When worlds of art and politics collide

Dustin Lyon and Anna FC Smith, the artists bringing Ultra to The Old Courts
Dustin Lyon and Anna FC Smith, the artists bringing Ultra to The Old Courts

A Wigan art gallery was being transformed into the conference of a powerful political party today as part of an unusual and striking new exhibition.

Swinley artists Anna FC Smith and Dustin Lyon have taken over the first-floor space at The Old Courts to create Ultra: A State of Mind.

I’ve never seen an exhibition like this before

Anna FC Smith

The thought-provoking idea will see visitors wander into a show case for the imaginary political organisation’s ideas, with talks to sign up, manifestos to browse and even an alternative national anthem to sing.

Visitors will have to consider whether Ultra’s vision of the future and its government is a utopia they would like to live in or an oppressive and authoritarian nightmare.

Anna and Dustin, who are both originally from Leigh, came up with the idea after discussing the angry and divided state of politics and the country.

They quickly decided to put together an ambitious show weaving together all the different issues and questions they were thinking of but admit putting together something on this scale is a slightly nerve-racking step into a brave new world.

Anna said: “We both noticed how divisive politics was getting with Brexit, the rise of Donald Trump and then the recent election. On Twitter and Facebook everyone was getting really angry with each other, hating the other side.

“We were trying to work out how politics could be better and how we could get rid of problems with the system and we basically invented this. Creating this entire state and working out how to fix problems and then look at the other problems which arose has been hard.

“I’ve never seen an exhibition like this before and I don’t know how people are going to respond.”

The gallery is decked out with sculptures of the party’s goddess-like cult figure created by Anna, videos giving out snap explanations of aspects of politics, huge red banners proclaiming the benefits of the party and much more.

The pair will take on the role of delegates, handing out leaflets, welcoming people to the conference and explaining the talks and events about Ultra-style politics people can take part in.

The concept is based around altering the structure of society so people with expert knowledge, from academics through to engineers and builders, are placed in the roles of dedicated public servants by becoming what Ultra calls savants.

Yet having thought so much about politics, Anna says she and Dustin are currently hesitant to take the step of standing for election.

She said: “We have discussed this but the problem is Ultra isn’t really a democracy. We say in the exhibition that Ultra got to become the system following an event some time in the future, but we haven’t said exactly what that is. It would be difficult for Ultra to stand in elections.”

Ultra runs to July 7.