A Sir Antony Gormley figure at the Lowry arts centre in Salford, part of dancer Akram Khan’s perform

Review: ‘One Side to the Other’, Lowry Theatre, Manchester

Gina Castellheim reviews ‘One Side to the Other’, the Lowry Theatre in Manchester’s major visual arts exhibition, curated by Akram Khan. 

This is a wonderful interactive exhibition into the strange musings of a little girl. We are thrown into the fantastical workings of a sweet-faced impish blonde, who possesses a deliciously diabolical mind. She leads you hand-in-hand into each room as the tour takes on a spiritual journey, with the next space symbolic of something deeper. A tantalising experience for all the senses (sight, sound, smell, and touch), a myriad of mediums is also explored (music, photography, dance, art and sculpture).

Brushing past tasselled drapes at the entrance instantly gives a dream-like quality to the venture. You are met with an upside down women sitting on the ceiling, making clearly apparent your stumbling into a distorted reality. As I scour to investigate how she seems to be defying gravity, I notice her holstered by the waist by some metal contraption (seems quite fun, I wonder if people ever just leave her up there for a laugh…probably not. Legal system and that.) She dangles a piece of string with a vinyl spinning at its end, whilst the young girl swirls it above her for some time, clearly enjoying this bizarre world and the soothing sounds of a crackling jazz accompaniment which fills the room.

The next darkly lit room is less jazzy, more sinister. An Oriental lady pierces you with her intent stare as she clutches at a microphone. Mandarin whisperings echo all around, whilst twisted shadows project on the surrounding walls. It is as if the cryptic whisperings infiltrate another realm, conjuring the magical and surreal.

Lowry theatreThe other actors wear black, whilst the young girl sports a casual khaki furry-hooded coat. Her casualness appeals in that she could quite easily have been freshly picked from the streets of Salford before the showing commenced. The contrast between the simplicity of this typical Mancunian and the depth of the exhibition is intriguing.

My favourite moment comes with the sweetness in which the girl explains the mechanicalness of her mind, as she shows us how she coldly attributes human characteristics to a number, with brown hair = 1, blonde hair = 2 and so on. The fact that everyone merely equates to a number, with the endless sounds of ‘1’s’ and ‘2’s’ clouding the room, seems to strip humans of physicality. The robotic-like codifying seems to serve the limitedness of appearance.

We are also invited one by one to peak into a miniature house model hung with mini paintings, as we occupy a similarly decorated enlarged version of the room ourselves. This gives the eerie impression of being within and without, provoking the idea of the omnipresent always watching, or proposes the idea of a great spiritual power beyond our immediate bodies, within us all.

The exhibition concludes in a scarce room, one we’ve never seen, yet with our shoes lain in a perfect line. I reclaim my tattered brown boots, pop them on and ground myself again.

Yet, this peep into the spiritual leaves me wanting to source something more meaningful, certain that our core cradles limitless power. Although that was the end of the exhibition, I realised that the shoes of my soul didn’t have to be put back on…but should be flung off more regularly…

Featured image: The Guardian

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