Sunday, 26 July 2009


18 - 20 Colegate, Norwich NR4 1BQ
Open 12 - 6pm Tuesday - Sunday
Till 21 August

For those who don't know it Colegate is an architecturally cranky old street in Norwich. It's 400 yards of wobbly buildings of red brick and timber, skewed windows and a mix of social and commercial uses - the elite Strangers' Club for Norwich merchants, the Octogon where I believe you can leave your children to be guarded, a carpet shop in a C19th preacher's hall (that might have gone....) and the splendid Queen Anne mansion that used to house the Broads Authority. This lovely and hefty place has massive elaborate plaster ceilings writhing with burlesque ornament and also bogs, kitchenettes and corridors cruelly stripped back for bureaucratic action.

Outpost has taken over the building for a programme of short residencies to coincide with CAN 09 for 21 European & British artists. Presumabably it's all building up and could be a rewarding visit by the end of their tenure. As yet there's little to see - the homely evidence of work in progress (hammerings, wrapped things). The collective CutUp has put a wall of stained wood pierced by various old speakers obliquely across a room next to the entrance and this works well in the space, responding to size and proportion and giving a sense of life to the house. Elsewhere an artist was starting to unwrap and prepare a table for her castings of cat candles; on the stairs are some attractively aged-looking crimson prints of a building that use lipstick as pigment; in an attic shelves had been put up for a performance involving a meal that moved round the house.

I was however too distracted by the building to get much absorbed by the artwork. Why are the ceiling mouldings so assertively wrought, and who can have thought that to paint the flat bits compost green was somehow in period? How did the City Council (I presume) seperate the lobe of its brain that deals with historic preservation from the lobe that deals with partitioning areas for the making of tea, and get the idea that there is no alternative to formica?

I would like to see in the rest of the residencies more work like the speakers wall that confronts the archtecture and history of the building, and not work that acts like the council and ignores the beautiful elephant that is 18 - 20 Colegate.

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