New exhibition explores how digital ignites our Fire Within

New exhibition explores how digital ignites our Fire Within

Hetain Patel - Fiesta Transformer arriving at The Fire Within

Hetain Patel's transformer robot arriving at The Fire Within

The power of digital in helping to bring people together will be explored in the second year of a pioneering art exhibition. 

This weekend, Wigan Council will open the next phase of its cultural manifesto, The Fire Within, with a new show focused on promoting social inclusion.

The theme for 2020/21 is Digital Wigan and the title of the exhibition – We Will Always Be Together – has become even more topical in a world of social distancing.

The exhibition will explore technology, creating a digital world for visitors to experience in The Galleries shopping centre.

Cabinet member for communities and culture, Councillor Chris Ready said: “For the last couple of years, our teams have been working really closely with the borough’s cultural organisations, freelance artists and other creative professionals in order to create a 5-year plan that will bring arts and culture to the forefront of people’s minds.

“Our focus last year was on bringing people together and transforming the previously vacant shopping units into a ground-breaking social space.

“Due to the pandemic, our approach has had to change this year. Our second theme was always going to be Digital Wigan and with the current climate, this focus is actually more important and relatable than we ever would have thought.

“This new exhibition will explore how technology has the power to bring people together in many ways. And, we have a lot of exciting art works and artists being featured. You don’t want to miss it!”

The exhibition will cover six rooms in the shopping centre exploring social media, the computer age and superheroes, even featuring a transformer robot created by Jarman Award winner, Hetain Patel, using his first car.

The flagship emoji room and ICONS spaces have also been transformed, with some new ICONS taking the spotlight, including LGBTQ rights activist and Northerner, Allan Horsfall, along with Buzzcocks Leigh Punk, Pete Shelley.

Local artist, Dustin Lyon, will feature in three of the rooms even showcasing a laser piece he has created especially for The Fire Within.
His work uses cutting-edge digital software, light, sound and projections to create large-scale installations, which blur the lines between reality and fantasy.

For this show, Dustin will explore the journey of how technology and artificial intelligence will adapt our lives in the future.

He said: “Sometimes there is a perception that art is pretentious but that’s what is so good about The Fire Within. It sits within a shopping centre in the heart of the town centre, so those barriers are broken down straight away.

“I’ve been involved with The Fire Within since its inception and I’ve really enjoyed being part of a local show. I have a real confidence in local artists and the calibre of our talent.

“The work displayed at The Fire Within is comparable to The Tate and other large scale galleries, yet it’s grassroots and is a great opportunity to engage with people directly.

“My work explores how we mine minerals from the earth, which are then used to power our devices and connect socially. I like the idea of showcasing something new to inspire others.

“If we engage properly and provide the right resources, so many people could demonstrate creativity - the more we reach out to the community, the stronger the relationship between the arts sector and the public will be.”

Wigan Borough residents may also recognise some of the pieces on display as some popular artworks from the former Drumcroon galleryhave been brought out of the council’s stores for the first time in years. 

The installation has been curated by international artists and Wigan Borough residents Al Holmes and Al Taylor, who have been key in making the borough’s manifesto a reality.

This will be the third installation they have delivered on behalf of the council since May 2019.

They said: “The new show is an amazing hidden history story we have mined during our research of our hometown.

“We have been working closely with Wigan Council who have helped to build the units during the pandemic and have been overjoyed to be back working on exciting culture projects with us.

“One thing is for sure, this super show will be filled with super special things, including some of the rising stars in Wigan Borough.

“We’re also really proud to have a documentary about our newly-signed artists-in-residence, The Lathums, playing loud and proud on the emoji stage.

“No matter how much the digital age helps us all to stay in touch with the ones we love, there really is no substitute for visiting and enjoying a great day out at an inspirational show. We can’t wait to welcome you!”

The exhibition will be officially open to the public from Thursday 24 September but closed tours will take place at a low-key opening on Saturday 19 September due Covid-19 restrictions. Members of the public can preview the exhibition early for two hours between 1pm and 3pm on Saturday 19 September. 

Following the opening, visitors will be expected to wear face masks and to social distance when in the space. Hand sanitising stations and one-way systems will be in place.

Find more information about The Fire Within, including opening hours (external link).

Posted on Tuesday 15th September 2020

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