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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA


Just a few weeks after opening, one million people have already visited Virtual Factory, the new digital manifestation of The Factory, the landmark cultural space currently under construction in Manchester, which will be [Manchester International Festival] MIF’s year-round home.

Gamers and non-gamers alike have been experiencing Your Progress Will Be Saved by the artist avatar LaTurbo Avedon, Virtual Factory’s first commission, which opened on 1 July. It takes place in the global gaming platform Fortnite Creative and is a constantly evolving journey through shifting spaces, dance floors, rooms and booths.

Virtual Factory highlights The Factory’s endless flexibility, as an unbounded space where artists and the public come together, with radical and interdisciplinary work created, not only in and around the building, but also the expanding digital spaces beyond its physical structure.

Future Virtual Factory commissions over the next year include artist and director Jenn Nkiru,

game developer Robert Yang, whose work often focuses on gay men and intimacy,

and Turner Prize 2019 artist Tai Shani.

Mark Ball, Creative Director for MIF and The Factory comments: “Having more than one million visits for our first Virtual Factory project has exceeded all our expectations. Though The Factory is still under construction, it is already a place where artists are able to make work. And with work like LaTurbo Avedon’s Your Progress Will Be Saved, it is opening up countless different experiences for anybody entering this virtual world.”

Gabrielle Jenks, MIF’s Digital Director, who is leading the Virtual Factory programme adds: “In developing Virtual Factory we are experimenting with different ways to connect artists and audiences, opening up new adventures in creativity and trying to break down the increasingly arbitrary distinctions between what we call the virtual and the real world. We had no idea how many people would be prepared to come on this journey and it’s exciting to have people hitching a ride on our way to The Factory.”

Your Progress Will Be Saved runs until autumn 2020. Gamers and non-gamers can experience it playing the full game in Fortnite Creative, choosing their own pathway in an adapted journey on the Virtual Factory website, or taking tours of LaTurbo’s intervention on Twitch.

At 2pm on Wednesday 29 July, the Brooklyn-based artist Molly Soda, whose work plays with internet culture, cyber-feminism and online worlds, led a tour of Your Progress Will Be Saved, plus Q&A in collaboration with the School of Digital Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University (SODA).

Team Cre8, who built the island where this version of Virtual Factory is located, will run a Worldbuilding Masterclass on Wednesday 19 August at 2pm as part of the Virtual Factory programme. Team Cre8’s previous projects include Weezer World, Rolling to the Core and The Fourth Dimension. This live tutorial in Fortnite Creative will be an opportunity to learn how to create new worlds using digital tools and virtual environments.

On Friday 2 October at 2pm, Show & Tell – Imagined Realities will bring together worldbuilders, artists, writers and video game developers to talk about the latest tools and techniques for creating new worlds – covering everything from virtual characters to fictional landscapes.

Virtual Factory is the latest in the ongoing series of pre-Factory commissions and events being staged in the lead up to The Factory opening, which offer audiences the chance to experience the breadth of work that will be presented there.

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