Installation: The long waited, weighted, gathering at Manchester International Festival

Our reporter Gill James has paid a visit to The long waited, weighted, gathering by Turner Prize winner Laure Prouvost.

The immersive installation is on display at the Manchester Jewish Museum as part of the Manchester International Festival.

The recently renovated Jewish Museum in Manchester is worth a visit at any time. This former Spanish and Portuguese synagogue, a red brick Grade II listed building, nestles shyly amongst the concrete and glass out-of-town shops that are so often found on the edges of our cities. Here you can find out much about the history of the Jewish population in Manchester. This week there is a bonus.

Credit: Michael Pollard

Laure Provost’s installation includes a film shot in the museum and in the surrounding areas. Provost has mined the museum’s collection to find the unknown stories of the women who frequented the synagogue. The museum’s resident Women’s Textiles Group have created objects that appear in the film, some of which are displayed in the gallery.

Naturally, the installation is in the Ladies’ Gallery. You can almost hear the women gossiping there about their families and their lives.

The film is dream-like. The women appear to be meeting for a tea party in the clouds. There are birds as well. The women chat, exchanging stories of everyday life. Why is one of them late? Why has another made cakes?

How is the sewing going for a third? The women all wear black dresses but colour is added with a selection of hats and scarves. They bring us down to earth again as they show us other iconic buildings associated with the Manchester’s Jewish heritage.

There are traces of humour. One husband did not see the cake on a chair and sat on it destroying it. Another saw vegetables falling from the sky. God was providing.

Dotted around the gallery are artefacts from the film: plates of cakes and biscuits, tea cups, the birds and clothes provided by the Women’s Textiles Group. Hats and shawls, made from satin, feathers and lace, are draped casually over two old-fashioned coat-stands.

The installation brings back attention to the space. This is the place where women would gather to exchange practical details of everyday life whilst the men prepared for more spiritual matters. The stained glass windows bring a subtle but welcome light to the Ladies’ Gallery even on a rainy Monday in Manchester.

The Manchester Jewish Museum has confirmed that the instalment will be on show until 3 October 2021.

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