Balsall Heath Biennale

Cat Gallery

Aisha Khalid / Nathaniel Pitt / David Sherry / Benny + Roger

Balsall Heath has a disproportionate number of feral cats. The combination of a multi-cultural population with contrasting attitudes to cat neutering, the areas large number of fast food restaurants and a persistent vermin problem, ensures that feral cats are prevalent across the area (particularly ginger ones).

The Cat Gallery, a converted front bay window in our house, was something of a homage to the feral cat problem. Expected to sit next to art-work, the galleries occupants were two cats named Benny and Roger whom we took in as feral kittens in 2009. For the Balsall Heath cat born stray who has made it inside, the window occupies a privileged position of power and gloating towards distant relatives beyond the window who haven’t been so fortunate.

The Cat Gallery sought to gently re-introduce the idea of the window display in Balsall Heath. In the late1980s, Balsall Heath was the main prostitution area in Birmingham. At this time, half of the houses on Cheddar Road (100 yards from Cat Gallery) had prostitutes sitting in the windows. The Cat Gallery offered a new kind of local window display with exhibitions by Aisha Khalid and Nathaniel Pitt and a performance by David Sherry as part of the International Open Exhibition.

The History of the Cat Gallery

After almost two years painstaking work, the Balsall Heath Biennale cat team have successfully translated artist Marcel Broodthaers Interview with a Cat, recorded at the Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles, Düsseldorf in 1970. Scholars have long agonised over the cat’s responses to Broothaers question’s (‘Is that one a good painting?…Does it correspond to what you expect from that very recent transformation which goes from Conceptual Art to this new version of a kind of figuration, as one might say?’) and we can now reveal the following: the cat was telling Broodthaers that he should not rest until every house in Belgium featured a ‘Cat Gallery’. Only then would Conceptual Art be complete. For more information on cats in Balsall Heath and contemporary art please see Talks: A Lecture on the Stray Cats of Balsall Heath.