10 - 26 July 2015

Levenshulme Contemporary Arts Centre is an incomplete gallery that questions land use and relations of power within suburban Manchester. We are interested in expanding conventions of artistic display beyond the architectural limits of the gallery.

This summer we will be opening the LCAC shop. It will be a temporary high street hub of radical thinking, hosting meetings, discussions and a series of coordinated arts events.

We will be working with different sectors of the local community to address the relationship between land use, constructions of community, accessibility to the arts and the possibility of an urban commons.

What's happening?

Please help us to raise money for Wood Street Mission by supporting our live reading of all three volumes of Karl Marx's Capital on Levenshulme Village Green
- CLICK HERE TO DONATE
Listen to the recording here

Unless otherwise stated, all events will take place on Levenshulme Village Green, on the corner of Stockport Road and Chapel Street

Friday 10 July 2015 | Housing
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
Use Value and Exchange Value
All day Capital - Live Reading
7pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings - Opening
9pm Opening Party at Fred's
Saturday 11 July 2015 | What is Money?
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
The Social Value of Labour and its Representations by Money
All day Capital - Live Reading
12pm - 4pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings
2pm - 4pm Children's Games from Communist Poland
Sunday 12 July 2015 | Private Property
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
Private Property and the Capitalist State
All day Capital - Live Reading
12pm - 4pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings
2pm - 2:40pm Philosophy for Kids
3pm Discussion: Modern Slavery in Manchester
Monday 13 July 2015 | Us and the Banks
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
Private Appropriation and the Common Wealth
All day Capital - Live Reading
12pm - 4pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings
Tuesday 14 July 2015 | Money and Work
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
Capital and Labour
All day Capital - Live Reading
12pm - 4pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings
6pm - 8pm Ahmed & Carpenter: After Work Free Time
Wednesday 15 July 2015 | What Does Money Do?
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
Capital as Process or Thing?
All day Capital - Live Reading
12pm - 4pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings
Thursday 16 July 2015 | Making and Selling
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
The Contradictary Unity of Production and Realisation
All day Capital - Live Reading
12pm - 4pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings
2pm - 4pm Zine Workshop with The Edge of the Universe Printing Press
Friday 17 July 2015 | Work and Technology
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
Technology, Work and Human Disposability
All day Capital - Live Reading
12pm - 4pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings
Saturday 18 July 2015 | Who Does What Job?
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
Divisions of Labour
All day Capital - Live Reading
12pm - 4pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings
10am An Imaginary Bicycle Ride
12pm - 1pm Failed Journeys
2pm - 4pm Discussion: What is Home?
9pm Film Screening at Fred's Ale House: Stalker (1979) introduced by Andy Broadey
Sunday 19 July 2015 | Competition
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
Monopoly and Competition: Centralisation and Decentralisation
All day Capital - Live Reading
12pm - 4pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings
4pm Orçamento Participativo: Stockie Road to Rio... and back...
6pm - 8pm Performance: Case Studies in Joint Action
9pm Film Screening at Fred's Ale House: The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (2006) introduced by Jez Hall
Monday 20 July 2015 | Town Planning
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
Uneven Geographical Developments and the Production of Space
All day Capital - Live Reading
12pm - 4pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings
Tuesday 21 July 2015 | The Rich and the Poor
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
Disparities of Income and Wealth
All day Capital - Live Reading
12pm - 4pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings
12:30pm + 7:30pm Talk: Homelessness (exact times TBC)
Wednesday 22 July 2015 | Family Life
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
Social Reproduction
All day Capital - Live Reading
12pm - 4pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings
Thursday 23 July 2015 | What is Freedom?
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
Freedom and Domination
All day Capital - Live Reading
12pm - 4pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings
2pm - 2:40pm Philosophy for Kids
Friday 24 July 2015 | Endless Growth
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
Endless Compound Growth
All day Capital - Live Reading
12pm - 4pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings
6pm Round Table Discussion
(Time tbc) Portfolio Review: Is Debt Worth It?
Saturday 25 July 2015 | Destroying the Planet
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
Capital's Relation to Nature
All day Capital - Live Reading
12pm - 4pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings
4pm - 5pm Owl Project: iLog Talk and Demo
Sunday 26 July 2015 | How Will It End?
12pm + 8pm Reading Group: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (David Harvey)
The Revolt of Human Nature: Universal Alienations
All day Capital - Live Reading
12pm - 4pm Chris Hamer - Border Paintings

Chris Hamer - Border Paintings, Bankley Studios

On the Gorton border the runoff from the carwash stains the pavement by a fence that has collapsed. Over the A6 the broken stones are rearranged nightly, bridging the floodwater in the space of the tunnel after it rains. Time seems to be patchy around here, and can alter strikingly from one street to the next: it can be the time of the city, sometimes of the suburbs, sometimes it has a more rural quality. This temporal jumble can come into my studio, where water dries in washes, or crusts on the canvas- these works are mostly produced by the paint itself. I am more visible, as an author, when I leave tracks on the surfaces with a finger or with a brush. The contrast between these two means of applying paint allows processes of personal memory, and a more collective accumulation of material processes on the surfaces around the area to enter my practise. On installing this exhibition various works are left flat on the table by the window. Slowly the view from the project space begins to interact with the surfaces and structures outside and so returns them partly to the ruined fabric of Levenshulme, and in doing so questions their completion.

LCAC interview, Work No. 2, text and performance, 2015

Levenshulme Contemporary Art Centre is a gallery without walls in Levenshulme, south Manchester. In this interview we discuss the impetus for the project and some of the themes it explores, focusing upon the institution's first project 'Work No 1' produced on the 8th August 2014 and as part of the A6 Dialogue exhibition at Bankley Studios Gallery.

The context of the work is post-austerity suburban Manchester. The work seeks to operate between two aspects of urban development. In the first, council budget cuts (totalling £250,0000 since 2010) mean that Levenshulme residents have had to fight to retain their library and swimming pool. These services were saved in 2013 through a series of protests and occupations. In the second, city planning is still dominated by large scale architectural projects aimed at attracting investment such as: First Street North Development, 'the first piece of the city designed to connect art with business and enterprise'; the proposed HS2 hub designed by Bennett Associate Architects; & the proposed conversion of the former Granada Television studios into Factory Manchester.

show interview

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

What is LCAC?

Director 1

Levenshulme Contemporary Art Centre is a gallery in Levenshulme, South Manchester, a suburb with a mixed population. It's a gallery without walls and without anything much else other than the idea of an institution itself. We opened the gallery in a green space that had temporarily become a used car showroom in Levenshulme.

Director 2

We had a sign, we had an audience.

The sign started as an art object exhibited alongside paintings and other sculptures in an exhibition called A6 in Bankley Art Gallery.

It also had an attachment on the back of it which made it adaptable to become a sign. Then we took it for a walk down the A6, along with the audience from the exhibition, to a predetermined site on the corner of Pennington St - a patch of wasteland that was being informally used as a used-car and drugs salesroom.

Where this site met the A6 there was also an empty post. We erected the sign on this and invited people to walk from the pavement on to the wasteland.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

Did the wasteland itself become the artwork?

Director 2

We are interested the relationship between performance and actuality - the extent to which something is an x if you act as if it is an x and it is received as an x.

We explored the possibility of transformation that you describe through the strategic staging of an art opening on the site - champagne, speeches, gesturing at exhibits etc. In a sense it was a kind of social experiment.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

Was the idea that the space should be seen as empty of art that the found objects were themselves supposed to be seen as artworks?

Director 1

Actually when the launch happened we were surprised to find an exhibition ready made for us in a way. We had this idea of a marginal space and we were really excited about that but when we arrived there there were actually really interesting things to look at and - in a surprising way - I think that it did become a really rich visual experience. The burnt out caravan and discarded plush sofas were visually interesting.

Director 2

The site's marginal but somehow multivalent functionality brought credibility to the suggestion that such things could be encountered as art. Playfulness seemed to have been in-built within materiality of the site by its recent history. We simply added one further mode of appropriation to the existing set of uses, the 'as if' that we have already spoken about.

Director 1

The site had a kind of awkwardness in this sense. We never found out who actually owned the space - it could have been quite a nice green space and but at the moment it was being used as a car lot as to sell drugs.

So, the space was replete in opportunity in the way that a predetermined gallery was not because it would have a predetermined function encoded within its architecture; a function that guides behaviour.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

In addition to the audience from the A6 gallery - who were 'playing along' with the work - there were also passers by who became involved. I believe one asked when the gallery was going to be built and looked puzzled as you replied that this was it.

Director 2

His notion of how cultural representation functions architecturally was bound to things like walls and ceilings and the kinds of enclose they bring. We feel that enclosure in this context ultimately serves the function of demarcation, and we were exploring if signage and the natural limits of the wasteland itself could perform this function.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

Do you think that an art gallery means something else again for city planners, the financiers, the counselors, the people who are looking for economic development?

Director 1

We started this project just with a kind of humour that it would be the ultimate imagined form of gentrification - raising the total capital value of an area without the kind of capital investment that a massive gallery requires.

Director 2

In fact we were involved in peasantrification

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

Does an art gallery mean something different from these two things to an artist or ...

Director 1

Galleries are a very hard construct for any artist to avoid.

Director 2

If an artist has work and the work requires an audience, then it needs to be exhibited. The exhibition in turn needs a frame that dissociates the work from the wider context of social space.

As soon as art takes on a social existence there has to be an exhibition space. I believe with Spiral Jetty Robert Smithson displaced the idea of site related sculpture onto the exhibition frame (the jetty) and used this as a mechanism through which to view the landscape. The work collapsed the site and non-site, as he would say. Even though he produced art in the desert he knew that for this work to have an significant urban audience it had to be exhibited via documentation within gallery spaces. Now when people make art quests into the desert to find 'the work' it is encountered via the history of its mediation.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

Where you primarily interested in the frame or in what it was framing?

Director 2

Our choice is to engage directly and actively with the frame. In the 1970s this was dealt with as an architectural construct, it would be an intervention in physical walls. Our choice is to work more inventively, maybe fictionally with the frame as this mobile conceptual apparatus that has to accompany the art practice at the moment of the exhibition. And to deal with this as a way to expand the possibilities of what might be determined as art practice and who might encounter that practice.

Director 1

The frame also allowed the content to emerge. The things we found in there represented the tensions in urban space better than you could present in a gallery. You have cars being sold, you don't know who they are being sold by, alongside signage for another absent business venture. There is a contest over the space and land use. It seemed to encapsulate that in a really relevant way.

The content of the gallery was important.

Director 2

So in a sense, what we were doing was a metaphor for how the generic white cube format functions socially; a white cube is cultivated wasteland, in so far that it seeks to produce emptiness. What is exhibited is activated by this backdrop. Similarly the social existence of the Pennington Rd site is constituted by a series of temporary (because they failed) ventures, set within an architectural void.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

Is sounds like you see the work as an intervention in the ideology of the presentation of art. Would you say that you also saw it as a social and political intervention? If the latter then what would you say to someone who said "... it's all very well to present these high ideas, but people are suffering from poverty, the use of food banks has grown, people's jobs are becoming casualised ... there are more politically urgent concerns."

Director 1

I think this is one of the challenges we face as artists. It's really challenging to embrace the model of new art galleries and big white museum spaces, when those kind of social situations are existing. For us it's a way of dealing with that and exploring it, and just by being out on the street talking to people about that, seemed more relevant than us presenting our ideas towards white cube spaces, which are happening in the city.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

What about the argument that these white spaces bring in capital to the city, and though the capital might not go immediately go to the poorest it eventually trickles down?

Are you throwing away the idea of regeneration?

Director 1

We aren't dismissing white spaces but they need to be questioned too. What we are doing is closer to alternate models of development like the Occupy movement, where social value is linked to the idea of an urban commons.

Director 2

It's about rights of interpretation. There is a lot of investment in the arts in Manchester at the moment, but how democratic can an exhibitionary model be when it is entirely grounded in the ideas of enclosure and centralisation. In the post Bilbao context we are also concerned about the extent to which such spaces offer a spectacularised facade of culture, and wonder if such spaces are ultimately beholden to the cause of capitalist synergy that seems to underpin them.

There is also the further question about kind of cultural production that parades as folk culture, but is nothing more than culture industry that dominates the alternatives. The kind of culture that someone like Rupert Murdoch, for example, wants to make. If centralisation and enclosure are dominant principles then the people who are excluded are left with these alternatives and without the critical tools we believe art practice offers.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

So your critique isn't about the art gallery as art gallery, you are not saying "blow up all the art galleries", rather you are critiquing their application - how they function.

Director 2

Where would you represent your community the day after you had destroyed all of the art galleries. In the rubble? If so how would you avoid replicating all the things that brought you to destroy the art gallery in the first place.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

So I guess that's what's interesting about your intervention. The attempt not to try and replicate something. You weren't offering a new alternative.

Look at the site you chose, it's relatively squalid. Its very easy to have an artists take on squalor, which in its own way can be beautiful. Do you think there any danger of a kind of a kind of 'poverty porn' about the whole aesthetic of the event. A fetishisiation of a presentation of the gritty.

Director 1

The fact that it was so temporal tried to avoid that.

Director 2

The question is how do you show poverty without it then being appropriated as the object of a fetishised gaze. I think that that is probably an inescapable problematic.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

As artists were you slumming it in coming over to Levenshulme?

Director 2

Well, we live in Levenshulme, and as artists location is something that we have thought about quite a lot. We question the assumption that success equates to a schedule of international high profile exhibitions. Questioning that is part of what attracted me to working on this project with Simon. The idea that an aspect of your practice should be about working where you live, and try and make it better for the people who live there.

Director 1

It also came from spending a lot of time here with our children and walking up and down these streets noticing the everyday; noticing the fabric of the place. Yeah I mean sure by framing it you could argue that you are fetishising it, but I think really we are just trying to do a double take of it really.

Director 2

To be blunt, if you were to turn it into pornography, it would become the object of a libidinal desire.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

...and you are saying you didn't do that?

Director 2

We wanted to frame that site as an object of critique. However, it's possible for all forms of representation to inevitably be drawn back into a dynamic of capitalism and this possibility is relevant to the documentation of the work. Gautam (the photographer we worked with) developed a really playful dynamic with the audience and the documentation of the work tended towards the tropes of reality TV. I hope this adds another layer of questioning to the work - why in representing our lives where we drawn back into a televisual construction of the real? Just like the frame, the spectacle is an inescapable problematic.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

What do you think happened when you left the space? You took the sign down from the lamppost and you hid it in your studio, safe from vandalism, back inside a rarified bubble that is already part of the artistic world, and you took it away from the space that was a dangerous critiquing space. Did you ever have the ability to change the meaning of the square of urban wasteland? Did you really, even for that moment, impact on that space, or was it all just an ephemera?

Director 2

Well fact and fiction are in a reciprocal dynamic. If you want to talk about facts you have to talk about the imagination as well, and if you want to talk about the social, you also have to talk about the psychological and cultural imaginary simultaneously.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

So you think that the meaning of social spaces is very much about the imagination that is applied to them?

Director 2

Absolutely. If we subtracted the audience I would find it very difficult to answer your question.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

So the audience were what was important in changing the nature of the space?

Director 2

Yes, if it's not social interaction, what else would change the nature of a social space?

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

So is a byproduct of your critique of the art gallery, a critique of the meaning of social spaces?

What I mean is - this space seems abandoned, it seems lonely, it seems commercial only in a kind of grubby way. Were you critiquing that as well, critiquing the fact people see things in a certain way, see locality in a certain way, see social spaces in a certain way.

You were asking people to re-think the gallery, but were you also asking people to re-think the square of urban wasteland?

Director 2

How a person responds in a space is about how another person, has chosen to manufacture that space and how a history of communal appropriation has determined the coding of that space. And a lot of that is about the social materiality of that space, about how that site is designed and orchestrated. So much urban space is hideously pre-determined, in a way that forces people to follow a route logic. That's just bad architecture. An architect who exercises their will over a citizen is a bad architect.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

Is there a tension between an idea of the power of individuals to declare, to be able to imagine their own social spaces versus the claim that the brute materiality of spaces forces a certain kind of imagination? In going to this dirty run down space and declaring it an art gallery, it seemed as if you were questioning the latter and speaking to a romantic hope of the possibility of humanity being able to, you know, 'at will we can overcome this by declaring'. However one might say that because of the built nature of our social space we just can't help but see it as brutal. One might argue that it's impossible for people to just re-imagine Levenshulme as utopia, because Levenshulme is dirty and run-down and needs more investment.

Is there a contradiction here between wanting to be able to overcome, or at least wanting to be able to question how people see things but at the same time acknowledge how the materiality of things forces people to see them in a certain way?

Director 2

You are opening up a dynamic between pure conceptual art and architectural intervention as a mode of conceptual art. I think that our productive action of erecting the sign on Levenshulme high st was about intervening architecturally within a space of wasteland. So the idea of re-functioning as merely a declaration that's a Duchampian construct 'I declare this to be an artwork even though it is a urinal'.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

But wasn't that what you were doing with the space?

Director 2

Well no, because we manufactured an object and added it to the space, so as to re-code the space, rather than allowing the space to project a meaning onto the object.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

But you didn't build steel and glass, foundations and an actual building...

Director 2

Well that was the start of the whole project. What was the minimal architectural aspect required to re-function an architectural space.

Director 1

Yes, we talked about making walls, fences, and then we decided that the sign is the bare minimum.

Director 2

For me, the Joseph Kosuth style of pure conceptual art just doesn't go anywhere. I mean Rosalind Krauss talks about him in terms of a 'homeopathic' process. Its like you drain all the materiality out of the work, so as to purify it. But I'm not interested in definitions aside from materiality. I'm into a kind of active, transformative, re-working. You know, a kind of hands on mechanics of architecture. You know, so we had to take a spanner down there, and that's really important.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

So that brings me back to when you were saying that signs are a minimal, but very important functioning of social space. Now there was this post on the site, and it appeared very much that it must have had a sign on it at some point, but it appeared, at least to me, completely unclear what that sign would have been.

Director 1

Yes, it was an interesting thing to find, because before that we were just thinking of making our own stand as it would have been a problematic thing to bang in our own post.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

The clip that you used was interesting insofar as you could just attach it to any post.

Director 2

Yes it was an aspect of mass manufacturing and assembly. The mode of attachment itself suggests the possibility that the site might be appropriated in many different ways. I think that the signpost is also really significant. The empty signpost as a negative gesture, an expression of the space's functionlessness.

Dr Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko

And it was still there once the sign came down.

Director 2

Yeah, yeah, its potential for attachment imagines a multitude of futures. It can carry any sign.

Photos by Gautam Narayanan
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