On Thursday 12 May museums, galleries and libraries across the UK will open their doors at night to stage unusual one-off events in celebration of our fantastic cultural institutions. Manchester has put a twist on things, with Creative Tourist programming a city-wide mix of odd couplings, exploration and unexpected partnerships.
Following last year’s successful After Hours event at Manchester Museum with Jason Singh and Giuliano Modarelli, we’re delighted to be part of the programme again. This year, we’ve joined forces with Manchester Craft & Design Centre to commission psych-folk musician Avital Raz to create a composition in response to Behind Closed Doors, a new exhibition by ceramic artist Verity Howard.
The commissioned piece will capture the intrigue of Verity’s exhibition, which questions what lies behind the surface of people’s lives. Verity’s slab-built ceramic forms are inspired by her fascination with people’s everyday lives and activities. Each piece features a monoprinted or stamped glimpse through a window, and conveys a sense of stillness, absence of presence, and the eerie sensation of being an outsider looking in.
“Being an outsider in the dark, looking through the glass for a limited amount of time at a fleeting stillness, a shadow of a private world.”
Avital’s commission will focus in on the public spaces between Verity’s closed door houses, using her unique and unnerving musical style to create an original and thought provoking performance.
We sat down with Avital to find out more about the idea behind her composition, how she aims to connect to Verity’s exhibition and a bit about her creative process.
What interested you about this commission?
“As an artist it’s important to me to challenge myself. I look at life and try to tell the story of bits of it that seem important to me. In this case, I had the opportunity to look at someone else who’s also looking, to try to understand her process deeply and let her work take me to places I wouldn’t normally go myself, to follow a map drawn by Verity’s work.”
What inspired your creative ideas for this new work?
“The inspiration for the performance came from listening to Verity describe her work process: Walking around the city at night and looking into windows of people’s houses, taking in their mood by the stillness they leave behind them in the recently vacated room. What their possessions say about them, the energy that stays in a place even when it is empty of people. Being an outsider in the dark, looking through the glass for a limited amount of time at a fleeting stillness, a shadow of a private world. Connecting to someone who doesn’t know you’re looking at them.”
How do you go about creating a new composition based on an exhibition?
“I aim to recreate with sound, the life that drew Verity to want to stand outside the window and draw what she saw. Each house will have its own audio drama next Thursday. I aim to embody the evening itself. The encompassing darkness falling on the city. In Indian music, which I draw great inspiration from, Raags are connected to times of day. They portray and invoke the appropriate moods. I will be using a Raag called Yaman which invokes the feeling of peace. I’d like to focus on the space between the houses and the public space, and move between them. Just as Verity moves outside the windows taking photographs and drawing, I will move between them singing the song of the evening.”
Avital will be performing her new work twice on Thursday evening, at 6.30pm and 7.30pm and Manchester Craft & Design Centre will be open from 6-8pm.
Jerusalem-born Avital Raz has recently gained notoriety for her taboo-busting song lyrics. Her latest release ‘The Believer’ a collaboration with Scotland based cellist/producer Pete Harvey (Meursault, The Leg) was reviewed in the Herald Scotland as ‘likely to be one of the most compelling things you hear all year’. Avital leads workshops across Sheffield and Manchester, and is currently running Brighter Sound’s brand new Indian Fusion Lab course at Band on the Wall.
Winner of the 2015 MMU Graduate Award, Verity Howard is interested in people’s everyday lives and activities. She describes her ceramic forms as ‘contemplative rather than functional’, each conveying a sense of stillness and absence of presence.