Review of Alison Goldfrapp: Performer as Curator at The Lowry, Manchester

Alison Goldfrapp takes the lead in an annual exhibition series turning performer into curator. The initiative behind the Performer as Curator series binds the space between the performing and visual arts. The Lowry venue reflects this relationship of entertainment and the arts through its inclusion of both Theatre and Gallery spaces; fusing the work of artist and musician.

An introspective of Goldfrapp’s life and career see the exhibition revolve around fantasy, folklore and fairy tale. A daring and exploratory musician renown for reinventing her image, Goldfrapp has consistently used spectacle to captivate her audience. The exhibition reflects this on-stage presence through themes of transformation, metamorphosis and identity. Goldfrapp centres on these themes of traditional fairy tales, collating there representation through photography, illustration and painting.

The exhibition seeks to explore storytelling throughout the ages, using representations of modern narrative and early depictions of fictional fairy tales. The work of John Stezaker uses classic film stills which he has altered using found objects such as postcards. The familiar story conveyed in the image is changed by the obstruction of the original image. Goldfrapp relates this metamorphosis to the transformation of the performer, and explains how space for new stories is then made.

Anna Fox’s work taken from the series Country Girl (1999), a collaborative project with Goldfrapp, muses on the relationship between storytelling and the country side. The untitled work depicts a woman’s legs sprawled in the grass wearing red plastic heels. The image smacks of The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy, although not the virginal Kansas sweetheart traditionally remembered. The image oozes a different fetishised story, one of sexuality and violence. Goldfrapp comments on the ‘heightened reality’ of the image and the connotations of red shoes to power, identity and sexuality. A parallel could be drawn between these three traits and Goldfrapp’s on stage persona; transformation seen in fairy tales is mimicked by performer.

Amongst the films included in the exhibition is a black and white silhouette animation of Hansel and Gretel by Lotte Reiniger (1954), and work by Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. These standout figures of film are poised as influences to Goldfrapp’s own creations, having directed visual elements for the Goldfrapp group.

The enchanted and gothic play between the works extends from Goldfrapp’s musical and onstage creations. A display collection of her personal belongings comprises of grotesque miniature statues, taxidermy and sickly sweet matchbox miniatures. An amusing contrast to the intricate works otherwise displayed, yet a touching insight into objects which hold meaning sometimes only to the individual. The exhibit culminates with a sculpture by Turner Prize shortlisted artist, Anya Gallaccio. The piece Revons d’Or is s bronze cast of an overturned tree with golden apples draping from its branches. The apple, an iconography of fairy tale takes centre stage in this work, encouraging the viewer to question their preconceptions of beauty.

These works have been drawn from collections around the world and work harmoniously with one another, depicting the traditions of storytelling in folklore. The quirky and freakish nature of the combined works emanate perfectly with the Alison Goldfrapp more commonly known as performer.

Eva Helen

Alison Goldfrapp: Performer as Curator, 19 October until 2 March, The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ.

Image: Anna Fox, Country Girls 1999. From the series Country Girls 1996 – 2001 © Anna Fox, Courtesy Impressions Gallery, Bradford.