dbn Faces Forward at Whitworth Art Gallery

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Manchester based lighting and rigging specialists dbn have installed a subtle trussing infrastructure and produced a unique, creative rigging solution at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester to showcase the work of Pascale Martine Tayou.

Tayou is one of 33 artists and a host of musicians from 11 West African countries featured in ‘We Face Forward', a season of contemporary art and music from the region taking place across three galleries, two museums, four music venues, libraries, community spaces and one art bus in the city.

‘The World Falls Apart', Tayou's new work specially for this exhibition, is an interior forest that spills out into a neighbouring park, inspired by the novel ‘Things Fall Apart' by Chinua Achibe.

It is displayed on a series of 25 six metre high wooden poles in the Whitworth's South Gallery, and blurs the distinction between trade goods and sacred objects.

dbn's Nick Todd project managed the installation.

Having already supplied various innovative solutions for projects at the Whitworth, dbn were asked to provide a support structure for the artwork and to come up with a safe method of installing the impressive Douglas Fir poles, each weighing a quarter of a tonne!

Todd worked closely with structural engineers Stockley from Manchester, who were appointed by the Whitworth, and with the Exhibition's Curator, Bryony Bond.

Firstly, he designed a 20 x 10 metre lite-beam truss grid which could be flown from within the roof void above the gallery. This is deaded just below the ceiling to maximise the full height of the gallery and braced off the walls to prevent any lateral movement.

Next, Todd designed a mobile crane, using components from the Slick self-climbing tower system, to assist in manoeuvring the poles into place.

The poles were picked up horizontally and could be elevated at the same time as being rolled around on the floor.

This innovative approach enabled two people to handle and position the poles quickly and safely. As the installation progressed, due to the density and layout of the poles in the Gallery, they were increasingly squeezed for room in which to work so this also had to be factored into the logistics!

The whole installation was completed with the addition of 20 profile and fresnel lighting fixtures to enhance the light levels and shadows and to add depth and life to the work.

Todd comments, “As always it is great to work at the Whitworth. Every project is interesting, different and presents us with a new set of lateral challenges requiring us to be inventive and always thinking on our feet. That's the way we like it!”

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