Be Festival


2017 – 2018 Call Out

EUROPE: Drawing the Line
Physical and imaginary borders

Applications for the visual arts programme for 2017-18 are now closed and proposals are currently under review. Artists who have applied will be notified in due course.

BE FESTIVAL 2017, 5-9 July 2017

BE-Mix 10-17 July 2017

BE Mix 2017-2018

Each company selected for the Main Programme will nominate one performer to remain in Birmingham for a week and join BE Mix – BE FESTIVAL’s international company-in- residence. They will research and develop a new performance exploring the concepts of currency and value. The results of these first five days will be scratched in front of an invited audience at the end of the week. The piece will then be developed prior to the following festival and premiered at BE FESTIVAL 2018.

Click here for more information on this year’s visual arts programme.

General info

BE FESTIVAL’s visual arts programme takes place over two years. It incorporates the work of UK-based artists (particularly focusing on Midlands artists) and international artists based in Europe. Each two year cycle explores a particular theme. We have a bi-annual open call for:

– UK-based visual artists from different disciplines to present work in the festival hub at Birmingham Repertory Theatre during the festival. The three artists whose work best embodies the programme’s theme will be selected.

– A Europe-based artist to carry out a residency at the festival. The resident artist will come to the festival and draw inspiration from the event and the festival theme. The resident artist will also work with BE-Mix and develop a project during the year that will be presented at the next festival.

BE FESTIVAL’s ethos of ‘crossing borders’ prompts us to explore the shifting notions of what constitutes a border. According to TJ Demos “with the eventual crisis of globalisation and the failure of many of the promises of neo-liberal capitalism, we have seen borders emerge everywhere. For many, that has been a poignant sign of global inequality.”

Borders are new conditions that increasingly define and divide our lives politically, economically, and socially. We could also add artistic and linguistic borders. Classification and labeling are artifices created to define concepts but hence divide them. BE FESTIVAL aims to devise a collective experiment that combines utopian aspirations with critical awareness.

Exploring Borders and Issues

BE FESTIVAL explores the ‘borders’ between performative and visual arts. In this regard, the festival presents performative and visual arts as applied forms inserted in a ‘social sculpture’ (to quote Joseph Beuys) that challenge assumptions about who is performing, who is taking part and who is viewing as part of a holistic and collective experience.

All events take place within Birmingham Repertory Theatre. We turn the theatre back-to-front, transforming the backstage spaces into our festival hub and exhibition spaces. We create a temporal and spatial framework that embodies the ephemeral. Exchange, open-endedness, collaboration, participation and activation are also core concepts of BE FESTIVAL.

In 2011, we pushed our boundaries a little further and opened a call for proposals from visual artists that best embodied the ethos of BE: to cross borders. The programme crossed the borders between ‘plastic’ and ‘performed’ work and explored the cross-fertilisation of ideas between artforms.

In 2011 – 2012, we explored the concept of identity.
In 2013 – 2014, we will explore the concepts of money, transaction and alternative currency.
In 2015 – 2016 we explore themes around democracy and participation in politics in western societies.


UK-based Visual Artist Application
Visual Arts Residency Application
Spaces details

Highlights video of 2011
Essay on 2011 BE Visual Arts Programme
Extracts from The-Unknitted Lives…
Extracts from Suspended
Extracts from BE-Mix work-in-progress
Security Devices by Federico Sancho
Pictures from visual arts programme

2011 – 2012: Identity

The featured artists focused their practice on cultural and national identities and explored identities connected to industrial places, as well as the artist’s role in enabling and reflecting the shift in usage of such places.

Our programme included the renowned Anne Bean, who for over 40 years has undertaken numerous solo and collaborative projects worldwide. Anne offered a public talk and a workshop leading to a performance: The Un-knitted Lives of Young Women, by Anne Bean & KurdishIraqi artist Poshya Kakl. With this performance/action Anne managed to bring Poshya between us, and the two artists collaborated despite being in different countries.
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Film director Nihad Kreševljaković presented his documentary Do you remember Sarajevo? (2002). During the siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1995, several hundred citizens of the city recorded everyday events on their video cameras. It was the first time that European warfare had been documented in this way. Compiled from these materials, the film presents a story of ordinary people in an epoch of genocide and technology.
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From an open call we selected the following artists to present their work:

With the aim of crossing the border between performance art and theatre we selected Suspended by Natasha Davis, and we have included the piece in the main programme.
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Kurdish artist Behjat Omer Abdulla recalls ‘Being in exile is the source of my inspiration. My work developed directly from investigation into ID cards, people’s origins and how they are presented through governmental processes. I use drawing to listen to people’s specific psychological dramas, with the work aiming to show a point of struggle between thought and appearance. I am trying to question the effects and the outcomes of categorization in the system we live in. It is shocking to see how codes and numbers have classified and shaped us within a system that is almost invisible to us.’ Behjat’s displayed his work In Limbo (2010) and New Place of Origin (2009) at AE HARRIS and at mac Birmingham.
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Where is the line between the framing of an action and the creation of a sculptural object which contains activity? Should a stage separate performers from an audience or physically form a link between the two? How near to an object in its own right can a stage get before it fails to enhance the performance? Matthew Foster in View/function/object/target proposed to create a performative container to host the musical component of the festival.
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Finally, for our EUROPEAN ARTIST RESIDENCY, FedericoSancho, Mikel Nieto & María Bobes undertook their project AE Harris Security Devices. This project was developed in collaboration with BE Mix, and proposed a collective response to the industrial activity of AE Harris. The project looked at the relationship between the still working factory and the old one opposite, which contains the festival. ‘To do so, we only need to cross the road and generate that link by researching particular aspects of the location: sound recordings, analyses of the working machinery,feedback from the workers, etc. In order to reinforce this industrial and cultural link, we will put on stage this collective experience using ephemeral tools to generate a meeting between what AE Harris was and what it is.’
˃˃ More info

2013 – 2014: money, transaction and alternative currency

“When Money dries up and there are still needs to be met in society, people come up with creative ways to meet those needs”

    (Peter North, senior lecturer in geography at the University of Liverpool)

BE FESTIVAL’s visual arts programme is a two year cycle exploring a particular theme. In 2013-2014 we aim to gain insights in to concepts such as money, value, transaction and alternative currency. We propose a laboratory where artists from different disciplines and cultures can explore the conjunction of arts, politics and economics, in an attempt to find innovative and experimental strategies that challenge obsolete systems and dominant conventions. More than ever, art practice has to be critically analytical and creatively emancipating, in order to question the world we have been sold and why we have bought it. It is at times like this that art must come into its own to inspire new alternatives.

BE FESTIVAL proposes both a space in which ideas around money and its alternatives can be interrogated, and an innovative model for non-commercial artistic production. As in previous years, the success of the festival will rely hugely on alternative currency. Organisations will offer physical and human resources; local residents will offer their time, energy and space; artists will offer their work and ideas. And we will offer valuable alternative currency in return: professional development and skills training, new encounters and collaborations, exposure to new work, a lasting legacy.

BE FESTIVAL aims to devise a collective experiment that combines utopian aspirations with critical awareness. With this purpose, we open a bi-annual call for project’s submissions of:

UK-based Visual Artists’ Exhibition (July 2013)
In an attempt to explore the ‘borders’ between performing and visual arts, we will programme work from three UK based visual artists whose work explores the themes of money, transaction, value and alternative currency. The three artists whose work best embodies the programme’s theme will be selected. The visual artists will be selected from different disciplines, and will exhibit their work at AE Harris and MAC Birmingham to international audiences. Their approach to the theme will serve as a catalyst to one of the panel discussions at the festival, in which all three artists will take part.

European Visual Artist Residency (July 2013 – residency and exhibition in 2014)
Following the success of this initiative in 2011-12, we will invite an international visual artist to attend BE 2013 as a research residency, drawing inspiration from the festival in order to develop a new visual arts project, again relating to themes of money, transaction, value and alternatives currencies. The project will be created following the 2013 festival onwards, and presented at BE 2014, both at MAC and at AE Harris. After the festival is finished, the exhibition at the MAC will remain over 2 months.

The project selected will interact dynamically with BE Mix. The visual artist will be part of the ensemble during the R&D week in 2013. Whilst the devising process will be inspired by the material collected during the residency (drawings, sounds recordings, videos and objects), likewise the visual arts project will be provoked and inspired by material generated through rehearsal.


By Dadara

Part shaman, part banker, Dadara’s is an animating, provocative and irreverent presence at the BE FESTIVAL 2014, playfully engineering a collective space of exchange. There are a number of ways to encounter the work: live, online, and in your wallet; at scheduled moments or in fabric of the festival experience itself. You will never look at a piece of art, money or the passing of time in the same way again.

Dadara will be keeping office hours throughout Week Two, in BE FESTIVAL’s gallery space converted from the The REP’s backstage Paintstore. The Arena Gallery at mac, also hosts his first major UK exhibition 5 July-31 Aug.

The Exchanghibition Bank Booth
In times when governments have no money for the arts but lots of money for banks, a well travelled bank booth makes its way from the Nevada desert to open for business in Birmingham: the business of serving art, and the art of turning art into money.

Transformoney Tree
As we stumble through crisis, lost on the path of infinite economic growth on a planet of finite resources, you are invited to contribute your banknotes to a cumulative sculpture, transforming their value by creating a beautiful object. The tree casts the true and time-bound worth of money into stark perspective against concepts of natural order and intrinsic value.

Hourtopia –
Are we as conscious about spending our time as we are our money? The dread of the watched clock and time wasted is thrown aside in search of those moments when life ticks in harmony with the heartbeat of our soul. Hourtopia offers you the once-in-a-lifetime chance to capture your magic hour and share those priceless hopes and memories with your loved ones. Forever. Dadara will introduce the project and open the main programme of BE FESTIVAL 2014 with an exclusive performance event, One Minute of Time for Yourself.

An  alternative currency is in circulation throughout the festival’s second week. Trade in your grubby and anonymous legal tender for Dadara’s colourful, limited edition, customisable BE FESTIVAL currency, The Karma. Each time a note changes hands challenges our conventional assumptions around spending, reasserting the notion of exchange over mere transaction. The Karma investigates currency’s value in motion, its ability to connect groups and to tell and maintain stories.

Paintings and drawings
Dadara’s background in striking visual design serves to both document a journey through, and develop his own understanding of, an obsession with money as it relates to the artists’ place in the world and the intrinsic value of creative practice.

About the Artist
Dadara’s designs and paintings, made for the 90s underground international house-music scene, led to his first exhibition (of 10 to date) at the Reflex Modern Art Gallery, Amsterdam. He has since shown work in Paris, Berlin, Stuttgart, Miami and New York, with commissions from clients including BMW, Absolut Vodka and Greenpeace.

In the past 10 years, Dadara has mainly focused on painting and large interactive art projects that provide a commentary on contemporary society. Topics include governmental control, lack of transparency, privacy issues and regulations, as well as value creation, money and dreams.


For more information on this year’s programme, please go to FESTIVAL programme section.

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