John Hyatt: Rock Art
The forefront of this season’s exhibition series at HOME Manchester is John Hyatt’s punk and musically inspired Rock Art. Once a member of Post-punk outfit The Three Johns, Hyatt’s show is a small collection of visual art and mixed media pieces. The art itself is a precursor to the main event, a live show each Friday in the exhibition’s own pop-up nightclub, Club Big.
I attended the exhibition’s opening night, which featured the musical talents of various local acts. The audience — many of whom seemed to be existing fans — got to witness a one-off performance by John singing with his old band. The live performance aspect of the night seemed to go down well, but for me, this part of the exhibition highlighted the overriding theme of self-indulgence that littered the rest of the exhibition.
The artwork itself was plethora of odes to Hyatt’s personal career. One of the most prominent pieces in the showroom, entitled The Collection, was a red, polka-dot, walk-in box containing the artist’s comic collection which visitors were welcome to borrow and read. These — alongside the new and exclusive Three John’s album which could be listened to in the Reading Room — might be enjoyable for a major fan of his life and work, but for a casual spectator the whole thing gave off a noticeable sense of self-promotion.
The running theme of personal exploration was also present in his video based instillation, Brainbox and Three Wishes. Brainbox is the first of the two and shows ‘a version of the artist as an academic… discussing how the human brain functions’. As the name implies, Hyatt’s depiction of himself is unnecessarily grandiose and self-celebratory and this is not remedied in his second visual piece in which the product of the artist’s ‘experiments’ with sound-waves are inadequately presented and have little impact.
The parts of the exhibit which showcase musical creativity seem to be its redeeming feature but any attempt at making local musicians the heart of the show was undermined by the fact that he was his own headline act and that the gift-shop sold only his own merchandise. If you ignore The Anticipation which was a rope barrier at the entrance of Club Big, the night itself provided an excellent opportunity for visitors to see free live music and for artists to showcase their talents. The addition of the live acts created a lively atmosphere of togetherness, which, in my opinion, was far more worthwhile than the artworks themselves.