15 artists and 5 staff members travelled from Manchester to Antwerp to create art for Museumnacht. During Museumnacht, hundreds of audiences visit museums across the city enjoying installations and live performances.
Divided into 4 groups with other artists from The Netherlands, Poland and Belgium, our Mancunian artists were locked in 4 different museums overnight.
Organiser of creative urban projects Fameus, described the process as: sleep deficiency, chaos, drama, artistic crisis, overdrive.
We sat down with artist Bianca Danielle, for exclusive insight into the prep, the drama and what’s next.
I saw the opportunity on social media a couple of months ago and thought it sounded really unique and interesting but that it might be out of my depth. I wasn’t sure if it was for more experienced, full-time artists as it was based in a museum and there wasn’t much info except that it was to “make art”.
I’m currently having a ‘Year of Yes’ which means I have made a personal vow to say Yes to the majority of what comes my way – especially if it scares me! So I applied the night before the deadline. My application was basically me gushing about how much I love making conscious art, the various artistic skills I have and how partnering with international artists was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.
I have been acting, writing and directing for Theatre and TV for so many years I have lost count. I genuinely thrive on storytelling and taking audiences on a journey, whether I’m on stage or my words are being performed by someone else. However, as my Arts Marketing career has developed, my personal artistic projects (or passion projects as I like to call them) have slowly become side hustles.
This really came to my attention when I attended a conference last month. I was asked what I do for a living and I automatically replied “I work on Digital Content full-time and outside of that I act, write and direct,” to which the facilitator replied “it’s interesting that you class your passions as a part time hobby”.
Ouch! That really touched a nerve. No creative wants their outlet to be a side hobby, but life and circumstance had slowly pushed it into the background. This gave me agency to use this project as a way to find my way back to me, motivating me to create again.
I was over the moon when I received the acceptance email, but I didn’t know what to expect. There wasn’t much more information except something about “sleep deprivation, chaos” and some other scary words! Either way I knew it would give me uninterrupted time and the artistic freedom to run with my imagination.
It seemed perfect that I would do it in a beautiful place, alongside other Contact participants and alumni. The perfect opportunity to build more of a network and make worldly connections.
I was locked in FOMU Foto Museum – a huge, modern photo museum in Antwerp – for 24 hours, with artists from The Netherlands, Poland and Belgium. Our lead artist was an experienced actress and voice over artist Maxime. She was such a captivating, energetic and inspiring ray of light, who really helped to keep the momentum as we planned and blocked our installation through the night. During that time I went through so many emotions, but because we were all in it together we boosted each other when we were flagging. It was a beautiful thing to experience how seamlessly my group adopted a type of universal understanding of the situation.
We all spoke different languages, had various cultures and opposing backgrounds – but in the museum there was a shared understanding between us. The need to be gentle with each other when we were delirious from the lack of sleep, hysterical with emotion or just plain grumpy because we were sick of the stale air and artificial light. Likewise the art we created was fuelled with passion, drunk on lack of time, and rich with creative freedom.
We had the entire fourth floor to ourselves, which was five rooms including corridors and we definitely used it all!
Together we produced an interactive tour, with participatory installations, spoken-word, symbolic dance performances and even a Tai Chi room. Everything was themed around the moon, as FOMU had an exhibition celebrating 50 years since the Apollo moon landings, so it was our take on that. I installed a huge feedback mural of the moon which asked two questions: ‘Did man really land on the moon?’ and ‘Should man stop landing on the moon?’
I really wanted to encourage audiences to paint their opinion, with no judgement and no over thinking and audiences responded amazingly to it, splashing a lot of paint around, writing environmental quotes, slogans and someone even painted a detailed depiction of an astronaut. One of the other artists, Ana from Poland, took a more political approach and asked the audience to draw borders on the moon.
It made me think: if we went to the moon would we take our Earth conflicts with us? It was amazing seeing all of us come together with different responses to the same theme, to produce a seamless journey. All in 24 hours and without sleep!
The Belgian audiences had the chance to travel around all 4 museums to watch each groups creations, so we performed 4 times. We were last in the rotation and when audiences arrived at FOMU, the joy on their faces really made it all worth it. They seemed to relish in not being told facts and information but being able to listen, look and form their own opinions.
Completing the project has left me with an immense sense of achievement. I feel inspired and humbled by this experience. I would love to do this again, as I proved to myself that when I’m in the zone, the words, the narrative and the art WILL come. I would encourage everyone to take themselves out of their comfort zone, to keep their eyes peeled for doors that might look scary and to just DO more than you THINK. I made some awesome connections with extremely talented people, and I have come back to Manchester feeling driven to keep finding creative opportunities and to have the confidence to say YES – I am an artist no matter what I do 9-5, that does not lessen my craft.
What the other artists are saying
‘What an absolutely amazing experience with Contact. Made some unreal theatre in a museum overnight with an extremely talented bunch of artists!’ – Danny
‘Exhausting. Emotional. Irate at times, but very freeing. And – incredible. I made new friendships with people I’d probably not meet otherwise and I got bitten by mosquitoes all over my face. it was quite an experience and I very much needed the reminder of how important and liberating the process of making art was for me…’ – Nasima
‘Became an honorary Mancunian in Antwerp for the weekend and had the most amazing time being locked in a crypt for 24 hours, and performing. HUGE thanks to Contact and Fameus Antwerp for making it all happen’ – Cherry