An Atlas of Es Devlin
About this deal
For her first monographic museum exhibition, Devlin will install her 30-year archive across the third floor of the museum. “An Atlas of Es Devlin” will feature over 300 sketches, paintings, illuminated paper cuts and projection-mapped rotating miniature sculptures that form the seeds of some of the most iconic, cultural congregations of music, poetry, art and activism in recent times.
We're a new purpose-built cultural space in the heart of Manchester. The approach to Aviva Studios is flat, with smooth concrete flooring. At the UN headquarters in New York last month, I was sitting not far from the Sudanese-American poet Emi Mahmoud when she got up to perform her work and brought a room of 200 people to tears, to their feet, to their senses. Her poems propel her experience of conflict and migration directly into the guts of everyone who hears and reads her. You would never again be able to see a refugee as “other” after hearing Emi speak. A good dose of her for our current government would go down a treat. 4. Opera
An Atlas of Es Devlin , the first monograph on Devlin’s genre-defying practice, is an experiential publication encompassing art, activism, theater, poetry, music, dance, opera, and sculpture.
Curatorial interns and fellows assisted with research and development: Madelyn Colonna, Bailey de Vries, Barbara Kasomenakis, and Sophie Scott. Reflecting on a three-decade career with a client list that reads like the guestlist of the Grammys, even Es Devlin can’t resist the urge to flirt with what could have been. Having studied English Literature and Fine Art at Bristol University and London’s Central Saint Martins, respectively, Devlin admits that her hunger for visual ingenuity and flair for the poetic almost led her into the headline-grabbing world of 1990s contemporary art. Remembering the way she looked up to the divisive YBA movement of the era, she recognises how close she came to making steps in their direction. “I had a job on a little opera project that Damien Hirst was doing in Scotland that was sort of entering into that little world, but I didn’t go that way because, at the time, I guess I felt uncomfortable with the commodification of art,” she says today.Devlin’s protean work is rooted in a lifelong practice of reading and drawing, especially sketching in the margins of texts. The final gallery is filled with the texts that have guided Devlin’s work—from the plays, song lyrics and opera libretti that have informed her performance sculptures to the works of fiction, poetry, geo-philosophy, anthropological economics, biology and climate science at the root of her art practice over the past decade. The texts are brought to life with a program of collective readings, and visitors are invited to participate in a cumulative artwork while gaining insights to inform their own practice and purpose. Publication There is a car park approximately 0.6 miles from Aviva Studios at Water Street Car Park, New Elm Rd, Manchester, M3 4JH.
Artist and stage designer Es Devlin’s work explores biodiversity, linguistic diversity and collective AI-generated poetry. She views the audience as a temporary society and encourages profound cognitive shifts by inviting public participation in communal choral works.I couldn’t even put my finger on why I didn’t go that route as a student,” says Devlin. “But at the time, I felt much more comfortable walking into a room full of people staying up all night making model theatres, and I think you make those decisions based on which rooms you want to stay in, versus which rooms you just want to walk out of. But I guess after 30 years of collaborating, I’m interested to see what I might do without collaborating as well.” These are embellished with in-depth interviews with her many ‘collaborators’ (Devlin preferring the term over ‘clients’), including Hans Ulrich Obrist, Pharrell Williams, Brian Eno, and many more. Throughout these conversations and the wider volume, the artist details her views on the audience as a form of ‘temporary society’, her current engagement with the cultural response to our climate and civilizational crisis, and the dialogue between music, poetry and the physical manifestation of ideas in her sculpture.