ExtraORDINARY at The Lowry: An exhibitionism

Polly Checkland Harding

Participation, one minute sculptures and how a pyramid of 5,500 oranges can become art. We preview ExtraORDINARY at The Lowry.

Who remembers MIF’s do it 2013 exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery? This collaborative, provocative show – which had visitors squeezing lemons on the nose of an upturned bike seat, removing sweets from a huge pile in the corner and pinning their wishes to a tree – has stuck firm in my memory not just for the edible souvenirs, but also because it was an invitation from a wide range of artists (including Tacita Dean and Yoko Ono) to be part of the show. Now, The Lowry is picking up the interactive baton with ExtraORDINARY, an exhibition with everyday objects like Blu-Tack, rich tea biscuits and the human body at its centre.

 A huge helium balloon with a 3m diameter and 300 sticks of charcoal spiking out of it

“There are 12 artists included within the exhibition from the UK, Europe and the States, who all explore the notion of the banal object or everyday action with in their work,” says curator Kate Farrell. The range of interpretations is huge, from Willi Dorner’s Bodies in Urban Spaces series, where brightly clothed people squeeze themselves gymnastically between railings, into doorways and onto park benches (a bit like the ‘how many people can fit into a mini challenge’) to Roelof Louw’s Soul City, a pyramid of 5,500 oranges (which, as you can imagine, are a challenge for the gallery to source) shaped by visitors as they decide whether or not to take one.

Even a rich tea biscuit becomes art here; YBA Gavin Turk has bitten and signed one. The exhibition “will allow visitors to explore contemporary art in a playful and performative way,” according to Farrell, arguing that this “makes for an accessible and egalitarian experience.” ExtraORDINARY can definitely be experienced on different levels: as straightforwardly playful and a little absurd when participating in Erwin Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures, which ask people to become the work of art by following instructions and using props that, in the past, have included chairs, buckets and dog kennels, or as a meditation on durational art, as with Karina Smigla-Bobinski’s ADA.

ADA is a huge helium balloon with a 3m diameter and 300 sticks of charcoal spiking out of it, which visitors are encouraged to push against the walls floor and ceiling of a dedicated gallery space. The ‘drawing’ that results will evolve over the course of the exhibition – demonstrating the crucial role of its audience. Now if that’s not a reason to go and see ExtraORDINARY, I don’t know what is.

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