Gestured is a constellation of artworks inspired by alchemy, transformation and symbolic gesture, hidden within the books and secret spaces of Chetham's Library. As a body of new work it extends previous research by Brass Art on the digital body, interiority, doubling and capturing gesture through both analogue and technological means.

Brass Art is a long standing collaboration between Dr Kristin Mojsiewicz – (ECA), Chara Lewis (MMU) and Anneke Pettican (UoH). They were awarded the commission to work with Chetham’s Library Museum in Manchester after an initial proposal, selection and interview process. Gestured is a Meeting Point2 commission - 10 artists in 10 museums across the North of England.

The archives of Chetham’s revealed marginalia by John Dee - tiny ink drawings of hands pointing to ideas emerging in the text. Whilst in the collection of Hogarth prints, the artists followed playful and shocking narratives unfold through individual gestures. Cowper’s life-sized anatomy book revealed exquisite illustrations of cadavers in uncanny life-like poses and echoed earlier research on flayed, anatomical bodies.

Gestured research and development
Image: Jonathan Turner
Gestured research and development

Sculptural hands support objects, fabrics and prints informed by the archives; colourful forms in hot glass are inspired by the alchemists’ search for the transformation of matter; and a series of hand-made alchemical vessels have been reproduced from historical images of apparatus.

Taking their cue from such items in the collection, the hands of all three artists have been replicated at different scales, using both traditional casting and state-of-the-art 3D printing technologies, to mimic, multiply, pinch, cradle, caress and direct. Sculptural hands support objects, fabrics and prints informed by the archives; colourful forms in hot glass are inspired by the alchemists’ search for the transformation of matter; and a series of hand-made alchemical vessels have been reproduced from historical images of apparatus. The artists used these glass vessels as lenses to film and contain video works as part of the installation, reflecting external views around Chetham’s Library and the capture of arrested, individual gestures.

Gestured is situated within a current research focus on the intersections between contemporary art practice and heritage sites, asking such questions as: is it a productive arena for art, what narratives may be challenged, what is brought to light, and how might it change the reading of a collection and make room for new voices. Brass Art has worked extensively in this area with such partners as The Freud Museum, London, The National Trust, Tatton Park Biennial and the Brontë Parsonage.

Gestured installation detail
Image: Jonathan Turner
Gestured installation detail
Gestured torchlit tour
Image: Jonathan Turner
Gestured torchlit tour

The research and development of this multi-stranded work has involved many processes and makers: Hot glass - Ingrid Phillips, assisted by Vicky Higginson (ECA), and Dan Nuttall (MMU), Scientific glass - at University of Manchester, Maxillofacial casting - done at MMU and NHS Glasgow, additional casting - by Ginny Hutchinson (ECA) and Kenny Mackay, 3D scanning and printing - conducted by Ed O’Keefe at MMU, with outsize printing at Ogle Models.

Arts & Heritage Meeting Point2 commissions are financed through Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Fund, bringing new audiences to heritage sites. Gestured is additionally supported by RKE awards from ECA, MMU and UoH. An estimated 5,900 visitors will have visited Chetham’s during the exhibition and attended the special events hosted by Brass Art.

Would you like to undertake research-led study at ECA?

We also offer a range of research-led postgraduate programmes. Find out more.

   


Related people