Open Access Walsall
During February 2016 Natalie² exhibited in empty commercial property procured by Hammond Associates. The retail property based in The Old Square Shopping Centre featured an Open Gallery where Natalie² presented their Open Access exhibition. The mixed media installation used dismantled technology, carefully selected threaded books, photography and interview extracts to explore the ongoing issues surrounding digital inequality. The work aimed to unplug the silence about who is able to access digital technology and who is represented through social media platforms. The pieces were inspired by the closure of local public libraries and the reduction of library services, such as those of Birmingham’s new city centre library, where the question of accessibility is forcibly highlighted. The interviews were taken from participants that were either volunteers or service users of Sifa Fireside in Digbeth, Birmingham – a charity that tackles homelessness and alcohol misuse. Natalie² was a multimedia, visual arts initiative led by Dr Natalie Shona Hart and Dr Natalie Linda Jones. Having met while studying in 2011, they were immediately struck by the cross-over between both their arts-based practice, theoretical research and ambition to expose the (almost) unspoken inequalities now growing ever-wider in regards to the social gap. Their work is driven by their mutual determination to probe issues of social inequality, and to highlight the ‘lost narratives’ of everyday, ordinary, life in which the effects of this can be seen. Integrating participation is also, therefore, a crucial aspect of their practice.