Shopping for Simulacra with Matt Westbrook

Matt Westbrook has been spotting owls around the city over the last few weeks – as have many Birmingham residents. But Matt’s owls are different to those appearing in the Big Hoot – they’re camouflaged against the fabric of buildings, nestling in the background, waiting for someone to notice they are there. Matt is leading a walk on Sun 27 Sept which rounds up various animal forms around the city centre: owls, fish and a selection of other wildlife. To find out Matt’s techniques and start spotting such simulacra yourself, sign up for the tour here.

A selection of Matt’s owls appear below – some are less shy than others and it sometimes takes a moment for them to reveal themselves fully. Matt is also producing a free postcard pack of his favourites – let us know if you are interested.

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think it started in Tate Modern, whilst attempting to wander nonchalantly around ‘Poetry and Dream’ I was asked by a couple to take their photo. A bit awoken from my own thoughts and unprepared for what was to come I agreed but then immediately realised we were in front of Joseph Beuys’s ‘The Pack’, an installation of 24 sledges with blankets rolled up emerging from the back of a vintage VW camper van.

My heart sank.
As they both began gooning for the camera in some sort of Pepsi Max pose, holding their hands in a VW hand signal, I paused and lowered the camera (it was an actual camera then not the now proliferate camera phone) and stared bewilderedly at them.  ‘Really?’ I telepathically communicated. They stayed in pose and beckoned me to press the button.

Aware that I was now part of my own art gallery conveyor belt installation, with people almost queuing to get past, I shook my head and took the quickest of shots.

I was reminded of this incident recently whilst walking through Birmingham when I was asked to photograph a family in front of a multi-coloured owl, positioned close to an arts and crafts building full of detail and history.

It got me thinking about the whole experience of photographing yourself in front of artworks, celebrities, shiny ostentatious buildings and now owls, prompting me to find something else…