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Nils Norman and Junebum Park at CUBE, Manchester

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[THIS WEEK] Artists in Manchester are using play to explore architecture, writes James Pallister

Galleries, especially those devoted to the difficult-to-display discipline of architecture, aren’t traditionally the place for boisterous play. But not for long, if Bourriard-loving devotees of play and relational aesthetics have their way (AJ 24.03.11). Oversized parlour games and giant slides in the Tate aside, CUBE has been leading the way and having some fun this summer, with shows by OSA and Nils Norman. OSA’s Merzen invited visitors to contribute to a Kurt Schwitters-inspired construction (AJ 31.03.11) made from recycled building materials.

For Ode to Charles Fourier: Towards a Phalanstery, Nils Norman created a large play structure inspired by the writings of the proto-socialist and seeker of a perfect society, who described in detail the architectural, social and sexual arrangements within his utopia, New Harmony. (He was also the the inventor of ‘phalansterès’, and envisaged a future with seas of lemonade populated by giant, ship-pulling whales). Norman, an artist whose work has riffed on environmentalism, regeneration and the instrumentalisation of public art in the past, created a sort of walk/crawl-through sculpture that doubled up as a potential outdoor play structure for a public space in Manchester.

By the looks of CUBE’s new commission, the Manchester-based archi-gallery shows no sign of letting up the high jinx. Junebum Park’s To Let, in collaboration with the Chinese Art Centre and the Asia Triennial 2011,opened this month. Park is a Korean-based artist known for videos that tinker with scale and perspective, filming everyday events from above, then applying a layer of film showing his own hands apparently manipulating the objects. The plan is to take the art outside and ‘directly engage with the gallery’s Grade II listed exterior, playfully manipulating the face of the building, to expose and reflect impacts of the current recession’.

Junebum Park, 2 September 2011 – 5 October 2011 CUBE, Portland Street, Manchester, www.cube.org.uk

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