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Liverpool-born artist Mark Leckey has a new, minimal contemporary art show at the Manchester Art Gallery consisting of two gallery spaces. One features the fifteen-minute short film Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (1999), familiar to fans of the Turner Prize winner’s (2008) work and his recent show at the Serpentine Gallery in London. Accompanied by a large bespoke sound system and an even larger soundtrack, the video projection is a compilation of found club footage from the 70s through the 90s. According to Leckey, the work intends to portray ‘the descendants of those who worked the steam mill captured at their leisure’.
The second gallery consists of a new work, ‘BigBoxIndustrialAction’ (2012). The work features two adjacent free-standing structures and a series of eight adverts for the performance glued directly to the green gallery wall, as though promoting a club night. The first of these massive structures is reminiscent of an old-school Jamaican sound system, a stacked series of slick, wooden speakers harnessed together with a large orange belt. The second could easily be mistaken for a three-tiered sculpture from the New Brutalist era, rather than its actual provenance as a steam chest from an old Victorian mill, capturing a unique sense of Northerness through the portrayal of industry.
Integral to the exhibition are the audio performances in which the artist gives dynamism to ‘BigBoxIndustrialAction’ in the first gallery space. During Leckey’s performance or so-called ‘action’, the artist-turned-DJ produces a half-hour industrial soundscape so loud that ear plugs are provided for sensitive listeners. Simultaneously, Leckey mimicks the noisy clanking of an imagined factory in addition to a manipulated sound more familiar to today’s ears, recycling looped snippets from opera to rock to the Shades of Rhythm’s Sweet Sensation.
The mirror images of the ten-foot structures are called into action through what Leckey refers to as a ‘feedback loop’ dialogue between the structures and through the prescence of the audience itself. As the crowd connects the two totems by standing in a circle connecting the isolated objects, a form of contemporary idol worship is represented – through an enforced reflection of industry past.
The contemporary art show ‘Work and Leisure’ is on at the Manchester Art Gallery until 18 March 2012. Audio performances at 6:45pm on 1 March and 8 March 2012. See www.manchestergalleries.org
words Carol Huston