Where Jon Corré – son of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren (former manager of the Sex Pistols) – burned £5m worth of rare punk memorabilia in November 2016, Manchester International Festival chose a different way of marking the legacy of two bands that sprang from the movement, and were inspired by the Sex Pistols in particular.
The festival’s lead exhibition, True Faith, captures the ongoing significance of Joy Division and New Order through visual art that has been inspired by the music they created. Diverging from the tired way in which both bands are name-dropped as evidence of Manchester and Salford’s legendary music scene, MIF has recruited the work of some outstanding contemporary artists for an exhibition curated by punk archivist Johan Kugelberg (who helped found punk archives at Yale and Cornell Universities), prolific curator Matthew Higgs, and writer, broadcaster and music journalist Jon Savage – whose history of the Sex Pistols and punk, England’s Dreaming won the Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award.
True Faith, named after a 1987 New Order song, spans four decades of works by artists including Turner Prize-winner Mark Leckey (who say Joy Division by accident in Liverpool), Liam Gillick – who were also part of the creative team behind New Order + Liam Gillick: So it goes…, a series of intimate shows by New Order at Old Granada Studios – Slater Bradley, Julian Schnabel and second Turner Prize-winner Jeremy Deller. Bradley is notable for having used a double (Benjamin Brock) to perform concerts by ‘fallen heroes’ including Joy Division’s Ian Curtis in his Doppelganger Trilogy, while Gillick’s works to date include AC/DC Joy Division House, an installation with lyrics inscribed into its walls.
The exhibition also includes seminal cover designs by Peter Saville, performance films, music videos and posters by the likes of Barbara Kruger (who produced a poster for New Order’s ‘The Perfect Kiss’ single), Kathryn Bigelow (of The Hurt Locker fame, who parodied glam metal groups from the era in her music video for New Order’s ‘Touched by the Hand of God’ song), John Baldessari, Laurence Weiner, Jonathan Demme and Robert Longo.