Manchester International Festival (MIF) has returned with a vibrant programme of original new work from across the spectrum of visual and performing arts and music by artists from over 20 countries. It runs until 18th July.
Artists include Akram Khan, Arlo Parks, Aaron and Bryce Dessner, Cerys Matthews, Christine Sun Kim, Cillian Murphy, Damon Albarn, Deborah Warner, Forensic Architecture, Ibrahim Mahama, Laure Prouvost, Marta Minujín, Rema and Lemn Sissay. Events will take place safely in indoor and outdoor locations across Greater Manchester, including the first ever work on The Factory’s construction site, the landmark cultural space that will be MIF’s future home. With almost all the work created in the past year, MIF21 provides a unique snapshot of these unprecedented times. Artists have reflected on ideas such as love and human connections, the way we play, division and togetherness, equality and social change, and the relationship between the urban and the rural.
The best place to see all the activities and events is the MIF site. But we have chosen four visual art highlights to give you a head start.
Forensic Architecture: Cloud Studies
If there’s one exhibition you should visit at MIF it’s Forensic Architecture’s Cloud Studies. You start off with a film that introduces all the investigations in the exhibition then you can go next door to delve into each in more depth.
Cloud Studies draws together some of Forensic Architecture’s previous investigations around the world to expose how states and corporations weaponise the air we breathe to suppress civilian protest, to maintain and defend violent border regimes, and empower extractive industry. The display at the Whitworth includes investigations from Palestine, Beirut, London, Indonesia, and the US-Mexico border. The exhibition also features archival material including maps, 3D printed models and contextual interpretive material related to the methodologies used by Forensic Architecture in these investigations.
A highlight of the exhibition is the first phase of a major new investigation on environmental racism in Louisiana in an area known as ‘Cancer Alley’. In a region densely populated with petrochemical production facilities, majority-Black communities, the descendants of people historically enslaved on those same lands, today breathe the most toxic air in the United States. Forensic Architecture present a two-channel film mapping a three-hundred-year-long continuum of environmental racism that powers an extractive economy, and fuels climate change.
“This is the first major exhibition at the Whitworth after a year of closure due to the Pandemic. I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to begin the next chapter in our history, heralding in a new programme that promotes the idea of art as a tool for social transformation and offering new ideas for a post-covid world. With MIF we are very happy to celebrate 10 years of Forensic Architecture, a collective who have pioneered a way of working that has expanded beyond the frame of art, and the traditions of representation and documentary; to actively and practically support justice for communities around the world. To present this body of work that connects environmental, economic and racial violence now is highly pertinent to our current situation and especially given Manchester’s historical complicity in global industrialisation and capitalism since its birth in the 19th century.”Alistair Hudson, Director of the Whitworth, The University of Manchester
Cloud Studies – Saturday 17th October The Whitworth Free, ticket required: Book here
Kemang Wa Lehulere: I Love You Too
This is also a must-see but you need to hurry as it closes this Saturday 10th July. South African artist Kemang Wa Lehulere presents his largest UK exhibition to date, I Love You Too, presented alongside the publication of a beautiful new book of love letters.
Wa Lehulere spent MIF19 in residence in Manchester’s network of libraries and has created new work inspired by the time he spent in the city. 324 items have been installed in the grand Reading Room at Manchester Central Library. Wa Lehulere is known for the use of found materials in his work, referring to his experiences growing up in apartheid South Africa. The sculptures created for Manchester include tyres, shoelaces and wood salvaged from school desks.
“Kemang is first and foremost an activist artist and thinker, deeply embedded in the narratives of his homeland and wide-ranging in his practice across performance, film and installation. It felt important, therefore, for him to engage in a dialogue with the locality of Manchester. Kemang has a longstanding interest in the history of community libraries in South Africa and the meaning of library systems, and access to ideas and writing, in differing societies. It was during his MIF19 residency that he articulated the initial idea for I Love You Too: a project from a visual artist focused on the writing of letters, shifting the focus from how a community uses a library to how it creates one. And now here it is: with Manchester the first, we hope, in a series of books emerging from cities across the world under Kemang’s guidance.”Manchester International Festival Artistic Director & Chief Executive, John McGrath
Commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival in partnership with Library Live and Creative Spaces, Manchester Libraries cultural programmes and supported by Arts Council England, Lottery funding.
Kemang Wa Lehulere I Love You Too – Saturday 10th July Manchester Central Library Free, ticket required.
Laure Prouvost: The long, waited, weighted gathering
It’s a bit of a walk to the Manchester Jewish Museum but worth the work to see the newly renovated Museum by Citizens Design Bureau (a co-operative company of architects) as well as the new commission from Laure Prouvost.
The long waited, weighted, gathering which was co-commissioned by Manchester International Festival and Manchester Jewish Museum, transforms The Ladies’ Gallery in the historic synagogue of the Manchester Jewish Museum.
The immersive installation consists of a new film, shot inside the gallery and in the surrounding Cheetham Hill area, inspired by the museum’s history as a former Spanish and Portuguese synagogue. Laure Prouvost has explored the museum’s extensive collection to discover the stories behind past congregants of the synagogue, unearthing the largely untold stories of the women who once found comfort and community within its walls.
Prouvost’s films are often accompanied by objects which evoke its themes and imagery. For this work, materials that have been created while working with the Museum’s resident Women’s Textiles Group are incorporated within the installation alongside the new film, capturing the voices of modern women in the local community together with those of the women who once gathered in the synagogue’s Ladies’ Gallery.
“We’re thrilled to be working with Manchester International Festival and Turner prize-winning artist Laure Prouvost as we re-open our new museum this summer. Artistic collaborations such as this allow us to explore and share Jewish stories in new and imaginative ways, making our collection more relevant and helping us connect closer to our diverse audiences. We can’t wait to welcome everyone through our doors to experience Laure’s installation and see our stunning new building.”Max Dunbar, Chief Executive of Manchester Jewish Museum
The long waited, weighted gathering – 3rd October Manchester Jewish Museum £6 adults/£4 children
Rashid Rana: EART A Manifesto of Possibilities
The best way to experience EART is to go to the shop (The MINUS Glocal grocery shop) first before going to the exhibition experience the idea then read about it. One of the world’s leading visual artists explores new ways of looking at the world in this enthralling new project. Rashid Rana has coined the term ‘EART’ to describe moments of self-expression beyond the arts: ways of thinking, being and acting creatively in real life.
The MINUS Glocal grocery shop is physically realised in Manchester on 10 Hanover street. The subversively unbranded designs highlight the powerful role that branding plays in consumer choices. Through the shop, Rana aims to eliminate this power and save on publicity associated costs, transferring this benefit eventually to the consumer. The shop is envisioned as a long-term business model concept, that turn capitalism inside out and consumerism upside down.
The MINUS Glocal grocery shop is one of three concepts that Rana is presenting the others can be viewed at his exhibition at the Dantzic Building in central Manchester explores how the concept of EART could be applied to a variety of everyday situations. It features new ideas with utopian aspirations that can still be realised in the form of planet-wide business, hence suggesting a change from within the system: 1001 Minds Glocal, a concept for a new social media app devised by Rana that provides structure for the democratisation of expression through social media; and Exit Glocal, a housing development that presents a new way of living that celebrates de-compartmentalisation of various components of urban life as its primary focus. You can take away a copy of Rana’s manifesto.
Commissioned by Manchester International Festival. Produced by Manchester International Festival and Manchester Art Gallery.
Rashid Rana EART A Manifesto of Possibilities – Sunday 18th July Exhibition – Dantzic Building Shop – Sparkle Street Project Free, no ticket required Book here