at Selfridges Manchester Exchange Square




at Selfridges Manchester Exchange Square

1–18 JULY

Bringing together multiple artists from around the world to create innovative and forward-thinking new work, Manchester International Festival 2021 (MIF) includes the UK’s biggest participatory art spectacle in decades (Marta Minujín’s ‘Big Ben Lying Down’) and more free, outdoor public art than ever. As one of MIF’s official partners, we’re delighted to be hosting a variety of cultural events in our Exchange Square store that celebrate the communities and creativity of our vibrant city. From artist Christine Sun Kim’s captivating public artworks ‘Captioning the City’ in our store and around the city, to our supper club schedule at our San Carlo Bottega restaurant in support of Eat Well MCR, and our very own outdoor music stage; we can’t wait to share these extraordinary cultural experiences with you.


Read on to meet Christine Sun Kim and to find out more about the unmissable events taking place at our Exchange Square store, Manchester, from 1 July.


We caught up with the American artist to discover more about her typographic public art project ‘Captioning the City’, comprising vast physical captions that will adorn several streets and buildings in Manchester as well as our Exchange Square store from 1 to 18 July.

Your work explores the complexities of sound and your personal experiences as a Deaf person. When and why did you begin to explore these themes in your work?

Sound is how the world operates. It’s interesting because often people have this ableist notion that being deaf means there is no sound in your life. I was talking to a friend the other day and they asked how the Deaf community reacted when I started to work with sound – I didn’t have an answer to that question for a long time. At first, it was a bit of a struggle because I was worried that  it would influence my cultural identity – I was under the impression that if I was working with sound then I’d lose my deafness, but I realised that sound is about navigating what identity is, and what languages are. My work isn’t about my deafness at this point in my exploration, it’s much more than that.


Why did you decide to relocate to Germany?

I heard great things about Berlin and did an artist’s residency there and really enjoyed living at the pace of Berlin for a while. I came back again and stayed a little longer than the month and I ended up with somebody who is from Berlin. I’m not really a fan of moving for love but I did, and now we have a kid together. 

I like to find a bit of deafness in everything… I like to add moments like that as a homage to our language, culture, and community.

– Christine Sun Kim

How important has the written word been as a communication tool in your life and work? 

There is no word that is neutral because everybody has their own interpretation of words – even the word ‘yes’ can mean something good or bad depending on how it’s used. To me, as an American, words are highly politicised – especially now because there are a lot politicians that say a lot of stuff that they never actually deliver on, there’s a ton of empty promises. So, every time a person says or utters, or writes a word, I always wonder how much that person is committed to every word they say. Now that I have been living in Germany for eight years, I really appreciate the weight of German words, they feel more meaningful. Words are so powerful – they are my greatest asset. In the MIF exhibition, I’m going to see my words all over a city. I hope people can feel the weight of these captions.


Tell us about your body of work ‘Captioning the City’, which is currently on display at Selfridges Exchange Square and throughout the city…

At the beginning of the pandemic, Manchester International Festival reached out to me, and I threw out the idea of creating vast sound captions throughout the city. And they agreed – it was amazing! I had a wish list of the captions and the sites, and the team at MIF helped me to think about all the little details, like the style of font.  



Words are so powerful; they are my greatest asset.

– Christine Sun Kim

How has your relationship with sound captions developed over time?

In the US we have the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was enacted in 1990 – we went from no captions on TV to captions on TV. It was the birth of sound captions. In the beginning, it would say ‘music in the background’ and now it says, ‘scary music in the background’ or ‘ominous music in the background’. I’m seeing an evolution of that process and it really feeds into your idea of the story, and your interpretation of what’s happening on screen. Sound is more than just an audio input – it can mean objects, emotions, history, a table, a chair; those things can have sounds too. 


What three words would you use to describe ‘Captioning the City’?

I don’t do well with those kinds of questions, let me do three letters…B. I. G.


What feelings, thoughts and emotions do you hope that visitors of Selfridges Manchester Exchange Square will take away from the works?

I hope it gives them a chuckle; I don’t have anything loftier than that. Do I hope that they speak about my deafness, identity, language? No, I just love everyday interventions. It’s like when people have a routine, and something intervenes and messes it up. I researched the city and wanted to be sensitive to its history, and I try and find a little bit of deafness in everything I do, which is why one of the locations is Manchester Deaf Centre. I like to add moments like that as a homage to our language, culture, and community. 


How does it feel to be exhibiting as part of Manchester International Festival? 

I’m so excited to be a part of it, and I’m honoured that they would even consider my work. The global pandemic has had a heavy impact on artists and artistic institutions, so I feel grateful to be able to work on something of this scale. 


Discover all of Christine’s ‘Captioning the City’ locations, including in the Selfridges Manchester Exchange Square store, by downloading a complimentary map here.


From the series of supper clubs hosted by an impressive line-up of Eat Well MCR chefs to the music festival stage outside our  Exchange Square store, join us for our exciting events in partnership with the Manchester International Festival.


Presented by Manchester International Festival and Selfridges in partnership with Eat Well MCR, and hosted by San Carlo Bottega

To celebrate the culinary culture of Manchester, we’re hosting a series of Supper Clubs from 5 to 13 July at San Carlo Bottega, our chic restaurant and Champagne bar on 2 with stunning views of the city. Each evening will be hosted by renowned local chefs – including Julià Castelló and Mary-Ellen McTague – who have each designed an inventive four-course menu guaranteed to tantalise the tastebuds. Think braised short ribs with potato purée and pickled gooseberries, and traditional Catalonian pastries filled with cream and chocolate.  

The Selfridges X MIF Supper Club events are held in partnership with Eat Well MCR, a collective of hospitality professionals and volunteers with a charitable purpose. Eat Well MCR provides chef-made meals to individuals sidelined by poverty in Greater Manchester (it has prepared and delivered 45,000 meals since April 2020). At Selfridges, we’re supporting the organisation with its mission by helping to provide 3,500 meals.

To purchase a ticket for an evening of fine dining in support of Eat Well MCR visit here.


Friday 9 July, 4–8pm
Saturday 10 & Sunday 11 July, 12–6pm

To celebrate Manchester’s continuing influence in the music world, we’re hosting our very own stage with DJs, bands and performers outside our Exchange Square store as part of MIF’s music programme in Festival Square. From Vzion’s alt-R&B beats headlining on the Friday to soothing folky feels on Sunday, we’ve got the tunes to see you through the weekend. Look out for the full music programme – coming soon.

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