Touchstones is working in partnership with Castlefield Gallery in Manchester, Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool, University of Salford Art Collection and Shezad Dawood Studio on a pilot project that they believe will change the way that galleries should operate in the future.
The Hybrid Futures partners are exploring collective and more sustainable ways of working by pooling their expertise to influence how the partnership commissions, exhibits and collects new work by visual artists. This change they consider will benefit and be more relevant to their audiences, now and in the future. This pilot will be used to provide a framework that can be shared with other public galleries and collections in the UK.
A series of exhibitions across the North West of England will feature new work and co- commissions by artists Shezad Dawood, Jessica El Mal, Parham Ghalamdar and RA Walden that will address the urgent thematic focus of climate change.
Launching Hybrid Futures, Shezad Dawood’s Leviathan: From the Forest to the Sea opens 3 June – 12 August 2023 at Touchstones, and premieres the latest instalment in Dawood’s film series Leviathan Cycle. Episode 8: Cris, Sandra, Papa & Yasmine was developed remotely, in collaboration with Guarani scriptwriters, directors and activists Carlos Papá, Cristine Takuá, Sandra Benites and Brazilian artist and researcher Anita Ekman. This film not only expands the collective and horizontal filmmaking method that has become a central feature of the cycle’s second half but reduces its own environmental impact through an intimate yet remote co-authorship.
Set in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest – one of the most ecologically diverse and threatened biomes on earth – It intersperses the imagined journey of Dawood’s protagonist Yasmine with accounts, songs and the retelling of foundational Guarani origin stories. Blending indigenous cosmology with fictional narrative, shot footage and especially commissioned animation by Anita Ekman, Episode 8 charts an embodied, spiritual and ecological journey along the age-old Guarani path that links the forest to the sea.
The plurality of voices involved in the Leviathan universe is manifested in the multiplicity of media throughout the show: from video to textile-based painting, and from traditional craft techniques to the research papers that contribute to each part of the process. The accompanying exhibited works interrogate histories of economic and social process, land-use, and our evolving relationship to the forest and the sea. In blending fact and speculative fiction, narrative and documentary, Dawood enacts a unique, sliding temporal scale that underlies the entire Leviathan project, connecting deep time to tentative future.
The Poetics of Water opens 25 June-24 September 2023 at Castlefield Gallery featuring new work by Jessica El Mal and Parham Ghalamdar that is motivated by the effects of capitalism, corruption and colonialism on the natural environment. Through a series of ceramics and colour saturated oil paintings of dystopian landscapes, Ghalamdar is reflecting on a recurring theme in Persian mythology: a struggle to prevent the separation of soil and water and the repression of growth and knowledge that would cause. Ghalamdar feels this struggle is taking on an absurd tone as it gets repeated in contemporary politics without success. Alongside ongoing research into the history of climate injustice El Mal is working with field and voice recordings and developing imagery with cyanotype prints made with rainfall in Morocco. The resulting works are poetic rather than prescriptive, aiming for a more emotional and expansive experience of their subject matter. A shared point of reference for El Mal and Ghalamdar is contrasting attitudes towards rainfall; particularly between Manchester where regular rainfall is a common source of complaint and Morocco and Iran where droughts and water shortages are an increasingly serious problem. Together their works invite visitors to look across landscapes, borders and centuries and to think deeply about these fundamental elements of soil and water.
As part of The Grundy at Lightpool Festival, 20-28 October 2023, a new commission from RA Walden and a newly acquired work by Shezad Dawood will be presented at Blackpool’s festival of light. In collaboration with physicists and climate scientists, RA Walden will create a series of equations that intertwine the sick body and the sickness of the planet, looking at the ways in which energy, consumption, extractivism and capital function, in relation to both the smallest of particles and the expanse of space.
The University of Salford Art Collection will bring together the work by Shezad Dawood, Jessica El Mal, Parham Galamdar and RA Walden in Hybrid Futures (23 March – 22 September 2024), a group show at Salford Museum and Art Gallery. The exhibition will be accompanied by a national symposium, where learning from this pilot project will be shared (date tbc).
The partnership will also be working with Collective Futures, a group of people from their local communities with a shared concern about the climate crisis. This group will investigate how creative production can help to shine a light on these issues and create solutions to the problems caused by the changing global environment.