Head to Victoria Baths this weekend for a multisensory exhibition of films exploring what it is to be human
www.simulacra2014.com / @simulacra2014 / #SIMULACRA
Ornate mosaic floors, vivid stained glass windows and intricate terracotta tiles line the walls, floors and ceiling of Manchester’s Victoria Baths, “a water palace of which every citizen of Manchester can be proud”. A site which served the city’s citizens as actual swimming baths from 1906 to 1993, the Baths have played host to a diverse variety of sporting and cultural events both before and since their current reincarnation as a much lauded arts venue. A proud testament to the creativity and adaptability of Manchester and its people both past and present, what better place than the Victoria Baths to host Simulacra, an interdisciplinary exhibition of the final work of the 2014 MAVA (Visual Anthropology Masters) students?
This weekend, 21 students from the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology will transform the Female Pool, the Turkish Rest Room and the Turkish Baths into the backdrop against which they will project their work, host discussions between the filmmakers and anthropology/film specialists and install a number of ‘Ethnographic and Sensory Media exhibits’.
At the opening on Friday night, “a celebration of all things ethnographic”, enjoy a special welcome from anthropology professor Richard Werbner, clever choral rearrangements of popular songs from the all-female SHE choir and folky goodness from Richard Lomax. Four films will be screened: check out Living for Living, Jose Luis Fajardo’s representation of West Wales’ Lammas Ecovillage whose inhabitants are rediscovering/nurturing productive, reciprocal relationships with the land and a communal way of living most think of as long lost. See Crafting Community, an exploration of the textile industry in post-industrial Bradford and to what extent we can apply the mantra ‘making is connecting’ today. Others include Kink and Kinship for a stripped back (no pun intended!) look at sexual practices and Yours, Aye – a haggis-wielding deconstruction of Scottish identity and how it is perceived.
Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, there are films sweeping an anthropological lens over just about everything – cycling camaraderie, man’s relationship with his cows, an Estonian Orthodox clergyman who also happens to be a hardcore world and reggae music fan, one student’s Kurdish parents’ return to Kurdistan from the Diaspora, an Italian island abandoned to time, how two children from Germany and Cairo play and interact with the urban, and so much more.
Though hugely varied in topic, it’s the symmetries between the projects that strike me. Contrast for example two films about Serbian communities/individuals. Quirky anthropological ‘road flick’ Green Goddess Odyssey presents the uplifting narrative of a Serbian family recovering its own history through their journey from London to rural Serbia in a 1950s fire truck to rally the community and create a long-needed firefighting team. Whereas we find the darker vision of another side of Serbia in Another Place which explores the difficult and all too often invisible lives of Roma people living “in a shack… in an informal settlement” – a narrative unfortunately familiar to travelling communities the continent over.
Each tale is highly case-specific, but collectively they communicate something essential about life and living it. Simulacra is about celebrating the millions of human stories and the infinite ways of telling them – in a beautiful site that itself is almost as multifaceted.
Where? The Victoria Baths, Hathersage Rd, Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester M13 0FE
When? 6pm, Friday 17 October – 8pm, Sunday 19 October
How much? £0!
All screenings to be followed by a Q+A with the filmmakers
Download the full programme (pdf)
Check out the Simulacra site for more info on the filmmakers