Field Trip #3: Manchester

For our next focus on events away from Liverpool, we thought we’d stay closer to home than usual… 

The global arbiter of taste also known as Chloe Sevigny has just spent five months filming in Manchester. It was her first time, and we’d hazard a guess on it being her last. In a recent interview, she said: “It was one of the grimmest places that I’d ever been to in my entire life…it rained every single day that I was there.”

Having been under her spell for the best part of our adult life, we usually take Sevigny at her word, but this time we felt it only right to speak out; you see, we’ve lived in Manchester and quickly discovered some of what the place has to offer. Though obviously, it’s tough to argue that point about the rain.

We’d planned our trip to coincide with exposures, a festival celebrating new talent in moving image, held in the Cornerhouse, Manchester’s international centre for contemporary visual arts and independent film (think FACT with a different accent). First though, we had some of our old haunts to get to, with precious little time to do it.

Off we headed to the Northern Quarter, more specifically, Oldham Street. For the music lover, shopper, drinker, fan of covetable things, this is YOUR Manchester (and ours, as it happens). First stop was the Night And Day Cafe for some food, but also to soak up the atmosphere of easily the best gig venue in this part of town. In days and…well…nights gone by, we’ve been privileged to see some great stuff in there, not least an unexpected appearance by Jeffrey Lewis playing some punk covers on a Saturday afternoon. Come on a Wednesday (as we did) and it’s two for one on the burgers. Win!

We polished off our burgers and headed over the road to Piccadilly Records, maybe our very favourite record store in the North, and not without reason. Pic’ Records understands its place in the fabric of Manchester culture and genuinely adds to it. The staff, going against the record store staff clichés, are approachable and friendly; and most of all, informative. Their end-of-year lists are now the stuff of legend, an annual bible for the music fan feeling that little bit off the pace (us? No, I meant someone else). Now published as a lovingly designed ‘zine, a lucky few get a free sampler including a smattering of their sounds of the year.

“Our whistle-stop tour eventually leads us back to the Cornerhouse, just in time for our interview with abstract filmmaker, Max Hattler”

Onward to Magma, for some of those covetable things we mentioned! Overflowing with books, magazines, prints and tee shirts, all with a terribly pleasing graphic design slant, every city should have a Magma. On their website, they ask why shopping can’t be a ‘rich and inspiring activity’. That’s what it is to walk around their stores, like being in a boutique contemporary design museum, but you can take some of the stuff away with you – well, you can if you visit on pay day. Appetites whetted, we continue on to the Richard Goodall Gallery, specialising in very fine poster art. Across one of the walls is a really beautiful collection of White Stripes images, but we’re most taken by the work of Daniel Danger, whose work is eerie, evocative and compelling all at the same time.; truly gorgeous stuff. So gorgeous that we almost literally find we have to drag ourselves away.

Our whistle-stop tour eventually leads us back to the Cornerhouse. We’re just in time for our interview with abstract filmmaker, Max Hattler. We first became aware of Max’s work covering the British Animation Awards, which featured a film called Spin, described by us as ‘the best work on show… produced to sell a message rather than a product…’ So we got in touch, and his appearing on the panel for Music, Video, Art? as part of exposures seemed too serendipitous.

A filmmaker very much producing art, he has nonetheless produced high-profile work on videos for the likes of Basement Jaxx and Diplo. We asked him how that had come about. “Basement Jaxx approached me based on films they had seen at various [film] festivals, and they commissioned visuals…for a series of live shows.” Max’s film makes use of the old-skool grid structure of an LED panel, recalling video games of a certain vintage, and is a real deviation from the promo we’re all used to for Where’s Your Head At.

In light of this mainstream cred, we wonder does he see features as his future? “I’m not so interested in figurative representation, it’s been done to death… or traditional storytelling, because all the stories have been told as far as I’m concerned. I work with abstraction as a way of achieving a different kind of audience engagement… it’s a bit like poetry versus prose – you throw things out and people catch certain things. For me it’s about exploring the short form… film is so contaminated by Hollywood.” For a filmmaker with that outlook, you could think that opportunities might be more limited and, dare we say it, a bit samey.

But for Max, he argues that he’s as busy as he wants to be; later this month, he has a first solo show in London, entitled Shift (pictured), at Tenderpixel. The show is the gallery premiere for Max’s Animate Projects commission for Channel 4′s Random Acts. Hattler candidly admits: “I shouldn’t even be here today, I’m still in the middle of completing the work for Shift. That is one of the good things about working with commissions – you always have a deadline!” How did this commission come about? “I’m dead excited about it because I love Animate; I’ve applied before and not been successful. It was actually the British Animation Awards shortlisted film Spin that I proposed [in the past], but the idea wasn’t developed properly, I’m terrible at storyboarding! But having seen Spin completed, and me persisting, they approached me.”

We got to see the Shift work in progress. In the form we saw it, it will have been worth Animate waiting for (providing it’s finished in time); we won’t give anything more than that away, but safe to say we’re looking forward to seeing it in a gallery setting rather than on a lap-top in a typically crowded Cornerhouse cafe.

Shift @ Tenderpixel, London, from March 9th – April 28th 

Posted on 01/03/2012 by thedoublenegative