Last July, as part of the Manchester International Festival, Turner Prize-nominated artist Phil Collins returned Friedrich Engels to the city where he made his name – in the form of a Soviet-era statue, driven across Europe and permanently installed outside HOME.
Ceremony was a singular moment in our city’s history, for which performers, musicians and the people of Manchester created an extraordinary live film to bring MIF17 to a close, mixing footage from the statue’s journey with live coverage of its inauguration. The welcome celebration included a soundtrack by Mica Levi and Demdike Stare, a new anthem by Gruff Rhys, and stories of today’s Manchester workers filmed by Collins during his year-long MIF17 residency.
The Russian Revolution took place in 1917, in a country exhausted by the First World War. The event shaped the political landscape of the 20th century. But it was in Manchester, not Imperial Russia, that the idea of communism was born.
Friedrich Engels, co-founder of communist theory with his friend Karl Marx, lived in Manchester for 20 years. His philosophy was shaped by what he observed in the world’s first industrial city, where in 1845, he wrote his seminal book The Condition of the Working Class in England.
Over the course of a year, Collins collaborated with local organisations, activists and communities to explore Engels’ legacy and the lives of workers today. Collins describes Ceremony as “the search for a statue of Engels and its journey back home, the everyday stories of people from Manchester, and a homecoming party to inaugurate the statue, with Russia’s 1917 revolution as a pivotal moment in the process.”
The second part of Ceremony, part of 14-18 NOW, the five-year programme of cultural events to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, is a film interweaving these three strands – connecting Manchester to the idea of communism, which transformed the post-war world and helped to shape the society we live in today. The film is presented as a gallery installation at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art (Fri 22 Jun – Sun 30 Sep 2018), in our main gallery here at HOME (Sat 7 Jul – Sun 19 Aug 2018), and MAC Belfast (Fri 10 Aug – Sun 28 Oct 2018).
Ceremony is co-commissioned by 14-18 Now, HOME, and the Manchester International Festival; produced by HOME, the Manchester International Festival, Shady Lane Productions and Tigerlily Productions; and supported by Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence, the BBC, the Henry Moore Foundation and My Festival Circle.