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Manchester Apocalypse: Death Of Our City

Jonathan Schofield looks at James Chadderton's destructive exhibition

Published on December 5th 2011.

Manchester Apocalypse: Death Of Our City

MANKIND has always found appeal in the endgame.

There's something clean and thereuptic in imagining the whole thing gone, blown away, all the vanity and pride of human ambition reduced to a backdrop for deer to graze in and crows to wheel through.

At the same time the apocalyptic vision gives us a shiver of terror, allows us to measure the fragility of our sophisticated way of life.

James Chadderton has smashed Manchester up. The Town Hall is a blasted husk, Urbis is a shattered shell, the Palace Theatre is wrecked. There are no people, they are killed or gone, the streets are empty.

To scare ourselves this way is an ancient tradition.

It starts with the Tower of Babel being cast down by a vengeful Jehovah in the Old Testament.

In English it's present right at the beginning of the language in the magnificent eighth century Anglo-Saxon poem The Ruin - click here.

Centuries later during the Grand Tour young British aristocrats would contemplate the ruins of Rome and muse big on the fall of empire - would that be the fate of the British Empire? Back home they built elegant ruins to close off views in the gardens of their country houses to give them more thinking time.

Visually the tradition gained mass popularity in a series of nineteenth century views of London in ruins. Gustav Dore's 1872 print, 'A traveller contemplating the ruins of London', shown below, was a sensation. 


Today the apocalyptic vision is everywhere, we're living in a Golden Age of wishing it all away. Somebody needs to set the psychologists loose to work out why. Maybe it's just easier to do special effects in 2011.

You can see Armageddon in Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, in I am Legend, in 28 Days Later and hundreds and hundreds of other novels, games and movies, the latter usually by the tedious Roland Emmerich. 

Now James Chadderton has smashed Manchester up.

The Town Hall is a blasted husk, the Palace Theatre is wrecked. Urbis, the best of the sequence, is a shattered shell. There are no people, they are killed or gone, the streets are empty.

Manchester is dead.


Chadderton admits to being influenced by films and computer games and finding appeal in "human wastelands where the buildings have been left to decay."

His digitally delivered images are fun to view and allow Mancunians to contemplate the fall of their own city. They could be the perfect Christmas present for the twisted mind.

Ok, they are a little rough round the edges, there could have been more care shown in the execution, maybe more detail added. Roaming wild animals would have been welcome. But there are good things too.

Memento MoriMemento MoriDore in his London picture left a single signboard reading enigmatically 'Commercial Wharf'. The traveller in his picture ponders how all the energy and business has disappeared. It's a memento mori, the skull's head on the table of the scholar, reminding us of, not only our civilisation's fall but, our own death: nothing will last, least of all us. It's a neat trick designed to give the image intensity, make it personal.

In Chadderton's mischievous vision 'The Printworks' sign is left hanging above the ruins of the city. A different type of memento mori. Maybe the end of days is not too bad after all. Think of all those 2-4-1 offers, all that Saturday night vomit. Time for a fresh start, right?  

All in all, this exhibition at Incognito Gallery is more than worth a look, and comes with an added bonus courtesy of the site. Incognito lies in an old bank, and the Manchester Apocalypse show is housed in the old vault.

Very I am Legend.

It's as though down there a survivor is attempting to make his lonely existence bearable by painting the empty, dead streets above. A warning to the future spelling out very clearly that Time will tear down whatever we build.

Incognito Gallery is at 5 Stevenson Square, Northern Quarter, City. M1 1DN. 0161 228 7999. You can buy large prints for £350 framed and signed. Smaller prints come in at £135, and there are even postcards for £2. The gallery is open Monday-Saturday 10am-5.30pm, Sunday noon-4pm

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield







Vault, images and curator Gina Hewitt

Vault, images and curator Gina Hewitt

Incognito 022

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45 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

David WolstenholmeDecember 5th 2011.

Very scary! I thought i'd seen the same thing in Liverpool but it turns out I was in Liverpool

7 Responses: Reply To This...
Hall of Hall HallDecember 5th 2011.

Beatifully put. I made the same mistake

MancscouserDecember 5th 2011.

Such scenes of destruction are caused by stupid people who don't have the wit to control their uncalled for comments. Liverpool and Manchester are two fantastic cities and can do without stupid comments. I'm really impressed by the pictures by the way. They're very good and thought provoking. Well done James Chadderton.

AnonymousDecember 5th 2011.

Liverpool is by far a more beautiful city than Manchester

AnonymousDecember 5th 2011.

You obviously haven't been to Liverpool recently then! I visited it for the first time in years last year, and was astounded at the regeneration of the city.

Philip AtkinsonDecember 6th 2011.

Regardless of whether it's true or not, it's one of the finest quotes i've heard all year,Splendid. Well don DW

AnonymousDecember 6th 2011.

Clearly you need to read more, Philip.

AnonymousDecember 8th 2011.

It was clearly a joke, a funny one at that. Clearly you need to go out more, Anonymous ^. Go to the pub, have a laugh with your mates if that's an option.

Stephen NewtonDecember 5th 2011.

Looks a bit juvenile.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 9th 2011.

No, you just dislike the aesthetics of a post apocalyptic Earth.

AnonymousDecember 5th 2011.

Wish someone would smash the facking wheel to be honest

Simon BoothDecember 5th 2011.

Great pictures - agree about the wheel. Time for it to move on.....

Kevin PeelDecember 5th 2011.

Fantastic, and right round the corner from me too. Will be popping in this weekend!

Sue Porter shared this on Facebook on December 5th 2011.
CJDecember 5th 2011.

The Confidential campaign against the extended parking included a petition which gained more than 6,000 signatories. This was ignored more or less completely by the city council...

2 Responses: Reply To This...
James SpencerDecember 5th 2011.

did the failure to organize a parking campaign effectively make the buildings fall down in Chadderton's pictures

CJDecember 7th 2011.

... death of our city...

AnonymousDecember 5th 2011.

Exhibition is rubbish. Really good and well written article though. I know the artist and seriously, he does not know how to think. Teeny brain! In fact there's no thought behind any of it. He just copies stuff from video games - mainly Fallout. He literally photoshops photos. It's all very derivative and lacking in imagination.

7 Responses: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldDecember 6th 2011.

Anon everybody's entitled to their opinion of course and as I say there are faults. But for all those Chadderton has one thing on his side - he did the first Manchester Apocalypse pictures that I know; these ones. Originality can mask a lot of sins.

GimboidDecember 6th 2011.

Kind of missing the point - they look cool. No-one cares about your sad personal dispute. Get a life.

AnonymousDecember 7th 2011.

Firstly - hiding as 'anonymous' then slagging someone off that 'you know' kind of makes you out to be a weak and bitter fool.

Secondly - I am interesting in seeing you do better. Something tells me that you are jealous because you know you can't. Yeah it's Photoshop, but to use the program properly, you need skill and expertise.

AnonymousDecember 7th 2011.

By the way...that last comment was me. I aint afraid to hide behind anonomity. I just clicked the wrong buttong

AnonymousDecember 7th 2011.


AnonymousDecember 8th 2011.

Why do they look cool? Will Smith is cool. I am Legend is cool. Issac Assimov and his comtemporaries are cool. Why are they cool? Cuse they made us think and made us think about things in ways that we hadn't before. What do these make you think about? Not much hey?

AnonymousDecember 8th 2011.

Isnt calling yourself GIMPBOD pretty much the same as being ANON? Pot kettle...
Why can't i have my opinion? I went to Uni with the artist who the article is about. I dont think he's any good. Thats just my ponion. I can use photoshop very well i work as a Graphic Designer and also run theatre workshops for young people. I chose to express myself in a different media form when I express mselfy artistically. Theres no personal dispute sorry.

AnonymousDecember 5th 2011.

They're also badly photoshopped. Weaklydone and lacking in detail. Look closely and you can easily identify that he can't do detail very well. Like the wheel where its broken is all wrong. Any engineer can tell you that. Anything he cant do, or because he does it very quickly, he does blurrily. The scenes lack definition and it's all very inelegant.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
CB1December 6th 2011.

Urbis is the best. That's the most convincing. But they are rushed.

GimboidDecember 6th 2011.

Have you, or anyone else, done the same thing better?

AnonymousDecember 5th 2011.

Why did my comments get deleted?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldDecember 6th 2011.

We never delete unless you've been personal in a really nasty way.

Bill SullivanDecember 6th 2011.

Thought the article was very thought provoking. It was also like a history lesson, much better than the crap we got taught at school.
Bill Sullivan

Jenny PDecember 6th 2011.

Love them. Or rather the theme. Great fun as the article says to imagine the end of the world.

Tom NorwoodDecember 6th 2011.

"Urbis Destroyed", that has already happened! Did this city need a cruddy football museum, or a vibrant, evloving cultural hub!!

Living with dumbskulls...

1 Response: Reply To This...
MagurdracDecember 6th 2011.

Agreed... they've ruined one of the most culturally important buildings in Manchester.

AnonymousDecember 6th 2011.

I danced a merry dance when I saw that image of a devastated Printworks.

Then I realised it wasn't actually real. Shame.

Charlie ButterworthDecember 6th 2011.

Tom are you really living with dumbskulls? Maybe you should move. I myself am looking forward to a popularist museum than one for the culture vultures

5 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 6th 2011.

I agree with Tom.

Ryan O'hanlonDecember 6th 2011.

I LOVE football... but I agree with Tom

GimboidDecember 6th 2011.

You clearly NEVER went, Charlie. An exhibition all about Granada telly? One about video games? Another about UK hip hop? Another about Manga? Hardly the refined interests of the chattering classes. Unless you think anything above footy fucking and fighting is getting a bit pretentious?

Charlie ButterworthDecember 6th 2011.

Gimboid you clearly never looked at the audience when I went. The exhibitions were good the marketing was poor. The audience was typical middle minded. And for Gawd sake a supposed interest in the pursuits of the urban classes is exactly chattering class. To put Hip Hop in a gallery is so deadening for Hip Hop.

AnonymousDecember 6th 2011.

Golly gosh, with all these classes I don't know where I am next. Can I be a chatty urbanite or an urban chatterer? I agree that Urbis was marketed poorly, but as museums go it was one of the most accessible, hardly one for the culture-vultures. Changing it into a football museum does not improve the marketing. And populist, yes, but popular, no. I presume, as you're so keen, you've been many times to the museum in Preston. Very few other people have, in fact less people than visit Urbis. But thank you, I had been wondering who the hell would go to a museum about football - I love football but can't imagine anything so dull as to go to a museum about it.

MagurdracDecember 6th 2011.

Charlie, the whole point of the Urbis was that they had exhibitions to suit ALL tastes previously, which meant it served not only to attract tourists, but also repeat visitors from within the local community.

Now it stands to become a one-visit museum for many of us. Surely the whole point of a cultural building is as an educational hub which broadens people's horizons beyond the mundane and routine?

Charlie ButterworthDecember 6th 2011.

Nope that sounds so tedious. Culture is another word for enjoyment with knowledge. Fuck broadening people's horizons, do we simply enjoy and learn a bit? That's enough.

AnonymousDecember 9th 2011.

Ohhhhhh GIMPBOD is the artist!

AnonymousDecember 18th 2011.

Who was the original artist? I really liked the ones of New York and Liverpool. What's the connection with Manchester?

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