Manchester International Festival 2019: MM’s best bits – including bricks made of urine and a future without phones…

Manchester International Festival, the biennial celebration of music, arts and culture returned to Albert Square for its seventh anniversary earlier this month.

After three weeks of music streaming through our windows, here at MM we look back at the festival highlights. 

Air can record the spoken word: Atmospheric Memory by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is a rare project that looks at how sound lives within the air. Imagine being able to touch and see everything you say? Well at MIF19, that’s exactly what you could do! 





This misty memory can be found in Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum, as part of the Manchester International Festival, running July 4 to 21 – so you’d better move fast before it fades away. This piece, “Atmospheric Memory”, draws on the idea that air can record the spoken word, and imagines what a playback device may look like – and what it might pick up. Observers can wade through a bank of fog to see a series of enigmatic words appear and disappear before their eyes. It’s just one of Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s “Atmospheric Machines”, which take human voices and transform them into ripples of liquid, 3D-printed speech bubbles, huge 360° projections, plumes of water vapour or waves of lights flitting along a corridor. Lozano-Hemmer’s work draws on his background as a scientist, deploying everything from computer-controlled surveillance to robotics, biometrics and AI to make his audiences question the ephemeral nature of life and memory. Stirring stuff – just don’t forget it’s ending in a couple of days… @lozanohemmer #mosimanchester #manchester #art #science #mist #artinstallation #memory #design #manchesterinternationalfestival

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Cuttlefish are hypnotists: Animals of Manchester was a live art experience that explores what life would be like if animals lived among us as our peers. Want to see how they do their food shopping?  

A future without phones: With a secret location and a ‘no phones allowed’ policy, Skepta’s Dystopia987 Rave showed Manchester a vision for the future where life is completely phone free and you are greeted with either a “handshake, high five or a hug”. He wanted to rebel against “this new individualism, where people are just on their phones to have a ‘fake good time’.” 

Manchester does the best street food: No festival would be complete without some crazy good street food and Manchester International Festival is no exception. From vegan masala dhal to fried chicken seiten burgers to a marvellous mashup of ice creams, Dan Hett explores 18 extraordinary plates.

Mary Anne Hobbs’ all female line up was electrifying: The DJ’s Queens of the Electronic Underground show includes new artists such as Holly Herndon, Jlin, Katie Gately, Aisha Devi and Klara Lewis. Mary Anne Hobbs say: “If you can create moments like this to give these women a special platform, it’s the greatest step for feminism you can make.” 

Bricks made from urine:  Japanese art collective Chim-Pom set up a temporary brewery under Victoria station.  The brewery hosted quizzes and even built bricks from people’s urine. The project, called A Drunk Pandemic, was inspired by survivors of the cholera outbreak in Manchester during the 1830s.

Idris Elba’s interactive play: Tree, a play written by Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah, follows the story of Kaelo who travels back to South Africa after the death of his mother.  Actors often interacted with the audience and even encouraged them to get on stage at points, with co-creator Elba in attendance.

Janelle Monáe wows crowd at Castlefield Bowl: The first night of the festival kicked off with Grammy-nominated American singer Janelle Monáe putting on a lively performance.  Monáe was supported by a group of stunning dancers and a range of striking costumes that left the crowd dazzled.

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