‘A Body Politic by The Name of The Guild of St Luke’ 2023.
As part of the group show 'Archives at Play 2', Castlefield Gallery, Manchester.
Artists: George Gibson & Grace Collins, Gherdai Hassell, Anna FC Smith, Alistair Woods. Curated by Thomas Dukes.
Exhibition website: https://www.castlefieldgallery.co.uk/event/archives-at-play-2/
This installation is a mythological imagining of Castlefield gallery as a ritualistic social body in the guise of a medieval artist guild. The works emerge from the archives, where statements of intention, civic interaction, dry procedural routine and records of public exhibition play out in symbolic dimensions.
Castlefield gallery archives document the intentions and actions of individual artists who have come together in “joint effort” to form one social body in response to the economic and social climate of Manchester in the early 80s. Articles speak of their “growing sense of identity and purpose” and their aim to have an integrated role in society - demonstrating local pride by presenting the wealth of talent in the community. Like the guild which was a restricted body with its values infinitely extendable.
All the pieces I made in Archives At Play 2 represent the idea of gallery functioning as a social body, and the layers of social organisation that it functions within.
The bull represents the mythical body of the collective within the social body of the city of Manchester. The bull being in Castlefield Gallery’s first logo and the symbol of the painter’s guild of St Luke. “The constitution of an animal must be regarded as resembling that of a well-governed city state” (Aristotle)
The formalisation of their collective enterprise is displayed in the procedures of the meeting minutes.
Guilds Communicated their ideals through the processions, plays and feasts - as Castlefield does through its shows and gatherings. The fraternity aspect of Castlefield is expressed in the archive article ‘helping hand for budding artists’ and the friends scheme. The Christmas party was used for Castlefield's AGM in early 80s, this encouraged attendance. In the mediaval and Early Modern eras the “Feast is [was] the tangible expression of companionship of the guild”
Guild pageants were formal proclamations of the civic role and status of the guilds. “Ritual is an affective and visual way to reaffirm the incorporation into a social body, projecting both the aspirations and the tensions”