The American South Meets the "Global South" in Third Space at the Birmingham Museum of Art

Third Space Shifts the Conversation about Contemporary Art



Sound Suit in Third Space The Sound Suit stands in the middle of the room.


What is Contemporary Art, Anyway?

Not to be confused with "Modern Art", "Contemporary Art" is comprised of works by artists living in the 21st century with a focus on recent and current global and cultural issues of our day. The newest exhibit at the Birmingham Museum of Art, Third Space, does a wonderful job of connecting the issues of the American South to global locations that are home to marginalized peoples and cultures. The term "Third Space" refers to a space that “challenges our sense of the historical identity of culture as a homogenizing, unifying force, authenticated by the originary past, kept alive in the national tradition of the People.”

"Twin Brothers"

We have taken quite a few trips to Third Space already and we discover new aspects of the exhibit with each new visit. From the second you walk through the glass doors of the exhibit you'll be pulled in all directions by vivid colors, unique designs, and works that will have you engrossed in deep conversations for your entire ride home from the museum.


A Engaging Multimedia Experience

Third Space Intro

One of the first things you will notice about Third Space is that it features a SmartGuide. Some of you may be old enough to remember taking museum tours while listening to Leonard Nimoy describing each exhibit through headphones. In this exhibit you can use an iPad to explore the history of some of the art and the artists behind them all while learning the meaning behind each piece. You can even use the SmartGuide from your smartphone or from your home computer! This feature makes it easy to dive deeper into the inspiration for each work. You can even contribute your own recorded thoughts on some the works. These recordings will be cataloged and made available online.

Black and Grey Art


So Much More Than Paintings

Book Carved out of Wood

The works in Third Space take on many forms. There are sculptures, tapestries, projected animation, and even some works that you can literally walk into. One of these works is a structure made out of the various pieces of wood it takes to build a $20k house. You can touch, interact with, and sit inside this sculpture. The wood will be used to build an actual house after the conclusion of the Third Space exhibit! Each room of Third Space covers different topics which include migration/diaspora/exile, gaze/agency/representation, spirit/nature/landscape, and traditions/histories/memory.
Wooden Sculpture in Third Space The wood from this sculpture will be used to build a house!


Just the First Chapter

Wassan Talking about Wassan giving a talk on "Twin Brothers" Piece

While the exhibit will be active for 2 years the layout will be changed up every six months to keep the experience fresh. Third Space will also play host to six "Chapters" over the course of the next two years. Each Chapter will feature an artist that will speak to some of the issues that Third Space addresses. These events will provide a unique glimpse into the mind of an artist as they contemplate issues that affect us on both a local and global level. All of this was coordinated by the museum's Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Wassan Al-Khudhairi. Wassan does a much better job than we do when it comes to delving deeper into the local/global interconnectivity of Third Space.
Red Pinocchio With Rope Nose Someone got caught up in their lies.

The best part of all of this is that Third Space is FREE to the public! Be sure to stop by the museum and experience it for yourself! One of the reasons we waited to publish this piece is that we wanted to check out the reactions to the exhibit on Social Media. Although new, the exhibit has already made a lasting impact on so many people who have personally experienced some of the themes Third Space touches on. We look forward to attending the Third Space Chapters and taking friends and family to see it for themselves!
Third Space Tapestry Can you see the hidden body?