A leap in the dark

Victoria Guerrero takes a guided tour of this year's 'Video Positive' festival in Manchester and Liverpool

'Yeow!" yelps a voice in the gloom. Not a good start to my first brush with Video Positive, the North-West's huge annual festival of international video and electronic art. "Sorry!" I mumble, as I step deeper into the dark cellar of the 19th-century warehouse that is now Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry.

Projected onto one wall is Turbulence, a video piece by Jon McCormack, one of Australia's top computer-animation artists. Strangely beautiful flowers are metamorphosing into organic shapes as ambient sounds pulsate through the air. "There are different levels of depth in this work," says McCormack, activating his digital landscape via a touch-screen monitor in the centre of the room. "It can be seen as a simple poetic piece, or an exploration of arguments for and against evolution." Never mind the "survival of the fittest", enter a brave new virtual world of perfect life-forms created from digital DNA.

And that's just one of over 20 installations on show at a dozen venues in Manchester and Liverpool - a chance to escape into a cyber-world of video projections and animation, computer-generated images and websites, CD-ROMs and single-screen works. And, apart from entry to the Museum of Science and Industry, it's all free.

This year, the theme is Escaping Gravity. "It identifies both the attraction and the potentially dangerous momentum of new technology as we exit the 20th century," say the festival's organisers, the Foundation for Art & Creative Technology (FACT), and the artists have accordingly sought to capture the mixed feelings of anticipation and anxiety, fantasy and uncertainty, with which we are approaching the millennium.

Over at the Manchester City Art Galleries, the American Tony Oursler's hideous animated dolls express a sense of social confusion: a tiny video projector is switched on, and their little stuffed-pillow faces come alive. In Hysterics, a psychotic screams and whimpers without cease.

There's more humour at the Bluecoat, where Roderick Buchanan, from Scotland, is busy questioning European identity. He worked with young people in Helsinki and Merseyside to deliver Notes on Pronunciation, a humble video piece in which everyone reads out a list of names from different nationalities, stumbling and giggling over awkward sounds.

"It happened about an hour ago," says English artist Graham Gussin when I arrive at the Cornerhouse to see Fall, his huge video panorama of lakes and mountains. Apparently, "it" only happens twice a day - it being a sudden explosion in the lake - and I've missed it. "Well, can't you fix it to happen now?" I ask. "Yes, but I'm not going to," retorts the artist. A nod to Nicholas Roeg's film The Man Who Fell to Earth, Fall is about the sensation of anticipation.

Too impatient to wait, I pop downstairs to Julie Myers' grotesque pantomime, Nosey Parker - an audience-participation piece (created for the Internet) in which we all become voyeurs and accomplices. There are four characters: "Donald is a friend of a friend," explains the artist. "He's a drag queen from King's Cross. And that's me with the moustache playing the part of the Prince." By clicking on various options - ie "Shall I go for the usual, or try a threesome with Buttons and the Barman?" - you can ensure that the show really ends with a bang.

Lyndal Jones, meanwhile, from Australia, has melded sex and machines. In Spitfire 1.2.3. (at the Bluecoat) you don a pair of headphones, watch a video of a spitfire bombing across the Cambridge countryside, and imagine yourself in the cockpit, courtesy of engine sounds and accompanying ambient music. You then cross the room and hear, via infra-red sensors on your cans, the caressing voices of women of many nations revealing their sexual fantasies about the heroic pilot. "The average lifespan of a pilot in the Second World War was only seven and a half hours," says Jones, whose own father flew a Spitfire. "These men were sexual icons, but most of them died."

"I have reduced this world to a single ornament," boasts the Amsterdam- based Jaap de Jonge of his Crystal Ball, a sphere (resembling the top of a roll-on deodorant) set within a wall at the Cornerhouse. Spin it, and a kaleidoscopic image of live global broadcasts and a babble of sounds whizz past - an engaging, if startling, portrayal of a world suffering from information overload.

If you missed Bill Viola's enthralling video projection, The Messenger, at Durham Cathedral or on its recent tour, it's well worth the puff up the hill to Liverpool's Oratory to see it. A piece of pure spirituality, it meant more to me than any sermon. Emerging afterwards into the sunshine, I was filled with an awareness of human mortality, and walked back downhill a bit confused, but utterly positive about video.

'Video Positive', to 18 May. Info: 0151-707 9533 or http:// www.fact.co.uk/VP97.htm

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?