Many & Varied Salon

BOM is co-curating the first Many & Varied Salon on July 3rd in Digbeth. “Put together for the people who don’t fit comfortably into the usual pigeon holes” these Salons aim bring together artists, technologists, makers and other oddballs. BOM Fellow Pete Ashton will be in attendance and here writes a bit about why this fits nicely with why BOM exists.

I first met Nikki Pugh way back in 2008 when she’d been commissioned to develop The Emergent Game about which I shall only say the following: it involved mutating soft toys with electronics and giving then Twitter accounts. Nikki went on to become a good friend but above all she helped me see there could be a bridge between the worlds of Art and Tech and how fruitful that bridge could be.

But that bridge is a relatively lonely place. An artist who also had an engineering degree and could code… well, there aren’t many of them around. Add to that a curiosity about play and games and you paradox of Nikki Pugh becomes clear.

It felt like a big chunk of Nikki’s practice over the last decade was finding other people who she didn’t need to explain herself to, people who would just get it. Many and Varied, which she founded and now co-runs with Katie Day of The Other Way Works, is the latest, and boldest, iteration of this. Rather than wait for a space to emerge that fits her needs, Nikki has been building her own and inviting likeminded people to join her.

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I first met Karen Newman in early 2013 when she was researching what BOM might be. I’d met lots of people who wanted to “sort out” photography in Birmingham but Karen was the first who seemed to have the sense to try and figure out what was needed rather than impose something that might well have worked elsewhere but might not be right for this city. That impressed me.

As BOM moved from a vague idea to an actual physical space in an actual building my understanding of exactly what Karen was doing remained sketchy. And then I started basing my work at BOM. Suddenly it became clear. Karen was curating the people in the building and letting them inform what BOM would be. It’s not a free-for-all – Karen is very much in charge with clear ideas of what should happen, constraining activities to her model where necessary – but in the long term the functionality of this space will evolve to suit the people who use it.

It’s no coincidence that Nikki Pugh is a BOM Fellow. Many of the inaugural Fellows are people who had struggled to find a spiritual, conceptual or social home in the city, and many who get excited by this space see it in those terms. As long as you supports the core mission – a collaborative workspace supporting experimentation at the intersection of art, tech and science – you can do pretty much anything here. Just get on and do it.

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So it’s really nice, if not that surprising, that Karen is co-curating the first M&V Salon next month, bringing Brian Degger to share his knowledge and experience, but ultimately to provide a space where the oddballs and misfits, in the best sense of those words, can feel welcome and have their work taken seriously, no matter how weird it might seem.

Many & Varied Salons are free to attend but please register to secure a place.