MIF 2019: Animals of Manchester (including HUMANZ)

An interspecies and intergenerational project by Theatre of Research & Live Art Development Agency (LADA) for Manchester International Festival 2019

The Whitworth & Whitworth Park
Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 July 2019

More information here

Imagine a city in which animals of all kinds, including humanz, live together in peace. What might life be like if dogs, cows, squirrels and other creatures lived alongside us not just as our pets but as our peers – our companions? Imagine what Manchester could look like then! 

Animals of Manchester (including HUMANZ) is an interactive Live Art experience created by Sibylle Peters (Theatre of Research) and LADA for the Manchester International Festival 2019 which poses questions about the relationship between humanz and non-human animals.

Taking place over the Festival’s final weekend, audiences are invited to follow a trail through Whitworth Park and Gallery, and take part in all kinds of animal encounters. Across a series of installations and performances, children, families and adults alike will explore our relationships with fellow species, be invited to become a citizen of our alternative city, and share ideas on how to improve relationships between species.

This summer we will invite everyone to turn into animals of Manchester alongside squirrels and dogs, cows and beetles and pigeons and many more. In the every day humans meet our co-species less and less, and I think we are actually missing them. So, with the guidance of our collaborating kids and my partners at MIF and the Live Art Development Agency we will turn Live Art into Life Art and create a zone of companionship in which humans and other animals can be together without food chains or zoo cages getting between us.

 - Sibylle Peters

Featured artists and artworks:

  • Mouse Palace (for mice and men) by Joshua Sofaer, a reconstruction of a popular Bangkok tourist attraction in mouse and child-sized forms;
  • Town Hall (a conference of animals) where alliances of animals from microbes to pigeons to humanz from our partnering schools, make their case for equality and companionship. By Theatre of Research & Ansuman BiswasAndy Field, and Random People;
  • Human School (be your dog!) by Angela Bartram, where dogs teach humanz;
  • Pet Workshop (for human students) by Krõõt Juurak and Alkex Bailey, where pets run workshops for humanz;
  • Nuts House (an edible Arndale Centre) for squirrels and birds by Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson (London Fieldworks);
  • Living Memorials (for extinct species) by Marcus Coates;
  • The BeetleFilmTheatre by Tim Spooner;
  • The Hedgehog Hospital & Gazette with artist Rebecca Chesney and Barbara Roberts of the Withington Hedgehog Care Trust;
  • Interspecies Family Portrait Studio (come as you are!) run by Benji Reid;
  • Aquarium (for humanz who want to get bitten by sharks) by Martin O’Brien;
  • The Life Art Library exploring the history of animals in performance art through books and films, where animals are honoured as performers in A Pantheon of Performing Animals, and a series of artists’ and other expert‘s talks about their favourite animals as artists; and
  • Animalship Registration (for humanz) & Bestiary Beauty Salon (Fake Fur For All!) with Katharina Duve where humanz can share their ideas for better interspecies relationships and signify their animal being.


Take part in Animals of Manchester (including HUMANZ) at MIF19!

We’re looking for Manchester-based human and non-human animals to help us create Animals of Manchester (including HUMANZ). See here


With children collaborating as facilitators and ambassadors, Animals of Manchester (including HUMANZ) follows on from Theatre of Research and LADA‘s projects with children at their core, including PLAYING UP and KAPUTT: The Academy of Destruction.

Animals of Manchester will be a joyous and thoroughly unexpected exploration of our relationships with animals. The artist Sybille Peters has been working in truly unique ways with young people and their stories and ideas for many years and has created some of the most extraordinary and engaging projects for children and families around Europe. We’re delighted to be joined by the range of unexpected artists that she has invited to be part of this project with her. The day itself will be full of surprises and a truly enjoyable adventure.” John McGrath, Director of MIF

Animals of Manchester (including HUMANZ) was commissioned and produced by Manchester International Festival with support from the Whitworth, The University of Manchester. MIF19, which runs from 4–21 July 2019 and features artists from across the globe premiering a variety of new work in spaces throughout the city. 

Download the brochure of MIF 2019's full programme here.

For more details, please click here.


Artists‘ Biographies:

Andy Field is an artist, writer and curator based in London. He has created performance work on his own and with a variety of collaborators since 2007. Andy creates formally unusual projects that invite us to consider our relationships both to the spaces we inhabit and the people around us. Over the last decade this has manifested itself across a range of forms and disciplines, including street games, event scores, installations, interactive encounters, studio theatre shows and one-to-one performances. In 2018 Andy was one of the co-directors of Nocturne, commissioned by LIFT Festival (London), Homo Novus (Riga) and LOKAL (Reykjavik), a literal and figurative journey into the city after dark in search of the animals that reside there.

Angela Bartram is an artist working in expanded sculpture (objects, sound, video, print, performance event) and published text, concerning thresholds of the human body, gallery or museum, definitions of the human and animal as companion species and strategies for documenting the ephemeral. Recent exhibitions include those curated for her projects The Alternative Document and Documents, Alternatives. Additionally, the list includes Karst (Plymouth 2016), Hillyer Art Space (Washington DC 2016), Miami International Performance Festival (2014, 2013), and Grace Exhibition Space (New York 2014, 2012). Publications include the co-edited book Recto-Verso: Redefining the Sketchbook, and chapters in Collaborative Art in the Twenty-First Century and Intimacy Across Visceral and Digital Performance. Bartram has a PhD from Middlesex University and is Associate Professor and Head of Arts Research at the University of Derby.

Ansuman Biswas has a wide-ranging creative practice. During a residency at the National Institute of Medical Research he discovered how like the zebra fish he is. Both are native to the Ganges delta, were nearly wiped out by the British Raj and industrialisation, and are now domesticated around the world as a convenient subject for experimentation. Ansuman attempted to turn the tables by working in the labs disguised as a zebra. Other recent work has included directing Shakespeare in America, designing underwater sculptures in the Red Sea, living with wandering minstrels in India, being employed as an ornamental hermit in the English countryside, touring with Björk, surviving blindfolded for days in an unknown place, travelling with nomadic shamans in the Gobi Desert, playing with Oasis, collaborating with neuroscientists in Arizona, living for a week with nothing but what spectators chose to give him, singing continuously for twenty four hours, organizing activists in Soweto, meditating in a box for ten days with no food or light, creating a musical in a maximum security prison, performing as a soloist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, bathing strangers, running seminars in a Burmese monastery, playing with dying children, making a radio telescope sing and dance, being locked in a Gothic Tower alone for forty days and nights, and flying on a real magic carpet in Star City, Moscow.

Benji Reid describes himself as a choreo-photolist – where theatricality, choreography & photography meet in a single, or series of images. He believes that there is dance in everything and his practice has focused on expressing the fragility of the body through movement. His career began in visual theatre in 1994. Recently he directed Inua Ellams’ Spalding Suite at the South Bank Centre and Keisha Thompson’s Man on the Moon at Contact Theatre, nominated for Manchester Theatre Awards, Best Performance in a Studio Production 2018. He was a recipient of the Nesta Dreamtime award, and runner up for the Art05 Award. As a photographer he is interested in how he can translate his theatre practice into a restricted space: reducing a theatre practice to its limit instance, carrying the visceral nature of performance into a still frame to retell narratives. He has exhibited A Thousand Words at Contact, been included in a group show at MoCADA, Brooklyn Museum, has works in the permanent collection at Liverpool Slave Museum, and B-Boy Last Supper will be on permanent display at Contact from 2019.

Joshua Sofaer is an artist who is centrally concerned with modes of collaboration and participation, which he explores through social sculpture, performance, installation, exhibition and publication. Equally as comfortable in the clean white gallery, the dramatic curtained stage of the opera house, the carefully positioned vitrine of the museum, the shared areas of public space, and the domestic personalised rooms of private homes, what draws Sofaer’s diverse practices together is a concern with how audiences engage with the world as a place of potentiality. People’s experience is key, as are the material cultures they choose to surround themselves with. Working internationally, Sofaer has presented work at The Science Museum (London), SFMOMA (San Francisco) and Folkoperan (Stockholm), amongst many other venues and institutions.

Katherine Araniello is an artist who uses live art and video to respond to, re-evaluate, disrupt and regurgitate an alternative guise on disability that rejects mainstream preconceptions. She uses subversive humour in response to the mundane, social awkwardness and negative representations of disability. She twists impossible tasks, taboos and the everyday into works which are never quite as they seem, and constantly challenge notions of ability. No-one is exempt and everyone is under scrutiny. Araniello makes use of improvisation, interaction and technology to create unpredictable scenarios that range from large-scale productions to workshops and spontaneous DIY interventions. She operates under a number of guises and personas, individually and collaboratively, to present disability in outrageous and satirical ways. Araniello has worked with national and international organisations, and various other artists – notably her three chihuahuas: Lucy, Pippa and Dennis, who are frequent collaborators and participants in Araniello’s performances and video works.

Katharina Duve is a transdisciplinary artist, working with a wide variety of media, including experimental films, lecture performances, music videos, collages, installations, sampling and costumes. In her practice, she explores themes such equality, collectivity, identity and the body. Her work has been shown in various group exhibitions, including at Kunsthaus, Hamburg (2015); Tate Modern Exchange, London (2017) and Galerie Melike Bilir (2018) and has been screened in international film festivals. Her experimental music videos received a number of awards, such as 1st Jury MUVI Award (2014, in cooperation with Timo Schierhorn and Ted Geier) at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen in Germany. Katharina is part of a performance collective in Hamburg (since 2002) and member of the filmmaker-cooperation Auge Altona (since 2015). She has been a lecturer at the Film Department of Hamburg University, amongst others. Katharina lives and works in Hamburg, Germany.

Krõõt Juurak (Estonia) and Alex Bailey (UK) are artists and performers working and living in Vienna. They received their MFA from the Sandberg Institute of Fine Arts in Amsterdam. Their recent performance collaborations include Animal Jokes (for Animals) performed at Secession, Vienna, Xing, Bologna and Bonnefanten Museum Maastricht, Animal Show performed at WUK Performing Arts, Vienna; Codomestication (in collaboration with their son) at Tanzquartier Vienna. Since 2014 when Krõõt and Alex launched the project Performances for Pets they have performed for over 150 cats and dogs at various homes and museums across Europe and the US (Zürich, Amsterdam, Brussels, Erlangen, Vienna, Berlin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oxnard etc). Performances for Pets is represented by Galerie International an immaterial art gallery dealing exclusively with immaterial artworks. Alex and Krõõt also run a workshop called Autodomestication, designed to help individuals learn art and performance skills from animals.

London Fieldworks (artists Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson) is a collaborative arts practice formed in 2000 and based in east London. Having formed a notion of ecology as a complex inter-working of social, natural, and technological worlds, their approach is often socially engaged, with works made for the gallery, in the landscape, for screen and radio. Early projects tested modes of production and poetic applications of technology to question mediated experience through remote interventions and simultaneous transmissions. Over the past decade LFW have made a series of “performative architectures”, works that attend to place and to habitat; structures of engagement that investigate the meeting points of culture and nature. Many of these works were designed to be open to occupation by local wildlife. LFW projects have been awarded by The Arts Foundation (UK), Ars Electronica (Linz), Vida, Art and Artificial Life (Madrid) and London Short Film Festival.

Marcus Coates works in various media, including photography, sculpture and sound.He is best known for his performative films, which explore encounters between the human and animal worlds, a key theme throughout his work. He appropriates the language and behaviour of wild mammals, insects and birds as a means of deciphering our emotional and social conventions. He gained notoriety for his video installation Dawn Chorus (2007), in which singers are shown in their natural habitats of offices and living rooms, mimicking intricate birdsong. Coates regularly appears in his films, often as a shamanic figure interacting with members of the public. Dressed in casual clothes and a selection of taxidermal headdresses, he channels animal spirits, using these encounters to offer insight into the problems of the human world. This interest in ‘becoming animal’ continues in a series of photographic self-portraits from 2013 in which the artist transforms himself into insects and molluscs by encasing his body in shaving foam, cotton wool, sugar and flour paste. He was awarded the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Artist Award in 2008 and the first Daiwa Foundation Art Prize in 2009. Coates has exhibited widely in the UK and overseas; solo exhibitions include Proxy, Kate Macgarry, London (2012); Dawn Chorus, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wales (2012); The Trip, The Serpentine Gallery, Artist Studio, Londo (2011) and Psychopomp, Milton Keynes Gallery (2010). He was also included in the 2009 Tate Triennale exhibition Altermodern, curated by Nicolas Bourriaud.

Martin O’Brien is best known for his durational solo performances and collaborations with the pioneering body artist Sheree Rose. His work draws upon his experience of suffering from cystic fibrosis. His performances and video art are concerned with representations of illness and disability, physical endurance, disgust and pain based practices in order to address a politics of the sick, queer body and examine what it means to be born with a life-threatening disease, politically and philosophically. He has performed throughout the UK, Europe and the USA including Spill Festival (London), Kapelica Gallery (Ljubljana), Abrons Art Center (New York), ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives (Los Angeles), Dansehallerne (Copenhagen). His work has been funded and commissioned by organisations such as Arts Council England, British Council, and the Live Art Development Agency. In 2018 he published Survival of the Sickest, the Art of Martin O’Brien.

random people (random-people.net) was founded by Daniel Ladnar and Esther Pilkington in Aberystwyth in 2007 as a platform for collaborative projects in performance. Currently, random people are based in Hamburg. In 2013, random people co-founded irreality.tv to produce interventionist and participatory television projects. For many years and many projects, we have also worked closely with the collective geheimagentur (geheimagentur.net). Collaboration for us is not only a mode of production, but always also an enquiry. Collaborators in our recent projects have included: seafarers, goldsmiths, pre-school kids, owls, families, taxis drivers, and dogs.

Rebecca Chesney’s practice examines our complex relationship with the natural world, by engaging with issues of culture, politics and power. Her artworks, which take the form of installations, videos, drawings, maps and walks, are often created in response to specific places and are underpinned by environmental research. Exploring the blurred boundaries between science and folklore, her work is also concerned with how our understanding of species is fed by a confused mix of truth and fiction. Air pollution, water quality, invasive plant species, bees, stray dogs and bird song are all subjects her work has dealt with previously. She has been commissioned by Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Compton Verney, Bluecoat, Grizedale Arts and Bronte Parsonage Museum. Awards include a Gasworks Fellowship to Cona in Mumbai India and a Lucas Artist Fellowship at Montalvo Art Centre in California USA. She has been invited on residencies to the Nirox Foundation in South Africa, The Lowry in Salford and at Peak in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales.

Tim Spooner works in performance, collage, painting and sculpture. His work uses materials and objects in ways that reveal unexpected properties, aiming to open up perspectives beyond the human scale. Fundamentally interested in unpredictability, his work is an exercise in balancing control with a lack of it in the handling of the materials he is working with. Since 2010, Tim has created a series of increasingly complex live works centred around the revelation of “life” in material. Recent projects include The Voice of Nature, an interconnected system of fragile sculptures; The Assembly of Animals, made for young audiences and concerned with the abstraction of an animal form; and The Telescope, which uses a microscope camera to reveal a universe of miniature objects manipulated using magnets, electricity and chemical reactions. Alongside, and in relation to these projects, he has produced a continuous stream of paintings and collages.


Mission Statement:

For ages human beings thought they were entirely different from all the other animals. Human philosophers were keen to find fundamental differences between humans and other animals. They said, for example, that only humans have free will, while animals are just governed by instinct. They said that only humans have language while animals don’t. And if humans call each other animals, or treat each other like animals, it’s usually not meant well. 

Children always had their doubts about this, and lately there are more and more adults who question this order of things too. Not only do we know by now, that animals have language and free will, it also doesn’t seem smart to think about the many species of this planet in terms of humans being so much better than everything else. Instead it becomes clear, that we are in this together for better or for worse. We are not one species winning the food chain game over all the others. Instead we are companion species depending on one another.

However, the relationships between humans and other animals are organized in a certain, often hierarchical and unequal way, and to change them towards companionship isn’t that easy. Sometimes we don’t even know what it means.

With Animals of Manchester (Including Humanz) we will provide a space and use the methodologies of Live Art to find out more about it. In the process we will work with children and animals to create an experience of companionship for everyone.

  • We will work on the relationship humans and other animals traditionally have in the performing arts.
  • Together with artists and children guides we will explore relationships of humans and other animals in Manchester.
  • We will celebrate interesting forms of companionship to learn from them.
  • We will try and take our place within the animal kingdom, instead of looking at it from the outside.
  • We invite all species, humans and other animals, as artists and participants to the event.


Animal involvement:

Animals of Manchester is an intergenerational event that questions given power relations between humans and other animals through Live Art strategies. In and around Whitworth Gallery and Park we will create a zone aspiring to interspecies equality.

Unlike the usual, mostly commercial, ‘live animal’ events, no animals are being booked, cast or paid to be involved in this project. Rather we will be engaging in respectful ways with animals which are already resident or regularly present in Whitworth Park, for example squirrels, pigeons, insects and microbes, as well as dogs and their human companions who frequently use the park.

A few other people who have pets, most of them children, will bring their pets to take part in aspects of the programme. In all such instances the pet owners are responsible for their pet’s participation in Animals of Manchester and bring their pets on their own account.

We will also be working with the Withington Hedgehog Care Trust and Dogs4Rescue - both organizations working for the benefit and welfare of animals.

The only exception to animals who are resident in the park or animals who are brought to the park by their companions, is the inclusion of a cow, our collaborator from Wythenshaw Park Community Farm.


Animal welfare, licensing and risk assessments:

We are developing an ethical policy and plan and have already consulted with the RSPCA for their guidelines and advice. We are also following Defra’s guidelines on animal welfare and will of course apply to Manchester City Council for an animal license for performing animals. We will make sure we have strong animal welfare standards as the project’s concept is all about treating animals better. We are also working with some animal charities who are experts in rescuing and caring for different species. We plan to have a vet onsite or have access to local vets for any medical needs that arises.