Manchester unleashes creativity across the city

Manchester unleashes creativity across the city

8 Jul 2021

Manchester International Festival serves as a springboard for artistry that stretches far beyond the gallery walls

Fabio De Paola/PA Wire

Tarek Lakhrissi, Tracey Emin, Renee Gladman, Vivienne Griffin, Lubaina Himid for Poet Slash Artist. Credit Fabio De Paola

A literature-laden Big Ben, an installation in a Sephardi synagogue, and a poster project that celebrates the power of poetry. These are just a few of the incredible cultural events that can be enjoyed across the city as part of Manchester International Festival, although many of the happenings are open for months to come (restrictions permitting). Here are some of our favourites.

Laure Prouvost, The long waited weighted gathering, image credit Michael Pollard

Laure Prouvost: The long waited, weighted, gathering

at Manchester Jewish Museum, until 3 October


Laure Prouvost is known for creating immersive, surreal environments, yet in this instance she already had the opulent surroundings of this newly refurbished synagogue to bring her work to life. Nestled within the Ladies’ Gallery, her experimental video work (with a bespoke screen that opens and closes like a blooming flower) pays homage to the lives of local Jewish women. They appear having tea and wearing avant-garde feathered gowns, while reminiscing about the rituals and celebrations of days gone by. Look closely, and you might see their discarded cups and biscuits hiding among the building.


© Tracey Emin

Poet Slash Artist
at HOME, until 30 August

The relation between image and word has been happening since the hieroglyphics,’ says Lemn Sissay, the acclaimed poet who has staged this exhibition at HOME, in collaboration with super-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist. Sissay believes that creativity is too often considered in terms of purely visual art, whereas the power of the written and spoken word is in fact inextricably intertwined. As such, the pair have highlighted a whole host of individuals who fit the ‘poet/artist’ mould, from Tracey Emin’s neon scrawl and Lubaina Himid’s meditation on reclaiming the night to Adonis’s beautiful fusion of mixed-media abstraction and Islamic calligraphy. What’s more, the exhibition extends out into the streets, with special posters designed by each artist. These creative expressions will hopefully catch some Mancunians unawares. As Himid puts it, ‘It’s hard to compete with adverts for burgers, but some of these posters could change your life.’

Christine Sun Kim, Captioning the City, credit Fabio De Paola

Captioning the City

across Manchester city centre, until 18 July

Chiming perfectly with Sissay’s statement, Christine Sun Kim uses the urban landscape as her poetic canvas, by emblazoning descriptive and cryptic phrases across various buildings. As a deaf artist, Sun Kim is interested in the concept of communication in terms of how we see, interact and form bonds with the world, as well as what actually constitutes a sensorial experience. In this instance, she expands the basic form of the caption, which usually demystifies language and audio by running along the bottom of our screens, and pastes it in gargantuan forms along escalators, entrances and facades.

Forensic Architecture - Cloud Studies at MIF21 _ image credit Michael Pollard Forensic Architecture - Cloud Studies at MIF21 _ image credit Michael Pollard

Forensic Architecture, Cloud Studies, image credit Michael Pollard 

Forensic Architecture, Cloud Studies

at The Whitworth, until 17 October

Self-described as a ‘multidisciplinary research group’ as opposed to an art collective, Forensic Architecture’s meticulous investigations into insidious forms of human rights violations, cyberweapons and more are mind-boggling in their scope. Through compelling films and carefully composed evidence, Cloud Studies shines a light on the ways that governments, military groups and powerful companies have used various noxious (yet often invisible) gases to displace communities from Gaza to Louisiana, causing crop failures, sickness and even death. It is an incredible example of how the parameters of art practice can inform and educate on complex global issues.


Marta Minujin, Big Ben Lying Down with Political Books. Credit Fabio De Paola

Big Ben Lying Down with Political Books
at Piccadilly Gardens, until 18 July

A colossal replica of London’s famed clock tower has landed in Piccadilly Gardens. However, this version is formed of an array of 20,000 politically significant books that have shaped British culture, from Marcus Rashford’s You are a Champion to the essay collection It’s Not About the Burqa. This incredible installation was conceived by Argentine artist Marta Minujín, and features an interior that displays a film of Big Ben’s imagined journey to Manchester, and a soundtrack of familiar political speeches by the likes of Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May. In the closing days of the festival, a ‘book redistribution ceremony’ will take place, where members of the public can take home the books for free.


Manchester International Festival

Various locations, until 18 July

About the Author

Holly Black

Holly Black is The Arts Society's Digital Editor


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