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Archive of ‘manchester’ category

in theblogpaper

You might already have heard of theblogpaper, which describes itself as “the first user-generated newspaper in London”. Anyone can publish blogs, photos and comments to theblogpaper website, which are then rated by the community of site users. The highest rated and most discussed content is then “promoted” to a printed newspaper produced once a month, which acts as an aggregate for the site content, and is distributed for free at tube stations and the like.

The project is still in beta phase at the moment, and is certainly an intriguing and exciting idea. I’d already heard about theblogpaper, via the Manchizzle, when they got in touch with me a little while back, and invited me to get involved. In the interests of giving it a go, I submitted this little review of the Museum of Everything to the site, which made it into the third edition of the newspaper (which also includes a great piece on Banksy by my blogging compatriot runpaintrunrun). I haven’t yet got my hands on a hard copy of the paper, but you can read it online here.

However, though I love the idea of a more democratic, “crowdsourced” approach to publishing, I must confess to finding the experience itself slightly odd. I’m not sure exactly what I feel about blog posts being rated and scored: surely one of the greatest things about blogging is that it gives us the space to have individual and idiosyncratic voices rather than trying to please the masses? I would also question the suggestion that as bloggers we should necessarily aspire to be “promoted” to print as a superior format for publishing. Having said that, theblogpaper offers a diverse and intriguing range of content, and there’s no doubt in my mind that any project that gives bloggers a higher profile has got to be a good thing. I also have to say that I love the idea that London’s commuters might, just once a month or so, go home reading something a little more unusual, distinctive and controversial than the same old Metro/Evening Standard fodder. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll be submitting any more content, but I’ll certainly be watching this space.

Interestingly, I’ve also been hearing some intriguing whispers of plans for an a blog aggregator project in Manchester. Go here to find out more…

andrew bracey: animalation

After a mad day of dashing round Manchester, fighting my way through snow and ice, to get my Masters dissertation bound and submitted before Christmas, I briefly took refuge in Manchester Art Gallery. There, I happened upon an unexpected treat: Animalation, an exhibition of new animation work by artist Andrew Bracey.

Animalation is inspired by flip-book animation techniques, as well as animals both real and imaginary. As in so much of Bracey’s work, there’s a pleasingly playful and intriguing feel to this exhibition: bridging the gap between painting, installation, animation and video, you can’t passively view this work, but must actively explore it, becoming a participant in a game of gallery hide-and-seek. Peeping into hidden corners, you discover unexpected surprises: a scribbled dolphin comes to life on a post-it note apparently left at random on a gallery wall; a “fluorescent disco creepy-crawly” appears and disappears upon an abandoned piece of paper; a rainbow snake slithers across the gallery floor. These doodles bursting into unexpected life also seem to speak of the creative process itself, which here is represented as exuberant, irrepressible, and characterised by a childlike playfulness: a vibrant and enchanting antidote to the often wearying solemnity of so much current contemporary art.

Hover from Manchester Art Gallery on Vimeo.

Animalation is at Manchester Art Gallery until 28 February: Bracey will also be leading a number of events, including an artist talk and an animation-focused art weekend. Taking the idea of active participation a step further, you can even find instructions on how make your own “animalation” on the Manchester Art Gallery website.

Find out more about Bracey and his work on his website here.

[Image and video: ‘Hover’ by Andrew Bracey via Manchester Art Gallery]

Top 5 Exhibitions of the Year 2009

My ‘top 5’ highlights from a year packed with great exhibitions and art events in both London and Manchester:

5. Subversive Spaces – Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

An ambitious exploration of the legacy of the Surrealist project, placing works by artists such as Dali, Magritte and Ernst alongside those by contemporary artists exploring (and disturbing) similar territories – the private, domestic spaces of the home, and the public, social spaces of the city.


4. The Museum of Everything – London

A quirky, higgledy-piggledy assemblage of outsider artworks, offering a refreshing change from the slick presentation of the conventional ‘white cube’ gallery space.


3. Walking in My Mind – Hayward Gallery, London
Tiptoe through a surreal wonderland of dream-like spaces… a delightful and unique exhibition exploring the power of the artistic imagination.


2. Talking to Strangers: Sophie Calle – Whitechapel Gallery, London

One of the most intelligent exhibitions I’ve seen for a while: compelling, personal and with a knowing sense of humour.


1. Procession: Jeremy Deller – Manchester International Festival, Manchester

A parade with a difference, drawing in communities from all over Greater Manchester, from Rose Queens to Stockport boy racers, for a celebration of what Deller terms ‘northern social surrealism’. ‘Part self-portrait and part-alternative reality’, this was a truly one-off Mancunian extravangza.

Angels of Anarchy at Manchester Art Gallery

This post was originally written for Manchester Art Gallery’s Angels of Anarchy microsite.

Stepping down the dark red tunnel and entering Angels of Anarchy is like emerging into a hushed treasure trove of elaborate, otherworldly curiosities. There is so much to discover here, from Méret Oppenheim’s theatrical surrealist objects to the disturbed domestic spaces of Dorothea Tanning’s eerie gothic paintings; Frida Kahlo’s exuberant still-lifes to the elaborate, unquiet fantasy landscapes of Leonora Carrington. What is more, this selection of artworks from three generations of female surrealists is accompanied by a fascinating miscellany of ephemera – from the limited edition books and little magazines so essential to the development of the avant-garde movement, to personal letters, drawings, and even a tarot pack designed by Ithell Colquhoun.

But for me, the real treasure amongst this rich and diverse assembly is the selection of portraits. Much of the work in this section is less overtly surreal: instead, Eileen Agar’s illustrative pen and ink drawing, and Leonor Fini’s line and wash work are delicately graceful and understated; whilst Lee Miller’s warm and evocative portraits of her fellow artists are elegant, though often subtly uncanny. Yet interestingly it is also Miller who offers us one of the most troubling and indeed profoundly surreal self-portraits in this exhibition – a photograph of an amputated breast laid out on a plate, complete with knife, fork and napkin, as if ready for consumption. Meanwhile, looking at Claude Cahun’s miniature self-portraits is like peeping through a series of tiny windows at the disorientated artist-subject as she performs a whole series of different identities before the viewer. It is in this section that the complexities of female subjectivity, the tension between woman as muse and woman as creator, really begin to unravel themselves in full.

Like so many of the other twentieth century avant-garde art movements, surrealism has always seemed the enclave of iconic male artists: Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, André Breton and the rest. Yet the strikingly feminist artworks that make up this exhibition are easily as original and subversive as the better-known works of their male contemporaries, mounting a powerful, but often distinctively mischievous challenge to the conventions of art, as well as to the orthodox gender politics of their contemporaries. Especially intriguing is an array of drawings from the surrealist game Exquisite Corpse, where art becomes the product of a communal creative activity, no longer the preserve of the individual (male) artistic genius, working in isolation, but something altogether more exuberant.

In the end, it was this sense of exuberance and energy that for me was most striking – and indeed, most enjoyable – about my delve into this haunting assemblage of artworks: Angels of Anarchy is above all an encounter with the dynamism and vitality of this secret history of twentieth-century avant-garde art.

[Image: On Being An Angel (1977) by Francesca Woodman, courtesy of George and Betty Woodman and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, via Manchester Art Gallery]

bloomberg new contemporaries 2009, cornerhouse

I have realised recently that I’m often just as struck by the mood or feel of an exhibition as I am by the individual works themeselves. This was particularly true of my recent whistle-stop tour of Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2009 at Cornerhouse, Manchester.

Now in its 60th year, New Contemporaries is made up of work selected from open submissions of work by the UK’s art school undergraduates and postgraduates. As such, there’s no doubt that it’s a difficult show to engage with: often controversial and often contested. This year’s offering, selected by Ellen Gallagher, Saskia Olde Wolbers, John Stezaker and Wolfgang Tillmans, is no exception, even amongst the Manchester blogging community. For example, whilst Manchester Photography hails it as “THE Manchester show of the year so far” and for the Art of Fiction it is a “diverse, considered show”, runpaintrun characterises it as “the equivalent of a biggest vegetable competition at a country show. There is only so much you can be impressed by a marrow, how ever bloody big, shiny and perfectly formed it is.”

Now, I have to say I can appreciate where runpaintrun is coming from on this one. There’s no doubt that the quality of artworks in this show varies wildly – sometimes they’re experimental, sometimes controversial, sometimes intriguing, and sometimes just a little bit underwhelming. But for me, a visit to New Contemporaries is somewhat different from a visit to any other exhibition. It’s about a mood, an energy, an overall narrative. At the end of the day, New Contemporaries is a graduate show – albeit one of a very sophisticated kind – and as such, I enjoy it for the multiple directions it points me, the possibilities it offers for the future. It’s often a bit rough and raw around the edges and usually there’s a few works that I really can’t stand, but there’s always something that stands out: this time, for me, it was Frances Blythe’s melancholy and slightly spooky photographs of suburbia. What is more, amongst this thoughtfully-curated jumble, something rises to the surface – vitality, energy, and however misplaced it may be, an unabashed and strangely infectious optimism about the future of contemporary art.

[Image: Susanne Ludwig, Passing Church. Feasibility Fantasies via Cornerhouse]