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Throughout 2015 I worked on a project with stroke survivors. This included workshops including creative writing, visual arts, photography and music. I ran the visual arts workshops and also curated exhibitions of the work produced throughout the project at Manchester Central Library and the Manchester Museum. (You can learn more about the background to the project and the first exhibitions I curated here.) This year, I was asked to curate an even larger exhibition of the work produced to be exhibited at the historic Manchester Victoria Baths. Below is my curatorial statement and pictures from the exhibition:

The exhibition was curated around the theme of ‘transformation’. A stroke is a profound and life changing event. It creates challenges, both practical and emotional, that need to be faced and processed by both the survivor and those close to them. A profound transformation has taken place and this is reflected in the artwork produced.

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Responding to the site of Victoria Baths as a space that was traditionally used for health and wellbeing treatments, the theme of transformation was a natural fit. When it came to the presentation of the work I wanted to create a visual metaphor that visitors would physically interact with and understand even before seeing the artwork.

A curtain was an apt symbol for the space because in the Baths people would change from one state to another, from their daytime clothes to swimming costumes, to cleanse and relax. Participants’ portraits were printed large on gauze and hung around the baths. Behind each picture was a banner of their artwork to tell their individual stories of life before and after stroke. Visitors could view beyond the outward appearance of each person by lifting the curtain. From curtains at the hospital, to curtains at home, to the metaphorical curtains we use to hide elements of ourselves from others. Here we were ‘lifting the curtain’ on stroke.

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From the 880 visitors to the exhibition over the weekend we received extremely positive feedback. The interactivity of the exhibition worked to create a physical pause and a longer engagement with each piece than if the work had been immediately accessible. For the participants themselves, it was a culmination of the project, their progress, and an opportunity to see their work professionally mounted in a building of cultural and historic significance. A moment to feel proud of their talents, journey, and accomplishments.

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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. 

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.