somewhere between contemporary art, cultural geography, research and colouring-in competition.

For New Expressions 3, Poolman and Rowe have developed Good Money: A Currency Competition for Handsworth, Birmingham. Between August 2014 and February 2015, they ran a competition to find local people to have their profiles cast on the coins (‘Heads’) and designs for the other side (‘Tails’) - a strategy designed to write the local community into the history of the Soho House site. During May 2015, thousands of these coins featuring three contemporary Handsworth ‘visionaries’ - Mykal Brown, Merrise Crooks-Bishton and Bhai Ji Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia - are being handed out into the Handsworth community through schools and local community groups. 

Whilst celebrating the three individuals who have all made contributions to improving the social and physical fabric of Handsworth, the coins have a ‘cultural value’ focused on opening up access to the museum for the local community. The project therefore seeks to find new ways for the local Handsworth community to interact with Soho House and in drawing together past and present narratives of Handsworth - the older history of coin production providing a way to celebrate a contemporary Handsworth – the coins ‘use’ value creates a new relationship between community and institution. 

Visit the artists' website for more information and images of the project.

Poolman and Rowe Profile Image


Chris Poolman (b.Oxford, 1980) and Elizabeth Rowe (b. Leicester, 1974) devise daring and humourous propositions that invite communities to participate in re-imagining their local areas. Between 2011 and 2013, they developed a two-year multi-faceted project in Balsall Heath, the inner city suburb of Birmingham where they lived, called the Balsall Heath Biennale. They are currently curating Longbridge Light Festival 2014 and working with Soho House, a museum in Handsworth, Birmingham as part of New Expressions.