Monday, 31 March 2014

Encountering Corpses (Part 5)

The walking tours of Manchester's Southern Cemetery and the day of funereal talks have now been held, the art exhibition for 'Encountering Corpses' is in full swing and monthly night club ARA held in and cosseted by its work. By all accounts, this is the most successful strand of MMU's HiP to date (see previous blogposts for acronym explanations).

I went to the preview launch night of the art exhibition and it was great to see Sacred Trinity packed to the rafters (over 150 people through its doors). People from all sorts of different social circles brought together by this art collection, enjoying its many facets - whether that be wonder at the skull cakes, shock at the closeness to death some of these images bring you or interest in the nature of the subject raised.

The launch event included a number of short talks and poetic readings from curator Helen Malarky, artists Sue Fox and Paul Koudounaris and poets Helen Maguire and Yvonne Carson. This was followed by cutting of the cake (made by Annabel de Vetten) and a set of murder ballads from Canadian performer Lee Mellor. Thanks also go to artist and co-curator Kolyn Amor and and Rev Andy Salmon for supporting the creation of the exhibition, the smooth running of the launch and opening the church for the next fortnight to allow the public to visit.

Helen has been bringing together online content responding to the exhibition in Storify - there's a lot of it! The event has been written about in Bizarre magazine and in local rag Manchester Evening News as well as on countless blogs. So far, the #EncounteringCorpses twitter tag has reached almost 700,000 different users through over 2000 retweets. That's pretty good going and just goes to show that there is a great interest in its subject matter.

The quality of artwork from the Corpse Collective (a dozen local artists responding to the theme), as well as the two featured artists, is high. Their work includes photography, digital manipulations, sculpture, painted works, poetry and video art - a great range. Both on launch night and at ARA, those surrounded by the art are prompted into discussions about the modern experience of death, the stories of Paul's martyr saints (and his own journey to uncover them), the emotions provoked by Sue's morgue photography and the creativity of the Corpse Collective responses.

I know I have artwork in it, but it's a great exhibition. Make time to visit before it ends on April 10th.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Encountering Corpses (Part 4)

'Calamita Cosmica' by Gino de Dominicis
This oversized sculpture won't be at Sacred Trinity, but Heavenly Bodies will have other skeletons and corpses that will surprise in different ways.
Over the last few weeks I've been giving you some light background into the featured artists taking part in the Encountering Corpses exhibition. However, Paul and Sue are not the only artists taking part. Around a dozen local artists have also been asked to submit works. They have been tasked with responding to the work of Paul and Sue and the themes of this Humanities in Public strand. This is an open book as far as how the artists will interpret the brief and I think there will be really interesting results. It will be intriguing to see how each artist traces a link back to the featured work.

You will be in for a treat, as not only do these artists come from a wide variety of personal backgrounds and levels of creative experience, they bring a wide variety of artistic output, from poetry and photography to painting and more besides. This 'Corpse Collective' (an informal name given to the group) includes a number of artists from SUB and also from ARA. Come along and lend your support for Kolyn, Yvonne and Matt (that's me!) from SUB as well as Maz, Laura and TJ from ARA. There's a preview night on Thursday March 27th, so I'll report back next week on what wonders were beheld.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Encountering Corpses (Part 3)

The Heavenly Bodies exhibition at Sacred Trinity (March 28 to April 10) also features the work of Sue Fox, lecturer of Film and Media Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University. Having photographed corpses for her book Post Mortem, Sue's work could be said to be both shocking and touching. It will be interesting for each viewer to experience it close at hand. Separated from the subject by time and space, the viewer will still be transported to the mortuary slab to confront their own mortality.

When I had the chance to hold Sue's book in my hand, I was surprised at my own reaction. This was not even close to feelings of horror, but more an unprompted soul-searching tenderness. I highly recommend to make time to visit the exhibition and see the work up close on the walls. Looking at a picture on a computer screen does not do it justice. See you there!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Encountering Corpses (Part 2)

Paul Koudounaris is a self-confessed necrophile (figuratively, not literally), author and photographer from Los Angeles. His passion is an interest in the dead, especially charnel houses and ossuaries. Named after a sign in the Parisian catacombs, his first book The Empire of Death (2011) explores the history and context of these many and varied deathly resting places, from all over the world. A truly gothic tome if ever there was one.

His latest book, Heavenly Bodies (2013), explores further one particular subject - that of skeletons found in Roman Catacombs several centuries ago, presumed to have be martyrs. Their journey through nunneries, where they were dressed in ornate clothing and jewellery, ended with them residing in various churches across Europe and venerated for their assumed history. There's obviously a lot more to the story than just that, but I would encourage you to buy the book to find out. It contains a wealth of very interesting information and  gloriously coloured photographs. Paul has done a great job uncovering these hidden intrigues.

In this clip, you can hear the man himself talking about some of his experiences. Come along to the Heavenly Bodies exhibition at Sacred Trinity, running from Friday March 28th to Thursday April 10th, to see his photographic work exhibited for the first time outside of the USA (along with artistic responses by some members of SUB).

Monday, 3 March 2014

Encountering Corpses (Part 1)

Manchester Metropolitan University has a program called HiP, Humanities in Public, through which they host a series of events for the public, allowing them to get a taste of academia and further areas of personal interest. These are proving really popular and are taking us on some really interesting topics, particularly for those in sub cultures. For example, in January they ran Day of the Droogs (related to the Anthony Burgess classic book A Clockwork Orange, later committed to film by Stanley Kubrick) and in February there was Women in Philosophy.

March brings a few more themes, one of which is Encountering Corpses. This series of events will include a day of speakers examining topics such a burial, commemoration and ritual, curation and tourism (e.g. the dead in museums) and art, aesthetics and ethics. Looking at modern attitudes to the dead, this should prove to be a very interesting day. There will also be walking tours of Manchester's Southern Cemetary.

Lastly, there will be an art exhibition (entitled Heavenly Bodies) housed in SUB's home, Sacred Trinity, for a fortnight from the end of March (March 28 to April 10). Although not related to SUB directly, there will be a few SUB members exhibiting new works as part of this exhibition. I will tell you more about it next week...