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Manc Musings – Dragging the past back to the future?

Published Date: 2nd August 2017

Over the past few weeks Manchester has been treated to a whole smorgasbord of arts, music and culture with the coming of the biennial Manchester International Festival. The event aimed to display the most cutting edge art, in all of its forms, that Manchester has to offer. Dotted all over the central city area in art galleries, open squares and disused railway stations were installations that stretched the boundaries of the form of art. Whether it was live and immersive theatre, painted portraits, sculptures, puppetry or just your casual outdoor opera performances there was something for even the staunchest of philistines.

For me at least, the most impressive and personally enjoyable piece was ‘True Faith’ which was an installation showcasing how the great Manchester exports Joy Division and New Order have influenced visual media over the past four decades. The exhibition spanned such diverse works as sculptures made from fluorescent light tubes that resembled people to photorealistic paintings of cloaked spectres. My inner fourteen year old was jumping for joy but on the outside I had to maintain the cool demeanour of the frequent gallery goer; this included lots of measured head nodding and stubble stroking. The evening saw a whole host of pop up bars open shop all over the city. The recent change in the law meant that gin was the drink du jour with many local micro distilleries showcasing a wide variety of exotic flavours. With such taste sensations as Raspberry, Elderflower, and Rhubarb & Custard it appears that gin is no longer the preserve of mother’s the nation over.

The festival was capped off by the art installation ‘Ceremony’ by artist Phil Collins, not of Genesis fame unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your age.) This consisted of a statue being carted all the way from the tiny village of Mala Pereshchepina in Ukraine and cemented back together before being put up in one of the newest renovated areas in Manchester, Tony Wilson Place. The eponymous ceremony entailed Gruff Rhys singing a synthy ode to Engels and his beard called ‘Communism’s coming home’ (you be the judge) accompanied by a parade of flag waving and flower bearing children. Whilst the atmosphere was very uplifting and it certainly seemed like everyone was having a great time, I’m sure I couldn’t have been the only person there who felt a touch apprehensive about venerating an ideology that history has shown time and time again to be a path straight to chaos. But this is not the place to dive headfirst into politics. As an end to the festival, bringing our Friedrich back to the place of the birth of his most famous works felt like a touching close.

The fair city now has two years to recover from the collective hangover. In that time, it will continue to inspire and create visually stunning art to boggle the mind and nourish the eyes. See you there.

Written by George Gordon

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