True Faith review – the exhilarating art and afterlife of Joy Division and New Order

By Adrian Searle

Manchester Art Gallery
Featuring bootleg footage, classic covers and haunting paintings, this terrific show is a reminder of how art was at the core of Manchester’s most enigmatic band

True Faith is a terrific, somnolent and exhilarating exhibition, focusing both on the truncated but still influential career of Joy Division and its much longer afterlife, without Ian Curtis, as New Order. Joy Division’s dark, painful music, its sonic gloom and echoing aural spaces dominate the first half of the show. Darkness gives way to light in the second half, with New Order’s brighter, danceable synthpop and clever lyrics.

But things are not so simple. This is an exhibition about more than the vicissitudes of a group of musicians and the artists, designers and film-makers who accrued around them. It is about the convergence of art and pop (if Joy Division were ever really “pop”), about growing up, and about the way culture gets made, how it changes and how it changes us. That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway.

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