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Archives at Play is an exhibition exploring our relationship with the past, and how this informs the way we make the future. At a time when it is more important than ever to challenge inherited ideas about ecology, equality, and identity, this exhibition uses archival structures – the ways we hold and engage with the past – as a tool for questioning the worlds we find ourselves within.
The artists Gregory Herbert, Kelly Jayne Jones, Dr. Yan Wang Preston, and Chester Tenneson have been invited to take the concept of the archive as a starting point to develop a series of new works for Archives at Play.
Both Tenneson and Jones are working directly with the objects and records accumulated by Castlefield Gallery across its 37 year history, developing absurd sculpture, text painting and ritual sound environments. Inspired by traditional Chinese bird-and-flower compositions, Wang Preston’s photographic series ‘English Gardens’ uses plant species termed ‘invasive’ or ‘alien’ in black & white silver gelatin prints. It is shown alongside an installation by Herbert that interrupts the gallery’s plumbing to create new ecosystems. All their works for Archives at Play will address structures of history – the traditions, the myths and obscured systems – by which constructs and beliefs become normalised, naturalised and unquestioned.
Throughout the exhibition the gallery will host a series of events that will respond to both the archive, as well the physical traces left behind in the fabric of the venue from the artists and events that have gone before. Through performance, sound, and readings the artists will bring their own distinct perspectives to Castlefield Gallery; its history and its yet unwritten future. The wider communities and visitors of Castlefield Gallery will also have opportunities to explore behind the scenes, dig into the gallery archive, and connect with the gallery team and artists in new ways.
Archives at Play is part of a wider Castlefield Gallery research project led by Thomas Dukes, a curator and PhD Candidate working with Castlefield Gallery and Manchester School of Art at Manchester Metropolitan University. Dukes’ research into the 37 year-long Castlefield Gallery archive looks for ways to approach the gallery archive as more than a site to hold and preserve information as ‘fact’, but instead as a living and complex entity. One that doesn’t exist in a single place, and that can be engaged with in the present to prompt dialogue and generate influence from many voices, in order to inform thinking about the future.
Castlefield Gallery, 2 Hewitt street, Manchester M6 8RF