Matt Jones

BALTIC

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BALTIC is a new international centre for contemporary art situated on the south bank of the river Tyne in Gateshead. Converted from a 1950s grain silo, it is similar in nature to the Tate Modern in London; it's a big building next to a river converted into a contemporary arts space. However, the similarity ends there; whereas the Tate Modern houses a permanent collection, showing a history of 20th Century art, BALTIC has no such collection. Instead, its programme consists of a series of events and exhibitions that may dominate 1 or more of its 5 floors at any one time. We visited BALTIC for the first time last week; we knew that some of the exhibitions were finishing, so we decided we'd better catch them while we could. Overall, I was impressed; I think the north east of England really needs somewhere like this - a free and open centre of creativity. That said, many of the current exhibitions didn't do much for me, although I really liked Jane & Louise Wilson's short film ‘Dreamtime’. Perhaps my only major disappointment with BALTIC is its website; it is unusable, uninteresting and doesn't use the medium of the web to its greatest potential. The website should be a major part of BALTIC; instead of being a supporting brochure site with an ‘innovative’ user interface which is completely unusable, it should be like BALTIC itself: open, accessible and constantly changing. It should be a major point of reference, it should be accessible and useful from within the building as well as being a place to create community and online collaboration worldwide. I know BALTIC has just opened, so I should give it time; but the website as it stands at the moment shows no promise at all.