Art & Development, Community

the art community in manchester: all right!

I’ve had the good fortune of sharing my work and investigations with loads of local artists and curators in and around Manchester. For example, yesterday, artist and curator Paul Harfleet was nice enough to open Apartment for one last visit before it closes permanently. The Plaited Fog artist’s collective generously had me up to Preston for a chat and a curry. (Warm thanks to artist and curator Elaine Speight and Rebecca Chesney.)

People usually want to know what I think of Manchester. Invariably, I start by talking about what I’ve learned about Mancunian temperments. I try to contextualize my thoughts as observations. Still, it’s quite surreal — and perhaps a bit presumptuous — to tell people what I think of their attitudes.

While I notice the tendency to down-play enthusiasm, in all fairness I’d like to add that I’ve experienced tremendous hospitality, curiosity, and engagement here. One of the obvious best things about Manchester is its investment in culture; a less obvious (for tourists of only the briefest stays) best thing about Manchester is the local artists’ and curators’ investment in art, culture and community. The art community members I’ve met have been very generous with their time, energy, resources and knowledge, for which I’m very grateful.

Here’s a completely subjective, incomplete list of some of the amazing arts partners in Manchester:

Manchester Art Gallery
City art gallery/museum; like all civic museums in England, admission is free. And people go. Brilliant.

Chinese Arts Centre

Chinese Arts Centre

Chinese Arts Centre
Not-for-profit gallery, residency, tea shop

Art/design/arch centre with exhibitions about the urban environment

Not-for-profit gallery/indie film house

Castlefield Gallery
Not-for-profit artist led gallery, run by the indubitable Kwong Lee. Castlefield also does, a terrific email newsletter about art events in and around Manchester.

International 3 Gallery
(Semi-)not-for-profit artist-led gallery. Feels like The Mission District.

Whitworth Art Gallery
University gallery; large exhibition space, great contemporary programming. Home of the terrific, but under-publicized, Tuesday Talks, organized by Mr Pavel Bucher.

Art/arch/design gallery

Detail from Johannes Zits' installation at 20+3 Projects

Detail from Johannes Zits' installation at 20+3 Projects

Post-opening imperial pints at Jam Street Cafe

Post-opening imperial pints at Jam Street Cafe

20+3 Projects
An artist-run gallery based in a Heidi Schaefer‘s house.

Islington Mill
Artist-led art studio compound with an experimental art school and library, and occasional exhibitions and short residencies. Also functions as a music venue. (Tomorrow, Thursday 4/16, AIR Tara Beall, will talk about her work at 6pm.)

Rogue Studios
Art studio compound with occasional exhibitions

jeremy deller procession 2009
Love love love this banner, esp given the socialist history of Manchester.

Manchester International Festival
OK, Kanye, Kraftwerk, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, De La Soul and the Happy Mondays might get the big headlines, but Marina Abramovic at the Whitworth, a video installation scored by Damon Albarn, and Jeremy Deller’s procession sound amazing…

Art & Development, Values

Points of Reference

eclipse installation by Pavel Buchler
Pavel Büchler’ Eclipse at Max Wigram Gallery (London)
I love this simple but thoughtful installation.

Maureen Dowd recently remarked in the New York Times that Barack Obama’s election somehow signified that Americans are post-race. What a tremendously privileged point-of-view to take. Artist Kerry James Marshall doesn’t think we’re post-race, and neither do I. Cheers to SFMOMA for commissioning Marshall, and the two for pulling no punches.

I really appreciated Philip Tinari’s “OPENINGS: CHU YUN” in this month’s Artforum as well. It takes a lot of confidence — more than I’m naturally disposed of — to make works that are authentically minimal at the risk of seeming slight. As Tinari puts it, there’s

something subversive… about making works that were barely works.

Visit Chu Yun’s website. I really love the Constellation installation.

Paul Morrison’s exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery is pretty good. I enjoyed the giant 75′ wide b/w hard-edged mural, which combines source images from 19th-century-style engraving and 20th-century cartoons (I think I saw some Smurfs’ flowers?). I don’t think the shifts in scale is as dark or menacing as the curatorial statement suggests, however. And while I appreciate the white-on-white high-relief picture of dandelions, which is reminiscent of Van Gogh’s sunflowers, I also found the white-gold-and-black-acrylic-on-canvas paintings to slip too easily into collectible luxury items. As I learn more about gold and how, like diamonds, its mining and refinement is inseparable from issues of colonialism, inequality and environmentalism, I can’t see how Morrison justifies his use of gold leaf. Terry Gross’ interview with Brook Larmer on “The Real Price of Gold” is elucidating (Fresh Air, January 8, 2009).

Tomorrow, there’ll be a march on Washington against the use of coal. Writing from Manchester — a city spawned by the Industrial Revolution, whose skies were literally blackened by coal smoke, but has since embraced everything green — coal seems like such a 19th-century phenomenon, and it’s hard to imagine that it’s still a necessity today. Stranger still is how the myth of “clean coal” can persist in America today, despite a relatively educated populous.

Podcast of Joseph Kosuth’s Meet the Artist lecture at the Hirshhorn Museum. I’ve found this podcast series extremely inconsistent, with some poor audio quality of in-gallery recordings. But Kosuth excells in providing a smart, well-prepared lecture about his work and Conceptual Art. Cheers for artists talking with precision about art!

The work of two Mancunian conceptually-oriented object-makers:
Nick Crowe
Ian Rawlinson
and their work as a collaborative team

Art & Development, Travelogue

breathe begins

ready-made fluorescent-ink printed paper, die-cut in flashes

I’ve just started the Breathe Residency at Chinese Art Centre in Manchester, UK, and it’s quite an honor.

I arrived in the UK yesterday morning, and the residency program manager, David Hancock, has generously lent his past two days to get me situated in the studio and introduce me to Manchester’s resources and galleries. I visited Manchester briefly in 2007, but it is like day and night compared to having a local point the way.

Chinese Art Centre’s staff have been very welcoming, forthcoming and professional. The signage is up, the spaces are clean, and a manual with pretty much everything I need to know is in hand. They’ve allowed me lots of space: a 20 x 15′ gallery with high ceilings and an attached utility room/tool closet, a private bathroom and marginally shared kitchen, a sleeping loft, and access to the CAC’s library, which is stocked with books and catalogs. The staff has been really sweet, and very considerate of my privacy. Though I’m technically inhabiting a live/work studio in an art center, it feels more like having an apartment adjacent to the art center. This, along with David’s generous assistance, has truly underscored the privilege of being an artist in residence here.

I’m excited about what’s nearby:
–two art supply shops
–very cool bars (don’t think pubs, think lounges)
–the gigantic Arndale mall, which is replete with anything I could possibly need, from the dollar store (“Poundland”) to fast-food pasties (Gregg) to fresh shark (!) steak at a seafood market.
–just on the other side of the mall is Tesco, the supermarket, which will be a key to living inexpensively in England. The lower end of the price range is bafflingly cheap: £1.18 ($1.66), loaf of flax/soy bread. £0.86 ($1.21), quart of milk. £3 ($4.22), 4-pack of 330ml ciders. I’m curious about why the cost of food is so high in the U.S., even with all of our subsidies.
–a wonderful little shop named Clark Brothers, which stocks old signs and fake decorations. There’s a display of flower garlands that looks like a Wofford/Mail Order Brides dream set. But the other side of the room is lined with shelves full of fluorescent two-tone store signs. The signs are printed, but the text is just idiosyncratic enough to signal hand-lettering. It’s like a wall of ready-made Ruschas or something. I can’t get enough of it.

While I’m looking forward to diminishing my sense of disorientation, I’m also savoring the prickliness of the linguistic textures I’m hearing. It’s peculiar to be speaking the same language as everyone here, but not at all in the same way. When people speak, I have to listen hard, and I have to ask people to repeat themselves much more often than I’d like. Even when I do make out the words, I also find myself hung up on slang — pondering the etymologies of skally and chav, or just mulling over the wondrous glottal stop in grotty. Then there’s the getting used to the nearly ubiquitous “All right?”, a greeting that sounds to me like a question, but is typically answered with another “All right?” And I’m getting accustomed to the slightly emphatic, sing-song “‘Bye!,” which is neutral here, but reminiscent of a sarcastic American Valley Girl’s “‘Bye!”

The next three months are like a blank slate, but I’m confident that there is lots of time to develop and experiment. I got here; now I think the art process will take care of itself. And there are a few constellations that are already forming for the near future:
–a trip to Liverpool. I missed it on my last visit, but it’s close to Manchester and bursting with culture, like the Tate Liverpool and Anton Gormley’s installation at Crosby Beach.
–tomorrow’s lecture by Dinu Li at the Manchester Art Gallery
–a lecture by Antony Hall at Cornerhouse. Hall contributed a provocative installation featuring a soundproof booth for communicating electronically with a live fish in Interspecies, Cornerhouse’s current exhibition.
–artists’ salon-type events, which David mentioned he’d organize soon.
–Manuel Saiz’s “Private Party. Keep Out” exhibition at Castlefield Gallery.
–the opening of “Subversive Spaces: Surrealism And Contemporary Art” at The Whitworth Art Gallery, The University of Manchester. It’s a great space and it looks like it’s going to be a great show. I’m so excited.