Arts Review: Spring 2014

Amy Smith looks at a few of the less conventional exhibitions piquing the interests of art communities this spring

Aram Bartholl: Dead Drops

A ‘dead drop’ is the suitably macabre term used to describe the surreptitious transfer of information between spies. Smuggled data would be left hidden at a predetermined location, meaning the two parties would never meet in person. Media artist Aram Bartholl has reclaimed this covert intelligence term for his open source file-sharing project. Starting in 2010, Bartholl cemented USBs into walls, poles and curbs for people to discover, plug into and share their favourite data. The risk of viruses or pornographic images is real, but the beauty of the project is in the trust between strangers and the excitement of hidden treasure. And it has caught on: 1,473 USB locations have now been registered on


Ruth Ewan: A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World

Some scientists believe that humans evolved to sing before we could speak as a way of communicating over distances – sung words travel further and are far easier to decipher than words being shouted – so it should be no surprise that in times of revolt we turn to crafting protest songs. Artist Ruth Ewan has been collecting politically motivated tunes since 2003 for her piece A Jukebox of People Trying to Change the World. Visitors are free to browse through the 2,500+ titles helpfully divided into themed ‘albums’ that include ecology, Central America, slavery and feminism. Sure, there are a few usual suspects, Joan Baez for example, but this expanding catalogue offers such gems as The Cutty Wren, a song attributed to the 1381 Peasant’s Revolt, and possibly the first environmental protest song from 1837, Woodman Spare That Tree!

To submit a song visit


Marvin Gaye Chetwynd at Nottingham Contemporary

The Turner prize-nominated artist formally known as Spartacus Chetwynd (and officially titled Alalia Cichosz) is now to be referred to as Marvin Gaye Chetwynd. These theatrical nom de plumes are in keeping with her live performances: riotous carnivals dripping with cultural references. She keeps rehearsals to a minimum to retain that initial unbridled enthusiasm at the beginning of a project and to allow for improvisation. Her latest solo show will see local volunteers perform in and around a giant pink creature based on Brain Bug, the leader of the bug colony in Starship Troopers (1997), who can steal knowledge from the minds of sentient beings. To top it off, Cousin Itt from the Addams Family will be acting as exhibition guide.

Marvin Gaye Chetwynd runs from Saturday 25 January until Sunday 23 March. For details visit