Things to do at MIF 2013: Nikhil Chopra, The Whitworth & The Weekend

Susie Stubbs

A half-built gallery, 65 hours of performance art, sunrise yoga, live music and cocktails – start your MIF experience in fine style.

Look, we’re all for suffering for our art. But just not, you know, actually suffering for it. We leave that to the professionals. In the case of Manchester International Festival, said professional is Nikhil Chopra, the Indian artist scheduled to give a live performance over 65 hours straight at the Whitworth next week.

Chopra’s work focuses on one of the exports that made Manchester great – cotton – and in a performance that starts on Friday and doesn’t end until Sunday, he will meditate on colonial India and Britain, and on the winners and losers in the global textiles game. It is a theme that the Whitworth has explored before and no doubt will do so again, but the gallery is no mere venue. The building itself takes a starring role. Open 24 hours a day during the performance, for the first time people will be allowed into its new landscape gallery – which by next week will only be a half-constructed shell (it’s being built as part of the Whitworth’s £15m extension and isn’t due to open until 2014). With the gallery swathed in Indian cotton, and that cotton scribbled on by Chopra, it provides an apt moment to consider just how mighty Manchester was during the Industrial Revolution, which was for a time the world’s leading centre of manufacturing. And perhaps it will also be a moment to consider what it is we export today. With events such as this, and Manchester International Festival taking its premieres to subsequent locations across the world, has cotton been replaced by culture? Well, by culture and graphene, at any rate.

It’s a feat of artistic endurance softened by 24 hour-a-day food, drink & event add-ons

Back to the art: Nikhil Chopra is internationally lauded for his work. He has appeared at the Venice Biennale. He has form for revisiting, again and again, the uncomfortable relationship between India and Britain, the result of a colonial hangover that for many of us feels like a guilty secret but which artists such as Chopra drag back out into the light. He has form, too, when it comes to Manchester: he took part in Marina Abramović’s “durational performance” back in 2009 and understands the stamina required to perform in public, slowly and deliberately, over a sustained period of time.

If Chopra’s weekend-long work for the festival this time around sounds like hard work, it’s supposed to. It will be a feat of physical and mental endurance, and it will make demands of anyone going to see it. Yet the Whitworth has gone to extraordinary lengths to soften the blow. Open from 4.48am on Friday 5 July to 9.37pm on Sunday 7 July (dawn ‘til dusk), the gallery has scheduled an array of food, drink, events and talks during the weekend. There’s sunrise yoga for the early birds, midnight snacks and cocktails for their opposite numbers. On Friday and Saturday night (9.30pm-1.45am), free shuttle buses run between “Festival Square” (Albert Square) and the Whitworth to enable you to “avail yourself of our late bar”. There’s Indian street food, the launch of the gallery’s summer exhibitions programme, breakfast-with-music and late night stories. It is a weekend of free cultural goodness, laid on by our friends at the Whitworth – and you’re invited. No hair shirt required (a cotton one, maybe).

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