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3 Music Inspired Exhibitions in Manchester

This week I took in no less than 3 exhibitions with a musical inspiration. First up was Manchester Marauders at 2022NQ, a fantastic exhibition dedicated to Manchester’s Hip Hop scene by photographer & DJ Air Adam. 20 years after the release of A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders, whose eponymous album cover paid respect to fellow artists on the scene, Adam’s exhibition centrepiece is of his very own Manchester Marauders. A cleverly crafted homage to the original,  featuring people who’ve inspired Adam within Manchester’s thriving scene,  over the years since he moved to Manchester in the mid 90’s. I really enjoyed this exhibition because if you’ve ever been to any club night with a hint of Hip Hop on the bill over the past 15 years or so, you’re bound to recognise at least one of the names, if not faces from this collection. For me the exhibition as a whole acts as a celebration of Manchester’ s music scene that doesn’t seem to get recognition outside of the guitar bands and Hacienda nights.

Manchester Marauders © Air Adam 2013

The exhibition features shots from various club nights within Manchester (the only exception are some photos of Tribe themselves, earlier this year at Wireless Festival in London) but it’s not all about the Dj’s & performers though, the audience participation at various events are equally represented in Adam’s shots  which are a mix of crisp black & white shots with some atmospheric silhouettes against the ambient light. This exhibition runs until 26th October 2013 – prints are available to purchase here.

Next up was the ‘Defining Me: Musical Adventures in Manchester’  in the oft forgotten or at least not well publicised ‘side gallery’ of the Lowry, the exhibition is an impressive array of photographs, posters, and artefacts from personal collections of people who’ve been involved in the Manchester music scene who you might not recognise alongside some extremely familiar names such as Kevin Cummins.

Denise, Joan and Jodie © Kevin Cummins 1977

Personal highlights were a ticket stub for LL Cool J from 1987 and a poster for a Grand Central album launch mid 90’s.  It’s an exhibition I intend to revisit and have a really good nosy into, there was a lot to soak up and it was unusually busy when I visited.  Exhibition runs until 23rd Feb 2014.

The third exhibition I visited was the highly anticipated Alison Goldfrapp: Performer as Curator which has seen a massive amount of hype. I can honestly say I’ve never heard so much buzz about an exhibition at the Lowry before.  The exhibition is the first in a series of Performer as Curator, with this exhibition being a collection of works that inspire Goldfrapp’s whole artistic vision not just the music. The exhibition is an eclectic array of books, paintings, photographs and objects from Goldfrapp’s home, despite all this the exhibition left me cold, in fact my favourite part of the show was the promotional black on gold silhouetted image of a girl with  deer. I don’t know whether it was the layout of the gallery or the poor lighting but I just didn’t feel compelled to linger and explore.

There were some books of beautifully illustrated books of fairy tales, but the lighting above them made it difficult to see detail properly, with parts obstructed by shadows and reflections on the glass and the name plates of all the exhibits were white lettering on gold-coloured background which again made it difficult to read. This coupled with the lack of an exhibition pamphlet left me feeling that someone thought the objects & imagery alone, would be strong enough, but without some sort of explanation or dialogue, this exhibition felt seriously lacking something (I do not consider the brief notations from the curator on a couple of the walls a good enough explanation or reason to tie all the loose ends together) and I felt there wasn’t enough information to put everything together into a coherent context, for example the photographs from Francesca Woodman were presented without explanation.  I have no idea why or how this series of photographs influence Goldfrapp or why they were important enough to be included in the exhibition? maybe this mysterious element was intentional, but I’m afraid that if it was, it was just too mysterious for me to fathom and impeded my enjoyment. Exhibition runs until 2nd March 2014.

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In Camera Arts Meet Up 13.6.13

Tonight saw the return of the InCamera Arts Meet, run by Jenn Brookes, film destroying aficionado, the group meets the 2nd Thursday of the month at Mad Lab in Manchester’s Northern Quarter to discuss all things photography but with a strong emphasis on film experimentation. The group is a casual and friendly event for photographers with the opportunity discuss and share ideas with occasional guest photographer presentations. This months subject was around starting projects, and started and ended with questions, maybe quite fitting, thinking of how research projects usually start with a question to be answered. But maybe the point of an art or photography project isn’t answering the question but the things you learn and discover and create along the way?

Some of the questions posed to the group included “are you influenced by trends in photography?” and in turn does being ‘off-trend’ have a negative impact on your exposure? This is something I’ve not thought about before as I am incredibly ‘out of the loop’ when it comes to trends in the art world. I find it incredibly difficult to keep up with ‘who’s hot & who’s not’ in the art world mostly due to there being too much ‘choice’ much like when in rare occasions I find myself in Starbucks and just order a white coffee because when face with too much information my brain just shuts down and chooses an old favourite. Another question came up about whether you are influenced by other people and to what degree. This has two facets for me; influenced by subject matter or medium, one or the other maybe acceptable as you cannot deny outside influences, however both together can run the risk of looking like an over zealous fan.

Other subjects touched on were pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and working on multiple projects at once, the latter with the expectation of not all succeeding but the strong project ideas winning through.

It was certainly an interesting evening with lots to think about, it’s encouraged me to go back to my book “101 Things to learn at art school” that I bought after a having a flick through at a friends house. despite the afore mentioned friend and myself finishing art school over 10 years ago, it’s amazing how much you forget and how much you never learned. Some tips, for lack of a better word, are simply back to basics reminders such as “Learn to draw” or “carry a sketch book or journal”, you know the sorts of things you know at the back of your mind, but just forget, to the slightly more complex (well at least to me) such as ” Art is the means by which a culture describes itself to itself” or “Simulacrum refers to a likeness or simulation that has the appearance but not the substance of the thing it resembles”.

So the meet has left me with plenty to mull over the next 4 weeks or so, maybe by that point I’ll have a new project or two to get started with..

answers or more questions welcome

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What I think about when I think about running

I’ve recently signed up to do a 10k race and aside from the usual I want to be fitter / healthier / run more, I tend to find that I struggle to stick to challenges or more often simply forget about them, without a defined goal. So signing up to a public race with people I work with was just the challenge I needed to get me out there and back into regular running. Or Jogging, I don’t really run that fast so for the pendants out there, when I say running I mean jogging at a pace of around 8 minutes per km. I prefer to track my running in kilometres rather than miles as it just sounds more impressive in my head to say I ran 10km than I ran 6.3 miles, the rest of my life is strictly in imperial measurements only though, not to worry.

The Manchester 10k in five weeks’ time will be my second ever race, and for an infrequent runner like me it kind of sounds like a lot. In fact double the distance of my only other race (which was the furthest I’ve run in one sitting, ever) a 5k Race for Life which I did almost 4 years ago, so I suppose personally it is quite the challenge, not least to my ability to stick at something for longer than 10 minutes. Prior to starting my training plan a few weeks weeks ago, the furthest I would usually run would be 1.5 – 2km runs around the local park, with the dog in toe. This was all I did to prepare for the 5k race and I managed to hold my own, considering it was in the delightfully hilly Heaton Park, this time I am assured the race course is mostly flat but I know I still need to prepare and train a lot more than I’ve ever done previously.

What I’ve discovered about myself over the last few years is my tendency to over-think and this creates my biggest barrier with running. Initially with the short runs, I found it a great to clear my head of all the days stresses for the 10-15 minutes I was out there, but trying to run for much longer than that I began focusing on how hard I was breathing, how my shoe was rubbing my toe or some other imaginary ailment that means ‘You’re bored so it’s time to head home now’. I had a true mental block. So it was with great anticipation that I started reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

book, cover, japanese author,

Haruki Murakami – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I found the book in my local charity shop by chance, when looking for something to read on the long train journey to Scotland. I’d read some of Murakami’s short stories before and found the style very calming, almost therapeutic to read. The book’s premise is around how he started running to keep fit after giving up his Jazz bar to focus on being a writer full time. How this in turn has lead to many marathons & triathlons and is written over the course of just over a year.I found the similarities of how he approaches both disciplines interesting and had a couple of light bulb moments that helped me understand where I was going wrong myself.

It’s not just about physical preparation, but the mental preparation too

Realising that I needed to get my head straight, get in the zone as it were and prepare mentally for the task ahead was the main lesson. This was to take in two factors, thinking and music.
Instead of trying to empty my head on my first training run, I had a whole inventory of subjects to think about, from this blog post to shopping lists to dreaming of holiday destinations.
Factor two was the music, Murakami mentions the music he listens to while running quite a few times. For me getting the right play-list was essential to getting in the right head space. I’ve split the play-list into 3 parts, 1st part is something upbeat to get me in the mood for running, the middle part is a more chilled, rhythmical section for when I’m at a good pace, when my lungs give up fighting against exercising and go with the flow. The final section is my much needed boost of joy, on nearing the end. I’ve put my 20 minute run play-list on Soundcloud so you can have a listen, I managed to put that one up before my iphone was plugged into iTunes where it took it upon itself to wipe six out of the eight play-lists I’d created, annoyingly.

Being four weeks into my training plan (this was a plan devised by the Bupa Great Run website), I’m committed to three runs a week, the longest being on a weekend. More recently it’s thrown in interval training midweek and this weekend’s run was 40 minutes, I even ran in the rain which used to be a sure fire excuse in the past not to go outside!

I’m sure I’ll update more with my progress in the coming weeks…

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Of Monsters And Men & Mugison – Manchester Academy

At the end of February (the 24th to be precise) we went to our first gig of the year, I would’ve blogged sooner but it was not long after we headed up to Scotland for another gig (more on that later) mixed in with holiday so haven’t really sat still for a few weeks.
Unusual for us, we arrived early for the OMAM gig as I’d heard that fellow Icelandic artist Mugison was supporting them, and as I’d listened via his facebook page to a few tracks and decided we should get there early to check him out, we arrived at Manchester Academy 1 (the big one) before 8:30pm. At this point the place was fairly packed, but not with the usual teenage crowd I’d expected for a band that had hit the top ten in the UK and would be flooding a gig that catered for the age 14+ market. Instead plenty of people who made me feel young (which at early 30’s is usually reserved for bands who are on their reformation tour having split up at least 10 years ago), not to mention an abundance of Nordic inspired heavy woollen looking jumpers, which seemed a bit over kill for what was to soon become a hot sweaty venue.

mugison icelandic musician

Mugison at Manchester Academy 1 © Karen Morecroft

Anyway, onto Mugison: every bit as excellent live as I heard from the tracks I listened to online, only with this very amusing off the wall banter, about sending farts in a jar to Andy Votel and his family having to hand-craft thousands of CD covers. He played in no particular order Poke-A-Pal, Pathetic Anthem, Itrekun (which my other half describes as very Nick Cave-ish, in a good way) and Murr Murr the latter of which was song of the year at the Icelandic Music Awards in 2004 and you can catch a a live performance of it here, he actually played a few more tracks that I didn’t catch the name of (we’re pretty sure Kletturinn was on there though), but I’m sure I’ll learn them all after I picked up a 5 (yes, 5!) CD pack of his albums for a mere ten quid at the merch table.

mugison icelandic musician manchester academy 1

Mugison at Manchester Academy 1 © Karen Morecroft

If you want to find out more about Mugison or read the full story about the fart in the jar, check out the extremely well written & researched wiki page.

On to Of Monsters & Men, well they started right in there with Dirty Paws which got the crowd riled up and ready to sing along and dance their socks off! I loved the way they almost marched back & forwards in sequence with each other, like a well rehearsed marching band

of monsters & men gig photo singing on stage at manchester academy 1

Of Monsters & Men at Manchester Academy 1 © Karen Morecroft

Swiftly followed by From Finner and Slow & Steady, if I can remember it wasn’t until another few songs before they actually spoke to the crowd. They played what we assumed to be a new song but has turned out to be a Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Cover, and finished the set by playing the rest of the album (yup all 12 songs played) with Sloom & Yellow Light being the encores, before the lights went up. I was more than impressed with this gig, although I’ve seen live versions on youtube etc and knew they could pull it off, I wasn’t quite prepared for the extra oomph of the bass and what felt like more complex musical arrangements at times than on the album (or maybe I just don’t have a good enough pair of headphones?).
Highlight of the night? Possibly the fantastic trumpet solo from Ragnhildur Gunnarsdóttir, possibly the slightly disconcerting moment when the lead fell out of Nanna’s guitars almost creating the illusion of miming as the music continued…
Of Monsters & Men performing at Manchester Academy gig

Of Monsters & Men at Manchester Academy 1 © Karen Morecroft

Non the less one of my favourite gigs of the last few years, I’m hoping to see them again somewhere soon

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Selling Prints & Raising Money for Amnesty

Hopefully…. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but stuff just kept getting in the way. But finally I’ve done it! The prints are available on my Etsy store and I will be donating 50% of the print price to help celebrate 50 Years of Amnesty International. Amnesty is a charity I’ve been donating to for a few years via my bank and through buying fair trade goods from their shop, but this year I’m hoping to donate more through my art. Amnesty struck a chord with me more so than most others is that the things they fight for – human rights, just seem insane. I really can’t imagine living in a world where I could be thrown in prison for calling David Cameron a plonker or where my friends could be sentenced for life in prison, or death because they happen to love someone of the same gender, or as a female being denied the right to vote or to be forced to marry someone old enough to be my grandad as a teenager.

The prints I’ve made are based on my trips to Tunisia, a country I love and have talked about moving to with the husband sometime in the future, somewhere I which in 2010 was brought to the world media attention with the death of Mohamed Bouazizi a man who set himself on fire in protest at his treatment by a municipal officer, this resulted in the Tunisian Revolution and the Arab Spring, which I’m sure you must have heard about in the media over the past 2 years. For us like I’m sure many tourists who’ve visited Tunisia it was a bit of a shock as the country appeared on the surface as fairly progressive (for an Arab country) where women’s right etc where concerned although the censorship of the internet I suppose hinted at a bigger picture. OK enough of the spiel and lecture. You can find out more about Amnesty’s work here or go straight to my shop here to pick up one of these lovely hot pink screen prints.Stop reading now if printmaking techniques send you to sleep…

There are 50 prints available in total (keeping on the theme of Amnesty at 50), 25 of each design and although screen prints usually scream mass production, each one is unique as I used a method of ‘wet tear’ stencil to create the wash of colour, which creates a rough painterly style edge, the stencil then slightly degrades with each pull of colour creating interesting effects with bleeding edges etc, some prints got 2 pulls of colour which creates a deeper & darker pink. The black photographic image is taken from a photo which is run through photoshop to turn it B&W and make it suitable for transfering to a photo-screen, then enlarged on an old style photocopier (none of those laser ones, they’re too perfect. Each step degrades the image further and further something I tend to do a lot with my printmaking processes.

Tunisia Screen Prints – Amnesty at 50

The images I chose to use were from Dougga, a well preserved ruins site from the Roman Invasion.. And Voila here you have each design, and you can see what it looks like framed, if you live in the UK I can offer it framed too, but it takes slightly longer to ship…. happy shopping

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Art in Salford at Christmas

I know, I know, it’s only the middle of November, but with the Christmas Markets in Manchester open and Zippy Claus sat proudly outside the town hall it means that time of year is well and truly upon us. I’ve noticed that as we’ve settled firmly into the recession there has been a marked return to handmade, individual items and an increase of interest in various arts & craft style fairs. It seems I get a couple of emails about various events selling art/craft/design/prints along side regular vintage fairs each month. With, it seems quality prevailing and you only have to spend 10 minutes (well if you can get away that fast) on Etsy or Folksy to see that there’s a thriving market for people who want something unique or limited, something a bit different.

Christmas Markets

So as I mentioned it’s the middle of November and I’ve already had no less than 3 invites to Christmas fairs/sales in Salford, all within spitting distance of each other. First up is The Casket Works Open Studios event atCow Lane, Salford, M5 4NB on this weekend Friday 23rd (6-9pm) & Saturday 24th November (11am-5pm). Featuring Hot Bed Press with their annual Under The Bed Sale of prints between £3 – £50, and the launch of this years 20:20 Print Exchange, Cow Lane Studios and Suite Studios, there’s bound to be something to tickle your fancy, I hear there might even be a mince pie and some vino too…
Next up is Islington Mill‘s annual Christmas At The Mill Thursday 29th November from 4-9pm, just across the way from The Casket Works,  on James Street, Salford M3 5HW. “The Mill’s residents will be offering range of beautiful, limited edition pieces, from ceramics and jewellery, to photography and printmaking. As well as the wide range of crafts on sale, there will also be a feast of festive favourite for you to enjoy. Mulled wine, homemade soup and mince pies are all on the menu, plus enchanting sounds from members of the BBC Philharmonic. Making Christmas at The Mill the perfect winter evening warmer”.
I really enjoyed the Mill’s Christmas Fair last year, sampling some tasty food as well as picking up some awesome Pantone flavoured Christmas cards made by Raw.

Christmas By Colour – by Raw

Last but not least Salford Museum & Gallery, on Salford Crescent right next to the University is having a Victorian Christmas with Father Christmas, a craft fair full of handmade gifts,  Music, craft activities to name a few – Saturday 1st & Sunday 2nd December 1-4pm. Their cafe also has some very, very fine cakes to sample if you get the chance.

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