DIY and whistling conjure up a housebound father in Michael Landy show at Whitworth

By Mark Sheerin | 05 February 2013

Exhibition preview: Michael Landy – Four Walls, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, February 9 – June 16 2013

Colour plate from a DiY manual showing a man mending a gate while his son tends a flowerbed
Michael Landy, Four Walls, 2004© Michael Landy.
Four Walls is a small but well-formed video which has come loose from Semi-Detached, Michael Landy’s 2004 installation at the Duveen Gallery in Tate Britain. On that occasion these DiY Guides, manuals and tools were accompanied by a faithful reconstruction of the Victorian house in Ilford, where Landy’s disabled father had lived since an industrial accident in 1977.

Anyone who reads the backstory will know there’s some distance between the optimism of home improvement and a once fit man being confined to his home. Poignantly, Landy senior continued to collect this material long after his accident had begun to limit his ability to DiY.

But Four Walls is not a maudlin project. Landy’s father is present in the video soundtrack in which he whistles his favourite tunes for the benefit of the gallery visitor. This results in a human and personal artwork from a former YBA with a reputation for being ruthless.

Landy’s best known work needs no introduction. But on that occasion, when he destroyed all of his possessions, the last to go was a sheepskin coat that once belonged to his father.

It must have been difficult to see it go. It’s conjecture, but perhaps this later work was a response.

  • Open 10am-5pm (12pm-4pm Sunday). Admission free. Follow the gallery on Twitter @WhitworthArt.

Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.
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