Phoenix City 2021 is a moving-image work which combines documentary and speculative fiction to look at Coventry in the process of UK City of Culture. It was commissioned by Coventry Biennial for the third edition of Coventry Biennial: HYPER-POSSIBLE.

Phoenix City 2021 examines Coventry’s relationship to the image of the phoenix - stemming from Donald Gibson’s and Basil Spence’s use of the mythical bird as symbol to represent their respective town-planning and cathedral proposals for Coventry realised in the 1950’s – and the hypothesis that UK City of Culture is conceived in as the city’s next phoenix moment.

The work features an original soundtrack by Abul Mogard, with the collaboration of Jaguar Land Rover Band and Royal Leamington Spa Bach Choir.

Technical details

Title: Phoenix City 2021
Duration: 24 mins
Date of production: 2021
Format: HD video 1920 x 1080, 6-channel audio.

Project background

Research and development took place through a Coventry Biennial artist residency at Coventry University’s School of Media and Performing Arts throughout 2018 to 2020, supported through an Arts Council England Developing Your Creative Practice grant.

The Phoenix City Convergence was the first public outcome of the research phase of Phoenix City 2021. The Convergence took place as a symposium and screening programme of artists’ moving-image work hosted by Coventry Biennial 2019 / Coventry University (25/26 October 2019). The symposium - designed as a forum to solicit critical discussion around the ideologies and realities of UK City of Culture, and its significance specifically for Coventry - featured interventions including presentations by Cara Courage, Joy White, Emily Hopkins, and Adrian Dowling, and a panel discussion chaired by Mike Stubbs.

The full programme of artists’ moving-image works featured in the Phoenix City Convergence:

One Square Mile (2017), Chris Paul Daniels & Sam Meech
The 1960’s for Me (2014), Choi Sai-Ho
Cultural Quarter (2003), Mike Stubbs
Het Museum Van de Straat (2013), Matthijs de Bruijne
Polly II (2006), Anja Kirschner
Shadowland (2015), John Skoog

Production context

Phoenix City 2021 was produced in a special collaboration with Abul Mogard, and with local co-creators in Coventry musicians, visual artists, CGI animators and model fabricators. Other outcomes of the project included the commissioning of A Fanfare for Coventry (UK City of Culture), composed by Iain Rayner and performed live by Jaguar Land Rover Band to inaugurate Coventry Biennial HYPER-POSSIBLE at the Herbert Gallery, in October 2021.

Production was carried out during the global Covid-19 pandemic beginning in 2020.