Manchester International Festival

This is the second Manchester International Festival, which got off to an impressive start two years ago with the debut of “Il Tempo del Postino” (the theatrical presentation of 15 artists curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Philippe Parreno that also showed at Art Basel in June) and Damon Albarn’s Monkey opera. 2009’s offering has some equally headline-grabbing events, including the major performance event “Marina Abramovic Presents…”.

Performance-based visual art is a strong theme for this year’s festival, and Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller is leading a procession on 5 July along the Deansgate mile, with the aim of bringing together local communities in a show of civic pride. Processions and parades are currently a popular subject in art, with a group show at Parasol Unit in London dedicated to the theme with works by Deller alongside Thomas Hirschhorn, Francis Alÿs, Annette Messager and others on show until 24 July. Manchester’s Cornerhouse gallery is showing “Procession: An Exhibition” (9 July-23 August), which will show documentation of Deller’s event and explore the ideas behind it and the history of parades and processions.

Octogenarian artist-activist Gustav Metzger is still going strong, and is presenting his new Flailing Trees installation in the Manchester Peace Garden. Twenty-one upside-down willow trees will be placed in concrete bases as a statement about environmental damage, a long-term concern of the artist. 2009 is a prominent year for Metzger, with London’s Serpentine Gallery holding an exhibition of 60 years of his work from 29 September to 8 November.

On a very different register, Iraq-born architect Zaha Hadid is collaborating with Manchester Art Gallery to create a high-tech chamber music hall in one of the exhibition spaces, specifically for the performance of solo works by J.S. Bach. Aside from the nine concerts performed during the festival, Zaha Hadid’s spiralling installation will be a major attraction in itself, open to the public during gallery hours.

This article was published in The Art Newspaper, November 2009, p82. To see it in context, click on the PDF link below.

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