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Archive City

04.11.13 - 13.12.13

Gabriele Basilico, Vanley Burke, John Davies, Martin Parr, William Raban and Edith Tudor-Hart

Archive City works from a simple premise; the showing of a selection of images as a way of thinking about urban space. Archives do not always offer neatly contained packages to aid understanding, they can just easily divert and mislead. Defining the essence of what makes a city is inevitably a complex task, the consumption of newspapers, books, photographs and film can help generate ideas of what the city might be. Actual experience can also serve to complement, contradict and gradually re-shape those ideas. Photographic work from Gabriele Basilico, Vanley Burke, John Davies, Martin Parr and Edith Tudor-Hart, provide a central core for the exhibition. The work offers contrasting viewpoints of the city, whilst also making unexpected connections. Photographic material from Open Eye Gallery is shown in contrast to other collections of film footage and slide images. William Raban's Thames Film completes the exhibition, in this piece the archival is an essential part of the work; images, drawings, maps are all interwoven with contemporary footage of a journey down the Thames, narrated by John Hurt.

Paul Valery offered the description of the world, that it is always under the threat of two forces; that of order and disorder. The exhibition holds this in mind in the selection of the work on display. The archive always imposes some kind of limit (as does the exhibition), both are inevitably fixed by the nature of their contents, yet there is considerable value in using those limits productively. Recently, there has been a tendency - for television programmes in particular - to demonstrate an almost obsessive interest in the use of archive film. Content is adjusted as perceptions alter through presentation and the surrounding context in which the images are placed.

Whilst the central theme of Archive City is clear by the title, one of the defining elements that structure both selection and display is the shift between the formal and the informal ways of reading city space (the difference between the many and the few, between repetition and the single image). An underlying aim is to open up issues of objectivity for scrutiny, rather than offering any kind of definitive reading. A parallel literary narrative runs alongside in a series of fragments and quotations. In effect, the exhibition is designed to demonstrate the diversity of approach to the theme of the urban and aims to encourage the viewer to be conscious of the ways in which we each construct our own archive cities. The exhibition also looks to the cross-correspondence in city images, the points where things deliberately or accidentally connect. There is no attempt to simplify the city, only an indication that in the process of capturing the scene, some ways of seeing are designed to provide an insight, yet this does depend on which way we look.

Preview: Friday 1st November 5-7pm

175 Anniversary

This event is one of 175 publically accessible events and exhibitions that took place in the UK and overseas throughout 2013 to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Manchester School of Art.

  1. Gabriele Basilico and John Davies
  2. Martin Parr, Ho's Bakery, 1985
  3. North West Film Archive and Visual Resource archive
  4. Vanley Burke and Gabriele Basilico