Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Manchester International Festival

At the weekend I travelled to Manchester to visit the Manchester International Festival (MIF) and catch up with my good friends, artist Liz West and artist, curator and tutor, Mark Devereux (I will be blogging about their interesting work later on so keep a look out!)                                                                                                           

Our first stop was Piccadilly Place (, a number of vacant multi functional spaces in the heart of the city centre. Mark explained that the office blocks had been built a number of years ago, but the large ground floor spaces have never been permanently filled due to the premium rental costs and so rather than leave the spaces empty, artists can hire them out for free. This seems a mutually beneficial scheme. Liz has booked one of the spaces for a show in September. While we were there one of the other spaces was being used as a gallery by artist Richard Shields.

Unlike Glasgow International festival of Visual Art which, as it's name suggests, concentrates on visual art, Manchester International Festival encompasses music, theatre, performance, visual art and more.

As we sat in Albert Square, the festival hub, live musicians provided cheerful rhythms. Local producers were offering high quality street food and stripy coloured deck chairs added to the summery vibe, enhanced by the glorious sunshine.

There was a cosmopolitan and continental feel to the city as we walked past graffitti artists working on walls, beautiful florists and unique cafes with outdoor tables and chairs.

After being shown a couple of Manchester's best art suppliers, (including the range of spray paints that Liz has currently been using in her work)

we headed to the Chinese Arts Centre ( where there is an exhibition by Jennifer Yang called First Step.

 I then headed to Mayfield depot, the disused railway station built more than a century ago. The expansive space was an idea setting for Martin Spangberg's "Epic", abstract artowkr in which nine dancers moved around an informal platform in weird and wonderful ways, reacting to each other, music being played and interacted with numerous objects surrounding them, all creating a vibrant and engaging landscape.

This dancer was pouring fluid onto glass sheets which reminded me of the breezeblock sized works I had made with coloured plaster at the Market Gallery.

The final artwork of the day was Tino Sehgal's "This variation", and what an artwork it was to end the day! 

As on the MIF website (,

  "This radical and immersive work plunges visitors into a pulsating sensory landscape, by turns enigmatic and recognisable. Taking advantage of the visitor’s own dilating pupils, This Variation constantly shifts perception, processing and transforming before eye and ear. "

Entering the pitch black room was rather daunting as I had no idea of the other people in the room or what was going to happen. Performers were constantly circulating the space, singing and making music of some kind. Gradually over the course of about 30 minutes, my eyes adapted, and by the end I was able to see the silouette of other people around me. It was a breathtaking experience.

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