Mad for TAA
Forbidden Arts Manchester - Temporary Autonomous Art Exhibition
11th - 14th Oct 2006
13 is definitely lucky for some. On the week around Friday the 13th October the 13th Temporary Autonomous Art Exhibition marked a new era for the underground squatted art phenomenon. Having left the confines of it's London origins last year to take Bristol by storm through the exceedingly autonomous efforts of Bristol Insurgent Arts, the TAA bug has swept up north to make this now a national effort! Taken on board whole-heartedly by the mancs (only one or two had ever even been to a TAA let alone heard of its greatness) this latest exhibition will go down in my books as being the next step for TAA. The newly augmented group, Manchester Forbidden Arts; born from The Strangeways Sound System, Manchester Social Centre Activists and local artists, has managed to evolve the event to meet its potential.
Set inside the majestic structure of an old Smithfield meat Market, with brightly painted columns that towered up three storeys to the glassed roof, punctuated with Victorian floral metal girders, the space inspired people even before any art had been put up. The very fact that we were using this space gained a lot of support from the local community that had seen it wasting away for over a decade, being used infrequently by different groups but never for anything substantial or long lasting. Many people came in off the street to look around and were very impressed with the idea of artists taking over space like this. Rumour reached us by the end of the week that the space is in fact to be used as the filling building for the backlog of council paperwork. The beauty and size of the space soon to be turned into a giant filling cabinet never to be appreciated again. Well, I feel like we gave it a good send off!
The four day event was crammed with all the usual TAA goodies and a few new ones to boot. The opening Wednesday was put aside solely for creating the space and putting up art. We had started that a few days before but it was the official bring-your-art-down day and the fact that no other events had been organised was a really good and relaxed way to do things. Following on from that was a film night on Thursday, relaxed but under attended. Then the Friday night fashion show with the most professional catwalk I've ever seen, making all the models in their junk outfits look like real catwalk models, or should I say dogwalk, as several people went out with their dogs in tow wearing matching outfits and looking fabulous!!! Darling!! This was followed by a Belly dancing workshop on stage, making people get up there and wiggle their credentials! Then Lastly but not leastly was the Saturday night, pack-the-house-out Cabaret night featuring among others, George the Funky Chicken, a cramped Capowra combo and a naked male fire eater/breather that put his baton out down his pants!!!!! Much entertainment. Not forgetting the bright and colourful Children's crèche that was well used through-out the event. The fantastic cheap and plentiful Vegan Café set under an indoor forest canopy with the backdrop of a 3 metre tall mushroom printed out and pasted onto the wall. The daytime kids circus skill workshops, the junk fashion making piles of tat workshops and an on going welding sculpture space out back. None stop and well attended.
All together the event went off with very few hitches or stresses. The place sort of grew organically with different interests filling and developing different areas. I think that the smooth running of the show (to the bewilderment of us London and Bristol old hats who are more used to complete chaos and stress) was down to the splitting up of different aspects due to different groups being involved. The taking of the building and the running of the café were organised by the Social Centre crew who had a view to keeping the space going after the TAA exhibition. Each nights entertainments was organised by a different person from the sound system crews. The arting up of the space and ambience was generally done by the London and Bristol crews who had a past knowledge of the 'look' TAA has. And again the Bar and the Café and Crèche layout were all done by different people. This made the main coordinators job a lot less stressful and gave a lot more responsibility through autonomy to many people. Of course the space was made by all the many artists who filled it with work over the four days. All in all a real lesson to be taken back down south for any future events we do.
Having turned up in the north expecting to sit back enjoy the space and be a general artists like we have done at the Bristol Exhibitions, it came as a welcomed jolt to our systems to have to actively pitch in and make it happen. As the Forbidden arts central organiser had only been to one TAA in Bristol and another person had once come to a Friday night in one of the London TAA's, no one really new how to begin transforming the space at the start of the week. The Forbidden Arts crew did a brilliant job cleaning the place, painting old graff and God tags(!) off the walls and sorting out the plumbing but the building sat huge and overwhelming in its bareness, waiting for 'art' to happen. That was until the Bristol Insurgent Arts crew turned up with a truck full of tables and chairs, paintings and fantastic draping fabric sculpture thingies that started to fill the immense cavernous main room. Then us Random Artists (London) and The Insurgent crew (Bristol) went about putting work up and painting pictures on walls and generally laying out the ambience, so that when people arrived on the Tuesday the place felt welcoming and artists could pick up the gist of how to use the space.
The 'arting up' then happened with such constant vigour and change that we had to physically turn people away on the Sunday who just wanted to contribute something to the free space. Every time I walked past a wall or through a room art was being put up or transformed to the next stage, the place constantly buzzing with the activity of creativity. The four days seemed to stretch out for longer as my brain had to adjust and re-input every nook and cranny that I went by. Changing and growing permanently.
My personal high-lights were; the potato people forest (an astro-turfed area where people were invited to design/draw-on their own potatoes then stick a toothpick in it and stand it in the forest) this took off so popularly that the artist/conceptor went through four bags of spuds by the end! I also liked the glowing sheep whose fluffy coats were made out of chopped up plastic-four-pack-ring-holders (you know the ones) (what are they called?), genius and soooo cute! I also really enjoyed the jam session I walked in on in one of the little rooms, really funky beats and hard grooves.
I have to admit, this was one of the most inspiring weeks I've had in years. For the first Manchester Temporary Autonomous Art Exhibition it was trooper and the response was so positive that the next one is set to be huge! The sense of pride I felt was immense, and that feeling goes out to everyone who has ever taken part in a TAA show, helping to build what I really feel now is a national movement! We meet people while up north that want us (all) to help build TAA's in Leeds, Liverpool and Nottingham. The vibe is spreading and next year looks like underground art could really take off in the UK! If you want to get involved in any of these places that have been mentioned, or want help getting off the ground in your own area then please email firstname.lastname@example.org.