‘Posing the question is what we enjoy’: Manchester arts collective looks to skirt politics but chase paradise

Have you ever questioned why we do the things we do?

Manchester based M20 Collective are holding an exhibition doing exactly that, called Paradise Now.

The ambitious project, which will include 15 artists, ranging from poets to film makers, is the vision of Rachel Ferguson who says she’s been interested in the topic ever since seeing an American piece a few years ago.

“The idea originates from a radical theatre group in Manhattan,” she told MM.

“A group of actors were on stage and shouted things like ‘why aren’t I allowed to travel with my passport?’ and ‘why are there borders?’

“Then at the end they would ask ‘why do I have to wear clothes?’ and take all their clothes off, and at this point the police would shut the show down.”

Joel White, one of the Community Leaders of M20, said: “It’s all DIY, we have no budget or funding.

“We never make money, it’s about giving people opportunities to express themselves and interest with the audience.

“We want concepts to work on, so more artists want to come and ideas to make us ticket. It’s an invitation.

“The show is a simple concept. We like to facilitate ideas, that’s how we got started and that’s always the way were going to remain.”

The exhibition is all about questioning and attempting to breaking down the accepted social order.

Given the current context of the Syrian Refugee crisis, alongside Jeremy Corbyn’s election the show will be given an extra edge.

“Given how relevant the political context is, where this neo-liberal, cost-cutting isn’t working, it’s time to start asking questions again,” said Joel.

“Jeremy Corbyn putting new questions on the table is an example of this and it’s a breath of fresh air, the change is palpable on the street and finally there is a real left party with some power.

“We want to put out messages that question the status quo, and we want people to come down to seek and ask questions.

“You never think about questioning the way things are and now we’re at a time where we have to.”

Yet the group appear hesitant about calling the exhibit intrinsically political, and insist that it is not meant to push any form of agenda.

Instead it is about community, and using questions and art to build a community ethos.

Yemi Bolatiwa, another Community Leader at M20, said: “Everything that happens is political, and everything we do has an ethos.

“You can do things by working with people, and create social structures by doing things.

“It’s about learning, giving a taking what you can from situations.

“There is value in social relations, going to gigs, art exhibitions and learning and sharing with each other.

“We want to make the room with the music about social and creative engagement, with games to play and make things that keep people around, rather than just showing up, seeing the art and leaving.

“Hopefully they can create a dialogue about the idea in the space that is happening, and talk to the artist if they don’t understand or disagree.”

The artists in the show were selected after a request was made from the group for people’s interpretations of the theme, resulting in well over twenty responses.

M20 commented on how difficult it was not only to select the successful applicants.

Rachel responded by saying: “It was difficult due to the amount of submissions, but you have to be aware of what you can house, art wise.

“I liked all of them, but some didn’t fit the theme as tightly.

“You want to give the pieces room so you can appreciate them, and there are already 15 artists there.

“One of the artists who was successful has images of sponges close up, and I know that sounds naff, but they are beautiful to the point of unrecognizable.

“It’s an object of beauty and she questions how we look at things, and it becomes something completely different.”

One of the most interesting aspects of the show is the idea of paradise, and moreover whether paradise is something that is really ever attainable as it means something different to every person.

“My paradise is music, art, people and drink and that’s what we’re trying to achieve here,” said Rachel.

Joel added: “It’s ironic because artistically you can create [a paradise] in your mind, and then question it.

“But the main thing is it is about questions, not answers. Posing the question is what we enjoy.”

Paradise Now will take place on Friday September 25 at The Wonder Inn.

There will be a free viewing from 6-7pm, then a £3 entry free from 7pm, giving you full access to an array of DJs, live music and film screenings.

For more information on the M20 Collective visit: https://m20collective.wordpress.com/.

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