HISTORIES OF FUTURE PAST
The exhibition is located in a passage space in a broad corridor-like gallery. The first work encountered is a framed archive 1969 cover of the Daily Express newspaper trumpeting the moon landing with a photograph of an astronaut standing on its distant and airless surface.
This document of man’s last spatial achievement – a history of future past – appears today unreal as if it is a science fiction. Walking on Mars now seems like a high velocity dream. Outer space, as New Worlds contributor Ballard predicated with satellite accuracy, has been abandoned and our futures relocated in inner space.
The newspaper presents a rear-cover shot of our blue-green world – a once spectacular external perspective which has now become shrunken with common familiarity turning below the orbiting eyes above our Googled Earth.
CAPSULES OF TIME ACCUMULATED
Nearby the New Worlds display has the Moorcock-edited issues racked sequentially as if they were capsules of time accumulated. Like pornography for the literary the viewer feels as if they are browsing the most alluring newsagents shelves imagined. Recapturing behind glass art which bypassed the strictures of gallery exhibition and located itself in the public space of the magazine vendor, and those who didn’t ban it for its risqué ‘bugged’ out content.
There is a personal joy felt at owning a particular issue of this affordable art.
I am again struck by how far ahead the distant past can appear.
Browsing the magazine covers it is apparent that the journal’s core audience has been alienated, the conventions of genre and its silver rocket ships almost completely disregarded with wilful uncommerciality; the only notable exception being the cover of New Worlds #215 which features a C-3PO robot head even New Worlds was unable to resist, riding on the comet tails of that marketing machine to a galaxy far, far away.
PROJECTED INTO THE DARKNESS
In an adjoining room is a short documentary film by Clara Casian that comprises of an interview with New Worlds contributor, Michael Butterworth, which is projected into the darkness.
The work, beautifully shot and edited has more filmic assurance than her film for Corridor #2 which became a documentary by circumstance and is comprised of a self-contained section of a proposed expanded documentary on England’s modern history of innovative publishing.
Butterworth is charming and articulate in what is his first screen interview. There are great human moments captured by the glass eye such as his embarrassed pleasure reading aloud from a very complimentary letter he had received from Ballard.
This poses an interesting question. While an interview can be an act of art for the interviewee I have to wonder if the recorded document of that interview is exhibitable art itself. Regardless it is enjoyable to watch from the soft comfort of the domestic armchairs provided.
In time I depart the gallery with sequential footsteps my inner thoughts on outer space.
Image courtesy Gareth Jackson.
A digital version of Clara Casian’s documentary film can be found here: vimeo.com/152846707
Modern History Vol.III, Bury Art Museum, Bury.
19 September – 21 November 2015.