On Wednesday night, I attended the launch of the Abandon Normal Devices in Manchester. Having navigated several of the opening night venues and walked a great deal of Manchester I reached a stumbling block, literally, at the Salutation Pub, where burger in hand I took the kind of slow motion fall that would have made even Buster Keaton stare in awe. As it was, I dismissed the concerns of friends and strangers and thought about puns for my blog!
A trip down memory lane
As a veteran since the very first festival in Liverpool, I wouldn’t let a mere grazed knee stand in the way of my enjoying the feast of international artists and activities that the Abandon Normal Devices Festival has to offer. I have left the North west, but something about this festival draws me back every year to partake in a whimsical look at digital art and quirky ideas allowed to develop and flourish.
The Saturday night, headline act, Trixxie Carr, follows in the footsteps of All About Evil 2010’s interactive horror drag show which I blogged about here. It’s a welcome return to the festival for the San Francisco performer challenging the very concept of a traditionally male led drag performance!
Falling into the unknown
Of course the hook of the festival is the new, unique and different. The idea of artists curating different spaces, whilst not new, continues to have an infinite number of permutations. The transformed spaces here are caravans, a travelling mobile republic which includes a broadcasting booth and a gastronomic smelling experience where you create your own spice combinations using a futuristic machine straight out of HG Wells.
Truly unqiue and bizarre is the The Master/Slave Invigilation system which is something that has to be experienced to be believed. Moving between sites you are taken on a tour of the AND exhibitions by a artist Jeremy Bailey who is based at a remote venue (downstairs in Cornerhouse) and offers a idiosyncratic insight into the shows through a digital ipad screen mounted on a mute robot “slave”. Visually intriguing, it turns out that I actually knew the first robot I encountered but the experience obscures their identity presenting a curious androgynous form with digital imagery.
Finding new ways to present film is always a challenge, so the ambitious Empire Drive In, an open air (YES in Manchester!) cinema showing retro classics befitting the post apocalyptic space. Robocop has gone, but Mad Max 2 Beyond The Thunderdome is still to come, although probably sold out by now.
The programme is a lovely snapshot of stories rarely told and experimentation of method and contains films I will be actively seeking out, in particular a film about Manchester genius Alan Turing father of the internet, which of course makes such an innovative festival possible.
This year may be its last in the current form, so whilst you have the chance, Cornerhouse is once again inviting you to come out and play and I hope you fall hard for it like I did! The spectacle continues until Sun 2 September at various venues across Manchester and the mobile republic will also be on a limited tour. See http://www.andfestival.org.uk/ for more details.