DOWNTIME -as curator
see also:






Tim Ridley

Inès Elsa Dalal





DOWNTIME is the title of an art exhibition and socially engaged project curated by artist, lecturer, writer and curator Paul O’Kane

The exhibition features some emerging and established artists but the central aim of the ‘Launch Night’ was to invite those attending this event to submit their own representations of ‘DOWNTIME’ for the show.

What is ‘DOWNTIME’ ?
There is a long tradition in art that shows various ways in which artists seem to inhabit different qualities of time to others and thereby see different things, or see things differently.

To me ‘DOWNTIME’ isn’t so much about hobbies and leisure, but it might be a precious and special kind of time that we experience e.g. when we suddenly realize we have an unexpected gap in our schedule, when we hurry to an appointment only to find it has been cancelled, and suddenly we have an unexpected hour, alone in a city.

If we are less busy, less employed perhaps, ‘DOWNTIME’ could also refer to privileged moments in which – despite the difficulties we are experiencing – our relatively un-utilised time allows us to look slowly and carefully at ordinary things, experiencing a kind of magic about things that others, hurrying by, do not notice.

People were invited to come along to the launch-night where I gave an illustrated talk_DOWNTIME-EDITED-introductory Talk illustrating and explaining all this much further and where people got answers to questions and joined in discussion. The show’s success  depended on the contributions of participants.

It wasn’t important whether contributors were trained artists or not, they could contribute a diary entry, poem (N.B. link to my own poem about an experience of DOWNTIME in the Birmingham area here), snapshot, You-Tube movie, event or facebook-update as much as a drawing, sculpture or painting.

After the launch event, there was a two-week deadline to submit works. Then I returned to Ort to curate whatever had been submitted. The resulting show ran for a month, inviting visitors from Birmingham and beyond to enjoy and reflect on the ways in which we all represented ‘DOWNTIME’.

STATEMENTS used in preparation for the show:

Paul O’Kane’s collective exhibition, DOWNTIME, is about special experiences that can come out of apparently negative moments. A missed train or missed appointment might leave us with time on our hands during which we rediscover things that our busy life may have made us forget. Artists have long had a creative relationship with this special category of time. E.g. while imprisoned the 19th century Realist painter Courbet took the trouble to paint apples that his sister brought into his dark, despondent environment.

Having time on our hands, perhaps for some negative reason – losing your job or being forced to wait for something – can also allow us to see the world differently, no longer as utilitarian and practical but aesthetically; no longer as the backdrop to the fast-moving narrative of our life or career but as a ‘freeze-frame’ image that we can suddenly scrutinise anew.

Of course, DOWNTIME can simply be down, painful, abject, losing or lost, but this collective exhibition aims to explore the idea that no experience is wholly negative; that even in a dark or disappointing moment or event people have a peculiar, even perverse redemptive capacity, to glimpse, feel or find something of value.

DOWNTIME works like an extended public workshop, aimed principally at people local to the gallery, artists and non-artists alike. It invites the public to contribute their interpretations of the theme. It also features work by three guest artists, Barbara WalkerSteve Dowson and Bada Song.

DOWNTIME is a socially engaged art project inspired by my recent visit to Ort gallery and the surrounding area.

Ort is an unusual new art space in Birmingham, catering for artists in an upstairs gallery and project space while providing friendly and relaxed café facilities downstairs which are frequented by people who are out of work (unemployment is high in the area.)

My proposal is to use the concept of DOWNTIME as a framework under which, not only local artists but other regular users of the café can make a representation of what they consider to be their own DOWNTIME.

The idea of non-allocated time might have first been associated with changing seasons e.g. after the harvest when country people would have found ways to repair and prepare. Meanwhile, the aristocrat, the lofty academic (think of Kant’s daily strolls), followed in history by the Romantic poet and bourgeois flaneur, have all left traces of the uses of DOWNTIME in the history of culture. Sigfried Kracauer was one of the first to write seriously on the modern experience of boredom – something we can also discern amid the semi-decadent wit and irony of Oscar Wilde or more recently Morrissey.

From the early 20th century through to today, mass unemployment – produced by Capitalism’s intrinsic, careless dynamics – have blighted the lives of people who have famously (and infamously) responded in both creative and destructive ways to the imposition of unallocated time.

I want to instigate, and subsequently co-curate an exhibition wherein local people write poems, songs or raps; make drawings, photographs and You Tube films; anything that best shares their experience of unallocated time in Birmingham, 2012 – and particularly when infused with an inspired or intensified experience of the ordinary.

I hope that, by making and sharing representations in an exhibition, the community served by Ort gallery might become more aware and objective about their experiences and their conditions, and that this might generate some new sense of purpose and empowerment, during a difficult time for individuals, for the area, and for the country as a whole.

Documentation Images Follow (click to enlarge):


Marceline Braycotton & Steve Dowson




Ian Edwards



Ines Elsa Dalal


Hannah Honeywill


Helen Grundy


Josephine Reichert


Tim Ridley


Prue Evans


Emil Toescu


Marceline Braycotton


Marceline Braycotton


Marceline Braycotton


Vicky Cheshire


Jane Thakoordin


Jane Thakoordin


SIFA Fireside Group  – Joseph Storer aka Vida Las Vegas, James, Imran, Chris and Kevin Shaw.


Cristina Celestini


Bada Song


Helen Grundy


Info on the wall


Steve Dowson


Barbara Walker