Where For Art Thou?

A former Art shop/gallery on Deansgate in Manchester

I must have walked past this shop many times whilst it was engaged in its self-appointed mission to keep art affordable. From the evidence of this photograph it would appear that they were not up to the task. Or perhaps they succeeded and the price of keeping art affordable is the very business you set up in order to do so. Their venture was doomed from the start, I hope it was worth it.

I am sure that there are many people who argue that art should not only be affordable, it should be free. I am even more certain that Damien Hirst is not one of them.

Damien Hirst statue ‘Charity’ pictured next to my wife Anne at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The suggestion is not that artists like Hirst who are earning their living through their creativity should not be getting paid for their endeavours. Hirst has famously made unimaginable amounts of money from producing art that very rich people want to own. He draws his inspiration from the world around him and the recollections of his childhood – the piece above ‘Charity’ is a remodelling in bronze of the Spastics Society collection box that used to stand outside shops in the 1970s. You can only see her callipered legs here, the thing is huge as you can see by the perspective Anne’s inclusion provides. I presume the sculpting was done by Hirst himself thought that is never certain as he employs a team of people to actually produce some of his most famous art works. That doesn’t make them any less genuine as artefacts but it does pose some questions to me around the whole process of creating and creativity.

Mcr Street Poem
Part of the art produced by Manchester Street Poem at the Manchester International Festival 2019 on display at the offices of the charity Mustard Tree based in North Manchester.

The questions were raised partly through my encounter with the people behind Manchester Street Poem (MSP) and my conversations with some of the artists involved. If you have not heard of MSP I would urge you to take a look around their site http://mcrstreetpoem.com/. This extract is taken from the 2017 Manchester International Festival (MIF) website and describes how the idea was conceived and developed at that years festival:

Conceived by Karl Hyde and Rick Smith from UnderworldManchester Street Poem threw a spotlight onto the stories of those who find themselves homeless in the city – in a work where the catch-all term ‘homeless’ gave way to individuality, identity and integrity.
Manchester Street Poem brought to life the stories of people who are homeless in Manchester in a work that was both fleeting performance and compelling installation. As Hyde covered the walls of the venue with words and phrases drawn from the streets, the space was filled with a powerful soundtrack built on snatches and fragments recorded by Smith all over the city.
Co-created by Underworld and individuals with personal experience of homelessness, Manchester Street Poem proudly broadcast the voices of those who so often go unheard and ignored.

For the festival this year they adopted a slightly different approach. The art work was produced in a workshop based in a disused car showroom. It retained the elements of the previous incarnation – stories painted onto cardboard – but it was then photographed and printed onto large posters for display in festival square. As the workshop was just around the corner from where I worked I would find myself dropping in at lunchtime or after work to talk to the artists involved.

The people I met at the workshop all attested to the benefit of being able to express themselves through the telling of their stories. These were people who had been badly affected by events in their lives. Most had ended up living on the streets and substance abuse as a response to this was commonplace amongst them. There was no single reason why they had all gone through their respective traumas as you will see as you read and listen to their accounts, though there was a much more clearly identifiable explanation of how they were pulling themselves through it and out the other side. That reason being the possibilities that creative expression offers us.

For those involved in MSP is wasn’t so important that they analyse how they had come to be there, as important as that clearly was, the key to getting through it was that there might be the chance that things could be different for them in the future. This is what distinguishes art from science. Science offers us explanations for how things are or how they should be. It is all about probabilities whereas art allows us to explore the possibilities of how things could be.

The chance of a different future, the possibilities that we can reveal to ourselves through art, through the creative process, is not just open to recognised ‘artists’ like Hirst. As the MSP experience shows, we can all do this for ourselves.

‘Anniversary’ by Anita Klein . This is the card I gave to Anne on the anniversary of 32 years of marriage.

This final piece of art is the card I gave to Anne on our 32nd wedding anniversary. Anniversaries are a celebration of the past. They are a marking of time, in the case of a wedding anniversary this is the time two people have spent together in marriage. I love the way the people in this image are embracing. They are together and yet the look from the female suggests that whilst she is safe and secure in the embrace, in the relationship, there is still more to come.

There are still possibilities for each of us and for us both together. We have created a relationship in which we can both grow as individuals and we can grow together as a couple.