Artist of the Week: Curator Laura Mansfield

Elisabeth Molin 'Fish' 2011

I am an independent curator and writer living in Manchester. I often work closely with other artists in the development of both publication and exhibition based projects. My recent projects include the publication series FEAST, which explores the relationship between food, cooking, art and film and the group exhibition Cacotopia at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester. I am currently developing a programme of artist’s film and video broadcasts entitled Pala that will be launching this month.

Over the course of two years Pala will transmit a series of short films and still images via an intermittent digital broadcast. Using software developed by Martin Fergie of Playtime Studio, the broadcasts will be transmitted directly to your computer screen. After downloading Martin’s software, the broadcasts will appear in a pop up window on your desktop. The potential to broadcast direct to an individual’s desktop takes inspiration from the work of Field Broadcast  ( The premise of pala is to curate a programme of work that functions as a series of minor interruptions to the everyday, visually disrupting the computer screen and seductively intruding upon the recipient.

For me, a concern with interruption as a strategy for the de-familiarisation of everyday environments and habitual scenarios in part takes inspiration from the French Surrealists. Here, I am thinking in particular of Andre Breton’s and Louis Aragon’s writings on the ‘marvelous’. Used by Breton in the first Surrealist Manifesto of 1924 to describe a sense of the uncanny as beautiful, the term is later defined by Aragon in his 1926 novel Paris Peasant as an ‘eruption of contradiction within the real’. For the Surrealists an object taken out of context, an unexpected viewpoint, a disassociated collection of text and image held the ability to disrupt the familiar and rational structure of a given everyday, igniting momentary submersions into a space of psychic and imaginary alternatives.

Matt Rowe 'Bad Omen', 2013
Matt Rowe ‘Bad Omen’, 2013

Today, computers increasingly open our everyday spaces to the intrusion of the outside, whether through emails, video-calls, social media or the internet. Such intrusions are more or less controllable through different computer settings, a turning off of applications. Pala works with a premise of intrusion, on the one hand mirroring the most unwanted of all intrusions – the commercial pop up but hopefully turning into its opposite through the artists imagery, engendering a surprise seduction and an unexpected intimate encounter – a marvelous pop-up.

The nature of each broadcast film is intended to provide a strange and playful proposition as to ‘other’ landscapes, environments and presences, instigating momentary, involuntary encounters with suggestions of a world that evades direct placement.

A kind of safety door that can be shut upon all imminent intrusions is nevertheless built into the software. On the day a broadcast is scheduled a small icon will appear on the computer tool bar, signaling that a Pala transmission is imminent. If users wish not to receive the broadcast for that day they can simply shift the icon to disabled in a drop down menu. When in transmission, each broadcast can further easily be stopped by closing the pop up window.

David Cochrane 'If I could see you now', 2009
David Cochrane ‘If I could see you now’, 2009

Over the course of the first year Pala will include broadcasts by the artists David Cochrane, Aliyah Hussain, Piotr Krzymowski, Elisabeth Molin, Nicole Morris, Matt Rowe, Shelley Theodore and David Wojtowycz. Each of the broadcast works explores and subverts narrative structures and acts of viewing through devices of repetition, fragmentation and the use of still images as a means of drawing attention to the experiences of looking, interpretation and translation. Whereas a number of the artists have developed new works in direct response to the project theme, others have contributed existing works that resonate with the curatorial framework.

Nicole Morris and Piotr Kryzmowski have both previously exhibited film works in Liverpool as part of Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the 2012 city Biennial. Aliyah Hussain also participated in the 2012 Biennial program as part of the performance collective Volkov Commanders, contributing to Drawing Sessions #2, a 12-hour participatory music event co-ordinated by The Royal Standard and Drawing Paper.

Pala will be broadcasting for a period of two years.  In devising the project I was keen to allow the broadcasts to accumulate in the viewer’s experience over a longer period of time, presenting her or him with multiple fractured narrative threads like postcards from a distant stranger, which resonate with one another and slowly suggest, yet never fully add up to a complete picture of a knowable world. The ephemerality of each broadcast serves to entice and frustrate a desire for a comprehensible whole, continuously calling from a place increasingly familiar that nevertheless remains strange.

If you would like to follow the project and receive the broadcasts you can download the Pala software at the project


Further information:

Pala is a project devised by Laura Mansfield with the support of Playtime studio.

Information on each of the participating artists can be found on the project website.



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