Looking out of the Seeing the Light window, the vista changes every day as the city centre of Birmingham is „moved“ eastwards to replace the last bastions of the industrial warehouses and Dickensian hot metal factories, with a library, conservatoire and everything „civilised“. Eastside, the district growing from the fire, is a place of promise, centre of the canal system for the country, once the mode of transport for the raw materials of industry. Now the transporter of live data, with optical cables running through its towpaths, making connections to and from the homelands of the diverse population of the city. Here, soon, will be the district for the creative industries, the showcase of content for traditional and new media product.
As the physical fabric of Eastside comes together, there is nothing more talked of than the look of buildings which lie not yet in the landscape but remain within the imagination. How the creative industries are linked to the look of the place is not a subject many give thought to. Bus as we, the creatives, grapple with the possibility that our products are valued only because of their economic potential, we are perhaps cynical of the ignorance which lies at the heart of many in the public sector.
Who see the economics as the draw to pulling investors, constructors and developers. Who do not realise that without creativity and content, people will not come.
Thomas Kellner’s witty and inventive approach to photographing world famous icon buildings draws on popular culture and familiar genres such as the medieval and the futuristic, as characterised in films and novels.
To us looking to have a show in Eastside, they were the perfect antidote to the plans of many architects. At first glance they entertain and inspire but once past the façade, they ask us question about how we view the world who makes those views and who puts their mark on the landscape.
Simultaneously they question our practice of making “our own photographs” of renowned landmarks, which, within the confines of the still image, means that throughout the world there are millions of duplicates of that picture. It is not “ours” in any other sense than it came from “our” camera.
Rather than adhere to the architects imposed view of how the building appears in the world an so how we render that to film, Kellner tampers with the control mechanisms and adds some anarchic insightfulness to the debates on re-presentation, literally inviting us to unscramble the new puzzles offered by his unique view of the world and its buildings.
Kellner is truly the architect of his own future. Richard Rogers is the architect of our future, as he presents plans for the new Library of Birmingham. How, I ask him, can you grow something without watering the roots which are already in this place? Will it have a hear? He came to see, as did the planner for Eastside. Men of intelligence who can appreciate the questions inherent in this work, which b3ecomes increasingly poignant as the economics of land values and development opportunities replace the appreciation of joy and beauty. (Wilson, R., 2002. Thomas Kellner. In: Next Level 2002, No. 2/02. )