Barbara Walker's work addresses the personal, social and political implications of the controversial powers of the police stop and search act. Living in Birmingham, she has witnessed at first hand a curious and potent collision of several different factors. Birmingham has for decades been a very multicultural city, though more recent influxes have served to add layer upon layer to that multiculturalism. Birmingham is also a city in which the police have, for whatever reasons, made extensive use of their 'stop and search' powers. As a parent, an artist, and a life-long resident of Britain's second city, Walker was keen to produce a new body of work that took as its starting point these disparate factors, as they impacted on the life of her son.
Between 2002 and 2006 and aged between 17 and 21 years old, Walker's son Solomon was subjected to being stopped by the police on several separate occasions. On each occasion, he was asked a series of questions and searched. As now apparently required by law, at the end of the encounter he was presented by the police with a yellow A5 duplicate copy of an official form relating to the stop and search. Curious about these incidents affecting and involving her son, Walker began to collect these carbon copies. As an artist whose practice has, for some years now, sought to document the lives of Birmingham's Black community, Walker wanted to find ways in which she could address within her artistic practice what has been happening to Solomon on the streets of his home city. The resulting work analyses the events and the almost ritualistic procedure of stop and search, posing the question: how do the police (and others) consider 'suspicions', and what are the consequences and the implications of these attitudes on the forming of the identity of a young Black male in British society today?
Barbara Walker was born in Birmingham in 1964, where she currently lives. She attended the University of Central England, Birmingham (1993-96) and has exhibited extensively in solo and group exhibitions in the UK since 1995. Following her residency at Witwaterstand University, Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2006, she completed a further residency at Johannesburg's Bag Factory in 2008. In 2004 her work was included in 'True Stories' at the Museu de Arte Contemporanea, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and group exhibitions in 2008 included those at Signal Gallery, London, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and Wolverhampton Art Gallery. In 2009, her work was selected for the group exhibitions, 'East International 2009', Norwich Galley, and 'Rotate', Contemporary Art Society, London. Forthcoming group exhibitions include 'Birmingham Seen', Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 31 October 2009 ' 3 January 2010, and 'The Meaning of Style', The New Art Exchange, Nottingham, 2010.