Right now, what's on everyone's lips and in all the major public galleries in Manchester is 'British Art Show 6', and rightly so. For those of you who haven't been to see any of the works spread over seven venues across Manchester, I insist you find a space in your diary and at least visit one housing these exceptional and varied pieces of artwork. It's been running from 28th January and closes on 2nd April 06 so you still have plenty of time.
Occurring every five years, the British Art Show is one of the most ambitious surveys of new and recent developments in art in the UK. Organised by Hayward Gallery Touring, the British Art Show exhibition includes sculpture, painting, drawing, film, video, live art and public projects by 50 artists and artist's groups.
During its tour British Art Show 6 has promised to evolve and change, responding to the venues, cities and audiences it encounters. A great example of this is M.Path (2006), a new commission by Adam Chodzko. Now this one threw me for a loop at first, I think you'll see why, but once I got into it, it was disarming and even amusing. Visitors are invited to swap their shoes for a second-hand pair for the duration of their visit. The artist has been working with Manchester based community groups to source the shoes, and in his words, 'I hope that the choice of donated shoes will influence the visitors walk through the show and their perception of it.'
So go along and see. Hopefully like me you to will leave feeling uplifted and maybe like me whilst walking around in those shoes you'll think about where those shoes came from and where they're going to end up next and on whom. That alone should make you feel liberated if it doesn't make you laugh, because when the exhibition closes in Manchester the shoes will be continuing their journey by being donated to Oxfam.
It's worth bearing in mind that a number of works are showing exclusively in Manchester, including Phil Collin's film el mundo no escuchara (2004), which features fans of The Smiths in Bogotá, Columbia, and singing karaoke to their seminal album 'The World Won't Listen'. Each performer stands in front of a quaintly painted landscape backdrop and goes for it. Think British Legion meets broken English & sunshine and you'll get the picture. Very sweet. Nathan Coley's new video installation, Jerusalem Syndrome (2005) and Saskia Olde Wolbers film Placebo (2002). Manchester has also seen the launch of the British Art Show 6 Live Art Programme.
With the exhibition spread across so many galleries, here's a little taster of what stood out for me in three of them.
In Mark Leckey's film Made in 'Eaven (2004) the bashed-up door and stripped floorboards of the artist's studio are reflected in Jeff Koon's shiny steel sculpture Rabbit (1986) which in this case, stands on a light box in the centre of the room. Rabbit (1986) is one of the most iconic works of the 1980's art boom, so instantly I was drawn in. Everything in this beautiful computer generated world gets its moment in the spotlight as you're slowly guided through your 360 degree journey. The windows, doors, wood panelling, electrical sockets and even a smoke alarm all feature. I found myself trying to look beyond and further into this world, outside the windows, through the door and into each corner of the room, just in case I missed something.At times you're moved away from the centrepiece, but in one sharp jerk, you're moved back in, and close to glimpse yet another angle.
I really enjoyed viewing this film, what I saw of it. With a running time of two hours it's the kind of piece I'd like to take home and play at my leisure as I left wondering what I had missed?
The speed in which your eye was taken around the room in Made in 'Eaven (2004) felt almost hypnotic. The bashed-up, organic Victorian paintwork gave a scenes of history far removed from the shiny centre piece whose reflective surface was being used to reflect the world within and the world outside.
Don't let the running time put you off though. Even if all you get is a short taster, I defiantly believe you'll agree it was worth the time.
Also part of this piece The Destructors (2004/05), a film and performance based on Graham Greene's novella of the same name. Slide images are interspersed with pictures and dialogues from sources ranging from the films Donnie Darko and Quadrophenia, to documentary photographs by Gordon Matta Clark from the 1970's. This is an increasing frenzied audiovisual assault.
Hew Locke's carnivalesque sculptures, Black Queen (2004) and El Dorado (2005), created from the mundane and glitzy ephemera found in markets and pound shops is definitely worth a look.
Locke grew up in the former British Colony of Guyana and his current theme is legacies of the Empire; emblems of royalty that are subverted and overlaid with traces of cultures that British Imperialism sought to overwhelm. The two on show are both part of that ongoing series investigating icons of power and the ways in which these have changed over the last 50 years.
Using fake weapons, plastic creepy crawlies, artificial flowers and jewels, Locke has sculptured two monarchs, comprising of the head and neck that stand separately at over six feet tall. One is armoured and somewhat luminous, the other, organically beautiful with its dark, reptilian and floral theme. Black Queen (2004) and El Dorado (2005) have been described as 'fetish-like' and 'ambiguous' and I have to agree. Whilst viewing these remarkable sculptures, I found that each took on a life of its own taking me on a journey to a make-believe ephemera realm. The closer I looked the more I saw.
On the floors not showing British Art Show 6 the theme throughout is Urban Enviroments and cityscapes. To complement this, the works in BAS6 on the 1st floor were chosen with that in mind. It's an architect's dream.
I found myself instantly drawn to the sculptures of Goshka Macuga. Macuga's installations often play host to the work of other artists. Her environments and displays question authorship and the hierarchies of artist value. On display can be anything from artwork, artefacts, souvenirs, mementoes and scrap which she's collected.
Arkhitectony - after K Malevich (2005) revisits a project originally commissioned for a solo exhibition in London 2003. Homage to Russian Supremacist Kasimir Malevich's utopian 'architectonic' experiments of the 1920's, the work consists of two towering cherry wooden plinths, the largest standing at around 20 feet. There's a sense of the game Jenga in their design though I'm sure that was unintentional? Alone, on the wooden plinths, at different levels sit artworks she has borrowed from museum collections in a number of the host cities, together with her own miscellaneous artefacts.If only I had the space and the budget.
Believe me when I say, there is so much more to see in just these three galleries alone. This time around, my favourite has to be the Urbis. The works exhibited there complement the space beautifully and are all very well presented. What made my visit even more enjoyable though was the staff. They were extremely approachable and very well informed, with an enthusiasm I found quite contagious.
But go and see for yourselves. Take the kids, take the family, because I am sure whichever gallery you visit during British Art Show 6 you won't leave disappointed.Jason Selby
British Art Show 6 is on at:
Castlefield Gallery, Hewitt Street (0161 832 8034)
Chinese Arts Centre, Market Buildings, Thomas Street (0161 832 7271)
Cornerhouse, Oxford Street (0161 200 1500)
Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street (0161 235 8888)
Urbis, Cathedral Gardens (0161 605 8200)
International 3, Fairfield Street (0161 237 3336)
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