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The Land Between Us, Whitworth Art Gallery

Via Audioboo: Jonathan Schofield talks to Whitworth curator Mary Griffiths about the new exhibition

Written by . Published on September 28th 2010.

The Land Between Us, Whitworth Art Gallery

As curator Mary Griffiths prepares for the Whitworth’s latest blockbuster exhibition – opening this weekend – she takes five minutes to talk forests, riots and the devil with Confidential editor Jonathan Schofield. The interview and most of the text below has been filched from www.creativetourist.com with their permission.


A few years back, The Whitworth wasn’t really on anyone’s radar – a nice gallery, sure, but not a particularly exciting one. Fast-forward a few years, and, under the leadership of director Maria Balshaw, the Whitworth has become one of the UK’s most interesting art venues.

Its recent shows have been lauded by critics and art aficionados alike (the Tate’s Sir Nicholas Serota is a particular fan) and its featured artists read like a who’s who of contemporary and experimental art practice: Marina Abramovic, Gregor Schneider, Abigail Lane, Thomas Demand, Robert Gober, Angus Fairhurst and many others.

The Land Between Us is its latest offering (we hesitate to use the word ‘blockbuster’ but it’s not far off), an exhibition that opens with a forest created by Olafur Eliasson (best known for his enormous sun-like installation at Tate Modern) and goes on to explore themes of landscape and British identity.

Typically, the show features both historic and contemporary artwork, mixing, for example, watercolours by JMW Turner (50 of them, all drawn from the Whitworth’s own collection) with pieces by the likes of Black Audio Film Collective and Rachel Whiteread.

JMW Turner's watercolour of Ullswater

An absolute highlight is the approach to the exhibition through that winding woodland path mentioned above – a real wood inserted into the gallery – by Olafur Eliasson. This is pure magic. Confidential reckons more buildings need internal woods, the smell, the unreal sensation as you tramp under birch and ash is simply beautiful. We’re going to ask the staff to start coppicing right now.

Some of the work is classic, some timeless, some thought-provoking, much of it political.

Confidential favourites include the 1513 engraving by German master Albrecht Durer ‘The Knight, Death and The Devil’ and modern work such as the photos of Chen Qiulin of China as it accelerates into an uncertain future.

The Knight, Death and Devil, by Albrecht Durer

Chen Qiulin's China

The video of a Palestinian family, by Larissa Sansour, dining in their divided land and telling jokes provides a good compare and contrast with British Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt’s mawkish view of nineteenth century Palestine.

Larissa Sansour's Palestinian meal

William Holman Hunt's nineteenth century view across part of Jerusalem

The mix and match, or even mis-match of old and new, makes for a fascinating, moving and hugely entertaining exhibition.

Alongside this remarkable show the Gallery is serving up a menu of other cultural hors d’oeuvres, such as a one-off gig between The Warehouse Project’s Matthew Krysko and performance artist Naomi Kashiwagi (Sat 2 Oct) and a reading with literary wunderkind Jonathan Franzen (Sun 3 Oct).

For full details of this exhibition and for more on Manchester Weekender, click here.

The Land Between Us opens on Saturday (until 23 Jan 2011), The Whitworth Art Gallery, Oxford Road M15 6ER. Free entry.

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