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Blessings undisguised: part four

Submitted by on May 31, 2010 – 8:35 pmNo Comment

A problem with being out of work (yes, there are some) is that you are prone to lose track of your days. Subsequently I turned up at Cornerhouse (don’t prefix with a ‘The’ or The Doc will have a meltdown) on Thursday thinking I could catch the Wednesday Matinee, followed by a mooch around the gallery (this part would be Lester Freemans, in keeping with my week of doing something different everyday for nish).

Unfortunately, due to my non-work disposition, I had missed The Philadelphia Story by a whole day and the only film on in the next hour or so was the mainstream hit The Bad Lieutenant, which sort of defeats the object of going to (The) Cornerhouse. I had hoped to watch one of the more alternative features currently being shown, but I would have to make do with Nicolas Cage getting down and despicably dirty instead. Having said that, the big red seats in screen one are far better for slouching than those on offer elsewhere in the city centre’s other cinemas.

First of all though, I had an hour and a half to kill. So I wandered to Ho’s Bakery in China Town. I partook of the chicken sweetcorn soup and three pork buns for a combined price of £2.20. Then after that sample of the east I came back a little west by strolling around (The) Cornerhouse’s Contemporary Art Iraq exhibition.

Across the three galleries, the exhibit offered a fascinating look at Iraq in a perspective it seldom receives. Many people are guilty of seeing the region as it is portrayed on BBC News 24 or in American propaganda films (Hollywood, if you will). A war-torn country gripped by violence and rife with suicide bombers. Of course, us worldly-wise types know that there’s more to it, and the displays highlighted this.

Picture portraits of a man in traditional dress showed off the rich cultural heritage of the varying regions of the country, which was once known as the cradle of civilisation. Another group of pictures, known as Qalat, showed a man carrying a bucket of paint through the vastly differing neighbourhoods of the city of Sulaymaniyah. Meanwhile, a documentary told the story of the loss of livelihood suffered by horse-drawn cart drivers as the motorcar gradually commandeered the roads.

The highlight, however, was in gallery three and was the exhibition simply called Protest. Two video pieces showed very different approaches to raising the problems normal Iraqis face, under what we all know is effectively American occupation. Many Iraqis have been internally displaced and due to their birthplaces, they are not able to vote in their own country. Artists Mohammad Sale Rostamzadeh (his middle name was in reference to the Cheshire suburb where he was conceived…we wish this was true) and Wrya Budaghi highlight their plight with performance. In Iraq, voting takes place by placing a black fingerprint on to white paper, so they covered their hands and faces in white paint to show they were unable to ‘leave a mark’ and set about creating some comic situations, watched by passers by.

The other documentary recorded members of the public taking to the streets in protest against a busy road junction that had seen many people killed. Traffic, by Gailan Abdullah, showed people forming a human roundabout in the city of Erbil to force motorists to adhere to a new road system. A daring and dangerous way to make a point and one that proves there are far more issues affecting civilians than dodging scud missiles.

The most heart-warming sculpture on display was one called Memories from War, by Zana Rasul Mohammed. It showed how Iraqi Kurds used discarded bullet boxes as bookcases in their homes, as they couldn’t acquire the real things. Despite the ravages of war and internal wrangling across their region, which left them unable to gain access to even the simple furniture we take for granted, these people were determined that they would continue to educate themselves and carry on furthering their knowledge through reading. Even if that meant having to use soldiers’ cast-off equipment to house the books.

Leaving this thought behind, I crossed the road to watch Cage being cagey in the film of the moment. It was quite good to be honest. After I’d moved three times to get away from the varying annoying gaggles of students intent on giggling their way through the whole picture, that is. The stand-out scene involved the bent copper, played cagily by Cage, following a young drugged-up couple out of a club so he could search them and steal their dope. He ended up getting a wrap of coke, a rock of crack and a shag. Cage, wracked with back pain following a good deed at the start of the film, was a crack, cocaine and heroin addict. He plays it well, but how someone as disturbed and weird-looking as his character could get so much lady action is anyone’s guess.

It was certainly a day of contrasts. Next up was a short trip to Chorlton for the arts festival. Bet you can’t fuckin wait…

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