07 Jul, 2009

A funeral, a procession, and sci-fi sprouts

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Jeremy Deller kicks off his Procession, Thomas Hirschhorn hosts a bloodthirsty funeral, and brussels sprouts get a sci-fi makeover in Liverpool

Sound the fanfare! Manchester International festival opens this weekend with theatrical flourish. This biennial festival in its second edition has quickly gained international significance, and among a cacophony of new and ambitious events are wonderful shows from artists. Highlights include a performance exhibition in an emptied-out Whitworth Gallery of artists chosen by, and including, the queen of endurance, Marina Abramović. She will be asking visitors to promise not to leave for several hours if they visit. Also taking place this weekend is Jeremy Deller’s Procession, involving local groups including Bolton’s Black Out Crew and their modified cars, goths, emo-kids, ramblers and chip-shop owners, all marching their way down Deansgate on Sunday. Deller’s procession is likely to be a sweetly subcultural thing of ramshackle beauty.

If you’re nearer to London but are interested in the idea of processions as artwork, then visit Parades and Processions – Here Comes Everybody at Parasol Unit, in which Deller is also a participant, filming and photographing the peculiar atmosphere of a veteran’s parade in the US. Indeed, the spectre of war hangs over this exhibition – quite literally in the case of Fiona Banner‘s work, which features models of the world’s fighter planes suspended from the ceiling, unpainted, like a swarm of locusts. Thomas Hirschhorn’s sprawling, disturbing installation of cut-out newspaper headlines and grafitti scrawls covers almost the entire first floor of the gallery. From out of his piles of blood-red foam on the floor rise mannequin hands, which support the coffins of dead soldiers, pasted in more newspaper headlines. It’s a procession of media outpouring that appears to carry the dead to their graves.

Should you need a quieter, more contemplative moment after this, stop into the Approach, near Bethnal Green, which has a beautifully sensitive exhibition from Alice Channer, entitled Worn Work. The gallery almost seems to wear Channer’s sculptures, which include adapted bronze bangles and long swathes of gingham and striped fabric that hang from the ceiling. Clothes, more than any other object, need a wearer to bring them to life, and Channer creates sculptures that activate the empty space around them.

In Liverpool, Daniel Pasteiner manages to create celestial magic from common domestic objects, which are on view at the A Foundation. Red and blue sculptures, a little like giant double helixes, twist and spread around the space like genetic constructions from another planet. It’s a little less extra-terrestrial when you realise they’re sculpted from brussels sprouts. Elsewhere, a collection of snow globes, containing tiny models of a wintery New York City, are combined around a larger glass globe to make a cell-like form. Placed on a glowing overhead projector, the globes send refracted light and rainbows shooting around the room.

Lastly, if you’re in Birmingham, check out Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan‘s exhibition at Eastside Projects, entitled Does Your Contemplation of the Situation Fuck With the Flow of Circulation. This pair are always acerbically deadpan – they once filled Glasgow’s Tramway Gallery with a huge black sculpture of the words Heroin Kills, and then asked glamorous art-world types to wear a gold necklace bearing the same words to the Venice Biennale. In their hands, language becomes empty and socially ambiguous. In this exhibition, they’ve included a poster advertising a techno night called Ecstasy Kills, as well as a large, patterned Z-shaped tunnel for visitors to crawl through, so that they might better imagine the pair’s thinking process.

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