Wednesday, 15 December 2010

HldTght Interview

HldTght are a new curation collective in Manchester. Now Then hung out with one half of the founding duo ahead of their debut exhibition at Soup Kitchen this week. Until the beans were spilled last week they kept their identity hidden – even from their best friends. You might say that sounds hella pretentious when combined with their vowel-less name, but it stems from a certain necessity. Which all makes it seem really serious, especially when you have to write it down in an interview.

"It's not serious. The exhibition is fun, but generally the part of the art world in Manchester we work in is really constrictive. As you would get working in such a social community, everyone knows everyone. And the same people are being put in exhibitions together time after time. Then it can go two ways – either everyone starts feeding off each other in a progressive way, or people just start seeing the same influences and don't push themselves in the positive directions their talent deserves. You get disillusioned and uninspired and obviously it takes the fun out of making art. HldTght is about encouraging artists to work outside of their normal practice, with no pressure attached to selling their work or for the work to fit in with their 'aesthetic'.”

What’s gone wrong in Manchester particularly?

“There is a lot of talent in Manchester, but there are very few venues or organizations that will put on shows of artists’ work if they don’t feel any of it will sell, and they don’t have funding to cover their costs. Free For Arts Festival is starting to go some of the way towards making things happen - motivating artists to get up and find unusual venues for events, but it only goes on for one week in October, and everyone who takes part is supported under the welcoming arm of the Free For Arts press machine. Sketch City and Upper Space have both faded into the dust and soon Mooch N4 Street Art Gallery will be gone. All these projects prove that there is a lot of interest [in the city], but unless there is someone there to drive the talent and push things to happen, nothing will. HldTght is starting something new, completely funded out of our own pockets. We want to prove to ourselves and to Manchester that you can put on big shows, with big names for little to no money if you have the drive.”

“HldTght is about immediacy, it’s about not waiting for a gallery or bar to call you up and ask you to hang some work. We saw a space we liked and decided to put a show on. Six weeks later I am surrounded by people spray painting on the walls and hammering structures together. There needn’t be red tape and proposals and funding applications, there just needs to be the desire to give the city something it is missing out on, and something to talk about.”

So why the secrecy over who you are?

“We knew if we'd said it was us from the start some people would have doubted how ambitious it is, seeing as we're friends with many of the artists. Creating a name and theme was what we needed to do first, then by keeping our personalities hidden it allowed us to be anyone, someone ‘important’ even, and see what great ideas the artists had in return because they really felt they'd need to step up because they had been contacted by a 'curation collective', not by 'their mate they saw last night'.”

That makes it sound like it’s the same group of people you said were being put in exhibitions together all the time...

“Of course it's not just about putting on people we know, we've got 30 great artists in different disciplines, really big names like Agent and Penfold [who curated July 2009's edition of our big bro magazine Now Then Sheffield]. We've got elements no-one should expect like performance artists as well.”

How do the pieces come together then? Should we expect something totally unrecognisable from the artists we know well?

“We just told people the basic concept and invited them to come up with fresh suggestions and new work that would fit. From the start the emphasis of the exhibition has always been on trying new things, pushing yourself and working outside of your normal discipline. I’m not asking an illustrator to make a sculpture or performance artists to paint, but I am asking maybe a spray paint artist to work more with brushes, painters to try Poscas rather than acrylics, or to try painting different subjects and ideas within their work that wouldn't normally fit into their practice's portfolio.”

Joyride Playground – we don’t want to come up with some ridiculous thesis that probably ends up using the rubbish word ‘juxtaposition’, can you tell us about the concept?

“Joyride Playground is about playing with something too much until you reach a good or bad point. If you joyride a car, chances are you’re bound to have fun, but you have stolen something that is not yours with the intention of pushing it until you crash or burn it out. Most joyriders are underage and do not have a license, just like all the artists choosing to use new mediums for the show aren't practiced or professionals; they are joyriding on the back of an entire movement created by graffiti and aerosol art when picking up a spray can. We basically want people to stick two fingers up and say ‘fuck you, I don’t know how to use it but I’m going to give it a go and I’m going to have fun doing it.’”

Talking about having fun doing it, it’s fairly rare to get an open studio – is that just because it’s all actually being created on site?

“Having an open studio is really important for us to allow people to come and see the process. I’m always amazed by time-lapse videos of exhibitions, but why watch a video, come down to the open studio and meet the artists, ask them questions and find out how they do things, getting stuck in; it's all about everyone being on the same level. By taking away artists’ safety nets of working under their usual practice, everyone becomes slightly vulnerable. Artists you may have been following on flickr or through blogs become just the same as you and everyone starts to work together, pooling advice and skills.”

nd th nm?

"We liked the idea of 'hold tight' because of the association with playgrounds and fun fairs. The abbreviation [HldTght] makes it sound a little less like something your dad would say to you when he pushes you on a swing in the park, because, let’s face it, we only hang out in parks to drink and smoke these days.”

Joyride Playground exhibition @ Soup Kitchen
30 illustrators, artists, sculptors, performance artists and graffiti writers
Open studio // 13-16th Dec // 12-8pm
Launch party // 17th Dec // 7-10pm // after party babies 10-2am
Runs from Sat 18th Dec ‘til mid-February. Open Mon-Sat 12-5pm

Interviewer: Sam Bass
Images: HldTght

No comments:

Post a Comment