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Dark Matter Institute – A pop-up exhibition in the heart of Bradford

Dark Matter Institute Jean McEwan Thurs 15th

The creative organisation Art in Unusual Spaces present Dark Matter Institute, a temporary gallery which begins its second three-day cycle as part of Bradford Threadfest at the Oastler Market in Bradford on the 22nd May.

AIUS Director Yvonne Carmichael explains: “Dark Matter Institute is looking at bringing together passersby and people who are surprised by the project, as well as people who come specifically for it.

“It’s about doing things outside a normal gallery context where the art responds to the site or acknowledges the audience in some way. It might be playful and about blurring the boundaries between the amateur and the professional.

“We wanted to set up a space to host work by national and local artists as part of Bradford Threadfest. Traditionally that’s been a city-wide music festival, and I was keen that there should be some arts activities as well. So we looked at this space in the market and the market is really vibrant in Bradford, unlike other places where a market might be dying.

“So we’ve created almost a white cube gallery in the market as a backdrop and we’ve got pop-up exhibitions happening each day. It’s a mixture of music, performance and film and socially engaged practices.”

On Thursday 15 May Jean McEwan set up We Are Alive Again, a site responsive installation consisting of makeshift dioramas, assemblages, collages, everyday objects, found props and light. Last Friday, (16 May) I visited Lolcats by Rachel Maclean, a psychedelic film on cat worship that depicts ‘a mysterious lost civilisation and a modern day touristic fun park. The narrative centres on a young female protagonist, presenting her in moments of intrigue, fear, metamorphosis and decay.’

Carmichael says of the film: “It’s funny, but critical and interesting with lots of layers to it and I thought it would work well in the market because it’s quite garish and loud.” Indeed, Lolcats is a hilarious film that is at the same time sophisticated, with high production values.

On the same day Louise Adkins presented Hold the Pose, an interactive audio-visual piece that has a similarly comic effect. Cheesy pop tunes blare out while on screen instructions are given to be performed in the DMI space. While I visited there were two very lively ‘performances’ by visitors which were probably as much fun to watch as to partake in.

Dark Matter Institute Maho projections

Alongside this was James N Hutchinson’s Proposal for a Collection, which documents art forger Mark Landis’ cheeky deception in the museum world. On the Saturday Maho presented a series of works and performances resulting from a collaboration with Bradford's 'newest pretentious art noise combo' Jung Witches.

The latter’s name came from a random cut-up that coincidentally had a double-entendre (Young Witches – geddit?!) which reflects their works’ reliance on chance and improvisation. They made a Terry Riley-esque drone using keyboards and bass through the Caustic music creation tool, while the Mahu dancers Chemaine Cooke and Sam Musgrave reacted to live projected animation drawn by Fabric Lenny.

This time around, on Friday 23rd Martha Jurksaitis makes ‘wondermental films’ on Super 8 and 16mm and processes everything by hand, employing alchemical techniques and a passion for material film and the material viewer. And on Saturday 24th, Hutchinson will be returning to do a show and tell as part of the artist collective Black Dogs’ exhibition , which will be a warm up for their tenth birthday celebrations later in the evening (see here for details) with a taster of material gathered from an open call to past collaborators and artists for responses to the question 'What's Your Favourite Idea?'.

As a chance to see and perhaps even participate in a rich variety of unusual and experimental art in one place, Dark Matter Institute is an unmissable feature on Bradford Threadfest’s impressive schedule – Don’t be square, be triangular and go there for all three days!