ART REVIEW: Phil Collins – Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong

For those that don’t know and until today I’d count myself as one of those people, Phil Collins is a Turner Prize nominated visual artist (not to be mistaken with the singer) who lives in Berlin.

I’d visited HOME last week to watch a film called Pin Cushion and whilst I was there I noticed that they also had a solo exhibition in their gallery space, by Phil Collins. Knowing nothing about him but intrigued by the concept of mixing digital and analogue technologies I decided to go along and find out more.

This was my first experience of the HOME gallery space and of Phil Collins’ work. One of the first things that struck me as I walked in was his use of space. You’re greeted by a large collage-like display that’s the focal point of the entrance.

The entrance to Phil Collins’ exhibition ‘Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong’

This gives way to a short corridor that feels claustrophobic and slightly unnerving. This leads to a row of self-contained booths that are transparent both for those outside the booths so you can watch those inside and once inside you’re able to see the adjoining space and by extension they can also watch and see you.

Listening booths

This installation is called, ‘my heart’s in my hand, and my hand is pierced, and my hand’s in the bag, and the bag is shut, and my heart is caught.’ Not the catchiest of titles but the project was developed with guests of GULLIVER Survival Station for the Homeless in Cologne. The material comes from anonymised phone calls recorded at the facility and sent to musicians to be turned into vinyl. These vinyl records can be played in the listening booths. I selected a few to listen to and was surprised at how uninteresting I found them to be. I couldn’t engage with it perhaps because it was a little too experimental for my taste.

Just some of the vinyl recordings you can listen to

As you work your way around the exhibition you come upon another room with a large screen in front of you. The space is filled to look like a waste-land full of barrels and mounds of dirt. This installation is called Delete Beach and shows an anime film set in the future.  The lead character joins an anti-capitalist resistance group (though I only knew this from reading the leaflet) though the actual storyline itself was hard to make out, if there was one.

Delete Beach

I know that anime has a popular following especially in Japan and I could appreciate the art work and the strong female lead in the film. But cartoons more generally and specifically anime isn’t something I enjoy (though I can appreciate why others do) and with nowhere to sit and watch the film, you find yourself lingering in a apocalyptic wasteland not knowing what to do with yourself.

I also found the space itself disorientating and uncomfortable. It’s not easy to get your baring’s and it takes a steward to direct you away from something you might trip over and into the next room.


This final room is an auditorium with a raised seating area showing a video entitled ‘Ceremony’. Again this is a dimly lit room though not quite as dark as the previous one and only the small exit signs indicates where you can leave (down a red-light corridor). This final installation was the one I got the most from. I suspect this might have been because it was the most conventional of all the installations.

Part documentary, part film, it tells the story of Frederick Engels, his links to Manchester and the events surrounding the statue of Engels arriving in Manchester. The ever-fantastic Maxine Peake acts as the voice of Engels. The aim of the video is to inform viewers about Manchester’s communist roots as well as celebrating Engels, the statue of him that arrived it the city and now sits outside HOME, and his legacy. It draws parallels by the social, economic and political conditions Engels experienced with those we see today.

If you like your art political then this is something worth experiencing, especially if that politics is left-leaning. I would certainly pop in if you’re planning on visiting HOME just to experience Phil Collins’ work.

Phil Collins’ solo exhibition is showing at HOME in Manchester from Saturday 7th July until Sunday 16th September. It’s free and you can find out more here: HOME exhibition Phil Collins

Another Turner-prize nominated artist, Alison Wilding, is also currently showing her work in Manchester this time at the Whitworth Art Gallery. You can read more about her exhibition here: Turner-Prize nominated sculpture Alison Wilding

4 Replies to “ART REVIEW: Phil Collins – Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong”

  1. Thanks Bexa. I'm always eager to see work artists that are new to me and I try to find something in all their work that connects with me and yes, the giant collage looked impressive.

  2. Sounds interesting!
    I haven’t been to Home since they’d given the place a makeover so i’ve been meaning to give it a visit!
    Thank you for sharing ☺️

  3. Oh really, it was actually only my second visit there and the first time I've been to the exhibition space. I love it there and I think I'll be going there a lot more regularly now.

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