‘Corridors’ by Tim Brennan

Tim Brennan’s manoeuvres come to Manchester in the form of a new free guidebook.

A persistent legend, however, holds that the library began when one of Ptolemy I’s subjects, an Athenian named Demetrius of Phalerum, proposed constructing a building to house all the world’s known manuscripts, according to Britannica. Demetrius’ grand design was to erect a place of learning that would rival Aristotle’s famous Lyceum, a school and library near Athens. Ptolemy I apparently approved the plan, and soon, a building was erected within the palace precincts. “It was called the Museion, or ‘Place of the Muses,'” Wendrich said; it was named after the muses, the nine Greek goddesses of the arts. (The word “museum” is derived from “museion.”) 

Tom Garlinghouse, March 14, 2022 ‘The rise and fall of the Great Library of Alexandria’. Live Science. Source: https://www.livescience.com/rise-and-fall-of-the-great-alexandria-library

This is the opening quote from one of three new guided walks that make up my new pocket travel book, ‘Corridors: Three Manoeuvres by Tim Brennan in Manchester’ a copy of which is available free to each member of MAFA. Although the quote refers to the legendary Great Library of Alexandria it is to be read outside Manchester Central Library and forms the first in a series of quotations that take on a walk through the Oxford Road Corridor around the theme of ‘knowledge’. The Oxford Road Corridor stretches ‘out from St.Peter’s Square in the city centre, it’s a place where knowledge, business and culture thrive’ (from the website https://oxfordroadcorridor.com/)

page of 'Corridors' by Tim Brennan

What do you think about when you are walking from A to B? If you are like me, then, so long as I know where I’m going my mind will wander. Often, I’m looking at my immediate surroundings and sometimes I see something, a building, a sign, or particular aspect of a site I am moving through that triggers an association or a set of associations and I go down a rabbit hole. It’s like surfing the web.

I work in many modes and am not fixed to one way of working (so painting, sculpture, drawing, sound, video etc).  I’m probably best known for my works in performance and my research which is focused on how we move through space and place. In the early 1990’s I began making guided walks and guidebooks based on this idea. I’d design a route and research information to be read at stopping points along the way. The walks were built entirely of associations that the place I was walking through conjured. They were all quotations drawn from factual and fictional literature, newspapers, archives, or testimonies from people who still lived and worked in the area. I found myself manoeuvring through oceans of information. I called the walks, manoeuvres and hoped that they would allow walkers to stop and think about a topic. I found that my manoeuvres were quite popular and that I would get approached by art galleries and museums to develop them for their location, some urban, some rural, some inside and many outside.  Since 1992 I’ve made over 60 of these walks in the UK, Europe and New Zealand.

Examples of my manoeuvres include ‘Vedute Manoeuvre’ presented at 54th Venice Biennale in 2011 which involved a tour of St Mark’s Square, Canaletto images and diverse quotations and a tour of Belgrade commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art.

In 2003 I was invited to be artist in residence at the British Museum as part of their 250th anniversary celebrations. I wanted to create a walk that would link all of the 10 departments of the Museum. After much thought I realised that each department had some type of angel associated with it and so I created a guide to all the angels on public display. Some of these winged intermediary beings were good, some bad, others indifferent. As with all of my manoeuvres I presented the walks to participants from all age groups and in addition to the general public I invited some specialist individuals (historians, sociologists, and employees of the Museum such as the security guards and curators) to take part.

Museum of Angels book cover

Many of the manoeuvres involve the publication of an itinerary guide. Sometimes these take the form of books, but I’ve also created leaflets and sets of postcards that carry directions, quotations, and images for the walker/reader. Here are some examples of guidebooks and journals. The diversity of quotations used has meant that manoeuvres have been written about by geographers, historians, and sociologists. As artworks they reach out into other fields of knowledge with the aim of connecting (or reconnecting) art to science and the humanities. These are articles in geography, architecture, and history journals.

‘Corridors’ differs slightly from the guidebook publications in that I have written the introduction and the essay. It is designed by the emerging Smallprint Studios (https://cargocollective.com/smallprint/About) and stylistically forms the 4th in a series of pocket travel guides. Others in the series are ‘Guidebook’ exploring East London, ‘Prospectus’ for The Mole Gap Trail in Surrey, and ‘Enchiridion’ for a woodland in Aberdeenshire. Sometimes the manoeuvres they incorporate a train journey that takes to and from a station to the walk route.

Manoeuvres book series by Tim Brennan

I was walking down oxford road
Dressed in what they call the mode
I could hear them spinning all their smash hits
At the mecca of the modern dance, the Ritz

Cooper Clarke, J. ‘Salome Maloney’. Source: https://johncooperclarke.com/poems/salome-maloney

from ‘Culture Corridor’ in ‘Corridors: Three Manoeuvres by Tim Brennan in Manchester’.

Manchester continues to grow exponentially and over recent years the city has gained more and more national attention. All the city centre’s quarters are vibrant in terms of retail and venues. The 2 major universities are located on Oxford Road with one of the densest student populations in Europe. There is enough material social, historical, and cultural material in each quarter to fill a library of tour guides, so I had to make some informed decisions as to how I was to arrive at three for Oxford Road Corridor. 

Oxford Road 'Corridor' map of Manchester

To navigate through the Corridor, I decided to create three manoeuvres on the themes of Knowledge, Culture and Sustainability. Each route is like a washing line and the quotes are a bit like the clothes hanging from it. I’ve often been asked ‘do you start with the route, a theme or the quotes?’ The answer is that it’s really a combination of the three. I work on the basis that I could create a manoeuvre anywhere. I’m usually drawn to the idea that a particular locale might be good for a manoeuvre. Sometimes it’s because I live or work in the area, I might be visiting for a first or second time, or as is often the case I’m be invited to create a walk by an organisation (in this case for Oxford Road Corridor).

It’s by walking that I’m initially attracted to a place and then it becomes more complex. I might spot something in the area. This might be a new building development, a site known as being significant historically or something much more ephemeral like that of a piece of graffiti, a juxtaposition of old and new architecture, an institution that is considered important (e.g. a museum, hospital, or perhaps some litter). I then start to build a route between these initial spots.

British Museum Angels book by Tim Brennan

Being open to associations leads me to sourcing quotations in books, archives, news media or online. At times several themes start to emerge between the quotes and route. Nothing is fixed at this stage, and it is as if I let the process take its course. An organic process where that takes me back and forth between boots on the ground and archival research and reading. It’s a kind of detective work where the route, the quotes unfold to reveal the theme. The creative process is very much an iterative one that demands a lot of walking, searching, looking, and sifting. I see my manoeuvres as a way of ‘doing history’.

At a certain point I realise I have a lot of material and I start to pair things back to a walk that would take around 20-30 mins to walk without stopping. I’ve found that 14 stops for quotations is a good number to arrive at and this transforms the length of each manoeuvre to around 1.5hrs or shorter. The editing process really shapes everything into the final manoeuvre which can then be presented to the public live and/or as a guidebook, mobile app, web-based itinerary, or a set of postcards. 

In the book you’ll find diverse sets of quotes. From the great library of Alexandria to the marble quarry in Carrera, Italy; from the effects of British nuclear tests to the appointment of the UK’s first black professor; from floating gardens to inner-city beehives. The content of the quotes rub up against their chosen sites and against each other. The walks reveal that the entire world is held within the square mile of the Oxford Road Corridor.  

corridors: three manoeuvres by Tim Brennan in Manchester

In 2011 I was commissioned to create manoeuvres for the Durham Miners’ Gala. As well as the live version of the works I worked with a software technician to offer the walks as a mobile app. I continued this digital element in 2012 for a manoeuvre that linked the 2 campuses of the University of Sunderland. Students were able to engage with the passing environment as they travelled on the campus link bus. Finding ways to involve emerging technology in my research has been a recurring element across my practice.

Corridors is free and will be available at the reception and information desks of many of Manchester’s venues. Running parallel to the book Corridors can be engaged with online. The user/walker can go to the online walk via a QR code which is in the book and which could also be located at receptions to venues in and around Manchester and distributed in other ways (printed matter, online).

Many guided walks set out to educate in some ways. There’s an aspect of that in my manoeuvres but they are ultimately works of imagination. I see them as artworks, performances and artists books that are as much about immersing oneself in an experience as they are about consciously setting out to learn something. Each walker is doing history when they use the guidebook. They prompt the walker to stop and think. They promote discussion. How we use creativity in our daily lives can help us to learn, and to problem solve. My aim is to use walking and imagination to help re-envisage places and understand them as being made up of multiple layers of experience, layers that sometimes conflict and at other times work in harmony. 

Every step we make is a step into the future.  

Honorary member of MAFA, Tim Brennan is an established artist with over 30 years’ experience of international exhibitions in North America, Europe and New Zealand. He has published 14 monographs, and many articles in journals and art magazines. Brennan was Professor and Head of Department, Art & Performance at Manchester School of Art for 6 years. Prior to that he was Professor, Director of post-graduate programmes in Fine Art, Design, Māori Visual Arts and Popular Music at Massey University in New Zealand. 

If you’d like to discuss Tim leading a group walk of one or more of the Corridors manoeuvres please let MAFA know. If you would like to purchase a copy of Museum of Angels or any other of Tim Brennan’s guidebooks you can contact him directly at: timbrennanprof@gmail.com

Visit Tim Brennan’s various websites via his LinkTree: https://linktr.ee/timbrennan


Category: Events And Activities,Featured Artist,Member News,News,Uncategorised