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Bill Fontana’s Vertical Echoes

— May 2014

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IWM North's building, desingned by Daniel Libeskind

New Sound Installation at IWM North from 1 May 2014

Launching ‘Reactions14’ – a major contemporary art series to mark the First World War Centenary

Free entry; donations welcome

A new installation by sound artist Bill Fontana will be the first in a major series of contemporary art works specially commissioned by IWM North, part of Imperial War Museums, to mark the First World War Centenary.

The roar of a First World War biplane and the echoes of a field gun from the trenches will greet visitors to IWM North – through the unique new sound sculpture.

The work, Vertical Echoes, has been created by American artist Bill Fontana.  Fontana’s critically acclaimed works have been installed in public spaces and museums around the world.  He has worked on projects including London’s Millennium Bridge, and has a reputation for his pioneering experiments in sound.

The new art work at IWM North in Manchester uses eight loudspeakers and vibration sensors to project the recorded sounds from the First World War. The dramatic sound of the Sopwith Camel Biplane and artillery field gun will rise and fall as visitors enter through the 55m-high AirShard section of IWM North’s building.

Once inside IWM North, visitors will be able to explore the stories behind the sounds further by discovering the field gun that fired the British Army’s first shot of the First World War and a replica Sopwith Camel biplane.

IWM North’s landmark building, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind (who designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin), is itself an artistic response to conflict. IWM North’s structure is inspired by the idea of a world shattered by conflict.

The building is made up of three interlocking shards representing the three places where war is fought: land, water and air. The jagged shape of the IWM North AirShard, with its 100-feet-high viewing platform, is one of the most striking features on the Manchester skyline.

Entry to IWM North and to the installation is free, but visitors can book to see 'Bill Fontana In Conversation with Ben Borthwick' on 1 May (£8). Borthwick, an expert in sound installations, is a curator and writer specializing in international contemporary art.

The Vertical Echoes sound installation installation opens on 1 May and runs until 21 September 2015. The high-performance loudspeakers used in the installation were provided by leading manufacturer Meyer Sound.

Fontana’s artwork is the first part of ‘Reactions14’ – the first work in a major season of high-quality artworks and live performances, specially commissioned to mark the First World War Centenary.

The ‘Reactions14’ series will feature live performances and installations throughout 2014, including new works such as a performance by English National Ballet for Museums at Night in May; a 30-day live drawing by artist Mark Anstee in August; a new composition by BBC Philharmonic in autumn; and many more.

Graham Boxer, IWM North Director, said:
This year marks the start of the centenary of the First World War, a landmark anniversary for Britain and the world. The Reactions14 series at IWM North will challenge visitors to think differently, offering a chance to reflect on the conflict through major series of high profile artworks.

For more information, visit

 Other events at IWM North

Reactions14: Second Breath with English National Ballet

Saturday 17 May, from 6.30pm.

£10, Booking required. Tickets released 3 April

English National Ballet perform Second Breath, by award-winning, internationally acclaimed British choreographer Russell Maliphant.  The evening is part of Reactions14 - a major season of high-quality artworks and live performances specially commissioned by IWM North to mark the First World War Centenary.  Don’t miss this one off opportunity to delve deeper in to the historic inspirations behind the piece, through tours, film, music and conversations.

Part of Museums at Night
Further details and ticketing information will be available at

Perspectives14: Resistance

Sunday 11 May, 2.30-3.30p.m.
Free, Booking required.
Libeskind Rooms

‘Perspectives14’ is a series of monthly talks and discussions led by artists, historians and subject specialists at IWM North to mark the First World War Centenary. 

Ahead of International Conscientious Objector Day, discover more about those who resisted the call to action in the First World War and the consequences they faced.

Cyril Pearce, author of Comrades in Conscience: The Story of an English Community’s Opposition to the Great War, will share new thoughts on communities of resistance in Britain during the conflict. Ingrid Sharp, University of Leeds, will look beyond the wartime propaganda to explore German resistance to the war.

Free, booking required via Quays Tickets

Reactions14: The Sleeping Green Between by Jennifer Vickers

Saturday 14 June until Sunday 21 September 2014
Main Exhibition Space

An emotive installation by textile artist Jennifer Vickers, specially commissioned by IWM North as part of ‘Reactions14’ – a major season of high-quality artworks and live performances to mark the centenary of the First World War.  The quilt is inspired by the artist’s own family connections, exploring the relationship between people and their past. Previous works have included exhibits at the V&A Museum and the Whitworth Art Gallery.

Jennifer Vickers Sweetheart Pin Cushion Workshop
Saturday 14 June, 1p.m.–4p.m. (Ideal for ages 14+)

£25, Limited places available. Booking essential
Libeskind Rooms

Join textile artist Jennifer Vickers to create your own embroidered pin cushion, inspired by those made in the First World War by convalescing soldiers.  Explore hand stitching, beading, image transfer and applique in this exclusive workshop.

Jennifer’s most recent work, The Sleeping Green Between, is newly on display at IWM North. The specially commissioned quilt installation is inspired by the artist’s own family connections to the First World War. Suitable for all levels of sewing experience.

Tickets £25, all materials included in cost.  Limited places available. Booking essential via

Through the Eye of a Needle: First World War craft day

Saturday 14 June, 11a.m. – 4.30p.m. (all ages)

Get stitching with a full day of activities inspired by craft during the First World War, as part of IWM North’s ‘Reactions14’ programme of artistic responses to mark the Centenary.  Meet textile artist Jennifer Vickers and discover the inspiration behind her new quilt installation, specially commissioned and newly on display at IWM North; join in mass participation embroidery with Manchester Craft and Design Centre; take a tour with a textile conservator and discover the craft behind intricate pin cushions made by convalescing soldiers; craft along to authentic tunes from the era with a live soundtrack from Vintage78 DJs or head to the WaterShard Café to enjoy Afternoon Tea for two (£15).

See full programme for the day at

Perspectives14: Global

Sunday 8 June, 2.30-3.30pm
Free, Booking required
Libeskind Rooms

Perspectives14 is a series of monthly talks and discussions led by artists, historians and subject specialists at IWM North to mark the First World War Centenary. 

Join Dr Seán Lang, author of First World War for Dummies and Senior Lecturer in History at Anglia Ruskin University to consider a global perspective on the First World War. Explore insights into the actions and motivations of those involved and how each nation’s story fits into the bigger picture. In partnership with Trafford Wordfest.

Free, booking required via

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