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Memory lanes


Fabrications: New Art & Urban Memory in Manchester At CUBE, 113-115 Portland Street, Manchester, until 2 November

'Frank Miller's coming back on the noon train.' 'It's Will Kane's wedding day and the new marshal don't arrive 'til tomorrow.'

John Wayne thought Fred Zinneman's 1952 film High Noon was un-American. God knows what he would have made of Sarah Carne's version, an exhibit in 'Fabrications', the current show at CUBE.

Carne stopped people in the street, invited them to take part, and gave them lines to read to camera. Gary Cooper's role is taken by a good-looking black lad, and the entire script is whipped through in 35 minutes, including numerous cut-aways to disused tram-tracks.

The original High Noon is set in unremarkable Hadleyville, 'a dirty little village in the middle of nowhere'. Carne shot her version in and around Third Avenue, Trafford Park, the gigantic industrial suburb on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal.

Trafford village was built on the American grid pattern in the early 1900s: avenues run north-south, streets east-west, hemmed in on all sides by factories and yards. Shrunk to post-industrial proportions, the village is now uninhabited; Third Avenue is the only one left. Industry has gone, Frank Miller's coming to get you, and no one gives a damn. A perfect post-industrial paradigm, and a great way into this exhibition - except it's at the end.

There are six artists in the show. Nathan Coley has a huge model of Marks and Spencer, St Mary's Gate, Manchester, before it was destroyed by the 1996 IRA bomb. The model is black, and carries a piece of text: 'I don't have another land', which is so strivingly mordant that it undermines the piece.

Adam Chodzko has mapped a line from the epicentre of the IRA bomb to the cradle of dance culture, the Hacienda. The line is mapped as the sound wave of A Certain Ratio's 1980 track, Flight, and is presented, complete with soundtrack, on a series of fly-posters. Dance explosion, political explosion, building explosion - a clubbers' memorial in space, sound and time.

In an even more convoluted piece, Chodzko has installed the archive of working drawings of a Manchester housing development in a gypsy encampment in rural Kent.

The housing scheme is the award-winning Homes for Change in Hulme, built by architect MBLC in close consultation with the residents. The gypsy site is about to be taken over by developers, so you can see where Chodzko is coming from.

Lubina Himid is more formal. Her 100 small black and white paintings are based on 19th-century textile designs. They rise through the gallery's atrium and memorialise the mill and plantation workers she has researched. As with Nathan Coley's piece, though, there is a questionable bit of text.

Sarah Waring has taken photographs from the roofs of all of Manchester's tall buildings (top). She looks down into the streets with dizzying clarity, and then subscribes to the irritating text theme that is running here, by adding gnomic little couplets.

Layla Curtis travelled to dozens of American Manchesters, and displays an array of souvenirs that will completely unsettle your perception of the original place. Manchester-on-sea, Manchester-in-the-mountains, Manchester-rural-idyll; all trying to borrow some shine from shock city. High Noon to high-rise, slave trade to cotton trade, terrorist bomb to dance-explosion. As much as anything, a city is made up of the ideas it has of itself, and these will rise through memory, teased out by artists such as these.

Phil Griffin is a freelance writer

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