Last week saw the final show of work from this year’s Unit X project. Manchester’s Northern Quarter became a hub of creative activity, with work from Unit X showing alongside Northern Quarter After Dark events. Project Unit X’s contributors captured all the action, and their recaps of the event will be posted throughout this week…
Words : Olivia Wedderburn
Images : Stewart Honeyman
Manchester After Hours is a programme that has been part of the cultural calendar of Manchester for a while now, and their extension of this, Northern Quarter After Dark, is a much-coveted date in the North West’s cultural calendar. This year our talented students participating in the Unit X programme, now in its third year, were invited to participate in the evening at a selection of events and exhibitions scattered across the Northern Quarter.
The invasion of Unit X work mainly took over the NOMA district, a new breeding ground of cultural activity including Federation House, a Castlefield Gallery pop art space, and New Century House, a re-appropriated office block. First and second year students from 3D, Interior Design, Filmmaking, Textiles In Practice, Fashion, Interactive Arts, Photography, Animation with Illustration, Graphic Design and Fine Art all showcased the projects and pieces they had been working on during Unit X across these sites, making use of unconventional surroundings and the pop-up aesthetic to create a sensation final show.
The level of work exhibited was of a phenomenal standard, impressing staff, students and the general public alike. It was of degree show standard and the quantity of work produced over this 10-week period is outstanding. Students had entered into the spirit of Unit X by exposing themselves to the many workshops and facilities the School of Art has to offer in order to create unique and skilled works in areas such as woodwork and Risograph printing. The exhibition remained incredibly busy from start to finish, and was an integral part of making the Northern Quarter feel alive with culture that evening.
A real treat of the evening was the transformation of the TOAST project space on the 6th Floor of Federation House, which was transformed into a bar following the rule of thirds in its drink selection, and the string quartet which led the proceedings. This offered a space for visitors to relax and have a drink after absorbing the sheer amount of art on offer, with over 560 students exhibiting their work for the show.
However, Unit X transcended this project space and found itself at home at all corners of the Quarter. Third year exhibition Service Wash, hosted by Jasmine Saunders (Contemporary Art History) and Beatriz Pinhandra (Graphic Design), took up its second reprisal at the Northern Quarter Laundrette, offering art that expressed the themes of the mundane and everyday of the Laundrette setting, from gossip to suds. Over at Hyper Island third year collective Ford Beaumont showed their project Virtual Galleries as part of the KONST:IG exhibition, amongst other students from Interior Design. KONST:IG plays on the Swedish word Konst for art and Konstig for weird, and showed the link between interactive art and technology, equipped with false lie detector tests and installation pieces.
At Twenty Twenty Two NQ, amongst glow in the dark Ping Pong sessions that bought in quite the crowd, students from interior design, creative multimedia and film and media worked to a brief in association with the UV aspect of the space. Down the road at Nexus Art Café Interior Design students took over the Garden and tables with recyclable materials, messages to the public and short films, which was one of the hidden gems of the Northern Quarter After Dark programme.
Students transformed MadLab on Edge St into an interactive exhibition throughout the whole of the build in an immersive experience to challenge perceptions and senses. Students worked amongst MadLab staff over a 10-week period devise and pitch a unique exhibition plan. If you were over at the exhibition at the right time, you may have just been lucky enough to walk out on to Edge Street to catch the New York Brass Band tickle your ears to a jazzy set that got the whole street to break into a street festival rendition of Get Lucky in support of the live painting exhibition and raffle taking place at Terrace, right next to MadLab.
The collaborative nature of the Unit X gives students the chance to explore new realms of the city creatively, develop new networks and contacts, and to create something they perhaps couldn’t envision ever happening. Each year Unit X gets more and more successful and this year was a true testament to the talent that is emerging from our art school. We certainly can’t wait for next year already and to see what the next generation of students can provide the city.