salford exhibition

These days, we can’t seem to escape from change.

Whether it’s a change to the way we work, communicate or even look after ourselves, things just haven’t stopped changing this year.

But what happens when the very cities we live in begin to change? And what do we lose along the way?

Salford Exhibition, Dark Days, Luminous Nights intends to answer that question.

Commissioned and produced by arts organisation Manchester Collective, this all-new collaborative project will be making its debut at Salford’s The White Hotel in the new year.

Captured entirely in Manchester and Salford during the pandemic, the exhibition presents its audience with an immersive audio-visual installation, as well as a 30-minute film, featuring the work of Salford-based photographer Simon Buckley and artist Blackhaine.

The film follows four strangers traversing the urban landscapes found along the river Irk, starting in Manchester and ending in Salford. Inspired by the mass graves at Manchester’s Angel Meadow Park, the project tells a story of change. Reflecting on the ups and downs of city development, how parts of that city can be so easily forgotten and how its history can be misplaced.

Most notably though, this ambitious project will be done entirely in-person. Though Covid-19 restrictions will still apply, for the first time in a long while, the citizens of Salford will be able to enjoy a live artistic experience via a pre-booked time slot.

Smedley Road, 9:04pm (Credit: Simon Buckley)

This year has been hard for those involved with the arts, but it hasn’t stopped them from innovating their creative endeavours. In discussion with Salford Now, Manchester Collective chief executive Adam Szabo explained that, in order for the project to go ahead, the company had to “reimagine” the live experience.

“It became quite clear to us early this year that the next undefined period of time was going to be different for us” he said.

“So, rather than focusing our planning on trying to find ways to make live [performances] work in a Covid scenario, we tried to think about how to reimagine what a live experience would look like in 2020.”

This resulted in a first for the Manchester Collective.

Though the organisation has a long history of collaborations, Adam stated that:” [Dark Days, Luminous Nights] is the first time it’s been an equal marriage of dance, of music, of photography and visual art.”

He also noted that, despite the pandemic being a “challenging” and “volatile” time for both his company and the artists they collaborate with, the project may not have been done any other way.

“When you’re forced to think in a different way, artists come up with really cool stuff.

“[The pandemic has] pushed us to work in very creative, very different ways and come up with very original pieces of work. I’m not sure if we would’ve created something like this had it not been for these various restrictions we were placed under.”

Manchester Collective: The Centre is Everywhere at the Southbank Centre (Credit: Vic Frankowski, 2019)

Though Covid rules have removed the possibility of true live performance, Adam assured that this new artistic format would be just as engaging: “As an audience member you’re sort of part of the project.

“You’re there in a place, in the physical world. Hearing and seeing something unfold in real time. There are no live musicians there, but that doesn’t change the fact that what you have is this event that feels very much in the same vein.”

With the city at the heart of its premise and storytelling, it’s understandable that the exhibition’s world premiere would take place at one of Salford’s most popular arts venues. However, Adam also believes that Salfordians have “an appetite for this kind of work”- if 85% of the tickets for the whole weeklong run selling in just over three days wasn’t proof enough.

He said: “I definitely think people miss it.

“The arts are such a central part in so many of our lives, and that’s everything from going to see a new Marvel superhero movie to hearing some crazy, experimental electronic artists play at The White Hotel.

“So, there’s a whole gannet of work that speaks to us all as humans and nourishes the soul.”

We’ve dealt with a lot of changes this year and though we can’t speak for the future, at least we can reflect on the progress that has already been made. For better or for worse.

Tickets for Dark Days, Luminous Nights can be found here– but they’re going fast!

To learn more about Manchester Collective’s future projects, visit their website: https://manchestercollective.co.uk/

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