Hockney goes immersive and Laurie Anderson gets apocalyptic in Manchester

David Hockney – Lightroom courtesy of the Artist

A David Hockney art show based on digital projection and a Laurie Anderson premiere examining 21st-century America are among the highlights of the autumn/winter season at Factory International.

You’ve probably already heard about the new trend for immersive art, as seen in the Van Gogh exhibitions of recent years, which featured in Netflix sitcom Emily in Paris. The simple premise is that, rather than stare at dry and dusty canvases in small frames; you walk through a room surrounded by huge projections of the art. It’s super fun, attracts new audiences you wouldn’t normally see in an art gallery, and is a great way to get a new perspective (literally) on famous paintings.

Since last year, David Hockney has also been getting the immersive art treatment. At 87, he’s considered one of Britain’s most influential living artists. He played a key role in the Pop Art movement of the 1960s and has constantly innovated ever since, even creating art on iPads in recent years.

Last year, his blockbuster immersive retrospective Bigger & Closer (Not Smaller & Further Away) launched in London’s King’s Cross to widespread acclaim. And now a new version is coming to Manchester from 10 December-25 January.

And that’s just one of the highlights in the Autumn/Winter Season at the city’s Aviva Studios, also known as Factory International; a brand new cultural hub which opened in June last year. Visitors can also enjoy:

The world premiere of Laurie Anderson’s ARK: United States Part 5 (14-24 Nov).
Ivan Michael Blackstock’s Olivier award-winning TRAPLORD (26-29 Sept).
Jenn Nkiru’s new film reflecting on Manchester’s industrial history (4 October)
Talks by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei and Palestinian author Adania Shibli as part of ‘Artists in a Time of Upheaval’ (Sept to Dec).

Anderson on the Apocalypse

Laurie Anderson is an American avant-garde artist who works across different mediums, including performance art, music and filmmaking. Those of a certain age will remember her 1981 song O Superman, topping the charts and confusing everybody. (If you don’t, check it out: it’s honestly the most unusual number one you’ve ever heard). She’s also known for directing and starred in films like the 1986 concert film Home of the Brave. Basically, all you need to know is that everything she does is unexpected, brilliantly inventive and definitely worth checking out.

Laurie Anderson. Photography by Stephanie Diani

Now, fuelled by the artist’s fascination with the future of humanity, ARK: United States Part V (14-24 Nov) brings together new music, cinematic imagery, stories and songs. Weaving together multiple threads from her five-decade-long career, ARK is an imaginative and personal interrogation of where we are now, asking: what has brought us here and how much time do we have left?

Laurie was born in Chicago in June 1947, the same time and place that atomic scientists began the Doomsday clock’s countdown to the midnight of nuclear destruction. Fast-forward to the present day, and the multiple countdowns that now engulf us (climate collapse, environmental disaster, and the rise of AI) have all added to a sense of isolation and powerlessness as we retreat further online.

ARK fuses these themes in an ambitious new stage show about fear, disaster, preservation, invention, love, and escape: from the Biblical Flood to current natural disasters and beyond.

“For a long time, I’ve wanted to make a new large-scale work about the United States,” says Laurie. “A collection of songs and stories about what has shaped this country in the 21st century. I plan to tell these stories moving through myth, journalism, fable and TikTok, conjuring alternate realities and stories from my own life. Part ruminations, part long-form poems, ARK will also be a kind of 3D movie.”

Hockney is bigger than ever

David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (Not Smaller & Further Away) comes to Manchester in December following its popular run at London’s Lightroom. The show will use the extraordinary capabilities of the vast warehouse space of Aviva Studios to take audiences on a personal journey through 60 years of David’s art.

Lightroom: David Hockney courtesy of the Artist

Lightroom: David Hockney – Swimming Pool courtesy of the Artist

In this new run, the artist’s process is revealed in a cycle of six themed chapters, featuring his most iconic images alongside lesser-seen pieces and newly-created work. A unique and deeply personal running commentary by the artist is paired with an original score by Nico Muhly, and the show is directed by Mark Grimmer of 59 Productions.

“I’m very happy that my exhibition is going to Factory International in Manchester,” says David, “and that more people in the UK will be able to see my pictures bigger and closer than before.”

Meditative Manchester

Jenn Nkiru is a Nigerian-British artist and director who’s recently been making a lot of waves in the creative world. She’s best known for directing the music video for Beyoncé’s Brown Skin Girl, which won a Grammy Award for Best Music Video in 2021. She also played a key role as the second unit director for Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Apeshit video. Her work is known for its Afro-surrealist lens, which reimagines the past, present and future through a black cultural perspective.

Jenn Nkiru by © Rosaline Shahnavaz

Manchester’s industrial history and modern-day architecture intertwine in her meditative new film, which premiers at Aviva Studios as part of Black History Month (4 October).

In this new work, she weaves together new footage and archive material to explore parallels between architecture and the human body – and how they both shapeshift through time and space.

Taking Manchester’s industrial history as a starting point, Nkiru’s film pays homage to the people and culture that make up a city. This is the final commission in the Virtual Factory series, which invited artists to create online works inspired by the architecture and site of Factory International’s new home.

Mental health and masculinity

Ivan Michael Blackstock is a South London-born multi-disciplinary artist known for his work as a mentor, curator and cultural observer. He first established himself as a professional dancer, working on music videos with artists like Dizzee Rascal and Neneh Cherry, advertising for brands like Adidas, Reebok and Samsung and TV shows like The X Factor UK and Dancing with the Stars USA.

Now, he brings his Olivier Award-winning show Traplord (26-29 September) to Manchester. This show fuses dance, live music, and spoken word to explore life, death, and rebirth. Weaving between dream and reality, Traplord charts a heroic journey to self-actualisation, exploring raw themes of mental health and masculinity.

Traplord Production Image by Camilla Greenwell

A co-production between Altruviolet, Factory International and Sadler’s Wells, Traplord premiered at 180 Studios in 2022 to rave reviews and won the 2023 Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production. The show questions the stereotyping of black men and portrays an attempt to escape from a mental state of “being condemned before having lived”.

“I’m incredibly excited to bring Traplord to Manchester at Aviva Studios this September,” says Ivan. “Sharing this personal and powerful journey of self-actualisation, mental health, and masculinity with the vibrant community here means a lot to me. I hope the show resonates and makes a meaningful impact as we collectively explore and celebrate this shared story.”

Talking upheaval

From September to December, Factory International will also continue a series of artist talks focusing on artists in and from some of the areas most exposed to current global forces. ‘Artists in Times of Upheaval asks what space there is for artists when life ‘as normal’ no longer seems possible. Why do they continue to create art, and how?

Adania Shibli Fondation Jan Michalski © Wiktoria Bosc

The series began earlier this year with conversations with Amir Nizar Zuabi, director of The Walk: Little Amal, and Oleksiy Radynski, co-creator of Intervention—two Factory International co-produced projects that have responded to key world events. In the autumn/winter series, artists Lola Arias, Yael Bartana, Adania Shibli, Samson Young, and Ai Weiwei will take the stage.

Aviva Studios will also add to the city’s thriving music scene, presenting a rich selection of gigs, including in-house concerts and collaborations with local and national promotors. Dates already announced for autumn include Gogo Penguin, who are teaming up with London-based cognitive design studio Tenentnet to showcase a brand-new audio-visual experience, Apophenia. (18 September).

The venue will also welcome a celebration of South Asian artistry and transcendental musical fusion with Jaubi & Tara Lily’s partners Dialled In (2 October) and Grammy-winning vocalist and experimental jazz musician Arooj Aftab (12 October).

Reflecting Factory International’s aim to provide access to the widest possible audiences, £10 tickets are available for all shows for Manchester communities.

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