Introducing AND Festival 2021

Thu 08 Apr 2021

Through a summer of anticipated opening and emergence, Abandon Normal Devices resurfaces for seven weeks from 27 May – 11 July along the Manchester Ship Canal, River Mersey (UK) and online. Creative Director Luke Moody talks through his hopes and thoughts for the 2021 edition of AND Festival

AND has become known for embedding the radical in the real, in the messy region of experimentation between funghi scattered towpaths and non-fungible tokens, traversing, furrowing and projecting onto landscapes across the North West. After a year where gathering, touch, and presence have become habitually digital, our relation to place and landscape has been collectively displaced.

The truth is, I write this journal post without the possibility of standing in and seeing the physical locations of the festival. Perhaps your experience of distant relation to the canal and river through the artworks will be similar to mine contributing to its curation: searching, forming, mutating, mapping, warping through a field of screens. After clicking arrows to wander Liverpool’s docks in Google Street View, I change tab to ramble the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal, scrolling through urban explorer vlogs, old tv documentaries, port developer corporate videos and float downstream on the ship equivalent of a dashcam. These are the images that exist from where I work, landscapes in the cloud and flattened perspectives. How do we come to know and question a territory through a virtual experience? How do we counter isolation or connect to a geography and a community without being there? The challenges of creating situated perspectives are something we embrace as producers working with artists: to try and fail, to experiment and unlearn, share and question. 

In May, we will open our 2021 edition of AND Festival, first through an online portal, then in parallel through experiences in physical spaces, tracing the scars of our fossil fuel-centred industrial past with magical mirrors of the present and portals to possible futures. Spaces largely unseen, but also unheard. We are amongst many organisms that depend on this fluid highway, and those other organisms or microorganisms pass through us sometimes in harmony. Water is a body of knowing and unknowing, erasure, ritual, cleansing – a place to sink statues of racists, to find glowing sea creatures in seemingly uninhabitable environments, a threshold of border politics where ports become lorry parks, and the world beyond enters the world within. 

At every meander of our online portal and physically rooted sites, the new commissions presented in our seven week programme offer flows of sound and image that ebb between floating futures and submerged histories, between augmented clairvoyance and digital archives; invisible and pervasive scales of immense movement, contamination and rewilding.

Historically, the River Mersey acted as a border between kingdoms, taking its name from such a function: mǣres, ‘a boundary’, ēa, ‘a river’. And once again, we look upon it as a boundary to traverse, a fluid line between then and now, demise and regeneration, streaming and touching, knowing and unknowing. Of course industry, cargo shipment, and the era of fossil fuel economies are only recent human uses of this landscape. Hopefully, in coming years our relationships with interconnected portals of water, oceans, and movement of people and goods, do not place technological progress, resourcing, and energy production in conflict with land through extracting, carving, colonising, but is attuned with nature through inhabiting, vibrating, regenerating with the biological and earthly movements around us. This is a time not only to ask how to resurface differently, but to ask what foundations to urgently sink – to recognise that it’s not enough to abandon, but that we have a role to abolish normal devices.

The first artworks we announce in March propose a spectrum of responses and relations to the Manchester Ship Canal and River Mersey. They invite us to consider: what are the transient monuments? How can a dialogue form an open archive? Can our dependency on water become a sustainable cycle? How can we imagine beyond what we see and hear? Or in a space typically seen to be in liminal decay, how  do we see and hear more than we imagined? Each in their own way conveys a notion of urgency, a need to reconcile with these bodies of water and the many oceans beyond. As the summer approaches further elements of the AND programme will emerge, things to be seen and heard for moments and in your own time: films, music, audio performance, echoes of what is to come.

 #AND21

Sign up to AND e-news and follow our social channels for programme and ticket announcements.