In “Manchester United,” Kate Sutton writes up the big-name art events in the Manchester International Festival on Unfortunately it was in Scene and Herd, the mag’s gossip column/photos-of-beautiful-people section.

MIF sounds phenomenal — few cities are brave enough to host a festival of new visual arts and performance commissions of that scale. It’s nice to see coverage of the Marina Abramovich-curated exhibition at the Whitworth and Jeremy Deller’s populist-meets-conceptualist Procession, though Sutton overlooked local and emerging artists, and their varied and experimental MIF initiative, Contemporary Art Manchester.

I could have done without the author’s dishy commentary. She punctuates her reportage with snarky asides, as well as needless and predictable snooty (and classist) jabs at Mancunians at large. The “unity” conjured in the title contrasts sharply with her cynical dismissal of the very publics who host these events–and her as an art-tourist.

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

strange coincidences

Great Art + Strange Coincidences = Pretty Cool.

Strange Coincidence #1

Pavel Büchler, Eclipse, installation source

Strange Coincidence #2

Simon & Tom Bloor’s “As long as it lasts” exhibition at Eastside Projects, Birmhingham, UK. source

I came across images of “As long as it lasts”, a new exhibition by Simon & Tom Bloor at the Eastside Projects. It is an installation incorporating potted plants, birch trees, and text art. Yes!

  • One of the first things I did upon arriving for the Breathe Residency is buy a potted plant with the idea of incorporating it into an installation.
  • Christine Wong Yap, work in progress, 2009, light, potted plant. dim. var.*

    Christine Wong Yap, work in progress, 2009, light, potted plant. dim. var.*

  • The Bloor brothers’ past work includes really great text-based flyers. I’ve also been drawing little signs lately.
  • Fig. 2. Christine Wong Yap, Work in progress, 2009, papercut, vellum, light, 33.25 x 23.325 inches.*

    Christine Wong Yap, Work in progress, 2009, paper cut, vellum, light, 33.25 x 23.325 inches.*

    Fig. 3. Christine Wong Yap, untitled pair of drawings, ink on paper 7.625 x 11.5 inches each

    Christine Wong Yap, untitled pair of drawings, ink on paper 7.625 x 11.5 inches each*

    Fig. 4. Christine Wong Yap, "Expectations Occasionally Surpassed," Ink on poster board, 25 x 20 inches*

    Christine Wong Yap,Expectations Occasionally Surpassed, Ink on poster board, 25 x 20 inches*

    Fig. 5. Christine Wong Yap, "Dime Store Advice," china marker on foil-laminated cardstock, 11.75 x 16.5 inches*

    Christine Wong Yap, Dime Store Advice, china marker on foil-laminated cardstock, 11.75 x 16.5 inches*

  • The Bloor brothers are also exhibiting billboards in Leicester, and one of the other billboard artists is April Gertler, who I went to school with in Oakland, CA in the late 1990s.

*Produced in the Breathe Residency at Chinese Arts Centre.

Art & Development, Community, Travelogue

new manc art highlights

Islington Mill Studios; hallway.

Islington Mill Studios; hallway.

The Dilemma of Archive
New library
Islington Mill

Islington Mill is a really cool artist-initiated studio compound with a gallery, performance venue, experimental school, and now, a new library focusing on art books. I find the whole idea of the place very grassroots, appealing and innovative.

detail of installation by Maurice Carlin

detail of installation by Maurice Carlin

detail of installation by Maurice Carlin

detail of installation by Maurice Carlin

Last night, I attended the opening of The Dilemma of Archive, a show featuring the work of Maurice Carlin and G. Leddington. The exhibition space is a disused studio — about the size of a bedroom, maybe 15×12 feet. But the modest space held a really tight grouping of four works, which were peculiar and quiet and rewarded sustained attention.

Slide show/installation by G. Leddington at Islington Mill

Slide show/installation by G. Leddington at Islington Mill

I really liked G. Leddington’s slide show of a turning carosel box, which reminded me of the work of Anne Collier and Tacita Dean. But Leddington’s accompanying works — photo prints of obscure articles, book plates and photos relating to Henri Michaux, art collector/smuggler swung the content away from the project of photography and back towards the archive.

My contribution to the new library.

My contribution to the new library.

The curatorial statement is quite smart, pointing out the paradoxes inherent in any archive — exhibitions, art collections or libraries. I really liked the high conceptual quality and grassroots venue partnered with the new library initiative. I keep telling people that Manchester is a cool city, and if they can look past the binge drinking and American-style malls, they’d see the local points of vibrance like Islington Mills.

Gregor Schneider‘s Kinderzimmer
Subversive Spaces
Whitworth Art Museum

I couldn’t be bothered to see this pitch-black, one-viewer-at-a-time installation — the wait times were always long, but today, by happenstance, I was able to get in after a brief 10-minute wait.

I won’t spoil what’s inside for those who yet to see it, but I will say this:

I found it extremely effective. It was emotional — the darkness was so complete it was terrifying, and upon exiting, my sense of relief gave way to a curious ecstasy. It was provocative and I experienced a sense of convergence between:

  • Dan Graham’s interest in the just-past
  • In Claire Bishop’s Installation Art: A Critical History (Tate 2005) darkness and the dissolution of self…
  • …and how Kinderzimmer manages to include pure phenomenology, mimesis and representation
  • how Schneider exploited the flaws in human hardware
  • how the installation achieved high aspirations in spite of the humble materials
  • grief and existential subjectivity
Art & Development

Sharon Kivland and the Whitworth’s Tuesday Talks

Britain and France-based artist Sharon Kivland spoke at the Whitworth Art Gallery’s Tuesday Talk lecture series today. She’s is a fierce intellect and flawless speaker with broad experiences to draw from as a researcher, curator and artist. Her practice is deep and vast, spanning psychoanalysis, language, typography and French revolutionary history. She characterizes her practice as one of precision, intellectual pretensions, and irony.

I really like Sharon Kivland’s Mon Abecedaire, a series of handkerchiefs embroidered with an alphabet of the artist’s personal flaws. The artist’s statement is really great too — light exposition conveying loads of irony. For pics and the statement, visit, click on exhibitions and scroll down.

I found Kivland’s broad experience and lecturing skill impressive and intimidating. Combined with other factors (low proportion of men in attendance, the fact that Kivland is the only female lecturer in the five-part series, and my observations of the local MA programs who’ve visited my studio — overwhelmingly female with only one or two men (sometimes including the TA), per class of 10+ students), I left with a nagging feeling about how much harder women have to work to gain respect and opportunities in the art world.

Art & Development, Research

artists talking about their own art

My appreciation for artists who talk about their practices with enthusiasm and curiosity, and are able to articulate their references and ideas, only intensifies. Last Tuesday, I heard the Scottish artist, Dave Sherry, present his work at the Tuesday Talks series at the Whitworth Gallery. Before his lecture, I poked around Sherry’s web site a little. The performances seemed so inconsequential, and drawings and documentation so haphazard, I was skeptical. Is this just another (white) jokey Conceptualist skating by on a boy-genius aura?, I thought. Fortunately, Sherry gave a great talk, interspersing images of his own work with historical reference points that lent his slight gestures the credibility of an established lineage, which includes Ceal Floyer, David Hammons, Bruce Nauman and Martin Creed. Sherry’s talk was well organized and extensive. He also went above the call of duty and conducted a live performance. It was short (maybe 5 minutes?) but with its Beckett-influenced repetition and absurdity, it demonstrated Sherry’s physical mastery and endurance. Learn more about Sherry at his site. I’m especially partial to “Looking through Tom Cruise’s Eyes” (2005) (rollover the thumbnails).

I’m also really impressed with Joseph Kosuth’s Meet the Artists lecture at the Hirshhorn Museum (mp4). Many artists present their work with only rote descriptions (“This slide is of a project I did in 1988”). Descriptions are often necessary, but without a narrative to stitch it together, the lecture can become soulless and awful. Kosuth, on the other hand, presented his work way of an astute art history and theory paper. It’s dense and I’d recommend it — if you can devote an hour of your full attention.

So I’m really excited to check out Verissage.TV art television.