Home. A huge contemporary steel building towering over the fringe of the city center, this colossal building is the fusion of two of Manchester’s most iconic arts organisations. The Corner House and the Library Theater Gallery have got together to form an impressive collection of two theaters, five big screens show casing contemporary and classic film, and a neat gallery space showing some of the finest art collections and shows.
Imitation of Life was a collaboration of artists curated by Omar Kholeif and is set in context with the film of the same name. Imitation of Life was an early film influenced by American Author Fannie Hurst’s 1933 novel of where the name originated.
The exhibition seemed to gravitate towards the drama, stigma and almost ironical farce of black stereotype and how these same ideas are still apparent today, with themes running from melodramatic, fanatical, comedy, irony, gritty, dark and stereotypical.
Casteel’s attention is drawn towards portraits of black people, mainly men, set in and ordinary environment, usually sitting in an armchair or bedroom, personal artifacts and belongings are usually apparent around them almost telling a story about the subjects life. Almost like an interview at home, it is as if the viewer is sitting with the subject in their own home learning about them.
This personal, intimate atmosphere is intensified by the gaze locked by the subject, drawing you into their thoughts, questioning, knowing, they tell a story of their thoughts as plain as if it was written on their faces. The struggle of racial inequality that these young black men have endured in modern times is spelt out in their gaze, a theme that runs right through Casteel’s oils and paper collages.
Casteel,s use of collage, and an almost child like use of color and coloring to me emphasis’s a youthful innocence, set in their bedrooms, the subjects should be relaxed, smiling and happy, yet their fixed gaze tells the real story of how these young men are feeling, vulnerable, let down and stereotyped by society.
A very striking way of illuminating the stigma an treatment of young black males in the 21st century.
Loretta Farenholz – Ditch Plains.
30 minuets of claustrophobic, disorientating, surreal neglect and hope. This short film by Farenholz portrays a dystopian, post apocalyptic style street scene unfolding like a bad dream through layers of scenarios from broken street scenes, hallucinatory hotel hallways, decaying houses and locked cages, all linked together with neon wielding, body popping dance and fight sequences. Freakishly moving around each other, but never touching these routines are akin to a kind of break dancing capoeira.
Innovative, interactive, dark yet curious if you can handle the hauntingly intense sound track this is a great piece of innovative film conjuring up themes such as street life, poverty, aggression, youth culture, hopelessness leading to hope.
Check out Ditch Plains teaser for a short clip of the film.
Glyth, 2013-14 Digital montage on C-type print.
Larry’s collecting of photo montages portrays families in a domestic setting, like old family get together pictures of normal, everyday situations, sitting down for tea, a family get together, poses at home, all these images conjure up ideas of happy family life. However, the almost comical irony is the superimposed black censor dots over the faces and the addition of the red lips. This juxtaposition of messages could be interpreted in a few different ways. The censorship brings about ideas of forced anonymity as if they are forced to not be seen. By adding the lips we can link the irony of a poke at race and the fact that they are being silenced with the stigma to the iconic image of the ‘Golly’, giving a darker reality to the otherwise joyful family pictures.
The pictures seem to be set in the early 50’s when racial prejudice was a huge social barrier and the families in them would have been experiencing a negative repression from the people around them. Looking closely at the photo above, even the school photos of the children are censored reminding us that the inequality also exists in the schools and towards the innocent.
Lauren Halsey – We the ones (blackngold) 2016
Possibly the most striking piece in the exhibition, We the ones is a huge installation of rows and rows of synthetic wigs in an array of bright and shocking dayglo colors, taken from LA neighborhood’s beauty suppliers, Halsey collects images and objects for her archive that she uses to create a fantasy world of familiar possessions in a surreal composition.
For me this ‘shock factor’ piece stood out because of the sheer size of it. Filling the whole back wall of the gallery it was displayed almost like it had just been taken off the wall of a beauty salon and placed in the gallery. The impact was backed up by the outlandish colors which shout out the message it’s trying to portray.
It’s seems a tongue-in-cheek poke at the stereotypical port rails of ‘ghetto girls’. Images of OTT gold chains, fake eyelashes, nails and loud synthetic hair of the young black women who strive to fill this stereotypical image.
An interesting exhibition successfully raising awareness and questions about race and gender in the 21st century, it was able to communicate this message through art, theater and visual mediums, giving a varied, but consistent viewpoint to the issue of racial inequality.
The pieces were mainly centered around social, political and personal agendas and the bulk of the works presented these ideas in a very bold and passionate way. They all seemed to be telling the truth about the messages they held such as racism, inequality, repression and stereotype. I think the most stimulating for me was ditch plains for its sheer innovative dark, surreal portrayal of LA, and the gritty truth of life growing up in a run down neighborhood, acted out in an almost ghost like absence of emotion as if the characters are just automatically playing out their roles like an actor in a film.
The majority of the works were direct reactions by the artist/performers to their environment and society, and their feeling towards them. It is inspiring for me to see people who are voicing their views in a visual way. Art can be understood by anyone without the need for an understanding of language, and a great way to communicate ideas visually. Even though I could not necessarily relate to the issues of racism as I have never been victim of it, I could understand the feelings and emotions that the artists were trying to portray. I think this is the most significant idea I took away from the exhibition and will incorporate it into my work by means of being clear with what I am trying to say through my art, so that people can understand me regardless of whether they agree with me or not.