Manifest Arts Festival 2015

December 3, 2015

Manifest Poster

Manifest Poster

This July Roger Bygott, John Lynch, and I directed a city-wide (Manchester and Salford) visual arts festival:

Manifest is a visual arts festival, showcasing the talent of North West based artists in a series of exhibitions and events across Manchester and Salford.

It took place 10th-12th July 2015 and during the second weekend of the busy Manchester International Festival. The timing was deliberate so that the festival would give visitors a flavour of the creative activity going on across the two cities all year round.

The exhibitions and events in the Manifest programme were at some of Manchester’s most prestigious institutions, such as Manchester Craft and Design Centre, John Ryland’s Library, and the newly opened HOME. Artist studios across both cities were coordinated for the first time to have open studios during the festival weekend to give a closer look at the scope of art being created across the city.

This year was a pilot festival and run on the passion of its participants, and we’re so thankful for the enthusiasm and support in making it happen. We couldn’t have been more pleased by the reaction of visitors and participating artists.

Our reasons for setting up Manifest:

Roger Bygott: For me the inspiration and spirit of Manifest is about community association, trusting grassroots links and mutual encouragement. As artists practicing within this broad vibrant community we aim to help strengthen those connections and to share more widely and publicly the artistic fruits emerging from it.”

Elisa Artesero: “Many of the artists in Manifest exhibit nationally and internationally but remain based in the North West. We want to show the high standard of contemporary art being produced on our doorstop.”

John Lynch: “Artists want their work to be seen, we present the opportunity to see it.”

We even got a feature interview in a-n

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The festival was a huge success in more ways than we’d expected and we’re still receiving positive feedback about the impact it has had on participating artists’ careers. During the three days and nearly 30 different events/exhibitions artists: sold their work, had in-depth critiques with curators, they gained commissions and potential exhibitions, and were able to show their work to an audience that would not have had the opportunity to see their work otherwise.

Months down the line we got an email from Susan Gunn, one of the artists to present her work at ‘Manifest Calling’ a show and tell at HOME. She had been contacted by contemporary classical composer, Ailis Ni Riain, who was impressed by her work when she presented it at ‘Manifest Calling’, and asked if she would design the album cover for her album ‘Linger’.

The pilot festival gave us a chance to just give it a go, to test the idea of the festival and to see if it would be possible to run. The three of us had an incredibly busy weekend trying to document all the events and ensure they were running as planned. My pet project for the weekend was to try out live streaming the festival with the Periscope app to give online viewers a flavour of parts of the festival. I didn’t know how useful or popular this would be, but it turned out to be surprisingly popular, getting up to 70 live views at a time. Not bad for a fairly new piece of technology and first festival!

We ended with a closing party at media bar, Texture, which was a lovely celebration of the weekend. One of the joys for me (and I’m sure Roger and John, also) was to spend an entire weekend looking around the cities’ arts spaces, seeing fantastic contemporary artwork, having lively conversations about the artistic and cultural scene and the lives and exciting careers of those who are based here.

Although, admittedly, there was almost too much to be able to get around in one weekend, it was brilliant to have it all there to choose from, a snapshot of the kind of things that are going on (often behind closed doors of studios) all year round. To able to facilitate that in some way was an absolute pleasure, and I think we proved what we set out to do – which was to show that we live in a vibrant and thriving cultural space that needs to be showcased every so often.

As for the future of Manifest, well, watch this space.

Manifest Logo

Manifest Logo

 

All photos taken by John Lynch, and the logo and programme designed by the talented Stephanie Hamer. 

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One shelf of an ever-increasing poetry collection

One shelf of an ever-increasing poetry collection

I started my Arts Council England funded project at the beginning of July and it’s been a busy couple of weeks. So far, I’ve been mixing research, writing and experimentation. One of the main objectives of this project is to create a new body of work which will fuse my own writing with my light art. In order to do this, I’ve spent a lot of my initial time writing so that I have content and potential narrative to inspire and lead the visual work.

The themes in my work are addressing ‘desire’ and ‘void’, which may seem a little antithetical at first look, but much of my work has centred on Zen poetry, the transitoriness of our existence and a desire for the intangible. This is, of course, a very short explanation, but should go some way to show my reasons for exploring the two themes. So, to start, I have been reading “Nothingness and Desire” by James W. Heisig, and “Void|In Art” by Mark Levy, PhD. These have been giving me a philosophical and artistic view and history of the themes.

I’ve also started to re-read Haruki Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore” as it’s one of my favourite books by one of my favourite writers. Murakami’s worlds are surreal, sometimes scary, sometimes magical, and often dreamlike. He writes in such a practical manner about the strangest occurrences, which serve to make them seem unnervingly real. I get so engrossed that I practically feel as if I’m living the story with the characters, particularly in his last book “1Q84”. His works inspire me more visually than in my written work, however.

Poetry-wise I have been reading and re-reading a wide range of poets, many of which are in the Bloodaxe “Staying Alive” series. I also have a collection of poetry books by individual poets that I dip into, too many to list here.

I recently went to the Liverpool Biennial, mainly as a small pilgrimage to the Adrian Henri exhibition. The Liverpool poets, Henri, McGough, Patten and Mitchell were probably the first poets that I read as a child that really got me interested in the poetic form, and I still read and am inspired by to this day. I’m enchanted by their wit, simple and effective observations, romanticism and visual play with words.

I’d never heard Henri read or sing his poems before [shocking] so it was interesting to hear him do this on the recordings. Some were much more lively than I’d imagined when I read them to myself – “Love Is” was much more upbeat than I’d ever read it to be! The artwork that accompanied many of the poems incorporated collage, sketches, paintings and sculpture. Some were placed together with a rough visual humour, whereas others, based on the more serious and romantic poems, were put together with a real tenderness. This allowed space for the poignancy of a symbol, such as a blurry bright pink heart floating close to a black void. Seeing the work in its home of Liverpool did romanticise the city somewhat, but it was a romance I was happy to indulge for the day.

Just a quick recommendation for anyone visiting Liverpool – just down the road from the University is a brilliant second-hand bookshop – Reid of Liverpool. I got five poetry books for very reasonable prices and in remarkably good condition!

Reid of Liverpool

Reid of Liverpool

Poetry books from Liverpool!

Poetry books from Liverpool!

Colour Block the Link

We’re going to take last year’s colour blocking fashion and apply it creatively to the Link Gallery in a curated exhibition on 27th February – 2nd March.

We are looking for textiles or works on paper which are predominantly one colour, or combination of two colours, which we can display so as to colour the Link Gallery into a bold exhibition. The work does not have to be an item of clothing, it just needs to be bold and colourful!

Please submit a photo of your textile or paper-based work including dimensions to mmulinkgallery@hotmail.co.uk by 8pm Tuesday 14th February.

You must be available to install your work from midday Friday 24th February and take it down again at the end of the exhibition the following Friday.

S-Space

January 5, 2012

S-Space was an 8-week group project based on the theme ‘Success’, with the question ‘Can success exist without recognition?’ as our focal point. We started the project with a gallery opening with no work on the walls, a logical, albeit slightly ridiculous, conclusion to the question as we decided to recognise our success before we had even had it, therefore taking the pressure of recognition off us. We did wonder how the opening would be received, and to our surprise it elicited an interesting response from those who attended. Many came for the free wine and wandered off quickly as there was nothing on the walls to keep them there. Even if someone is attending an opening for the free wine it is usually customary and basic courtesy to at least scan the work on show, but here intentions were shown clearly. More people than expected did stay to debate the question of success and recognition however, for which we have recorded some of the conversations and put them on our dedicated S-Space blog.

The opening marked the start of a week’s worth of social experiments within the gallery and gathering of data along the way. All of these are documented on the blog, but my particular favourite was the wall of post-its which people gave their answer to the question ‘How do you recognise success?’ I then created a poem using a cut up technique of the words from the answers on the poster to condense the meaning of the answers given:

With a heart stopping view from a mountain top

I am smiling.

Happiness,

A sigh of relief, I’m at one.

 

Money, love, a warm glow.

Producing something worthwhile

With friends and family

 

Happiness. Happiness. Happiness.

 

When I feel good 24/7

Have self pride and a pony.

When I don’t fail

And don’t listen to anyone else.

 

Working towards a soul

I can achieve.

 

Success!

 

Learned through failure.

Not regretting

 

Possibilities.

After our week of experimentation we decided on a concept piece which would reflect the dichotomy between outer success (the media, monetary) and the inner glow of success experienced within home life for example. We built two large cubes, one within the other and covered both with soluble fabric which we would dissolve in a performance at the end of the exhibition to show the fragility of success. The cube could be entered into by visitors, projected onto the outside were two videos, one using found footage and collage to address the media view of success, and the other a stop motion to show the visual transformation from an individual into the homogeneous Western view of an attractive woman (skinny, blonde hair, big breasts, pink lipstick etc).

In the cavity between the larger cube and smaller internal cube we placed red strip lights to create an inner glow which visitors would experience upon entering the piece. This diffused the projections from outside to focus on the inner glow like a protection from outside influences. I had done some research on the colour of success (psychologically) with few meaningful results. Most data suggested a deep red to signify success (used in ribbons for winning for example) and some research suggested that football teams that wore red shirts tended to win more tournaments, that somehow the colour could get them into a winning state of mind. Colour therapy research didn’t specify a colour for success per se, but a deep red did come up in associated feelings. The only areas which specifically offered colours for success (deep red) were the slightly dubious (scientifically) areas of crystal therapy, horoscopes and colour symbolism. So, the results were frustrating, but perhaps they were always going to be – as we found from our research, success is a fairly nebulous concept which is recognised by people in different ways.

The final dissolve of the cube was recorded as a performance piece, two of us walked around and squirted the soluble fabric with water which slowly degraded and destroyed the barrier between the inner glow and outer influences of the projections.

Follow the full progress of S-Space on the blog.

The others involved in the project are: Darren Murphy, Amy Lawrence, Margaux Illescas, Miriam Cabeza

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A ball hangs in the corner of a room in Magritte’s painting ‘The Secret Life’ (1928) recently shown at the Tate Liverpool exhibition. The spherical ‘thing’ appears to be in a state of being/existing in the space, whether we are there to view it or not. Although it was hung in a room full of people, I felt as if it was very much alone and I had intruded on its quiet existence, like coming across a ghost. This was the starting point and inspiration for this exhibition. The work on show is varied to say the least, but within each piece there are intriguing characters within dreamlike or surreal situations.

Starting with my own work ‘Phantom’, the sculpture is the conduit for the light phantom, giving the ephemeral being a place to exist and become whole as the light passes through the layers of fabric. Roger Bygott uses light trails in his film ‘The Photographer’; he came across the anonymous photographer while walking in North Wales and filmed the man absorbed in his own world, conjured up as if part of a dream. James Ackerley’s ‘A Brief Memento of an Intangible Dreamscape’ could almost have come from the place Roger filmed his photographer and is presented as a surreal souvenir.

The middle hexagon holds the eerie photos of Anna Heaton’s twins, blankly staring out of the picture. Matthew Barber’s photos, ‘Stranger Danger’ are based on the fear of walking home at night and how the mind plays tricks on you. The photos are similar and their repetition and placement is to make the viewer look twice at each to see the differences, to pick out where the man in the picture has moved to next. These photos frame Karol Kochanowski’s ‘Self Portrait with Elephant’, an absurd situation in a beautiful landscape to symbolize the burden of everyday life, and his ‘Breadcycle’ a piece exhibited two years ago as part of his Foundation course, which has changed with him over the years.

John Brindley’s ‘Echoes’ and Caroline Whitemore’s surreal paintings use doors and pathways as symbols in their work, which I have placed together as quite literally the doorways to the next section of the exhibition within the Foyer.

Amy Lawrence’s piece ‘Mushroom’ shows a woman pregnant with thought and imagination. Helen Wheeler’s etchings create an intangible dreamscape. Both artists invite the viewer to make their own interpretation of their work, however I feel that they are both reflective of the artists themselves, Amy’s imagination literally growing from the image, and Helen’s layered with depth of meaning.

The show reel of films from Liam Healy (‘Pray’), Fabian Beickhorasani (‘Signon’) and Exposure’s nominee Michael Scott (‘Alice in Space’ and ‘Tastes Better’) are set on two projectors to continue the ‘look again’ theme of doubles running through the exhibition and to wonder why the images are not quite the same.

Finally, there are two very different boxes which can be entered into, one is Roger Bygott’s ‘Shaman’, an ambiguous character who is difficult to decipher, keep an eye out for him as he may be in and available to give divinations, or his spirit could be left guarding his home. The other box is Robert Grundstrom’s ‘Cubicle No.2’ the dark part of the psyche which can be entered into at your own risk.

Many thanks to Roger Bygott and Paul Tutty for their help in setting up the exhibition, and to the participating artists whose work was a pleasure to curate.

Elisa Artesero

Curator

Saturday 2nd July is the preview of an exhibition with work from some artists in the recently formed Miscellaneous Network. Misc.1 at the Mooch Gallery at Blyth Art Store in Manchester is part of the Manchester Art Crawl and Not Part Of Festival. The exhibition is split into two weeks in order to showcase more artists in the Network; I will be exhibiting in the first week (2nd- 9th July) with Darren Murphy and Tinkeke Van Boven, and the second week (10th- 16th July) will showcase work from Amy Lawrence and James Hasker. Expect an eclectic mix of work from the conceptual to the graphic, drawn and photographic. I will present some of my Wire in the Glass series, lovingly framed to make the best of the work.