Monday, 3 December 2007

Art or a waste of cash?

Marge and Steel doesn't refer to a new episode of the Simpsons, rather it is the name of the public art work plonked within the centre of new roundabout, which you can catch a glimpse of as you shoot past it on the bypass. The sculpture attempts to commemorate the town's industrial heritage, steel and margarine (produced by the Co-Op). It is somewhat pointless to engage in debates about the artistic qualities of the piece or whether its a waste of taxpayer's money. This argument seems to surface in media reports of every piece of public art sponsored by local government, which seem to suggest that all people think all public art is worthless. One criticism reporting in the Manchester Evening News, suggest that it is "cold and hard". What do people expect from steel - warm and fluffy? I hardly think that the experience of working in the steel works was akin to being an Oompah-Loompah in a chocolate factory. Or perhaps the artists should have used a softer medium - such as butter.

OK, the scale is bit disappointing, afterall the steelworks once dominated the town's landscape and employed 1 in 5 local people. And I guess the position is not too great either - cut off from any pedestrian access - why not put the thing in the town's heart and centre (Tesco carpark for instance, or perhaps on the forecourt of Irlam Steel Social and Recreational Club, an institution which continues to actively maintain a connection to the past). Some local consultation as to the siting and content, therefore, may have gone a littleo way to allay the criticisms that the local media are reporting. So it does make you think who is the target audience for the art work. That said, it is not often you get local authorities commemorating lost industry and working class culture. Too often, this rich vein of heritage is subject to 'urban amensia' and written out of regeneration scripts and place marketing narratives. Though I do wonder how far this can go as Irlam once possessed many other industries. So here are my ideas for future local sculptures:

* A full size replica of a Manchester Liner made out of matches.

* The world's biggest soap on a rope.

* A giant firework made out of gunpowder and lard.

* An army of 3000 land remediation workers in an Anthony Gormley style, but made out of tar.

* A 200ft high tin of value cat food to commemorate the lost ruins of Kwik-Save.

Source: Art or a waste of cash? - News - Manchester Evening News

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