described by m.e.n as 'an elaborate carpet design in specially scented and colourful flowers' and 'an artistic nod to the city's Cottonopolis past', i have watched with interest its development from the laying of long rolls of turf last weekend to the laborious efforts of over 100 volunteers as the intricate design took shape along the lengths of lush turf. consequently i am somewhat loath to be the sort of smart arse who would pour scorn on such an ambitious looking artwork for the city, especially one that ostensibly brings colour, beauty and green life into an urban landscape with precious little of these! but from the outset something has been troubling me which today’s vigorous brushing only magnified.
the second clue is its ephemerality, built-in decay and obsolescence, the whiff of wasted effort and money overpowering any scent from the 60,000 imported and cut chrysanthemums! ephemerality in itself of course isn’t a flawed concept – it’s a familiar one in locational, site situated art practice, its very unexpectedness or wrong place-ness jolting the passer-by into the contemplation of something otherwise easily overlooked. no, the concern is the woefully missed opportunity in the growing and importing of so many beautiful flowers simply to be cut and dyed to create a pretence, an indulgence, an urban folly. the futility of this feverish activity for a 4 day installation is perhaps symptomatic of an ongoing shortsightedness and lack of vision of the city authorities and its various partners, quangos and funding bodies that borders on bloody mindedness, even a form of vandalism. the carpet itself is of course well intentioned and beautifully executed - part of a wider european tradition of floral carpets - and whilst i'm not suggesting the laying of this one perpetrates any vandalism, it does reflect a wider policy of the council to litter the city and its surroundings with a variety of short lived floral displays in expensive and invariably ugly planters that once withered serve only to emphasis our disconnection with nature.
that carpet should be the city’s prime installation at the same time as the truly inspiring urban gardening exhibition is a best a coincidence, at worse a feeble attempt to pull the damask wool carpet over our collective eyes, fooling us into believing it is actually engaging with the issues, projects and valiant efforts illustrated at urbis, some grassroots, others largescale but all achieving green revolutions in cities across the world.
as the introduction to urban gardening points out,
wow, they could be describing Manchester today - and that can’t simply be brushed under a giant floral carpet…