The introduction provides a general outline of the book. It is divided into four sections, with each part clarifying the author’s approach to the study of art in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, as it revolves around new practices, institutions, and norms introduced by the SCCA network. The introduction begins with clarifying the author’s position vis-à-vis the figure of George Soros – the Hungarian-American financial speculator and philanthropist who had played a key role in the postsocialist reforms of the 1990s. The introduction states that the book does not study Soros as a personal figure, or his other activities, but only focuses on one art program, proceeding then to clarify its political position and critical interventions. It insists that this criticism must not be confused with current right-wing attacks on key liberal figures and institutions, but it is rather a critique formulated from the position of the left, which has traditionally approached art as an intrinsic part of social reality. The next section states the thesis and the intended contribution, offering a general introduction to the cultural context of Eastern Europe in the 1990s. This section also announces that the book builds upon the urgency of turning attention to the radical transformations taking place in the art of the 1990s, suggesting that its key motivation is the study of the relation between “contemporary art,” the ideological universe of liberal democracy, and neoliberalism. Finally, the introduction discusses the book’s method, concluding with a general outline of its five chapters.
Founded in 1421, the Collegiate Church of Manchester, which became a cathedral in 1847, is of outstanding historical and architectural importance. But until now it has not been the subject of a comprehensive study. Appearing on the 600th anniversary of the Cathedral’s inception by Henry V, this book explores the building’s past and its place at the heart of the world's first industrial city, touching on everything from architecture and music to misericords and stained glass. Written by a team of renowned experts and beautifully illustrated with more than 100 photographs, this history of the ‘Collegiate Church’ is at the same time a history of the English church in miniature.
Between the Reformation and the Restoration Manchester Collegiate Church was dissolved twice, in 1547 and 1649, restored twice, in 1556 and 1660, and all but dissolved twice, in 1559 and 1609, requiring two further re-foundations, in 1578 and 1635. This confused history reflected a national church in which there was no agreed role for a collegiate church like Manchester. That uncertainty had a profound effect on the institution and its personnel, for even when the college was not facing the immediate threat of dissolution, it was never placed on a secure footing for long. This chapter helps us understand the nature of the Elizabethan and early Stuart Church, the character of ‘puritanism’, and the role of Manchester’s Collegiate Church in the Civil War. The chapter also aids our understanding of mid-seventeenth century events, where the Manchester Presbyterian classis evolved from within rather than from outside the religious establishment. Most collegiate churches and cathedrals were badly damaged during this period as a result of Cromwellian iconoclasm, but Manchester’s Collegiate Church was almost totally unscathed, and, as the chapter notes, Manchester is the only example where a ‘Cathedral-type foundation led the Parliamentarians’.
Funerary memorials provide important insights into a community’s religious beliefs and observances, as well as the wider social and political attitudes of the times in which they were created. What is evident from this chronological overview of the memorials in Manchester Cathedral is that only a relatively small number of memorials were ever installed inside the building. This is due to a number of factors, including the limited floor and wall space available and the actions of those who controlled those spaces. Building and restoration work, especially since the nineteenth century, further reduced the available space and resulted in the removal of memorials. The funerary monuments were not only small in number but in their form essentially derivative. Brass memorial plaques were mostly conventional in design and characterised by a calligraphy that was pleasing but typical. Changes in more recent decades may warrant a more positive assessment, but for those visiting the Cathedral it is usually other features of the exterior and interior rather than the historically revealing memorials that attract their attention.
The Eagle and Child, the Elephant and Castle, the Angel, the Lion, the Stag and the Unicorn – not a list of public houses located in and around Manchester, but some of the misericords in Manchester Cathedral, dating from the very early sixteenth century and amongst the finest in England. Misericords, those carved images found under the choir stalls, offer glances of the ordinary, the real, the imagined, and the fantastic. They highlight hidden worlds and tell tales from the edge; they are the wooden equivalent of the marginalia in illuminated manuscripts. This chapter offers an analysis of the misericords of Manchester, describing the carvings and providing a context in which to understand the images and their meanings.
This chapter provides the first comprehensive account of the role of music in the life of Manchester Collegiate Church and Cathedral from the fifteenth century to the present. Provision for music was made from the start, and early documents list four clerks and six choristers among its officers. Evidence for what the choir sang is limited until well into the nineteenth century. No choir or organ book is known to have survived, and information rests on chance references and sporadic music publications. From 1863, when the Precentor’s Registers begin, the situation was transformed. From then on all music performed at each service is identified, and the result is a record, unique to this Cathedral, of what was actually sung. With the twentieth century came a sense that the Cathedral was taking stock, both of itself and its relationships with the city of Manchester and beyond; the twenty-first century is concerned with renewal: and at every stage music is involved. As a result, provision for music, be it musicians, instruments, or repertoire, can be seen as a mirror to this institution. Though driven in part by its own aesthetic, music presents an acutely sensitive indicator of an institution’s health, wealth, standing, relationships, and liturgical proclivities – and through it can be traced the changes to each.
This chapter offers for discussion some aspects of research related to the rise and evolution of the SCCA network, as it was roughly outlined above. The main goal of this project is not one of historical recreation, but to identify certain fissures or ruptures that led to critical structural permutations in the process of artistic production during the transition to capitalism. The chapter’s title, “New norms and procedures,” is a direct reference to what some former employers and observers believe to have been the main contribution of these organizations in the constitution of the new paradigm of “contemporary art.” And while the latter has been advertised and promoted as the “art of the open society,” or as the “free art concept” (whose ideological underpinnings are discussed in the next chapter in the context of Cold War liberalism), here I examine some of the new patterns and norms of this new paradigm, by drawing on examples of art exhibitions and artistic activities produced within different hubs of the Soros art network during the 1990s. Such new institutional practices include, for example, the advent of the role or job of “the curator,” and the format of a “curated exhibition.” Both the curatorial job and format are believed to have been one of the most noticeable and lasting impacts of the Soros network’s Annual Exhibition program, discussed in this chapter along with some of the most dominant artistic and curatorial themes of the 1990s.
The postsocialist contemporary intervenes, from the historical perspective of Eastern Europe, in a wider conversation about “contemporary art.” It departs from, and revolves around, a concrete case in which a program called “for contemporary art” was assembled on the debris of the Berlin Wall by the Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros. The Soros Centers for Contemporary Art (SCCA) was a network of twenty art centers active during the 1990s in Eastern Europe. The book argues that this program played an important role in the actualization of the paradigm of contemporary art in the former bloc. The main goal of this study, however, is not to recreate the narrative but to take this Soros-funded art infrastructure as a critical point of inquiry in order to engage with key permutations occurring in art during the transition to capitalism. The book argues that with the implementation of Western art institutional models and norms by Soros, and other players after 1989, a radical departure takes place in the art of this region: a departure from an art that (officially at least) provided symbolic empowerment to the masses, toward an art that affirms the interests, needs, desires, and “freedom” of the private individual acting within the boundaries of the bourgeois civil society and the market. The book considers the “postsocialist contemporary” in a broader context of late twentieth-century political, economic, and cultural processes of (neo) liberalization, promoting and encouraging more critical historical materialist examinations of “contemporary art” – the dominant aesthetic paradigm of late-capitalist market democracy.
This chapter examines the history and architecture of the parish church before it was made into a Collegiate Church, assessing the archaeological and manuscript evidence. It explores the evidence for the first dating of the church, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book as St Mary. Between the turn of the thirteenth century and the middle of the fourteenth, successive phases of building transformed the earlier church into a substantial structure probably equalling the present Cathedral in length. The rebuilding of the church is reflected in the revenue of the benefice by this period. Manchester was a large parish, covering sixty square miles and later containing thirty townships. By the thirteenth century, the surroundings of the church were also being transformed as Manchester developed as a place of economic importance. One reason given for the foundation of the Collegiate Church in 1421 was the neglect of the parish by absentee rectors or their appointees. The decline of the Hanging Ditch into a rubbish dump on the church’s own doorstep may itself reflect the lack of a strong clerical authority in those preceding years.
How Eastern Europe got the idea of contemporary art
The main aim of this chapter is to provide a summary of the institutional context and history of the SCCA network. And even though the book does not aim at providing a full historical reconstruction of the “Soros contemporary” – given the diverse complexity of this program implemented in eighteen countries – a general outline of the narrative is still necessary in order to proceed (in the next chapters) to examine the structural transformations credited to the Soros art network. The chapter is divided into four parts, starting with a general overview of the network’s mission, values, objectives, and achievements; a concise discussion of the Soros Fine Arts Documentation Center, a small program established in the mid-1980s and which later served as a blueprint for the network; an examination of the general process of bureaucratic implementation of the SCCA centers; and an overview of the joined programs but also some major differences between these twenty centers. The chapter also discusses particular instruments used in the implementation of the program, such as the “SCCA Procedures Manual” which consisted of a set of instructions on how to open a center for contemporary art, headed by the logo of the SCCA network. These institutional elements are offered as examples of what united and negotiated the local nodes within this regional and trans-regional network.