Wolverhampton Art Gallery gets Chris Coekin's industrial West Midlands in Manufactory

By Culture24 Reporter | 18 August 2011
A photo of a man in industrial clothing pulling a rope over his shoulder in a factory
© Chris Coekin
Exhibition: Chris Coekin – Manufactory, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Wolverhampton, until October 1 2011

Until he studied photography in his 20s, Chris Coekin was a labourer who had spent many of his formative years in working men’s clubs in his hometown of Leicester.

Proving that those early days have done as much to influence his work as his time behind the lens, he has won critical acclaim and a Deutsche Borse prize nomination for his glimpses behind the doors of those clubs and subsequent adventures in hitchhiking.

A photo of two men carrying tools inside a factory
The Altogether #4
© Chris Coekin
For his latest show of grit, as part of West Midlands heritage collaboration Home of Metal, Coekin gets under the skin of industrial life, tiptoeing inside a factory which started producing copper wire in 1834.

The entire Cheshire workforce of the place were recently made redundant, but Coekin invites a few of them back inside to replicate poses found in Trade Union banners from more than a century ago in a series of staged portraits.

The second branch of the work, coined “industrial-scapes”, heads into every last corner of the dusty space, finding mini ecosystems left by nature and industrial chemical spaces.

And in the final part, Finally in Manufactory Pt II (which Coekin subtitles Made in England), the old manual tools and artefacts of an archaeological dig become the remnants of the lost workforce.

Two accompanying audio works, Days at the Factories and CuSO4 Shuffle, combine the words of the workers and the sounds and echoes of the space itself in an eerie-sounding ode to 175 years of toil, pressed onto limited edition vinyl and played in private soundbooths.

  • Open 10am-5pm (except Sunday). Admission free.
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