Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Manchester International Festival 2011

The M.I.F. 2011 rolled into town this month with shed-loads of openings and events. There were performance, art, screenings, theatre, Batman and Marina Abramovich.

The first MIF related thing that I attended was the Serbian film of [Sniper's Alley] in which a journey was filmed from a womans perspective with some orchestral music playing in her head and simultaneously in a hall where they was practising. This film was called 3295 Days Without Red and was majestical. The screen that it was played on was gigantic and overwhelmingly filmatic. There was another film of the same concept directed by another person but I failed to see this one.

Map of 11 Rooms at the Manchester Art Gallery

11 Rooms at the Manchester Art Gallery was probably a highlight in the festival calender. Eleven artists occupied the top floor of the gallery and that was divided into elevn rooms where each artist could delevop and present their art. Each room held thoughtprovoking concepts and left the viewer asking more questions when entering the next room.
When I saw advertising for this exhibition I didn't know what to expect as the posters never had any inclination to concepts etc so with tentative steps, and being too early for my meet up for a friend, I entered the top floor.
I was given a map of the arena and stepped into the first room Roman Ondak-Swap. Here you give an item and swap it for something else, this in turn starts up dialogue with the room attendant and then the process moves on. I gave a Polaroid photo and received a rusty Japenese lock for my troubles. This was probably the one of the works that didn't hit my spot.
The next room was Mirror Check by Joan Jonas and I peeked my head into the closed as there was nudity and had to be censored. I came back to this room to view the full performance, I consisted of a very pretty woman viewing every portion of her body with a rounded mirror..very voyeuristic. I wonder if the effect would be the same with an obese woman or a man.
Santiago Sierra's room was very eerie and unnerving to say the least that and with Tino Sehgal's Ann Lee room left an oppressed sense of mind. Sierra's in which had a supposed war veteran standing in a corner with his face to the wall was reminiscing of a shooting party and the Ann Lee work where a young girl acts like a virtual Pinnochio and asks philosophical questions brought a sense of the surreal.
Joe Baldessari's unrealised work room was a nice piece of documentation and showed the legal wranglings of showing a cadavre but as engaging as it was I had to move on to the fun part. The next room was unenterable as it consisted of a two foot space with a person lying down and a light. It seemed that the either the ceiling crashed down onto a sleeping person or the floot rose to meet the ceiling. This room was by Laura Lima and had a well matched title, Men=flesh/Women=flesh - FLAT. I liked this piece of surrealism and was very filmic.
My favourite room wasby Simon Fujiwara ans was entilted Playing the Martyr. This room consisted of a large bed with an actor laying down asleep, a clock and a book with The Life and Times of Saint Simon emblazoned upon it. In this room, one of three actors laid down as being asleep and suddenly wake up and read from the book. The book has swaps and changings and is quite humourous. At one part he simulates masturbation and of course, being English, chuckles arise and some people leave. The thing is the saint is somewhat a failed Saint and the actor proclaims, " What is the point of an actor, if the actor can't perform". And yes, you have guessed correctly, the simulated masturbation was unfilled.
The next realised room together with Fujiwara's was Allora and Calzadilla's Revolving Door. This had ten performance artists stomping and projecting round and round the small space. The audience was invited into the room to interact with the door. This was very oppressive and the weather added to the heatness. I failed to enter until my third visit to the exhibition.
The next room belonged to Lucy Raven and had a automatic piano type thing playing three versions of Dance Yrself Clean by LCD Soundsystem. I gave it my best shot but couldn't get what she tried to say.
Marina Abramovich's Luminosity was the first work that I have been subjected by her. It had a beautiful woman sat astride a bicycle seat up upon the wall in a crucifix pose. I wandered passed the room once or twice then entered the room. Nakedness is a fickle thing in art, it is either alluring or it is lurid. Another version is that is art and should therefore be classed of art. There was a very harsh light pointing straight at the performer which illuminated the whole body and was again, voyeuristic and holds the same question that I have for Mirror Check.
Xu Zhen's In The Blink of an Eye was just that. It has a performer in an awkward/pressure position and was seemingly impossible. I sussed out the framed clothing almost immediatley and left the room.
In all, this was a thought provoking and well executed piece of exhibitionary art. It was very sculptural and has given me a lot of thought on what can be achieved with just the performance, humanity and sculpture. It is going to have a lasting effect on some creative minds and will probably be starting points for new work.

The Life and Death of Marina Abramovich at the Lowry was the cherry on the cake for me. I hadn't really know her work before and after seeing the 11 Rooms and doing an internet search, my interests in her had arisen.
I can't really project what this 2-1/2 hour performance had me other than that it was spectacular. Not in a forced entertainment/tabloid TV kind of way but in an artful/filmatic way. William Dafoe played his part grandly, marina was excellant and the beautiful Antony Hegarty sang his part with aplomb. It was like being invited into the mind and ambition of an artist and left to wonder and wander.

I didn't get the opportunity to see Dr Dee by Damon Albarn or The Day We Sang by Victoria Wood or even Batman/Doctor Who etc because I didn't have the inclination or the time to get to them. What little that I did see was enough for me and as I have alreday stated, I have now questions about my work and of performance art etc. So I am happy with what I have witnessed.

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