Penny Woolcock: Exodus

"My name is Pharoah Mann and I’m going to change the world. And I’m going to start now by doing what politicians never do. I’m going to say sorry."

As the setting for an epic film inspired by the Old Testament Book of Exodus, the coastal town of Margate was transformed by plagues of lice, locusts, frogs and flies; a 25-metre high sacrificial sculpture and a cast of thousands...

The Margate Exodus brought together international artists led by Penny Woolcock, including sculptor Antony Gormley, and songwriters Rufus Wainwright, Brian Eno and Imogen Heap, alongside local musicians, singers, actors, costume-makers and set-builders to create a timeless story of identity, migration and the great movement of peoples… in search of a promised land.

Written and directed for Artangel by acclaimed filmmaker Penny Woolcock, the story of Exodus was told for the present day as a feature film for theatrical release and Channel 4 broadcast in 2007. The many strands of Exodus came together, meanwhile, on 30 September 2006 – ‘Exodus Day’. A trail of large-scale banner photographs of Margate’s younger new arrivals led from the sea front to the town centre; a fictional politician gave an incendiary speech to a real crowd; and in the evening ten songs were performed – one for each of the ten deadly plagues – while above it all Anthony Gormley’s giant combustible thrift sculpture, Waste Man, was burned to the ground in front of an audience of thousands.

Constructed entirely of the detritus of modern consumer society – planks of wood, tables, chairs, keyboards, paintings, dartboards, a front door, toilet seats – the 25 metre high man took over four weeks to construct by Gormley, his assistant, a team of professional riggers and a small army of enthusiastic volunteers from Margate. The building and burning of the Waste Man not only formed a definitive part of Penny Woolcock’s epic film but was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary by Caroline Deeds - also titled Waste Man - in its own right.

This project was supported by Arts Council England, Artangel International Circle, Special Angels and The Company of Angels