The Elephant in Salford

October 13, 2015 § Leave a comment

Once upon a time (and the time was about 1959) the British film industry made a leap. It recognised people who weren’t Robin Hood, Lady Marion, the Count of A B & C, the Duke of etc, numerous generals, admirals & Queen Elizabeth’s. The leap came to land round about 1968 with Lindsay Anderson’s film “If …. (or maybe a few year’s later with Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange).

Anyway …
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It was a moment in British cinema when the lives of ‘us’ came to be the content of drama.
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The playwright Shelagh Delaney wrote ‘A Taste of Honey’ in 1958. In 1961 the director Tony Richardson produced and directed the screen version.
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When planning to travel to Manchester in late September I decided to post-up work derived from stills of the film.

The original play was set in Salford (adjoining Manchester) in the 1950’s and significant parts of the film were located there particularly beside the Liverpool-Manchester ship canal.
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I captured some stills (on YouTube) from the film version, ‘treated’ them in the process of creating ‘artefacts’.
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I felt that the most appropriate location would be beside the canal. Part of Salford is now referred to as Salford Quays and contains a number of media companies. The other side of the canal has large stretches currently untouched. I felt that if I were to walk both sides then a suitable space to place the images would open up to me. So it was.
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On the canal side opposite Salford Quays (part of the outskirts of Manchester known as Trafford Park) I found a space occupied by an installation created to celebrate the history of the wharf there. It came to me as a place into which the work would fit.
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I placed the work on an adjoining low wall, photographed the site & left.
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I returned the following day & found that two pieces of work had been carefully removed & regretted that I would be unable to return the following day.

Reflecting upon the process: the idea of using stills from the film came to me only a few days before leaving for Manchester & I was highly pleased with the result.

Manchester Salford TOH_0048

It did, however, raise the question of whether it was completely sympathetic to the space which has been transformed out of any recognition from the scenes of the original film & might suggest a nostalgia for that moment rather than a reflection on the space as it exists or as a recording of a current process of expropriation of land & a distancing of its history.
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Cartographies of the Absolute (Toscano & Kinkle) [Cartographies of the Absolute] has been a central text of my consideration of how one records/represents the changes within current neo-capitalist appropriations.

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John Levett


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