Early in 2019 during a residency at Victoria Baths in Manchester artists from Islington Mill Art Academy explored what a residency could be. With a bursary from CVAN we invited artist and curator, Alison Kershaw who has experience making work and curating exhibitions at Victoria Baths, support the group in setting up their residency which took place in July 2019. In total six of artists worked collaboratively and on individual responses to the spaces. The collective was invited to exhibit its work at the end of the residency in the Female Pool at the Baths in September 2019 during a Swim for Restoration event and open weekend.
Ruby Unsworth, a sound artist created work using contact microphones and filmed a performance of her moving around the pool and listening to the sounds of a pool devoid of water.
Paddy O’Donnell, sculptor identified the rear modernist changing rooms that appeared to be a later addition to the interior architecture, he responded by creating a site specific aquarium that was lit and animated with fish-like forms torn from paper.
Hanaa Cara, used photography, film and drawing to explore the idea of hauntism in the superintendents flat. Distorted sound recordings and film echoed eerily in one of the rooms, the second room displayed abstract photographic images of peeling wallpaper and decaying plasterwork alongside photographs of the artist in corpse-like poses taken in the space.
Donna Wood, collected films about swimming and made a film responding to a room full of hoarded clothes and displayed this work in a cubicle installation that was filled with clothes and accompanied by a folk music soundtrack. She also painted her impressions of the patterns in the baths onto large canvases that were displayed independently in the pool alongside a filmed watery reflection self portrait.
Daniel Wiltshire experimented with digital extraction, the text numbers of the changing cubicles to create vibrant digitalised colour and pattern.
Nancy was interested in looking at how people respond this building’s faded grandeur and its place in social history, to the extent to which it has become a stage set for nostalgia –the scene for hundreds of events, rituals, celebrations and TV drama. She was particularly drawn to the colour and the role that it plays in memory and association. “Victoria Baths has the most incredible light and colour palette, it feels like looking at a painting”.
Nancy’s final work consisted of three large scale figures of imagined female swimmers painted using her own Victoria Baths 4-colour palette. She hung these pieces from the top balcony and off the side railings in the female pool, like towels, retrospectively adding figures into a painting.
As well as organising, curating and promoting our own exhibition in the space, the collective staged a number of workshops for visitors to experience their own micro-residency during their visit. Jackson’s Art Supplies provided sketchbooks in which people were invited to record their responses to the building. A drop-in drawing and collage workshop, two film making and one sound art workshops were also organised and more than 1300 people visited the baths over the weekend.
This was a self organised and largely artist-funded exhibition with support from a CVAN bursary and materials from Jackson’s Art Supplies.
Thanks to Victoria Baths, Alison Kershaw, CVAN and Jackson’s Art Supplies for supporting this project.