#Manchester, Climate Change and “Culture”? Shove it up your arts.

Marc Hudson goes to (some of) an event about Climate Change and Art at the Manchester Museum and comes away ever-so-slightly underwhelmed.

First the good thing. At least Manchester Science Festival is trying to think outside the wooden box that the species is getting comfy in. They get points for trying. Today, at Manchester Museum, there was a day-long event on “Ways of Seeing Climate Change.”(1)

The evening was billed as “ What Art can bring to our understanding of Climate Change?”

Now, you don’t go to these events without expecting there to be a certain amount of chin (and other-parts-of-anatomy)-stroking.

But beuys oh beuys was it tosh. It gives haacke-ry a bad name.

It started badly – no mention of the Manchester Climate Change Action Plan, no mention of the existence of goal two of that exquisite plan – the creation of a “low carbon culture.” (And someone used to bang on about how that was the crucial goal.  If only they’d spoken up!)  There was also nowt about the wonderful Steering Group, that is doing such a fan-bloody-tastic job of telling people about itself and the challenges that Manchester faces in the coming decades.

It continued … worse. The first “performance” was… [redacted on the advice of MCFly’s libel lawyer]… Someone I spoke to liked it for its (my words) de-centering of perspectives etc. I mentioned Cezanne and the Cubists after him might already have done a smidgeon of de-centering, and suggested that it was not anything that couldn’t have been performed in the last forty (more!) years, and had no discernible comment on the existential and ironic crises that we face.  My liker conceded the point.

IMAG0247The second “performance” was three guys rubbing microphones in the shape of chunks of wood into laptops and getting “feedback.” My “feedback” would be [redacted on the advice of MCFly’s libel lawyer].

Two out of three ain’t bad.
A certain Mr M. Loaf, of Dallas Texas once sang that. He was wrong. Two out of three were bloody laughable, and rather than subject myself to the third, I did what I should have did and made myself a real gone kid, with a friend. As did a lot of other people a-voting with their feet, btw. You couldn’t see us for dust you might say.

So, what would I have done? I would have been the “happening.” thing…

For starters I’d have replaced the neon disco signs that said things like “wildlife,” “disasters,” “peace,” “domination,” “weather” above the various displays of stuffed animals.  I’d have replaced them with words more appropriate to Manchester’s response to climate change since about 2009. What words? Oh, I don’t know, how about – cowardice, failure, stupidity, irresponsibility, incompetence, cowardice, contemptible, tragic, infanticidal.

Then I’d…

NOW, AT THIS POINT I MAKE A DISCLAIMER, FOR ANYONE FROM THE NSA, GCHQ, NETCU, M15, M16, SPECIAL BREW, AND WHOEVER ELSE IS READING. This. Is. Satire. Okay? And nothing about airports getting their act together or anything like this. Satire. Geddit?

have someone dress up as Alan Rickman circa 1988. He would have appeared at the top of the bridge-of-sighs type thing, above the audience. He’d be in a fancy Savile Row suit and speaking with a faint German accent.

Christmas music would be playing, since Christmas is a) coming and b) the time when we all celebrate what we most sincerely believe in. [I refer of course, to … money.]

The audience would look around and seen all the exits blocked by beefy silent guys with machine guns (G4S could be hired for this purpose.) He’d have asked who in the room had the highest current or previous rank in the Manchester climateriat. When a hand went up its owner would be dragged out of the room, Victor-Jara style and then everyone would have heard a scream cut short by a rapid burst from an Uzi. While people were looking around in a panic, a mannequin representing a young child would be dragged up to stand next to “Alan” above the audience
Alan would say “right, who among you has flown in the last three years?” And when hands go up, Alan will say. “You are responsible for this, not me.” He would then toss the mannequin over the bridge so it landed with a satisfying wet thud among the art-lovers. Ideally the “head” would be a watermelon that burst open, splattering some of the closest.

Alan would then draw everyone’s attention to the various stuffed tigers (2), rhinos and so on in the glass cases. He would then deliver a short homily about the Sixth Great Extinction and its causes, culminating in the sentence. “If you think die-off ends with them, then you need to learn that it is easy to die, not hard.”

Alan would then announce that nine members of Asian Dawn had something to say.
Nine “terrorists” would then adopt masks of children and adults. They would wear signs on their chests giving names (mostly from “developing world” countries, and dates of birth from the year 2020 onwards).

They would walk among the (by-now-mildly-discombobulated) audience, pressing water-pistols to some heads and faces at random, pulling the trigger and releasing a squirt of tomato juice. Meanwhile, Alan would intone that line from “Macbeth” – “we are in blood, stepped in so far that returning were as tedious as go o’er.” And start shouting out predicted ppm concentrations for the year 2030, 2031 and so on.

The installation would end when five people have suffered strokes, seizures or loosened bowels.

There would then a question and answer session with the “participants” about moral culpability, political inaction and just what the hell you plan to tell your children and grand-children when they ask why you were such spineless incompetents when it mattered, when the worst could have been avoided and preparations made.


Marc Hudson

(1) I wasn’t at it, but am reliably informed that it absolutely eschewed the stale “expert talker followed by q and a” format, followed by another expert talker… Instead it went for dynamic and interactive workshops that looked at the utter intellectual bankruptcy of the ecological modernisation fairy-tale, the information deficit model of campaigning fairy-tale and the sterility and futility of mechanical art in the age of mass consumption.

My same reliable informant tells me that when Professor Kevin “Naomi Klein loves me” Anderson told the assembled throngs that they had a choice of either a habitable planet or the capitalist growth machine, the chap next to him – from Siemens no less – leapt to his feet and led everyone in a stirring rendition of “The Red Flag”, a la Victor Laszlo doing La Marseillaise in Rick’s Cafe Americain.

(2) How do you titillate an ocelot? You oscillate its tits a lot.

About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
This entry was posted in Event reports and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to #Manchester, Climate Change and “Culture”? Shove it up your arts.

  1. From facebook (from Jennie Bailey, who was there) – “Those artists with the theremin bits of wood could have done with some bass and techno arpeggios…”

  2. Jenny says:

    Yep, I was at the daytime bit, ands saw artists being as unintelligent as scientists. I saw one artist shoot herself in the foot. She showed her film and photographic work, which she admitted involved a lot of flying. For example to record sunset in two places at once? Then she admitted that artist’s commissions are hard to come by. Her most useful image was under the sea, the cable for the imaginary internet “cloud” that actually cuts across the ocean floor.
    She had also brought an iceberg to a British park. I did not understand why, but I could imagine the environmental damage involved.

  3. Jenny says:

    Unintelligible! I was auto-uncorrected!

  4. Dave Bishop says:

    My prejudices confirmed:

    [The Environment] [The Arts] … Not joined up.

    Could this lack of connection be because ‘The Arts’ exist in a (cultural) ‘Universe’ in which only humans and their pre-occupations have any meaning? At present it’s the only (cultural) ‘Universe’ on offer. Whether that ‘Universe’ ever expands to encompass everything else that exists, and has a right to exist, remains to be seen. But if it fails to expand then, probably sooner than we think, there will come a time when ‘The Arts’ will have no meaning whatsoever because there will be no humans left to contemplate/consume/be moved by them.

  5. Jonathan Atkinson says:

    I think that could be the start of an art project there Dave…

  6. Dave Bishop says:

    It could be that you’re right there, Jonathan.

    Of course, on sober reflection, I realise that it’s probably not a good idea to generalise. My favourite poet, John Clare, for example, expressed his complex feelings towards his environment throughout his life. But Clare was a bit of a loner and a rather alienated individual – does that make a difference, I wonder?

  7. Dave Bishop says:

    Although Clare did live at a time when people were more in touch with the natural world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s