Diary – Sunday 1st February 2015
A new month and a leap into the past for me, as today I joined friends from the Cottonopolis Coglective Steampunk Society and allies from other steampunk groups in North West England, for tours of two city centre museums and art galleries.
We met at the Mosley Street based Manchester Art Gallery which has its entrance area surrounded by sandbags, marking its display of World War One art.
The display includes many impressive and moving works. One room is dedicated to art capturing in paint, the sound and fury of the war; the loud racket of munitions factories, the screams of the wounded, the silence of the graves.
C R W Nevinson’s The Explosion (1916) captures the blast of a detonating shell; the rain of earth raised and dropped in the cacophony of death.
George Clausen’s Making Guns – The Furnace, (1917) shows the barrel of a giant field gun being formed in the fires of the factory like some creature rising from the bowels of Hell, with every sense of the carnage it would cause once in operation.
Frank Brangywen’s Study For A Tank In Action (1916) is one of the first studies of the terrible leviathans, and the sense of dread men felt as they rose up over the trench lines rolling forward relentlessly.
Harold Sandys-Williamson’s Human Sacrifice In a Field Hospital captures the horror of rapid surgery. Operations that would normally take hours had to be rushed so major amputations and face repairs were sometimes done in thirty minutes or less, with even the most skilled surgeons reduced to butchers making a terrible mess of men, largely due to the sheer number of other men in need of their treatment too. In the painting a man’s face is stripped away until he is virtually left with a fleshless skull.
The exhibition shows more modern studies of war too – the wars we still experience to this day.
After a break for refreshments, we looked at the wonderful Pre-Raphaelite works of Rossetti and Millais, before moving on to the people’s history museum.
I was in modern civilian attire, though many of the steampunk group were attracting photo calls from the public themselves which they were delighted to pose for.
The Salford based People’s History Museum looks at the history of the class struggle, especially in Manchester, but certainly further afield too; with displays relating to the rise of the labour movements, Suffragettes and other champions of women’s equality, anti-slavery campaigners, and political satirists. Exhibits include the death mask of Thomas Paine, the Spitting Image puppet of Harold Wilson, punch clock cards from museums, an executioner’s axe, and a working pub juke-box from the 1970’s on which one of our party selected Isaac Hayes’s theme from Shaft.
After the Steampunks headed off for buses and trains I visited a couple of bars. One, The Castle, as it was a bar I was surveying for the Real ale society CAMRA, and then I went on to Bar Fringe, which is a long standing favourite for me. Much to my delight they were serving a free delicious and strong chilli to all customers too.
A huge thank you to the Cottonopolis Coglective and their friends.
Image Credit » Photo Some of the Steampunk group, Cottonopolis Coglective outside the Manchester City Art Gallery, taken by me.