Manchester Metropolitan University All Saints Library
Thursday, May 10, 2018
Friday, June 22, 2018
All Saints, Manchester M15 6BH
North West England
Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections Spotlight Foyer Display:

Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections Spotlight Foyer Display:

Constructing a narrative – an account of collected artefacts, the written word, existing and fictional histories

Ground floor Foyer, All Saints Library, All Saints, Manchester M15 6BH

10 May – 22 June 2018, Opening hours: Monday – Friday 10.00 – 16.00, Saturday 12.00 – 16.00 (term time only)

The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám is a collection of hedonistic and subversive poems, or quatrains, said to number over a thousand, attributed to the Persian poet, mathematician and astronomer Omar Khayyám (1048-1131).

For this display, artists Gary James Williams and Jo Manby take a selection of objects from Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections and place them alongside quatrains from The Rubáiyát (the Edward FitzGerald translation, one of many editions of The Rubáiyát owned by Special Collections) to create a new artwork, Constructing a narrative – an account of collected artefacts, the written word, existing and fictional histories.

The archive at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections, as a repository encompassing aesthetic, cultural, archaeological, scientific and art historical resources and knowledge, is the ideal place for us as artists to create a new art work. Constructing a narrative is a temporary micro-archive within the creative institution that is Manchester Metropolitan University, which opens a dialogue about the act of curation as an artwork.

From the mass of artefacts that surround us on a day to day basis, the objects on show (including selected items such as ancient Middle Eastern decorative metalwork to early 20th century European ceramic) are temporarily removed from the flow and placed in a specific, new context and now have a narrative thread connecting them.

Associating the objects with extracts from another, text-based item gives them a new set of connections. They have been taken out of storage and placed in a live circuit that now has a storyline. This changes the way we think about these objects. Objects have a multitude of possible ‘other lives’, just as we as people do. Set them in another context, and they will mean a whole range of different things to different viewers.

Here, objects can be seen as metaphors for concepts and ideas in The Rubáiyát. Or a certain quality in the object might epitomise an atmosphere that is hinted at in the poem. This brings about new ways of looking at objects and archives.

Constructing a narrative, as an artistic intervention into Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections, invites the viewer to consider the distinction between curating and creation of an artwork. Here the distinction is blurred. Questions are raised concerning the value of imagined histories. Is a fictional recontextualisation of historic artefacts justified? What benefit does it have to offer? What is the role of the artist-curator in expanding the horizons of creative possibility?

About the artists:

Based in Manchester, Gary James Williams’ work constantly enquires into the creative potentials of the narrative structure and coming to terms with the everyday and real-world phenomena in contemporary art practice. A continuing methodology in his practice discusses a re-working of familiar cultural imagery and signifiers become the signified, where more formal issues realise a uniqueness and authenticity. His practice intentionally establishes a developing proposition of the viewer and the arena of storytelling, recovering an immediacy, finding an opening through the elusive, seductive and sensual world of projection and representation.

Jo Manby has been involved in curating and project management in galleries, museums and libraries for over a decade, and has published numerous pieces of art criticism in leading art magazines, catalogue texts, book reviews and blog posts, including profiles and interviews commissioned by fellow artists. She has practised as an artist and a writer since graduating in English Literature and Art History at the University of York. Her work is held in private collections in Britain, France, Italy and the US. Her artistic practice is concerned with reconciling organic and manufactured forms through observation and abstraction.

For further information please contact Gary James Williams at [email protected]