Mr Monkey sees Recorders at the Manchester Art Gallery, 5th October
After leaving Empire's Borders II at the Chinese Arts Centre Mr Monkey scampered through the streets of Manchester until he arrived at the City Art Gallery, where he took the lift up to the top floor. He was intent on seeing Recorders, a solo exhibition by Rafael Lozano-Hemmar, a Mexican-Canadian electronic artist.
Mr Monkey quickly found out that the exhibits were very dependent upon the actions of the visitors - if no-one joins in, there's nothing to see. The phrase >_awaiting your input on the posters is accurate.
Mr Monkey started by pushing his humans fingers into Pulse Index (2010) to get a horribly detailed look at their fingers, as well as seeing other visitor's fingerprints.
He wasn't so impressed by Autopoesis (2010), thinking that while a mirror that displays the word 'autopoesis' (self-creation) on the forehead of anyone looking into it was probably very clever, it wasn't really very interesting.
Mr Monkey found Close Up Shadow Box (2006) quite interesting. A small camera fitted above a screen records people looking at the screen (or the camera) and displays them as a mosaic, mixed with previously captured images. Sometimes, visitor's outlines appear as silhouettes. Mr Monkey enjoyed this piece, but found its behaviour a little inconsistent.
Mr Monkey's favourite piece in the exhibition was Please Empty Your Pockets (2010). Visitors put their personal effects onto a conveyor belt which goes through a scanner. Images of the items are displayed on the conveyor belt, along with randomly selected images of previously scanned items. Every so often items vanish before reaching the end of the conveyor.
Mr Monkey had lots of fun travelling through the machine and then looking at images of himself projected onto the conveyor belt. His humans weren't allowed to put themselves into the scanner, not even their hands, so they had to make do with creating images of mobile phones, loose change, tickets and money off vouchers for the Couture cafe in the Manchester Museum.
Mr Monkey wasn't impressed by Microphones (2008) - a collection of vintage microphones that should record anything spoken into them and replay it randomly later - mainly because they didn't work for him. Most of the questions posed by the computer system in 33 Questions a Minute (2000) struck Mr Monkey as the sort of silly questions only a computer would ask, and none were ever answered.
Pulse Room (2006) is a large room full of light bulbs, which flash in sequence with the heartbeat of anyone holding a pair of handgrips at one end of the room, or, if no-one's holding the grips, the heartbeats of previous visitors. Mr Monkey found this quite an unsettling room because he doesn't trust lights that can't decide if they're on or off, especially when they do it in time with a human heartbeat.
Finally, Mr Monkey found his way into People on People (2010), a new commission specially for this exhibition. Visitor's images are captured and projected enormously but faintly on the gallery wall; the images can be seen better when other visitors cast shadows by cavorting in front of powerful spotlights. Mr Monkey found this very entertaining, and quickly found out where the slightly hidden cameras were.
When he'd he his fill of appearing on the wall Mr Monkey scampered off home, pausing only to go through the Please Empty Your Pockets scanner again.
Mr Monkey rather enjoyed the Recorders, feeling that the excitement of the better pieces outweighed any disappointment caused by the not-so-interactive bits. It seemed to him that most visitors spent most of their time playing with Please Empty Your Pockets and People on People, much as he did. Mr Monkey isn't totally convinced that any of this is actually art, though it is tremendous fun*.
* Unless your pockets are full of stuff you don't want anyone to see, in which case it could be embarrassing.
Recorders runs until January 30th 2011 and is part of the Abandon Normal Devices festival.