Monday, 6 April 2009

Subversive Spaces @ Whitworth Gallery

Seán and I visited the exhibition on 10 March - we had a very rare child-free day. It was excellent, thought-provoking and absolutely fascinating.

I wasn't so sure about all the stuff relating to explorations of hysteria - but I could definitely understand the work of the artists relating to enclosed private spaces. These are supposed to be our comfort zones, the protected spaces where we feel safe. For anyone who has experienced abuse or violence within the home or felt besieged by hooligans chucking eggs and insults at your windows, those spaces are not the haven we feel they ought to be.

I also found the explorations of "unheimlichkeit" fascinating. It's the feeling of the uncanny, of suddenly encountering something odd, out of place and unexpected in a familiar and comforting setting, capturing the shiver-down-the-spine moment or the feeling of deja vu, the "glitch in the matrix" that there's something not right here.

Another thing that caught my eye was the work relating to the "renovation" of Paris, and the destruction of the old Les Halles marketplace to make way for the Georges Pompidou Centre. The situationists, surrealists and flaneurs of the time felt keenly that this was part of the city's repression of working class spaces under the guise of beautification. The parallels between this and the "gentrification" of our own most beloved Northern Quarter hit me instantly. Again, it's the repression, the squeezing out of the underclass by the bourgeois.

I also love, love, love the short films of Francis Alÿs. He views walking, strolling aimlessly, as a resistance to the "speed culture" of our modern world. His film of himself walking along drumming on railings, streetlights and parked cars (running off when he set off an alarm) filled me with a childlike glee. I wanna do that. Seriously - I want to do a percussive derive around Manchester. I want to know what a streetlight sounds like, I want to beat out a rhythm on a litter bin and the bars in front of shop windows. I wanted to go out and do the same right then!

Yesterday's Dérive was very much inspired by Francis Alÿs' films. We often concentrate on the visual aspects of our surroundings and how this makes us feel, while neglecting the aural landscape. This walk gave us a chance to explore the soundscapes of the area around the Whitworth Gallery while adding to the noises ourselves. We had a fabulous time drumming on bins, rattling along railings and barrier fences. We discovered the most delightful sounds by rattling a stick along the tubluar steel rods of the spiral staircases of buildings in the Science Park. We also discovered a very odd sound emanating from the car park barriers near the Ducie. The visual treats we discovered on the walk can be found on the LRM Flickr site - we saw amusing signs and pretty flowers as well as fascinating graffiti.

Love and sparkles

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