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INTERVIEW: Daisy Dickinson Talks The Comet Is Coming Collaboration
Alex Rigotti , June 12th, 2023 11:30

Among the highlights of this year's Manchester International Festival is a collaboration between visual artist Daisy Dickinson and cosmic jazz titans The Comet Is Coming. Dickinson tells us what to expect

Daisy Dickinson, photo by Laura Hilliard

The bill for this year's Manchester International Festival – taking place across the city from June 29 to July 16 – is a stacked one, from John Grant teaming up with Richard Hawley to sing the songs of Patsy Cline, to shows from Alison Goldfrapp, Afrodeutsche and Angélique Kidjo, to a specially-commissioned Yayoi Kusama exhibition.

Among the most exciting of all, however, is a collaboration between the leading lights of cosmic jazz, The Comet Is Coming, and acclaimed artist and filmmaker Daisy Dickinson, for a performance specially commissioned for the festival. It will see Dickinson provide unique visuals for the band, who'll be performing their last show in Manchester for the foreseeable future; the trio announced last month that they'll be going on hiatus, or "returning to near earth orbit," as they put it.

Dickinson and The Comet Is Coming are no strangers, the band's Danalogue tells tQ. "I first met Daisy when Soccer96 played at Lewes Psychedelic Festival, and saw her duo Adrena Adrena play a bunch of times after that. Her mesmeric, lucid dreamscapes cast into a huge orb floating above the crowd always blew me away," he says.

"I'm drawn to her ability to capture the atmosphere of the music combined with the technical prowess to 'projection-map' her vision onto unique surfaces, arranged especially for specific performances. We can't wait to see what she conjures up for our new collaboration."

For remaining tickets for the performance, as well as further information, click here. Find the full lineup for this year's Manchester International Festival here. To find out more about what to expect from the unique collaboration, tQ caught up with Dickinson over email.

How did this idea get commissioned? Had you met Danalogue, Betamax, Shabaka Hutchings and The Comet is Coming beforehand?

Daisy Dickinson: I was part of an audiovisual duo called Adrena Adrena with drummer E-Da Kazuhisa in London a few years back and crossed paths with Dan and Max's project Soccer96 around that time. Since meeting them I worked on live visuals for The Comet Is Coming at Shepherds Bush Empire in 2019, and we're coming back together for these two shows at Manchester International Festival and Somerset House this July.

What challenges does a live visual present to you compared to film?

DD: I think the main challenge is trying to find those beautiful live moments where the sound and visuals collide and have the ability to make people transcend. I use a combination of audio-reactivity and live mixing to try and achieve these moments and I think they are so important in creating an AV show that feels in sync without feeling too pre-programmed. With a film or music video you can incorporate these into the finished thing but with a live show it's about using improvisation and reactions to achieve a sense that the visuals are alive, responding to the sounds and the energy in the room.

The Comet Is Coming, photo by Fabrice Bourgelle

What draws you to the idea of the beam and music?

DD: I've always been interested in the cosmos. I work a lot with light and shadow and a projector is a bit like a light beam from space in itself. I feel like light and sound are so closely entwined and I've always liked experimenting with the way patterns in nature can move in time with beats and rhythms in music. I use a microscope camera to film a lot of my visuals and find it mesmerising to shoot something so tiny and project in on such a huge scale.

How did this project allow you to expand upon your creativity?

DD: I've found it really interesting working so closely with the idea of hyper-dimensional space and exploring these ideas visually. It's been a very mind-bending journey creating the visuals for these two shows and I hope they've expanded my mind in new ways.

What can festivalgoers expect to see from the live visuals?

DD: They'll be a moving combination of macrocosms and microcosms, contrasting universal expansion with closeup microscopic particles, zooming in and out of consciousness and taking the audience on a hypnotic journey through different dimensions.

After making Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam, what's coming next?

BB: I've been working with a few other artists at the moment on AV shows, like Samuel Kerridge and Nuha Ruby Ra, alongside my main focus, 'Matekoi', which is a collaboration with Maxim Barron. We'll be performing at Houghton festival in August, Les Nuits De Bassins festival in France this September, and touring around Asia this winter with gigs in South Korea, Japan and Thailand.

Manchester International Festival will takes place from June 29 to July 16, 2023. Find more information here.