art + pig

Yesterday I went along to the opening of Interspecies, a new exhibition at Cornerhouse. The show has been organised by The Arts Catalyst , an organisation who commission art that, in their own words, “experimentally and critically engages with science": it marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth, bringing together a group of artists who explore and question the relationships which exist between humans and animals. Now, the notion of "art about animals" may be sending off a few alarm bells, but the works in this show are emphatically not on the "pet portraits" side of things. Instead, Interspecies offers us works such as Rachel Mayeri’s Primate Cinema, which casts human actors in the role of erm… monkeys, and Beatriz da Costa’s PigeonBlog accompanied by some surprisingly perky-looking taxidermied pigeons. There are also a number of specially commissioned projects including Anthony Hall’s interactive work ENKI experiment 3, which explores the communication between gallery visitors and the rather fabulously named Black Ghost Knife Fish: the opening night also included a special performance from Kira O’Reilly entitled Falling Asleep with a Pig, which brought an Actual Real Life Pig into the top floor gallery. Whilst the piece itself wasn't an especial favourite, I have to admit that the pig was the highlight of my evening. Friendly, happy-looking little black pigs investigating some straw in a specially-built gallery pigsty – that’s the sort of thing contemporary art should really be all about.

Yesterday night was also the opening of a new solo show by Rachel Goodyear at International 3, They Never Run, Only Call. Following on from a very successful 2008 for the Manchester-based artist, this show presents a number of new and mostly unseen drawings, which continue to explore the rather ambiguous borderlands between reality and imagination. These delicate drawings are peopled with re-imagined creatures from myth, fairy-tale figures given a nightmarish twist, but also take inspiration from natural history and zoological illustrations, developing out of an ongoing process of collecting and scrapbooking found images.

I've also been hoping to catch another interesting new Manchester exhibition: I don’t know about community networks but I know what I like. Curated by Alison Kershaw, this innovative project brings together seven contemporary artists from the north west, including Grennan & Sperandio and Joe Richardson amongst others, to examine and respond to the themes, environments, structures and networks of community and voluntary engagement in Manchester through Community Network for Manchester. Work is shown in a variety of locations across the city: the exhibition becomes a kind of treasure hunt leading the viewer through a number of Manchester's centres of community activity. Unfortunately the exhibition closes on Sunday, and since I'm down in London for the weekend I won't have time to get to see it now: but luckily work from the project will also be exhibited at Castlefield Gallery in April.

Another new show I'm hoping to catch is the Learning to Love You More exhibition up at the BALTIC centre, which runs until 8th March. Learning to Love You More is an ever-changing series of participatory exhibitions, screenings and broadcasts that evolve and develop as new submissions are added. Since the project started back in 2002, over 5000 people have joined in, responding to a series of art challenges ranging from "make an encouraging banner" to "take a flash photo under your bed." Each response is submitted via the website, and becomes a submission for possible inclusions in presentations like this one - visitors to the BALTIC will also be able to join in and make work to submit to the exhibition. I’ve been a fan of this excellent collaborative project ever since I discovered their website (where you can see all the challenges and lots of submissions)- and do hope I’ll be able to get up to Gateshead to catch the show!

Whilst I'm there I'd also have to check out the Fluxus show, and I would also be quite intrigued to see Antonio Riello's work B.SQUARE. The Italian artist has created a series of unique outfits to be worn by all staff, with front of house, office staff and directors all taking part. This unique "exhibition" will move outside the boundaries of the gallery spaces, infiltrating all parts of the building, with manifestations of his work spilling out into meetings, discussions and staff recreational areas as well as all public spaces. B.SQUARE will take place in several contemporary art galleries throughout the work - this is its second incarnation following the launch of the project at Kunsthalle Weine in 2007.

Also on my list of must-see shows is DING>>D0NG at FACT which I still have yet to see. I'm a little disappointed I missed the chance to sleep over in the galleries as part of the Dream Director event with artist Luke Jerram earlier this month. The event saw twenty volunteers sleeping in specially designed pods wearing eye-masks: once people reached "dream state" a computer triggered ambient sounds in an attempt to affect their dreams.

First on the list though for this weekend is the
Rothko show at Tate Modern which I absolutely must go and see before it closes on 1st February. Phew!

(This excellent picture of the pig is by Duncan)