Playtime: Nine Artists Celebrate the Iconic Venue, Cornerhouse, Manchester

Moving sites in spring 2015, Manchester-based cross art form organisation, Cornerhouse, closes its current space with nine international artists, filmmakers and musicians celebrating the iconic venue: Rosa Barba, Niklas Goldbach, Andy Graydon, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Gabriel Lester, Naomi Kashiwagi, Shannon Plumb, Humberto Vélez and Jan St Werner.

Curated by Sarah Perks, the works in this ambitious group show take direct inspiration or pay tribute to director Jacques Tati’s 1967 masterpiece Playtime; its architecture and physical comedy, sound and space, memory and site. The film is renowned for its dizzying, modernist Parisian set, and its upending of conventional organization and reading of film space. Playtime culminates in a hilarious dance scene in a restaurant during which the entire faux luxury décor literally falls apart around the increasingly frenzied crowd.

Playtime includes sculpture, installation and sound works that branch out from the galleries, through the entire building, onto Oxford Road and beyond – according to curator, Sarah Perks it is “as much about ‘looking in’ as ‘looking out.’”

Fascinated by cinematic illusion and theatrical trickery, Gabriel Lester will present eerie metal sculptures, Melancholia in Arcadia, and installation Slap Door Crash Course (2014) which sees a succession of swinging doors snake through Gallery 1 like a corridor, opening just enough to let visitors pass to the following door, propelling them inside while accompanied by rhythmical, clapping sounds.

Rosa Barba will present a version of her projector sculpture One Way Out (2009-2014) across two gallery floors, by piercing a hole in the ceiling of one and looping a clear leader back and forth so that the whirring sound of the projector is audible on both levels. Musician Jan St. Werner will create Molecular Hypnotics (2014), a light and sound environment using electronic music and the voice of poet Mark E. Smith as he makes observations about mundane events, and describes a range of meditation techniques.

Niklas Goldbach shows Habitat C3B (2008) which was filmed in Paris’s Front de Seine district – built in the 1970s as part of Georges Pompidou’s attempt at modernisation – and depicts a dystopian, near deserted urban environment populated by a handful of identical men. Andy Graydon meanwhile will contribute a new interactive sound work; Shannon Plumb will present a video work that turns to the street corner for inspiration; and a course of audio-seminars designed by artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan aims to critically engage visitors with the ‘politics of listening’.

Outside of the gallery, Manchester-based artist Naomi Kashiwagi will transform the intersection between Oxford Road and Whitworth Street into a carousel whereby small groups of people will perform repetitive movements, accompanied by L’opéra des jours heureux from Playtime. Kashiwagi will also present new work Swing Time (2014), whereby a set of swings turn the gallery into a playful, participatory space. The feeling of elation experienced when swinging provides an alternate way of experiencing the galleries, especially when accompanied by recorded outdoor sound effects.

For Cornerhouse’s closing performance on 4 April 2015, artist Humberto Vélez will debut The Storming (2014) as club dancers storm the main Cornerhouse building, performing choreographed routines in the spirit of ‘The Storming of the Winter Palace’, a famous revolutionary Russian ‘mass action’ performance of 1920.

Playtime, until 15 March, Cornerhouse, 70 Oxford Street Manchester M1 5NH. For more information visit

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1. Jacques Tati, Playtime (1967). Credit: Les Films de Mon Oncle.