Byline: Terry Grimley
Something out of the ordinary is happening on the Ladypool Road in Birmingham's balti belt.
A long-disused shop unit, once home to bhangra label Nachural Records, has been invaded by an international group of artists. The ground floor has been turned into the "Baghdad Cafe" by Swiss-based Iraqi artist Al Fadhil and will be open three days a week until April 21.
Visitors are invited to exchange views about Iraq and to view Al Fadhil's installation, which includes the video Home Sweet Home. This film about the artist's family home in Baghdad was produced in collaboration with his younger brother Ahmed, who was killed in a bombing a year ago today.
Baghdad Cafe is part of a project called Under a New Sky, which has brought together eight artists well-known on the international art circuit to propose a number of community-based projects, linked to the idea of regeneration, for Sparkbrook.
The Ladypool Road building acts as a kind of exhibition and information centre for the project. Participating artists include the American minimalist artist (and rock critic) Dan Graham, who is showing a video of a glass pavilion installed in the grounds of a museum in Portugal. Graham hopes to do something similar in Birmingham.
Others taking part are Reza Aramesh (Iran/UK), Paul Eachus (UK), Nooshin Farhid (Iran/UK), Runa Islam (Bangladesh/UK) and Goshka Macuga (Poland/UK). But perhaps the biggest name is Yona Friedman, the 83-year-old architect and theorist of flexible and sustainable urban forms who was born in Hungary and lives in France.
He's already done some rough sketches for a graffiti museum at Spaghetti Junction.
Under a New Sky has been curated by Peter Lewis, research fellow at Leeds Metropolitan University, with Milan-based Maurizio Bortolotti.
Lewis was chief curator of the 6th International Sharjah Biennial, in the United Arab Emirates, in 2003 - an event which featured 180 artists and strengthened links between the international art world and the Middle East. …