Meeting Point2: Chetham’s Library

Gestured by Brass Art © Brass Art 

Gestured is a constellation of artworks inspired by alchemy, transformation and symbolic gesture, hidden within the books and secret spaces of Chetham’s Library.

  • Facts

    Title Gestured
    Historical Sites Chetham's Library, Manchester
    Lead Artists Brass Art
    Artwork Installation
    Partners / Stakeholders Chetham's Library, Arts&Heritage and Arts Council England
    Budget £10,000.00
    Development 6 months
    Dates 16 October - 8 December 2017
  • Description


     Gestured by Brass Art at Chetham’s Library © Jonathan Turner 

    The project is part of the Meeting Point2 project led by Arts&Heritage. It supports ten new contemporary art installations at museums across the North East, North West and Yorkshire during 2017. Meeting Point2 is funded by Arts Council England Museum Resilience Fund.

    Notes and scribbled drawings by Elizabethan alchemist John Dee have inspired collective Brass Art to create a new installation of artworks Gestured for Chetham’s, Britain’s oldest surviving public library.

    Chara Lewis from Brass Art explains: “Notes and drawings by 16th century alchemist John Dee, including sketches of apparatus for his experiments, and drawings of gesturing hands, were the starting point for the new pieces of work created for this installation and lead the audience on a very personal itinerary through the Library collection.

    “Chetham’s Library staff have revealed the fascinating books and illustrations in the collection, and shared their expertise on gestures and symbolism.”

    John Dee (1527 – 1609/9) was an alchemist, polymath and advisor to Elizabeth I.

    Working with experts from Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester University, Edinburgh College of Art and University of Huddersfield, Brass Art have translated gestures found in prints, marginalia and book illustration into new sculptural forms using traditional casting and 3D printing processes, to examine the role of gesture in historical and contemporary society.

    Illustrations in the collection imagining the elemental forces that shaped the world have also provided the artists with a rich source of material for their sculptural and video works.

    Chara Lewis added: “The mysterious transformation of materials which fascinated Elizabethan alchemists has also inspired our work and we hope that people who see the installation will be drawn into the history and atmosphere of the library”

    Chetham’s Library was founded in 1653 and is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world. Its collections range from illuminated manuscripts made for royalty through to documents which record the minutiae of everyday life such as letters, diaries and account books.  

    Watch a short film about the inspiration behind Gestured


    • To raise the cultural profile of the museum within the region, both using it as a resource and a place to show or experience new cultural work
    • Raise the profile of the site within the locality 
    • Find new ways to engage visitors in the ancientness, magic and layers of history on site 


    Gestured by Brass Art at Chetham’s Library © Brass Art

    Arts&Heritage is supporting the ten participating museums throughout the process, sharing knowledge of presenting contemporary art projects and commissions in non-traditional art spaces.

    A networking event between the participating museums and 70 artists from across the UK took place at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and visits to artists’ studios were arranged. Museum teams also met with peers at other properties to learn how they successfully delivered contemporary art projects at their museums and heritage sites.

    All museums developed their own Artist’s Brief. Following the networking event artists were invited to send in an expression of interest to museums that interested therm.

    Four artists were shortlisted by each museum to draw up a more detailed proposal and were paid £500 each


    Information to follow


    • £10,000 to include all materials, travel and installation costs
    • £1000 towards learning and outreach
    • £500 paid to each of four artists shortlisted
  • Audience Engagement


    Gestured by Brass Art at Chetham’s Library © Jonathan Turner

    A marketing campaign for the Meeting Point2 project is being led and delivered by Emma Pybus and David Brookbanks.

    The Meeting Point2 project was documented by Jonathan Turner and Peter Spence


    Gestured by Brass Art at Chetham’s Library © Jonathan Turner

    Brass Art devised an intimate torchlit tour of the medieval museum’s public and hidden spaces to view Gestured illuminated at dusk. Four drama students acted as guides on the the silent tour, punctuating it with spoken word and poetry, as they directed the participants through the installation. The tours ended in the Baronial Hall where a crowd assembled for a live performance from world-renowned Theremin musician Lydia Kavina. Kavina played a select range of scores and improvisations from her repertoire, as visitors enjoyed a smoking, red cocktail created and served by ‘The Alchemist’, in the building forever associated with 16th century scientist and alchemist John Dee.

    All participants and visitors were invited to write comments or draw their hands in the museum ledger book, which will be placed back in the archive at the end of the exhibition.

  • Artist Information

    Anneke Pettican, Kristin Mojsiewicz and Chara Lewis of Brass Art at Chetham’s Library © Jonathan Turner

    Brass Art is Chara Lewis, Kristin Mojsiewicz and Anneke Pettican, based in Manchester, Glasgow and Huddersfield, UK.

    Select exhibitions include: xCoAx National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC), Lisbon, Portugal (2017); Cultural R>evolution Connecting Spaces, Hong Kong (2016); Brass Art: Freud’s House International 3, Manchester (2015); The Festival of the Unconscious The Freud Museum, London (2015); Thought Positions in Sculpture HAG (2015); The Imagining of Things HAG (2013); Flights of Fancy Tatton Park Biennial (2012); Dark Matters The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (2011); Skyscraping Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2008); The Jerwood Drawing Prize, London (2008).

    Brass Art has received numerous awards and funding, including: Arts Council England, British Council, Association of Art Historians, Lottery funding and the AHRC. Brass Art is an invited artist member of the Contemporary Art Society, and currently represented by the International3, Manchester.