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Peeps, Ancoats, Dubowitz And Good Art

Jonathan Schofield goes eye to eye with holes

Written by . Published on July 3rd 2011.

Peeps, Ancoats, Dubowitz And Good Art

“Well, it was clear from the beginning that we didn’t want a big gateway sculpture that would date quickly, but something more permanent,” says Dan Dubowitz of his eight years creating artworks in Ancoats.

He’s succeeded beautifully.

Good art in has a sense of timelessness and is infused with big ideas. Dubowitz captures an incredibly human point of stillness.

The Peeps, a series of iron and brass metal spy holes into walled off closed areas of buildings have a solidity and stubbornness that should last decades.

His Cutting Room Square – the first public square in Ancoats’ 230 years of significant city occupation - has monoliths carrying images of the abandoned interior of the nearby Royal Mill. It has a similar timelessness to it. The wooden cotton bale benches scattered around may not be so permanent but are sweet forms in both the way they look and their function.

Dubowitz 081The weekend has seen a celebration of Dubowitz’s work, packed guided tours, launch events, photographs, displays of artefacts found during Ancoats’s slow re-awakening. It’s had the Council Leader, Sir Richard Leese, giving a commitment to public art in the city whilst mentioning that so much public art is “crap". "But not this Dan," he added in an aside to Dubowitz.

The weekend has also been a commemoration of all other individuals and agencies who have worked hard to drag in bits of money, donate free time and so forth, not least the indefatigable Lyn Fenton and the Ancoats Building Preservation Trust.

Dubowitz 085
The result is good art. Good art in that the work has a sense of timelessness and is infused with big ideas. Dubowitz captures an incredibly human point of stillness, each Peep is a focus for witnessing and thinking about the transformations in the human experience of Ancoats. The artist himself calls these places ‘charged spaces’, ‘the presence of absense’.

And remember this place is significant. It’s the first industrial suburb, a place where the world came gawping in the early nineteenth century at the embodiment of the new Industrial Age. It might have been shocking but the dynamism was extraordinary. The Peeps reminds us how situations change, how industrial energy can become domestic, mills can become flats, how streets are deserted in the pause before the next burst of activity.

Dubowitz 041At the moment if there is a problem with the Ancoats’ art, it’s that there is no map to show where the Peeps are. This is not an issue for Dubowitz, in fact the reverse, he would like us stumble upon them. But Time memorialises art in its own way, moves it away from the artist, re-emphasises it for new viewers.

Peeps 002
The tour guide and tourist in me would like a map and a clear description of what we’re looking at in both web and printed form. It makes more sense. Maybe Confidential will do a little web-map soon.

Another issue is accessibility. One of the best works is in the former St Peter’s Church. People must be able to get to see the work in here regularly.

But that's for the short term future. If you get chance have a walk around the Ancoats's streets with your eyes peeled for Peeps.

If you didn’t make the weekend you can buy the elegant and impressive Manchester University Press book, ‘The Peeps.’

This can be found in Corrnerhouse, Blackwells and Amazon or ordered through www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

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

peeploverJuly 4th 2011.

the peeps are wonderful and I very much enjoyed the event on saturday; dan d is awesome. I had been a tad worried some of the enigma would be lost but actually it gave me a deeper appreciation. The random joy and mystery of stumbling on a peep is part of its genius. I know the reader brings meaning to text blah blah and once the artist sets work free they can't control it but don't you think its a bit mean and duplicitous to produce a map and explanation when it is totally contrary to the spirit of dan's work?

tblzebraJuly 4th 2011.

Dan has, after much pressure, already added a map of their locations to the new website about the Peeps:


I'm not sure if it shows all (17?) of them though.

peeploverJuly 4th 2011.

thanks, yes - i meant to mention that - there is some info but still delightfully ambiguous.

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