Performance Chambers

I’m currently on secondment 3 days a week to the V&A Contemporary Team, while curating the ‘1:1’ exhibition. Today we had an away day to Manchester to check out the Manchester International Festival. Huge range of things in the programme – installations, exhibitions, theatre etc. We were all very disappointed that we didn’t manage to get tickets to see Punchdrunk‘s new production, It Felt Like A Kiss, but we still managed to scoot around Manchester and cover a fair amount of the Festival. We saw Gustav Metzger’s Flailing Trees installation (21 up-ended willow trees set head-first into a sea of concrete) and spent an indulgent hour or so at Jeremy Deller’s fantastic exhibition Procession at the Cornerhouse.

Plenty on offer in terms of architecture too. We went to see Trade City (left), an exhibition being staged in the cavernous ground-floor space of Will Alsop’s new Chips building (part of Urban Splash’s New Islington development) – a very raw architectural space which has only just been handed over by the contractors. A few years ago I co-curated an exhibition in the V&A+RIBA Architecture Gallery called On The Threshold, a show which looked at contemporary housing. We featured FAT‘s New Islington project in that exhibition, but until today I’d never actually seen the site, so I’m glad we included this little excursion on our itinerary. We also went to Manchester Art Gallery to have a look at Zaha Hadid’s temporary recital space (below).

Billowing, white fabric acoustic panels on all sides – enclosing the audience in a wonderfully ethereal cocoon-like space…a world away from the V&A’s 18th-century Norfolk House Music Room! I love this idea of architects creating tailor-made spaces for performance – be it music, dance or theatre. I remember a couple of years ago, during London Open House weekend, spending an afternoon in the various rooms of the Siobhan Davies dance studios in Lambeth. The building was designed by Sarah Wigglesworth (who funnily enough was also featured in On The Threshold, for her Straw Bale House) and there is a fantastic conversation that can be found online between Davies and Wigglesworth, between client and architect, where they discuss the relationships between choreography, performance, narrative and architectural space. This, combined with today’s glimpse of the Zaha Hadid recital space in Manchester, has certainly has given me lots of food for thought regarding the ‘1:1’ exhibition.