Sarah Perks

Text by Tom Emery.

The following interview between Tom Emery and Sarah Perks (Artistic Director: Visual Arts, HOME), was conducted via email in the run up to the launch of the gallery space at HOME.

[TE] What I’m interested in discussing is the transition from Cornerhouse to HOME, the differences in the spaces, and the differences in the approach taken to curating them.

[SP] Whilst we’ve adopted new approaches for HOME – particularly cross art form – we’ve also preserved and built upon what worked well at Cornerhouse. We listen to audiences and always try to both include and challenge them. They know we are a contemporary international space that is often politically engaged, yet on a personal and human level. Cornerhouse was known for participation and artist film, and did engagement and cinema very well, now we are exploring performance and how our proximity to theatre exploits that. HOME visual art is also a coming of age of our curatorial practice, cutting our teeth on early geographical situations and bold solo presentations we now have a confidence to present exciting thematic group shows and take our artist film production and distribution arm to the next level.

[TE] First of all, can you give us a description of what the new space at HOME will be like? What are the technical differences between this and the Cornerhouse, and what can you achieve in this new space that you wouldn’t have been able to previously?

[SP] It’s a beautiful large ground floor space (500m²), with 4m high gallery ceilings and multiple options for dividing the large space up or keeping it as an open space.

It is a space that’s easier to transform with false walls, lighting and audio arrangements. Cornerhouse had three incredibly loved but very quirky gallery spaces – you had to curate to the space, here you can curate for and with the space, the two are no longer in such opposition.  I also don’t know the limits of the space yet – or how to transcend them – and I’m going to enjoy the journey of exploring them.

[TE] Will the nature of the exhibitions programme be changing? The opening show is closely related to the opening theatrical production, The Funfair, will you be continuing to produce exhibitions that are closely tied to the theatre and cinema programmes?

[SP] We are continuing a cycle of exhibitions inspired by classic texts – we’ve opened with a show inspired by our in-house theatre production The Funfair, and the third exhibition is inspired by the influential film Safe. Later in the cycle is Imitation of Life, inspired by Douglas Sirk’s 1959 melodrama about US race issues.

[TE] Cornerhouse was quite a limiting space; will the new space allow greater freedom? A limiting space can answer a lot of questions for you, letting you know a lot of what you can’t do, whereas a flexible space presents more questions, so will exhibitions at HOME be more challenging to curate than Cornerhouse was?

[SP] One is not necessarily more challenging than the other – though Cornerhouse was an interesting space for sure – it all still has to come back to the quality of curation and the artworks themselves – and seeing curation as a journey through a space, an experience and an atmosphere you create. Not everyone will love your ‘story’ and the nature of its presentation but others will be swept away and even exceed your expectations with their engagement.

[TE] Following on from that, are you worried about losing the distinctive character of Cornerhouse?

[SP] Though I loved Cornerhouse, I’m now more excited about creating the distinctive character of HOME and hopefully creating something for the next generation to take ownership of.

[TE] One of the apparent problems with the space at Cornerhouse is that it was somewhat hidden away at the top of the building, requiring visitors to walk through the restaurant to access it. This seemed to play a part in keeping visitor numbers fairly low compared to how many people used the Cornerhouse overall. Do you think that the more prominent space within the building at HOME will allow greater access to the overall audience?

[SP] Of course that’s a no brainer. You can see the gallery when you walk in!

Tom Emery is a curator and writer based in Manchester.

Image courtesy of HOME.

The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, HOME, Manchester.

22 May – 26 July 2015.

Published 22.05.2015 by James Schofield in Interviews

736 words