Finding without searching: Richard Wentworth

Kate Feld
Richard wentworth museums at night manchester international festival 201

The urge to collect is instinctive – and provides Richard Wentworth with the raw materials for a nocturnal occurrence in the city.

Humans have been keeping collections since we first moved through the forests clutching bits of carved bone. And anyone regularly travelling with a toddler will understand that the urge to gather interesting sticks and meaningful stones must be hard-wired into our consciousness. We may be collectors by our nature, yet for many the word has old-fashioned associations, conjuring up images of bespectacled philatelic societies, or grannies combing car boot sales. But we all keep collections, even if we don’t think of them that way. Look around and you’ll see them everywhere: the conga line of nail varnish bottles snaking across my stepdaughter’s dresser, the penny jar on the mantelpiece, the obscure tins lurking in the back of the cupboard whose contents are too precious, somehow, to actually cook. If you think about it, we ourselves are collections too (of experiences, memories and bacteria) – and isn’t that worthy of celebration?

This month, artist and curator Richard Wentworth comes to Manchester to lead us on a somewhat mysterious two nights devoted to celebrating the art of the collection, Lost and Found. And Wentworth needs you: members of the public are asked to bring in objects to make up his collection, which will then be curated by him during an “exhibition in a night” at the Whitworth.

One of the most influential artists in the country, Wentworth is a giant of British sculpture and photography. His teachings are often cited as a key influence on the YBAs, and his wise and light-handed art continues to delight people all over the world. His practice focuses on found objects and bits of the detritus of modern industrial life, finding the harmonies and dissonances that live inside these forms and subtly altering them to create new identities. A recent profile in The White Review included this description of Wentworth’s ongoing legacy: “With his determination to rework and glorify the everyday, his evident distaste for the notion of the artist as hero or redeemer, and his sincere belief that what surrounds us is as fascinating as that which we feel obliged to gawp at in a gallery, he influenced a whole generation.”

Lost and Found is an accidental trailblazer for Manchester International Festival

In its focus on public-powered art, Lost and Found serves as a kind of accidental trailblazer for Do It 2013, a group art show which takes over Manchester Art Gallery this summer during Manchester International Festival. As it happens, Wentworth will be curating the room in which the gallery-going public creates art in response to instructions from artists including Ai Weiwei and Peter Saville.

It was a huge coup when Manchester beat three other cities to win Wentworth’s services for Museums at Night 2013, which will be focusing on Manchester Museum, the art gallery and the Whitworth. Although we have a fair idea of what will occur, much is being left deliberately vague; the impromptu nature of Wentworth’s vision for Lost and Found is central to the whole concept. You will be able to board a bus for a guided tour of the city, the itinerary a secret to all but Wentworth (and presumably the driver). There will be an opportunity to bring in objects that mean something to you for potential inclusion in the Wentworth-curated exhibition. And you will be able to see the new kind of museum that results from his selection, a transient assemblage of personal objects from all over the city, each with its own story to tell, brought briefly together for just one night. So start looking at the things that surround you a bit more closely: what will you bring to the collection?

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