Believe It Or Not
Installation of found objects, printed material, video works and digital ephemera.
Curated by Shy Bairns, exhibited as part of Remote Work at Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool
In 2020, COVID-19 struck and galleries across the world had to be closed down. During that time, they sat empty, waiting, vulnerable. Shy Bairns (2025) have attempted to investigate what happened at The Grundy during lockdown; piecing together mysterious ooze, missing rooms, reddit pages and TikToks in order to understand the events that led to the disappearance of curator Johnny Highland. What happened in the gallery when no one was looking? Who was there?
Shy Bairns (2025) are artists, curators, and supernatural investigators that were hired to explore the disappearance and the abnormal goings-on in the gallery. By looking at the research gathered by Johnny Highland, alongside ex-Grundy security guard Maggie B. and
local student Jack [Redacted], they piece together evidence to gain an insight into what really took place in 2020.
This exhibition presents the results of Shy Bairns' investigation to the public for the first time.
(!) This claim is disputed by The Grundy and may not be based on fact.
Journalist and documentary maker David Farrier released a blog post in May 2020 titled ’Why has the world gone so horny for conspiracy theories?’. When there is so much uncertainty in our day-to-day, conspiracies naturally begin to creep in. IRL or URL, we’re all asking the same questions. Who? Why? How? What if? Farrier suggests that the 2020 conspiracy ‘COVID-19 was invented by the Deep State’ surfaced because the public enjoy feeling like they have hidden, special knowledge. That they have the truth, unlike the rest of us. Conspiracies can feel comforting in a time of unrest.
COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst for huge change within the familiar art world. These spaces now stand dark and unused, gathering dust and lacking character without the presence of the visitor. For those working within it, the art world landscape has completely changed. What remains important to the public amid global uncertainty? What can we find solace and meaning within? Where can we channel anger and anxieties?
In Believe It Or Not, Shy Bairns have combined ideas of abandoned art spaces with paranoia, imagining a fictionalised event that took place in Blackpool, 2020. What happened? Was it a paranormal event? Aliens? Why was the gallery space key to the Event? What are its effects? And what does this mean for the future of the space? These questions are asked through a study various characters; Johnny Highland, the MIA curator of The Grundy, Maggie B, an ex employee who just can’t learn to stay away and Jack Redacted, and a young aspiring artist, gleefully documenting the events via TikTok and bedroom screenprints. A final transtemporal character, Shy Bairns (2025), presents a selection of ephemera investigating what happened; Believe It Or Not pieces together their research into mysterious ooze, missing rooms and reddit posts in order to understand the events that led to the disappearance of the beloved curator.
Remote Work brings together new work by Nicola Dale, Kieran Leach, David Penny, Shy Bairns and Ciarán Wood; five artists/artist groups whose proposals were selected from an Open Call commissioning opportunity. One year, almost to the day that the UK’s first lockdown started, Grundy Art Gallery brought together the results of this one year remote commissioning process.