Manchester International Festival: 11 Rooms of interactive art

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Revolving Door
Image caption,
All the works on show demand interaction from visitors, the gallery director said

"I normally think performance art is a bit rubbish, but it was really engaging."

Some people find performance art a bit off-putting but the aim of the 11 rooms was to engage and interact with the gallery-goers rather than let them stand back and take it in.

The installation at the Manchester Art Gallery brings together artists from as far afield as China and Brazil, each given an empty room in which to showcase a work which sees performers realise the artist's creation.

Maria Balshaw, director at the Manchester City Galleries, described the exhibition as: "An exchange between the art performed and the visitor stepping into the space.

"Each piece asks you to do something, to hear something, to look at something, or to move around the space quite quickly."

The performance begins as you step into each of the rooms or, in the case of the claustrophobic Flat by Laura Lima, crouch outside to watch a performer squeeze their way around a room which is only 45cm high.

Roman Ondak's Swap asks gallery goers to sift through their personal belongings to see if they are prepared to swap a possession - be it a ten rupee note, an umbrella or house key - for whatever the performer happens to have.

Image caption,
Visitors to the Swap exchanged belongings

One woman who made a swap said: "I have gone in now and just swapped my umbrella for his pen.

"It is a nice concept because it is getting you to think about how we throw away things and how everything is just disposable."

Freezing time

The most interactive of rooms was Revolving Door by Allora and Calzadilla. Dancers link arms and march around the room, fast then slow then fast again, replicating the motion of a revolving door.

"At first I thought we just had to observe from outside but when we went in realised that we were meant to get involved. If you are not careful you just keep going and going," said one lady who stepped into the breach.

"It reminded me of Rochdale Town Hall."

In Xu Zhen's In the Blink of an Eye, a performer is frozen mid-fall allowing the audience to examine what would ordinarily be a fleeting moment in time.

One onlooker commented: "I wondered if she had a framework inside her clothes. It is absolutely amazing the body control that she is exercising to stay there."

Image caption,
In Mirror Check the performer examines her naked body

Artist Tino Sehgal has filled one of the rooms with his new creation Ann Lee, an animated character brought to life and played by a child actress, who talks about life as a work of art and the things she sees in an art gallery.

Sehgal said he felt that the exhibition provides a new experience for art lovers, bridging the gap between the theatre and the gallery.

Provocative content

The exhibition also contains more challenging work such as Luminosity by performance artist Marina Abramovic, which features a naked woman who appears to float in front of a white wall, and Mirror Check by Joan Jonas in which a performer examines her naked body.

Many visitors to the gallery were impressed with the wide-ranging and provocative content.

One man said: "It's a brilliant exhibition and great to see it packed with people."

Another visitor added: "It is interesting to watch the reaction of everybody. You wonder what they are thinking and feeling. That in itself is an artwork."

11 Rooms is running at the Manchester Art Gallery until 17 July as part of the Manchester International Festival.

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