SpAcE-LiFe at Central Library: A creative tourist’s guide to the galaxy

Polly Checkland Harding

SpAcE-LiFe at Manchester’s Central Library combines live music, DJs and sensational, solar footage for one unmissable evening.

Never mind the moon – imagine if you could get up close to the sun. As it turns out, NASA’s cameras can… and coming to Manchester’s Central Library is a full year’s worth of that footage, high definition images that have been compressed into just 30 minutes of film to create an intense, dynamic installation that gets you up close to the boiling solar surface. And the film, called The Sun at Night, and played out inside Central Library next month, will not only be extraordinary to witness. It also comes as part of a one-off evening of music, art and performance that sprawls across the library and takes over some of its most iconic spaces.

SpAcE-LiFe is the kind of event where those who go talk about it for a very long time

SpAcE-LiFe is the kind of event that doesn’t come about very often. At its centre is Mechanical Air, a surround sound electro-acoustic score by British Composer of the Year nominee Michael Mayhew, with live flute by Gavin Osborn. You’ll be able to immerse yourself in this original piece of music, which takes as its starting point the idea that our lives are set against a mechanical soundtrack, all the while standing beneath striking animations projected onto the Reading Room’s dome.

So, SpAcE-LiFe brings a bit of the solar system into the library – and tries to find new, artistic ways to explore it. In one room, astrophysicists ask questions such as “what do stars sound like?” and “are we alone?”, while Sputnik-like sounds travel out over the Shakespeare Hall and, later in the evening, DJ Entropy re-mixes the famous Golden Records placed on Voyagers 1 and 2. These records were meant as a kind of time capsule to explain our world to any extra-terrestrials that might stumble upon them – they included natural sounds, music across cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from people in 55 different languages. We can only imagine that the remix will be a bizarre, incomparable thing. Stranger still will be a hypnotic performance by Die Hexen, the alter ego of performance artist and electronic musician D Lucille Campbell, which will occupy the moment between here and the unknown. All in all, SpAcE-LiFe promises to be an intriguing, complex premise that, accompanied by a pop-up bar, turns a humble late night at Central Library into one that’s (sorry) out of this world.

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