True Faith is part of this summer's Manchester International Festival
Later this summer, New Order will play a series of gigs at the Manchester International Festival – during which they’ll deconstruct and reimagine some of their most recognisable material as well as deep cuts for dedicated fans.
To run alongside the shows, True Faith, a unique visual art exhibition, will showcase pieces of artworks from all over the globe that have been influenced by Joy Division and New Order, including paintings, photography, visual clips and more.
We spoke to Fiona Corridan of Manchester Art Gallery, who alongside acclaimed journalist Jon Savage, curator Matthew Higgs, archivist Johan Kugelberg, Factory and Manchester icon Peter Saville, has crafted the ultimate destination for New Order-influenced art, to find out about the exhibition.
New Order and Joy Division are an intrinsic part of Manchester’s cultural heritage. Did that put a lot of pressure on you to get this exhibition right?
“It is really important that we get this right, yeah. The band and Peter Saville are obviously both from the North West, and all the music and the visuals are rooted in this region, but the work that’s come out of that tends to be international. So we’re looking at artists from the States and from Europe that have responded to this band or this movement from Manchester. I think it’s really quite interesting that the artworks represented are primarily from around the world rather than from the city. But then also within the exhibition we are gonna have some of the original albums with a bit of narrative from Peter Saville about some of the content. So you’ll have that kind of Manchester voice.”
What surprised you the most pulling this exhibit together?
“I think what has been surprising is discovering that there are still artists making work inspired by Joy Division particularly – people are really drawn to Ian Curtis as a figure, and the music, in addition to still being inspired by New Order and what they do now.”
Do you think part of the reason New Order still have an edge is because of that very conscious link between art and music?
“They’re trying to confound expectations the whole time and create something new, which is brilliant. I mean that’s a gift for artists, that you’re not standing still, you’re responding to what’s happening in term of technology, or within the art world, or socially. It seems to embody all of that. The other thing that’s been really interesting on working on this show has been talking to Peter Saville about the beginnings of some of this. He had this phrase, ‘the autonomous opportunity’, which Tony Wilson fostered, before Factory and then within Factory, that you have all these talented, creative people, brought together. Peter was interested in the visuals within art and design, Jules was in art and design, the band were obviously into music, and they did their thing, he did his, but when they came together, this magic was created. But it wasn’t necessarily that they were working together to develop both of the things side by side.”
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They’ve been very up-front with their new upcoming gigs, saying ‘we’re not gonna play all the hits.’ They’re going to be reinterpreting their material.
“And It’s still completely sold-out!”
Do you think that attitude is reflected in the exhibition? Will people rediscover the band in a totally new way?
“Yeah a lot of the works that people are gonna see, they might not have seen them in this country before. It is an artist’s response to what they think the band is or what the music is, or who those individuals are. It will probably be quite surprising. And I think because there’s a real mix of things in there, there’s painting, there’s photography, there’s installations and then we’re also creating a space where we’re gonna show the music videos in a way that you would see an artists’ film. It will feel very much like an art show so you’re kind of seeing a slightly different side to the band.”
How involved were the band with the project?
“They’ve seen the visuals of what it is and they saw the proposal from the curators, which they were on board with and they’ve seen reproductions of the artwork that we’re planning to include. But it’s very much a curated show that they’re looking forward to seeing but they’re not directly involved with the way it’s shaped or anything like that.”
So they’ve been pretty hands off?
“They give artists and filmmakers that creative freedom to make something and trust them. So I suppose they’re doing the same thing with us, which is nice.
Is there a potential to take the exhibition on tour?
“I think we’d love to, yeah. I think there might be some potential with the international festival, to take it to Europe. There’s a couple of venues they might be talking to at the moment. There are some issues with a few of the artworks that they might not be able to tour, so for instance we’re borrowing the basket of roses that’s on the cover of ‘Power, Corruption and Lies’, and I don’t know whether the National Gallery would be that keen on that making a world tour.
If it does tour, it might shift a bit, it might be that other works are introduced, or other newer works. If it went over to New York, there might be more American art represented, for instance, or in Europe, the same thing. The [Manchester International] Festival are brilliant at doing that.”
So is it Manchester’s version of The David Bowie ‘Is’ exhibition?
“Don’t put that pressure on us! We’re not the V&A…”
True Faith will run at the Manchester Art Gallery from 29 June – 3 September. Find out more info here.