Manchester in December

In the absence of any official possibility to continue the work we started earlier in the year on the Wastelands project, in December I went to Manchester to visit my brother, Tom and to explore some of our ideas together.

Mostly we cycled around Manchester on our bikes looking for possible empty/abandoned spaces – there were many. Most of them were also easy to access. So we walked on and listened and talked and thought. We played the audio that we’d put together earlier in the spring to see what that felt like in the different places. At Pomona Island we experimented with building some structures – there were LOTS of suitable materials lying around. When we went back the next day, we found that overnight someone else had been there and added more to our structures. It got us excited! An interactive sculpture in a derelict landscape where we never meet our ‘collaborators’ and we never left instructions…! In reality I have a feeling that our fellow artists were probably hanging out there to inject heroin (we saw evidence) and our ‘art’ would have had little relevance to them. But who knows…


We got particularly curious about an empty plot next to Wellington House, along the canal East of the city centre. We found a gap in the fencing and slid our way in. Over a pile of rubble from the remains of a  building. Tom and I stopped talking and wandered apart. It was a bit like a vacuum in there. A little bubble of emptiness. There were the remnants of a fire. I imagined sitting around that fire. I transplanted that fire into the woods. The smell of wood smoke settling into my clothes. Different from burning plastic. We saw hundreds of needles and scraps of tin foil. As one community disappears, other ones emerge.We are in the spill of the city. The edgelands, the in-between places.

I tried to imagine the lives that these recent remains suggested. It came with a sinking recognition that the machinery I participate in produces those who are deemed invisible. Squeezing people out who don’t fulfill the machine’s requirements. I felt responsible. Equally, I felt powerless to operate differently. How is it possible to not participate in the machine even if we really don’t want to? I felt like I was trespassing, not because I had slid through a fence I wasn’t meant to pass through, but because I wasn’t part of this new community. What right did I have to be examining their territory?     

Tom and I tumbled down a maze of existential confusion. I wondered what art might possibly offer.  Overwhelmed. It was quite hard to get started, to feel that there was much point …so we stood and stared and then cycled home and drank tea.


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