Did you doubt me? Having just moved house my internet access is infrequent, since no one in my street has an unsecured internet access. Are the heydays of stealing internet over?
So, I said I would do it. And I did. Dear reader, for you, I risked exhaustion, exposure and those other maladies which only effected young women in 19th century novels who went out in weather in unsuitable clothing. Which I did. I now believe you shouldn't be allowed to move to Manchester without showing a receipt or other proof of ownership of a sensible raincoat. However, the long and the short of it is, that after one of the hardest weeks of my life, I decided to go to the Beck's Fusion event on Friday.
Seeing that music started at 3 pm, I didn't think I was going too early turning up at 6. Oh, I was so wrong. They didn't seem to publish the line up, until they handed you a small leaflet on entry. One then did I realise I was about three hours early. A cold looking Swedish woman was singing to a hackneyed disco beat, periodically pleading with the crowd to dance. They didn't. Well, two did, but I think they were drunker and better clothed for the weather than everyone else. The rest sat on the tier sitting, wearing their yellow ponchos and drinking Beck's out of plastic bottles. Laugher was in short supply and the occasional cackle seemed forced and slightly distraught. It was cold and wet, and the singing Scandinavian was feeling it. The massive video screens clearly showed the defeat in her eyes... several foot high.
At 6 pm, the number of yellow jacketed security staff roughly equalled the audience. The weather was bleak to say the least, the occasional train rumbling overhead and the odd flash of strobe light added to the gloomy and ominous air, suggesting low rent thunder and lightening. The staff were handing out yellow ponchos. Everyone was yellow and the area was plastered with green Beck's branding. This is where the event really falls down. The Beck's branding is EVERYWHERE! The seated semi-covered area was split 50/50, press and AAA passes / everyone else. Which show's Beck's prioroties with the event pretty clearly. Promotion. Promotion. Promotion. Which shouldn't be surprising, but the branding was utterly dominant. It absolutely overwhelmed the corner of rather trite art. The works were simply not exciting. More so, they were badly chosen for the event.
A "Skystation" ( I think, I've misplaced my notes ) was a flying saucer like object, on which people were meant to lie on and look up at the sky. In Manchester... In September... It's Manchester, we're used to looking at heavy grey rain clouds. Perhaps we would contemplate them in a new way, I suppose... But it takes a stronger, madder girl than me to have a lie down in a grubby arena in Castlefield, and stare up into the rain.
Next there was a Planetarium, which looked kinda interesting, though seemed familiar. I'm certain I've seen familiar things in many a degree show. I thought I'm go and have a look inside, but when I finally located to door ( with a little difficulty, the whole thing is made out of doors... how original...) about five men walked out, fiddling with their flies and giving me a sheepish look. It only took a quick glance to gather that there were pools of liquid on the floor and it wasn't much of a guess what type of liquid they were. Now, I may be wrong, perhaps the artist intended the shed type building to be used as an urinal, in some dada-esk dedication to R. Mutt. But in the unlikely event that I am right, and it wasn't intended as an additional facility, is Beck's neglecting their duty of care to the work and the artist? I didn't think much of it, but still think that if someone gave enough a crap about it to make it and call it art, it shouldn't be used so. There was a mass of security, so why wasn't someone keeping an eye on the art works? Why else were they all ghettoised in one corner than to simplify the minding of the objects? Having worked in museums I know it's hard to keep people from touching and interacting with art when they want to and are forbidden from doing so, but many different people taking a slash is a whole different order of magnitude.
The final piece was an Ice-Cream Van, which the artist shut up as soon as I approached. I don't blame her. The weather was grim outside and she had probably dealt with enough demands for a 99 or a nobbly bobbly as she could take. Unfortunately, it looked like the most interesting thing there. Well, the brightest, cheerfulest and most original thing there.
Apart from these three installations there was very little else; a tent with a post-box in it, where you could send postcards to your friends and family. I sent one to my housemate's. It said something along the lines of: "There are men pissing in an art installation!" There was nothing more, no beautiful temporary murals, no sculpture, nothing to inspire people and invigorate new audiences. There is a close association between art and music, so why wasn't it manifested in a more complex and overreaching manner? I know art does not need to be beautiful anymore, but it would have been nice to have a bit more integration and dissemination. More traditional art forms could have been assimilated into the mix to create a more complex and wonderful whole. There could have been so much more. But the few pieces were squirrelled away in one corner and not allowed to come out and play. The fried food stalls outnumbered the art, and the plastic bottle bars roughly equalled them.
I fully intended to return and see the visual fast that Micheal Mayhew would have presented, but I left to have a drink with a friend. Then, away from the cold, bleak setting of Castlefield Arena ( which is just that weird bit by the Castlefield canal and youth hostel, but cordoned off.), in the warm confines of a pub, which a glass of vastly superior ale ( well, vastly superior to Beck's in a plastic bottle! ) , and the promise of a warm, dry bed at home, I found I physically could not return for the main event. I would like to think that perhaps things picked up, that the evening ended on a real bang. However, my experiences earlier in the evening were truly uninspiring and frankly slightly depressing.
Where you there? Did things actually pick up later in the evening? Did the main events combine visual art with dance music in a wonderful way that made the who event really worthwhile? Was there a sign somewhere in the Planetarium inviting people to contribute bodily fluids? On Saturday did they twig and post some attendants to direct revellers to the proper conveniences? Where are my notes so I can give you correct artist and object details?