Dog Walk #1 – Old Crosville Depot

These are the things that dreams are made of?

Our house IS in the middle of our street and so I can go either way when taking the mutt for his morning walk. My usual route is through the two subways under the approach road to the Runcorn-Widnes bridge (known as ‘the subbies’ and a favourite haunt for weed smoking yoot) and along the path towards the Old Town, passing the exciting new Homebase and Dreams retail park.

Into the light - subby 1

into the light - subby 2

The path then leads down towards the Bridgewater canal or follows the expressway alongside what used to be the old Crosville bus depot and the site of the old RNA club. Both of these are now long gone but hold vivid memories. The smell of hot leather seats as my nan took us on the bus to town, the smell of ale and jelly from Christmas parties at the RNA and some years later the thrill of french kissing my sexy punk girlfriend as Crass’s ‘Shaved Women’ played at the RNA disco. 

The ruins of ancient Carthage or ancient Crosville?

The contours of the old buildings are still visible as nature reclaims the concrete inch by inch each year as if some ancient civilisation has been excavated yet it’s only been the past few decades since both buildings were demolished as the town expanded. These days the Crossy is used as a place for the young uns to drink and chong and carouse and get chased by Puritan bizzies now that there are no youth clubs or discos with which to entertain them (the kids not the bizzies).   

Cheap Night Out

The space is also used by Silcocks fair when they make their infrequent visits to the town and the smell of onions and engine grease hangs heavy in the air. Recently a convoy of caravans arrived and it was assumed that travellers had encamped but it was much worse than that; it was the production team for ‘Two Pints Of Lager.’

the gates of paradise

When the fair or the production team for Two Pints of Lager are not using such a bleak wasteground as a base for fun n’ frolics, it functions as a temporary overflow car park for the ‘bustling’ Old Town shopping area, even though that desolate retail zone has long since declined from its 60s heyday. The new state-of-the-art Brindley venue has breathed a little cultural life back into the old town but nobody sticks around after the performances.

Brindley Centre

And then it’s either a circuitous route along the canal or back the way we came.

 

Beneath The Pavement…..another fucking pavement!

We take the pavement for granted. As places of transport and transition, as cyphers for movement and stasis……er, y’know the hidden city, layer upon layer of pavement, of people, of the past, the present and the future, people who walk, on pavements, going to the shops, to work, to the pub, home, all like walking n’ shit with their legs…y’get me? Pavement! I saw a hopscotch grid chalked on a pavement in York Street at the weekend and it made me smile. There’s something you don’t see very often these days. Pavement art, pavement games, pavement youth. Beneath our pavements is not the beach, it’s another fucking pavement. Sous les paves, la plage. It sounds better in French.

Here are some nice photos of pavements around St John’s precinct in Liverpool by our pal, Adrian Bailey’s ace Inspidered blog….

http://inspidered.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/105/stjohnspvmnt-copy/

And here’s ‘Cut Your Hair’ by Pavement

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=BoMdkyeZOqE

And here’s a poem about pavements by Nolan Jones

Young Blake As A Hedgehog

He walked on the cracks

To maintain his balance

His sense of the world

He counted his steps

Left foot, right foot

To buy a cheap eternity

Keeping his feet

On the grass between

The cracks of creation

The Irlam House Bequest – David Jacques

An installation by David Jacques

Another year, another Liverpool celebration!

If any city in the world thrives on it’s past, it is Liverpool. Whether atoning for the slave trade (“Psst! Wanna buy a guilt trip?) or Ringo (“don’t call me ‘Ringo'”) Starr making a prat of himself when “kick-starting” the year of Capital of Culture in 2008, nothing seems too tacky to present to the outside world.

But there seems to be a move to shrug off the nostalgiaopolis image of Liverpool. Following a relatively successful visit to the Shanghai World Expo 2010, the council, with the support of local business, opened a business embassy in London. With a recession kicking in and everybody, seemingly, seeing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse on the horizon, this move seemed to suggest an optimism, bordering on revolution: Liverpool city council seemed to suggest that one way out of a recession was investment.

Over the past few years, Liverpool’s dockland has been reshaped. One of the most stunning architectural developments is Mann Island. It’s as if the architects have drawn on Liverpool’s shipbuilding past, to create structures that, confidently, point towards the future.

And it is this element of mining the past in order to suggest a way forwards that informs the work of David Jacques. Winner of the Liverpool Art Prize 2010 and nominated for this year’s Northern Art Prize, David has been fascinated by time and the movement, and movements, of people. In a previous work, Por Convención Ferrer (selected for inclusion in the prestigious EAST International 09 Exhibition) Jacques offered a world to us through a work that played with our idea of time, presenting it, not as a linear path, but as a potpourri of images and concepts from the ‘Scotland Road Free School’, to ‘the zonal mapping of ‘sleeping sickness’ in the Belgian Congo’, Thomas De Quincey’s residing at Everton, and a Critical Mass bike ride through Manchester City Centre.

Central to much of Jacques work is the banner. The banner is the object that carries the symbols and slogans of movements. In The Irlam House Bequest David has created a new type of banner.

The Irlam House Bequest launches Liverpool City Of Radicals 2011. Inspired by the history of trade union banners and the entrepreneur George Tutil, whose workshop dominated banner production in the nineteenth century, The Irlam House Bequest is a fictional subversive banner workshop “discovered” in an abandoned flat in Irlam House, an actual tower block in Bootle.

What we have is the typeset for these banners as a central piece surrounded by smaller works which bear no resemblance to our idea of ‘the banner’, but have the same impact. Type 6  Phantom Limb, for example, shows a clenched hand. But it is not a fist there is something half-hearted about it. The folded fingers seem to represent a symbol for the deaf rather than the confidence of the fist we normally see on political banners.

And yet, when we look closer at what is behind this symbol we see people congregating; preparing to take action. It is as if the symbol is meaningless; it is action that is the thing that pushes the movement of time and people who make history.

And it is not only symbols, but their meaning. Type 1 and Type 2 show us the images of garlands. Perhaps redolent of the role of the left, as cheerleaders for the class struggle. Whilst Type 3 has the image of a wreath, inference of the more contemporary, liberal, idea of the class-struggle having died. Yet these works suggest otherwise. We see action taking place beneath the images. One gets a sense of zeitgeist, looking at these pieces, and considering the uprising of people in North Africa and the Middle East.

There is also a bit of playfulness going on. Jacques resorts to that good old British institution, the double entendre, in order to make a point. Type 3: Japanese Knotweed presents us with a garland image whilst underneath we see a scene of a demonstration and the slogan “Smash The White Paper”.

Jacques is one of the most original artists around. His work challenges us to see beyond the superficial and the hype and even the propaganda. Once those veils are removed we can see the very human struggle for life going on. If Jacques were simply a left-wing artist we would probably be bombarded with caricatured prolekult: empty imagery presenting us with a crude workers idyll. Jacques shows a great deal of respect for his audience and recognises our ability to see beyond the bullshit. There is a softness to much of the imagery in The Irlam House Bequest, which, perhaps, is to do with the light tones of the work. It was on the bus home that the overall impact of the exhibition hit me. 

The Irlam House Bequest is one of the most powerful works of art that I have seen in a long while. I have been familiar with David’s work for the past four years. It seems as if the only movement he makes is going forward. This is, to date, his best work.

Just one last comment. One of the ironies of the The Irlam House Bequest that came to my mind was the use of typesets. It was a strike by printers in Moscow, demanding payment for loading punctuation onto the typeset in presses, that led to the Russian revolution of 1905.

Denis Joe

Photographs by Adrian Bailey. Free admission until 3 April 2011.

(published in www.manchestersalon.org.uk – reproduced with the agreement of the author).