Life Rainy Manchester today, because sometimes I need to be in a different city that I also love even if only for a few hours. One of the reasons was to see the newly refurbished central library, which was packed full of people but I didn't really enjoy. The interior is, well, messy and and apart from study rooms on the upper floors no longer seems like a place where someone could study in private. As is the case now and see also the reversioning of Liverpool and Birmingham libraries, the trend is for wide open floors filled with distractions. My taste is for claustrophobic spaces away from the world where you're not being gawped at every second by people wandering through wondering what you're doing.
With its interactive displays, hundreds of computers and a general sense of the books being pushed to the margins (generally the basement) it has all the elements of an architectural discussion document about what constitutes a library in the electronic age with its findings section ripped out and skipped. There's also the disappointment that some of the more impressive spaces have been grabbed by the local authority to turn into a council contact centre and although that's presumably very convenient for local residents means it's essentially a big version of the branch libraries in Liverpool which have been merged with one stop shops. Thank goodness there's a BFI Mediatheque. Oh to have one of those in Liverpool.
Not that that this was a wasted journey, or twelve pounds for the train ticket. Currently at Manchester Art Gallery, the Portugese artist Joana Vasoncelos, is presenting her wonders throughout the building and in particular her large scale vehicle works as part of a paid exhibition just one item of which alone is worth the £6 entrance fee. There's a photograph here if you're not in the area or don't mind being spoilt but if you are visiting, it's best without any prior knowledge. For the rest of you, what we have here in "Lilicopter", is a helicopter, covered in gold leaf and Swarovski crystals, ostrich feathers dyed pink to evoke flamingo feathers with an interior with a steampunk interior, with metal trimmings minutely painted to mimic wood, covered in tapestries.
Oh how I giggled as a wandered about this beautiful object, oh how I thought it was one of the most remarkable objects I've ever seen, because it is. It's the opposite of the tsk art I so hate. Even once the punchline is reached, once the understanding of what the artist is trying to accomplish, it remains a beautiful object. The artist says she was trying to create the helicopter Marie Antoinette might have used if such things were possible. It's not the real Marie, I don't suppose but the one played by Kirsten Dunst in the Sofia Coppola film. Either that, or it's the kind of thing which would turn up in a live action film version of My Little Pony directed by Wes Anderson. Does that mean this is excellent production design rather than great art? On this occasion, I'm not sure it matters, but it's truly a candyshop for the eyes.
From there to the usual shops, to Affleck's Palace and Vinyl Exchange where for old times sake I purchased a copy of the Young Adult soundtrack and a dvd of Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret, the three hour version. I do worry about Vinyl Exchange. Used to be that even on an ordinary weekday and especially near lunchtime it would be packed. There were few of us in today looking through the racks and racks which look to be filled with an aging stock now that review copies are presented as downloads and presumably there are less cds in circulation anyway. But the basement where the actual vinyl is kept sounded lively, and we're all being told that vinyl is back in fashion so perhaps it'll survive against the digital onslaught. Unlike some libraries.