A few pictures from the KNITRONICA event at Big Hands, my camera died early on so watch this space for more…
Thanks to everyone at Big Hands, Sam Meech, Marie Young and Iris Cooper for putting together such an interactive and engaging event. Not to mention, as ever our fantastic volunteers.
More events coming soon here…
Big thanks to Soup Kitchen for having us and artist Stephen Nuttall and our amazing volunteers for such a great workshop.
More events to come -
This Sunday our art Pub Crawl continues…
Big Hands, Oxford Road, 23 February, 1pm. FREE
Artists Sam Meech, Marie Young and Iris Cooper lead this textiles experiment, which uses live music, sampled sound and, yes, knitting machines. Together, they’ve created a “band” made up of a Tenori-on, a MacBook, a hacked knitting machine and other music-making devices. Sit back, listen and watch as music, art and knitting come together.
Nice reflection on the Pop Up Whitworth exhibition over in Selfridges from Hannah Niblett on the Institute for Cultural Practice blog…
Genesis (image taken by the author)
If you’ve been into Selfridges in the past three weeks you’ll have seen Genesis; Jacob Epstein’s large, bold, controversial sculpture of a naked, heavily pregnant woman. With her African mouth, Asian eyes, prominent breasts and swollen stomach she fills the department store’s main entrance and is the pièce de résistance of the Whitworth Art Gallery’s latest display; Pop-up Whitworth.
It’s taken me a while to get my head around this. Selfridges doesn’t seem like the obvious home for the Whitworth’s collection. I love the idea of the collection ‘popping up’ (while the gallery is closed for redevelopment) in unexpected locations, sparking off new interpretations and reaching new audiences, but why choose this palace of high-end consumerism?
Collaborations between art and retail are not unheard of. Apparently the V&A has had exhibitions with Habitat, Burberry and Harrods. The Louvre, of course, has an entrance in a shopping mall. Such ventures can reinforce anxieties about dumbing down and blurring boundaries; about cultural institutions pandering to an audience that is no longer able to appreciate a uniquely aesthetic experience, but consumes culture in the same way it consumes high street fashion – driven by desire, scanning the horizon for the next aesthetic fix, in an attempt to fill the void in our fragmentary postmodern lives.
But there is another way of seeing it. In Having One’s Tate Nick Prior describes the most successful twenty-first century museums as ‘reflexive allotropes’. ‘Reflexive’ meaning responsive and self-aware, and ‘allotrope’ meaning something that is capable of existing in two or more different forms. Art galleries don’t have to respond to our hyper-modern culture by either becoming populist, disneyfied distraction machines or by retreating into elitist narratives of high culture. They can do/be both. And everything in between.
Having spent some time working at the Whitworth I know how good they are at being many things to many people. Academics, students, families, toddlers, home schoolers, asylum seekers, teachers, hospital patients; they all think of the Whitworth as their own. The gallery redevelopment is driven by the need to provide space for this increasingly diverse audience.
The Selfridges venture provides a way in for a new audience. This might be well-off professionals who are never in the Oxford Rd area, but might be inclined to go there for an After Hours event. It might be non-residents who visit Manchester for the shopping but don’t know about the city’s cultural attractions. And this allows the Whitworth to show its glamorous side, to borrow a bit of glitter and glitz. It turns out a Picasso print looks surprisingly good next to a Gucci handbag…
That last comment is a bit flippant; it is more complicated than this. Looking at the vulnerable little female figure in one of Tracy Emin’s monoprints, alongside eye-wateringly expensive clutch bags, is a complex and contradictory experience that deserves a bit of time and reflection. I suppose my uncertainty about this exhibition comes from knowing that, if I was in shopping mode, I wouldn’t be stopping to spare this time, in fact I’d probably walk straight past the glass case which dissolves too easily into the visual noise of reflected lights and polished surfaces. I’m not certain the works on paper in this exhibition entirely work. Maybe they’re too small, too subtle; they don’t quite stand up to their new surroundings.
A Tracey Emin monoprint (image taken by the author)
But happily, the same can’t be said about Genesis; she literally stops people in their tracks. Apparently she has elicited a huge range of reactions from passing shoppers; curiosity, enchantment, revulsion, excitement, bafflement… But whatever people think of her, the important thing is they think something – they are momentarily forced out of a consumer mindset into an aesthetic one: Who is she? What is she doing here? Why does she make me feel angry/happy/confused?
She carries the contradictions of her new setting well. In her nakedness, caressing her belly, back turned on all the material desires and exchanges of the store, she challenges those going inside to think about the things that are more important than shoes and handbags. But at the same time she basks in the spotlights and the glamour of her surroundings, her white skin echoing the white interior of the store. Dare I say it; she looks more at home here than she did in the gallery.
I think this is a fearless move by the Whitworth: Striking out into an arena of society that is, in many ways, anathema to what art galleries try to do; exposing some of the most important pieces of the collection to an alien context; creating an experience that is contradictory and perhaps not entirely successful… It shows just how confident and innovative the Whitworth is as a reflexive allotrope –able to embody both populism and elitism, challenging anyone and everyone to engage. I urge you to go and see Pop-up Whitworth before it vanishes on 14th February, leaving empty handbags and crumpled cashmeres in its wake.
Tuesday Talks at MMU
MMU All Saints Campus, New Art & Design Building, Lecture Theatre 403
12pm – 1.30pm, free, no booking necessary
The Tuesday Talks series are a collaboration between the Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester Metropolitan University, and as the Whitworth transforms into a 21st century gallery in the park, the talks will be held at MMU.
The Tuesday Talks invites leading artists, thinkers and curators to explore the driving forces, influences and sources of inspiration within contemporary art and is programmed by Professor Pavel Büchler and Bryony Bond.
Andrew Wilson is a curator, art historian, and art critic. He has been Curator of Modern and Contemporary British Art at Tate Britain since 2006, previously he was the deputy editor of Art Monthly for nine years. He recently wrote about Richard Hamilton’s Swingeing London 67 (f) for Afterall’s One Work series and curated Keith Arnatt: Sausages and Food and Ian Hamilton Finlay at Tate Britain last year.
Stuart Tulloch is Curator at Ikon Gallery. He studied Fine Art at Newcastle University and later became Curatorial Assistant at Hatton Gallery. He joined Hayward Gallery, London in 1999 and worked on major retrospective exhibitions of the work of Panamarenko and Malcolm Morley, as well as ‘Facts of Life: Contemporary Japanese Art’ in 2001.
From 2003 to 2012 he was Curator of Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool, where he led the gallery to become one of the most respected contemporary visual art venues in the north west of England, producing a programme that included artists Brian Griffiths, Peter Liversidge, Heather and Ivan Morison and Lindsay Seers.
David Jacques is a multi-media artist primarily involved with film. His practice engages with the subject of history, its narrative interpretations and the interplay between factual and fictional strategies of representation. For this Tuesday Talk Jacques will screen a new short film, The Dionysians of West Lancs. An essay film that weaves through age-old tensions – Acts of Enclosure, defence of the Commons, freedom of association and assembly. The narrative is geographically played out around tracts of land running up the coastline of West Lancashire.
In 2010 Jacques won the Liverpool Art Prize and was shortlisted for the Northern Art Prize. Recent screenings of his work include; Tate Liverpool ‘Art turning Left’, 17th International Video Festival VIDEOMEDEJA Novi Sad Serbia, WNDX Film Festival Winnipeg Canada and Sheffield Fringe at BLOC Projects Sheffield. He lives and works in Liverpool.
Huge thanks to everyone that came along to the launch on Friday. It was a brilliant start to what is all set to be an amazing programme of events. Details of which are all live online for you to peruse here.
Here are some great photographs from Gwen Riley-Jones of Fridays launch. Thanks again to Hey! Manchester, Honeyfeet, Les Malheureux and our fantastic volunteer Ged not to mention First Chop Brewing Arm for being such welcoming hosts.
7.30pm – Late
First Chop Brewing Arm,
Unit 3 Trinity Row
The Whitworth may be closed, but our work continues. Join us as we launch four months of art, performance, workshops and courses – all held inside some of the city’s best-loved watering holes.
Where better to start a pub crawl than in a working brewery. This lauch will give a flavor of whats to come, with a special performance from Manchester’s finest ethio-trad, folk-hop band, Honeyfeet. Featuring curated projections from the Whitworth’s collection. Plus a free beer on arrival, this event is not to be missed.
From life drawing at the Briton’s Protection to a live music knit hack at Big Hands, alongside monthly courses from the Workers’ Educational Association at The Anchor: this is the Whitworth’s Pub Crawl. Come have a drink with us.
Join the event on Facebook here…