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Monday, 27 April 2015

Exhibition: 5 arterial routes & 1000 commercial signs / 30 April - 9 May 2015

'5 arterial routes & 1000 commercial signs' is an exhibition by Ruth Brolly and Forum Alternative Belfast. The exhibition runs during the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival from 30 April - 9 May 2015 in PS2 Gallery, Donegall Street.

Credit: Ruth Brolly

On Belfast’s culturally rich arterial routes, pivoting around an increasingly postmodern city centre, the image of place is created through a combination of buildings, signage, green and vacant spaces. Commercial signs can be the most obvious indicator of socio-economic conditions of people living in neighbourhoods in and around these arterial routes. The level and impact of economic decline, as a result of these routes sometimes being cut off from the central business district, through the creation of major carriageways and other physical barriers in the geography of the city, may be observed in the appearance of commercial signs.

These signs surround us in our city streets, everywhere we look we can see their words, materials and colour on buildings, telling us where we can purchase goods or services. We are so used to seeing them we rarely give them much thought, yet what would our streets be like without them? On red brick Victorian terraces in Belfast, once homes and not businesses, the words on signs tell us what is sold, they speak when doorways and windows are mute. Signs interpret the built environment for us much in the same way as captions on pictures tell us what is happening within the photographic image. Wherever we go in the world signs on shops give us information about the sort of place we are in. Even when we cannot read the language on signs the letterforms, colour and materials can give us visual clues on our whereabouts. The condition of signs can even be an indicator of whether a place is safe or not.

Credit: Ruth Brolly

Only fairly recently have researchers worldwide become interested in the value of local commercial signs as cultural artefacts unique to place. With weathered, broken or faded signs being increasingly replaced, often in the interests of urban renewal and to bolster ailing economies, its worth considering how replacing ‘old’ with ‘new’ signs might affect local character, as colours letterforms and materials used on the signs may change. This exhibition examines buildings and commercial signs on five arterial routes of Belfast, the Antrim, Falls, Lisburn, Newtownards and Ormeau Roads, to show how commercial signs help to create the image of each of these places. A photographic archive captures the buildings and signs as a snapshot in time in a city that is constantly changing.

Exhibition opens with refreshments on Thursday 30 April, 6 - 8pm in PS2, Donegall Street, Belfast. The exhibition will be open to view until 9 May (Wed-Fri 1-5pm, Sat 12-3pm).

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