On 18 May, cultural venues across the city will keep their doors open after closing time for Manchester After Hours, part of the national Museums At Night festival. For 2017, the Museum of Science and Industry is teaming up with the Engine House Collective, a group of artists based at Islington Mill, to develop an audio-visual installation in the Air and Space Hall, titled Now You See Me, Now You Don’t.
A feast of moving images will be projected directly onto the huge Avro Shackleton aircraft in the centre of the hall, exploring ideas of surveillance, subterfuge and the Cold War. Designed in Manchester, the Shackleton itself operated as a patrol and early warning aircraft—an eye in the sky from a pre-digital age.
I caught up with Engine House to talk about their work and how it felt to be using such an iconic (and huge!) museum object as part of the piece.
Museum of Science and Industry: How did you feel about working in the Air and Space Hall and on the Shackleton?
Engine House: Being given the Air and Space Hall, and in particular the Shackleton aircraft, to work with as a base for our ideas was an amazing privilege, and we learned a lot about its history and the passion (and fan clubs) of the people that once operated it. When we first walked into the Air and Space hall I think we were all drawn to the Shackleton, not just because of its size but also how intriguing it is as an aircraft, with its various insignia and its iconic design.
Museum of Science and Industry: How did you find out more about the Shackleton and its history?
Engine House: Through regular meetings with the team, we were allowed access to the museum’s fantastic archives, and had a chance to speak to collections specialists and look at examples of radar and surveillance technologies, both past and present.
A really nice discovery was that the Shackleton has its own fan club and fanzine called The Growler. The idea of an aircraft creating such enthusiasm to have its own fan club was something that really appealed to us as a group.
Museum of Science and Industry: How did that research and experience influence your piece for Manchester After Hours?
Engine House: After deciding on a theme based around our research in the archives, we spent some time thinking about how we wanted to interpret these into something exciting for a large audience squeezed into the Air and Space Hall during the event.
As the Shackleton is a very delicate piece (owned by the RAF!), the natural choices in terms of media were light, sound and projection—things that would not touch the aircraft but use its shape and scale, and the atmosphere of the Air and Space Hall to great effect. The idea behind the developed piece is essentially for members of Engine House to create a series of moving images relating to surveillance that will be projected onto large sections of the Shackleton throughout the night in celebration of its heritage.
Museum of Science and Industry: As a group of artists, how do you work together to create something like this?
Engine House: It mainly involves members of Engine House creating individual pieces utilising various methods of creating moving images, from stop-frame animation to slicker moving image and video editing. Now You See Me, Now You Don’t combines skills from a number of Engine House members, ranging from visual artists, illustrators, graphic designers and musicians, to create an immersive audio-visual experience that’s not to be missed!
Are you interested in coming along? Then register on our Facebook event page and share the details with your friends. You can also check out all the other events happening on 18 May at Creative Tourist.