Burn, baby, burn

Incendiaries at the ready, folks – the Manchester Artists’ Bonfire, supported by Castlefield Gallery and Islington Mill Studios, is back for a second year, intended to encourage people to rethink their relationships with their work and stimulate discussion about the value of art at a time when the sector is being reconsidered in economic terms.

Launched in 2011 as a response to government cuts to the arts, the event – to be held on January 26th in Salford – calls on local artists to embrace change and make progress in their own work by burning some of their former pieces.

While to some the destruction of art in this way may conjure up images of the past, recalling a time of severe censorship when books, art and other forms of media were torched for religious, political or moral reasons, to Rosanne Robertson – organiser of the bonfire – the act symbolises moving on and taking art in a new direction.

Last year, she burnt two paintings, explaining that she felt she had finished with the medium and was keen to try something new and perhaps more uncomfortable, instead of simply returning to the same tried-and-tested practices again and again.

“Artists have a different opinion of making art than people receiving it or interacting with it,” she observed. “Lots of those involved last year viewed the burning as a sacrifice and were more concerned with what would come after it.”

Some artists do make more of a commitment than others in choosing what to burn – in 2011, one had just finished writing two books and chose to see one of his scripts go up in flames – but the desired result is always the same: progress.

This is what Ms Robertson is keen to see at the 2012 bonfire, hoping that many of the 32 artists that participated last year will return to renew their pledges and continue to make changes for the future – and the better.

Some of last year’s sacrificed art:

So what’s your opinion of burning art? Is it censorship or can it in fact be a catalyst for change?

Manchester Artists’ Bonfire

January 26th, Islington Mill, Salford, 18:00-21:00. Free.

After-party: £TBC, 21:00-01:00.


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