August 15 to September 19
International Anthony Burgess Foundation
For August and September 2014 The Exhibition Centre for the Life and Use of Books have undergone a temporary rebranding, inviting Manchester-based writer and publisher Michael Butterworth to curate our Reading Room, and will be exploring publications from his personal archives, including those of Savoy Books, the publishing house that Butterworth co-founded with David Britton in 1976.
Michael Butterworth is a writer and publisher based in Manchester whose most recent project, Corridor8, takes the form of a Contemporary Art and Writing Journal that was launched in 2009 and is now in the planning stages for its fourth instalment. Corridor began as a series of 7 'zines edited and published by Butterworth between 1971 and 1976 featuring innovative and experimental art and writing prior to the launch of Savoy Books. As one part of our programme with Butterworth we have invited seven artists and collectives to each respond to one of these seven publications through the medium of film.
The second part of the Use and Abuse of Books takes the form of an exhibition displaying and discussing some of the material from Savoy's vast and often controversial archive, focussing on graphic novels and comics, including the infamous Lord Horror (1989) accredited to David Britton and co-authored by Michael Butterworth. The novel is based on a historical personage Lord Haw-Haw, aka William Joyce, British fascist and radio announcer hanged in 1946 for his infamous 'Germany Calling' broadcasts. Warping him from Haw-Haw to Horror, the novel, with its exaggerated depiction of British collusion, views the rabble-rouser DJ through a glass darkly, catapulting the narrative into exuberance, extravagance and excess.
Throughout their existence Savoy have been targeted by censors, frequently raided by the police and have been taken to court for publishing 'obscene' material, notably in their fight-back by having the bigoted speech of a Manchester ex-chief of police reiterated by a similarly named character in one Lord Horror story, events that in April 1993 led to Britton's imprisonment. The criticisms of and objections to publications such as Lord Horror congeal around the question of whether depicting and describing horrific acts is justified in satire, with Judge Gerrard Humphries arguing in 1992 that Lord Horror is "a glorification of racism and violence. It contains pictures that will be repulsive to right-thinking people, and could be read—and possibly gloated over—by people who enjoy viciousness and violence" and Michael Moorcock countering that the book "is in a tradition of lampoon, of exaggeration. Its purpose is to show up social evils, and the evils within ourselves. The book tries to identify the ways of thinking that led to the Holocaust, and could yet lead to another one".
The interplay between text, storytelling and image is a vital point of interest in the oeuvre of Michael Butterworth and Savoy in general. How the artwork by John Coulthart, Kris Guidio and James Cawthorn, amongst others, philosophically supplements the written narrative in these works will be a main point of enquiry for the exhibition, examining the use of architecture and references to cultural figures or specific artworks in Savoy's graphic novels.