Manchester International Festival has announced four new commissions for the 2017 festival, the first under new artistic director John McGrath, with two of them led by visual artists: the Israeli artist and filmmaker Yael Bartana and 2004 Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller.
Bartana’s What If Women Ruled The World? takes Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 political satire Dr Strangeglove as a provocation. The film’s final scene of a surviving nucleus of male leaders repopulating the earth is the inspiration to imagine an alternative scenario.
The artist, who in 2011 was the first non-Polish national to represent Poland at the Venice Biennale, will work with Royal Court artistic director Vicky Featherstone to bring together ten women and one man for performances each night of the festival. They will try to solve urgent crises presented by female experts including scientists, politicians, artists and thinkers.
The Deller commission is described as being ‘created by the people of Manchester from an idea by Jeremy Deller’. What Is the City but the People? is a participatory project that will be presented on a specially designed walkway in the city’s Piccadilly Gardens. It follows the 2009 Deller commission, Procession, which saw a parade of floats, cars and marchers taking over the streets of the city.
Produced in association with Islington Mill, the work will take place on the opening evening of the festival and aims to provide a ‘a self-portrait of the city’ through the outfits, attitudes and individuality of local residents, who will parade on a runway to a musical accompaniment.
Also new for 2017 is My Festival: MIF’s Creative Community, a year-round series of creative projects, skills development and training designed to foster relationships between MIF and local people.
The initiative kicks off with Festival in My House, micro festivals organised by residents of the city which are to be hosted in their own houses for neighbours, friends and MIF audiences. The festival is inviting Mancunians to suggest ideas for festivals, stating: “You come up with the idea, and we’ll help you make it happen.”
The project is being piloted with two events this November and December: the M8 festival curated by Cheetham Hill resident Yatie Aziz, and the Mehndi festival curated by Nija Dalal-Smith from Levenshulme. The latter invites Manchester-based visual artists to create their own contemporary interpretation of mehndi, a traditional form of Indian hand decoration.
McGrath comments: “We’re proudly engaged in our city: My Festival will provide a range of new ways for local artists and communities to be part of what we do. As a festival of new work, MIF is uniquely able to respond to our changing world. The artists in our 2017 programme have a lot to say about the times we live in.”
Since it inception in 2007, the biennial festival has developed a strong reputation for high-profile projects involving visual artists, working with artists such as Matthew Barney, Marina Abramović and Steve McQueen.
The 2015 festival included a theatrical work, Neck of the Woods, by Douglas Gordon starring Charlotte Rampling; a dance production, Tree of Codes, with visuals by Olafur Eliasson; and a collaboration between the painter Gerhard Richter and composer Arvo Pärt. It also featured a major durational project by Ed Atkins at Manchester Art Gallery.
The 2017 festival will take place from 29 June to 16 July with another 20 new commissions still to be announced.
1. Neck of the Woods, directed by Douglas Gordon. Hélène Grimaud (left) and Charlotte Rampling. Photo: Studio lost but found VG Bild-Kunst Bonn 2015 Jutta Pohlmann
2. Richter / Pärt at Whitworth Gallery, Manchester, part of Manchester International Festival 2015. Photo: Jan Chlebik