Rosa Barba twins Manchester with Margate in Subject to Constant Change at Cornerhouse

By Culture24 Reporter Published: 25 February 2013

Exhibition preview: Subject to Constant Change, Cornerhouse, Manchester, until March 24 2013

A photo of a group of people in suits being filmed inside an ancient building with an organ
Rosa Barba, Subconscious Society (2013). Film still© Rosa Barba
As well as – or perhaps because of – their place in the industrial revolution, Manchester and Margate share some beautiful forgotten shells: the Albert Hall and the former BBC headquarters, to name two in the northern city, and the vintage rollercoasters of Dreamland, which was the Kent coastal resort’s first amusement park.

All three of those feature in Subconscious Society, Rosa Barba’s meditation on the transition from the industrial to the digital age, inspired by the role of both locations at the turn of the 20th century.

Shot on 35mm film, the installation features a social community whose protagonists plan to assign and archive objects from the past, their efforts portrayed in tableaux vivants style images.

“Over time we really did start to feel like a society living in the space,” says Jamie Price, a member of the all-Manchester group of film students, artists and art enthusiasts who took part.

“It was a privilege to be granted access to the long-abandoned space of Albert Hall. Much of its original splendour will no doubt be retained and restored by its new tenants, but it will never look as haunting and beautiful as it did during our time filming.”

Price puts the on-set atmospherics down to moody lighting, a smoke machine and 60 years’ worth of dust.

Some of his fellow actors had memories of the hall – once a Methodist mission centre, its current dilapidated malaise, partly overseen by a ten-metre tall pipe organ, is expected to be replaced by a bar and music venue this year.

The Margate sequences, contrastingly, represent an outside world of abandoned ships, collapsing piers and rotting, alien-like sea forts, with the theme park providing a passage between past and present.

If the value of such relics cannot be measured anymore, suggests Barba, it might be equally difficult to evaluate the real worth of the world a century later.

“Each part of the presentation focuses on different aspects of my interest in art film,” she says, positioning the film on both sides of a suspended screen at Cornerhouse and as a central work alongside wall projections at Turner Contemporary.

“It is film and history and historiography, material, sculpture, performance and all the overlapping forms in-between.

“It is my biggest and most comprehensive film project to date.”

  • Open 12pm-8pm (6pm Sunday, closed Monday except Bank Holidays). Admission free. Runs at Turner Contemporary until May 6, read our Review. Follow the gallery on Twitter @CornerhouseMcr.

More pictures:

A black and white photo of a pair of marble balls on top of an old projector
Boundaries of Consumption (2012). 16mm projector, film cans, two metal globes© Rosa Barba
An overhead photo showing groups of people in suits making plans inside a warehouse
Subconscious Society (2013). Film still© Rosa Barba
A photo of a black projector beaming the words what or who onto a screen
Coro Spezzato: The Future Lasts One Day (2009). Installation. Five 16mm color films, five modified projectors on pedestals, five mins each. Installation view at Making Worlds, 53rd Venice Biennale, Palazzo delle Esposizione, Giardini (2009) © Rosa Barba
A photo of a derelict stone building on a coast with the words dreamland welcomes you
Subconscious Society (2013). Film still© Rosa Barba
A photo of dilapidated pier-like structures on marshland looking out to a blue sea
Subconscious Society (2013). Film still© Rosa Barba
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