It's not the first time that this blog talks about Marcus Rashford. The 23-year old mancunian footballer used his social media platform to twice force the Government into a U-turn over the extension of free school meals and support grants for children from low-income families. Just thinking about that needing to happen makes my skin crawl, but that's Tory Britain for you. Rashford used to rely on those meals, he has spoken very openly about having to sometimes go to sleep without any food in his belly.

Unless you have been living under a rock on another planet, you will know that England lost the Euro final to Italy on penalties, one of which was missed by Rashford. After Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka also failed to score, an avalanche of racist abuse on social media was unleashed against the 3 young Black players. Come Monday morning, Rashford's mural in his native Withington had been vandalised with offensive graffiti. Footballers - from hero to zero overnight. Black footballers - only ever one penalty kick away from the most ferocious racial abuse.

Enter the British PM and his Home Secretary, who had her arse brutally handed over by another black footballer, Tyrone Mings. Both refused to condemn the fans booing the players taking a knee before each game, dismissing it as gesture politics. Oh the hypocrisy of feigning outrage over the racial abuse you are directly responsible for. Go on, shake your fist at social media urging them to 'up their game' (and of course they must), but what about you, the elected leader of this divided country, what about showing some accountability for once. But it's not happening, not today, not ever. It all feels too predictable, inevitable even. We live in a country where footballers are expected to apologise for their mistakes on the pitch, and where the Government is banking on seemingly unlimited impunity, normalising corruption and pursuing a terrifying abandonment of their duty of care towards society.

Back to Withington, South Manchester, where in the meantime thousands of people have come together to cover Rashford's mural with messages of love and respect. The racial abuse is not in their name.

#marcusrashford #withington #mural #racism #toriesout #blog #blogger #beyondthecanvasblog

The Withington mural yesterday. Faith in people restored (for now).

This lady starts covering the hate and spreading the love.

The vandalised mural the morning after the England loss.

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According to the Financial Times, Abu Dhabi is planning to spend $6bn on various cultural projects to diversify from oil. This is not a new strategy. After the emergence of Dubai as the playground of the Middle East in the early 1990s, the Abu Dhabi government set out to develop a vision that would transform the UAE into a world-class cultural powerhouse. Culture is thus a tool in a long-term political-economic strategy that aims to diversify revenues and address concerns around the eventual depletion of oil reserves.

The objective of the Saadiyat Island project is to create and maintain a sustainable geopolitical connection with Europe and the United States. To this end, grandiose franchise museums of historical brands like the Louvre and the Guggenheim have been identified as a powerful platform that can facilitate the negotiation and expansion of this network. So this is more of a soft power re-branding exercise than a cultural endeavour per se.

But before we get too excited about the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi finally breaking ground after years of delay, let us remind ourselves of the appalling working conditions of the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers. A report published in 2015 denounced the wide-spread practice of withholding wages, confiscating passports and providing sub-standard lodgings for the workers to live in. These underpaid labourers are locked in the stranglehold of the archaic Kafala system, and anyone daring to protest is reported to the police and expelled.

The issue of freedom of press should also be considered. In 2017, Swiss journalists filming the area where the labourers live were arrested, blindfolded, detained, interrogated and forced to sign a confession in Arabic. Culture can only go so far in supporting the UAE in their ambitions to become a major geopolitical player and the desired projection of a certain image of openness and tolerance continues to be marred by the endurance of a repressive regime.

#abudhabi #UAE #softpower #museums #migrants #workersright #humanrights #geopolitics #freedomofpress #blog #beyondthecanvasblog

Workers building Jean Nouvel's famous latticed roof at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

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  • Beyond the Canvas

'Beauty is the main line to make people feel something.' - Richard Mosse

It's easy to be fooled by the alluring colours of the striking photo chosen for the advertising poster of this superb exhibition at the MAST Foundation, but anyone who may have been misled by that imagery soon realises what the show is really about. Mosse is interested in the themes of war, displacement and migration, and with his camera he captures beauty and tragedy where there's conflict and destruction.

For his Infra series shot in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo Mosses used Kodak Aerochrome, a discontinued reconnaissance infrared film developed for military use that registers chlorophyll in live vegetation. As a result, green turns to dramatic hues of pink and red, making the lush Congolese rainforest looks surreal, almost dreamy and psychedelic. The obvious association is with blood, lest anyone forgets that since 1998 over 5m people have died in this conflict the media never talks about.

In the Heat Map series, Mosse once again repurposes military technology to explore the plight of the refugees, bringing us what we cannot see. He used military-grade infrared technology that records contours in heat to capture camps, migrants of all ages in boats and as they go about their lives every day. This technology, normally used to identify and track human targets, renders skin and flesh oddly luminescent and washy, erasing all colour and expression. Everyone looks the same, everyone looks like they are no one. They are the invisibles.

This is an important exhibition that will stay with you for a long time. Mosse's work will push you away and it will draw you in. It will get you thinking about the stuff we don't want to see, the stuff we'd often rather not know about. Because it's ugly, because it's unsettling and uncomfortable. But mostly because it makes us look at the unspeakable suffering inflicted by fellow humans on millions of other fellow humans when we desperately want to look the other way. And now that we are hopefully edging closer the end of such a tragic time, with our hearts, minds and souls running on fumes, this is precisely why we need to see it.

#richardmosse #displaced #fondazionemast #MAST #photography #videoart #contemporaryart #bologna

Platon, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, 2012

Madonna and Child, North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2012

Of Lilies and Remains, 2012

Remain in Light, 2015

Incoming (still), 2014–17

Incoming (video), 2017

All photos © Richard Mosse courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery

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