Posts Tagged ‘film’

Conflict brought right up to date

In Museums on March 8, 2018 at 12:58 pm

The war in Syria started on 15 March 2011.  There are more hours of content on YouTube about the war than there have been hours of the actual conflict itself. It might not all be great film content, but it’s certainly evidence of a bewildering and confusing war that continues to make headlines.

Between 15 March and 28 May 2018 Imperial War Museum North is inviting visitors to actively and intimately think about how to make sense of what we hear from Syria – in the news, in print, online. Taking evidence from specific events during the battle of Aleppo in late 2016, the interactive audio experience asks us whether confusion is being used as a weapon to stop the international community from acting. Who controls the fog of war?

This is particularly fitting in IWM North – a building that is designed to confuse and bewilder us. The architecture of the main museum gallery deliberately places visitors in a space where they cannot see all of the room at once . The curves and shards of the walls obscure the entrances and disorient us into a state of mild unease. It’s supposed to be that way, reflecting the notion that when one is in a conflict, one cannot step back, reflect or view situations objectively.

I’ve often thought it makes for a confused visitor experience. But once visitors ‘get’ it, they think it’s rather clever.

When the Imperial War Museum was founded in 1917 its task was to document the story of the First World War raging in Europe and around the (then) British Empire.

Today people might tend to think of the IWM as an historical institution that looks back,  telling us stories of conflicts past. With this installation – and with their accompanying exhibition which I’ve reviewed for Northern Soul – they are demonstrating their relevance to the modern day and that they still have the skills to collect and interpret wars in our lifetime.

Programming about contemporary conflict reminds us of the value of museums, collecting things and presenting them to the public, not only to document our world, but also to help us reflect on our part in it.


Exploring indie arts in Manchester

In Museums on May 28, 2015 at 1:47 pm

I’ve recently relocated from London to Manchester. First stop for me, in any new city, is to check out the cultural life.

Think of Manchester and you’ll think of some great museums (IWM North, Museum of Science and Industry, People’s History Museum, Whitworth etc) as well as the Royal Exchange Theatre and the Halle at the Bridgewater Hall.

But I’m quickly finding that there’s more to Manchester than mainstream offerings. In just a couple of weeks I’ve come across a few independent gems already.

Nexus Art Café in the northern quarter is a charming spot to hang out. I’d previously thought of it as just a place for coffee, cake and a chat amongst mismatched tablecloths and organic tea. But then I was invited to see an exhibition there. BMC Art Collective is a group of students from Stockport who have displayed their work in the back room of this café. Taking music as a starting point, the artists have responded in different media – textiles, graphic art, illustration – and in a range of styles. And just to underline how non-mainstreatm they are, they’ve mounted this show in an underground zine library. An art collective in a zine library in a basement. It’s like a Russian doll of alternative culture.

Around the corner Manchester Craft and Design Centre is home to 30+ artists, working, displaying and selling their works in a converted Victorian market building. It’s fun to skulk around the place, watching artists and craftspeople paint, etch, carve and glaze products right in front of your eyes. Just be careful not to take too much spare cash, or you’ll be coming home with tote bags filled with canvasses, jewellery and ceramics. But do stop in at their café for some Guinness and Whisky cake.

Slightly more mainstream is the talk of the city’s cultural offering right now: HOME. Whatever the political wranglings over how it came to be, HOME is offering a range of artistic programming that is enticing audiences in and giving them much more than cinema blockbusters. I’ve already seen two pieces of world cinema and their opening theatre production The Funfair. The play is not only impressive as a performance, but also a sign that HOME intends not to play it safe when compiling a programme – it’s a bold and, some might say, daring first piece which has surprised audiences.

Here’s to more surprises in Manchester.