I have a tooth event coming up, they, being once described by my long suffering dentist jokily as “your mouth is a miracle - it’s the fillings that are holding your teeth together” trouble is though he’s right. With my teeth always seeming to warrant a full blown event at the dentist rather than a quick-in-and-out-see-you-in-6-months job.
So recovering from, it has to be said, the expected quote for four front cap replacements - ouch! and double ouch! and pondering on more ouch to come. I’d been sipping a therapeutic coffee in the cafe at Nottingham Contemporary, taking in the general too-ings and fro-ings of visitors, while trying to prise my thoughts away from things like, why didn’t I save up? and all my mini daydreams of a bit of travel slowly dissipating into the potential invoice in my bag.
The coffee did the trick though, I got things into perspective.... I might still do a mini-away thing and my peggies will take a good few weeks so maybe it will even out a bit, saying to myself I’ll do the maths in a bit... (knowing it probably won’t pan out, but you can’t say I’m not an optimist).
Finally resting my mind from that one I noticed the first! recent event, Star City on some of the pamphlets. During March, a friend had told me of a fashion show included in the exhibition - thankfully Notts Contemporary have, and do post all live events onto their web via utube.
I did mention on this blog I knew I was going to miss the exhibition when talking about Jane and Louise Wilson’s central piece Star City on loan from 303 Gallery NY. So I was relieved that I could play catch-up.
opened Nov 2009
I was interested in this show because it involved fashion designed and based on the 60’s preoccupation with the space race –so I was expecting shiny silver suits and how-did-they-get-into-that? no zips or obvious zips at odd angles kind of clothes.
This was taken from the view of the art of communist Russia and their space race. With all its futuristic science, sputniks, satellites, and the icy Cold War stand offs during those times, very cold and very futuristic possibly like the fashion?.
The show was held inside a giant installation of a space suit.
Christian Tomaszewski and Joanna Malinowska called Mother, Earth, Sister, Moon, 2009. photo by Andy Keate
I wasn’t disappointed either, not too sure about the soundtrack though – but some of the clothes were spot on.
I was kind of drawn to all this futuristic spacery as I’d been having a Space is The Place, Sun Ra moment for ...ohhh yonks – well at least a couple, being initially taken with Australian team Soda_Jerk's video installation and their study of music and philosophy and fashion zeitgeist in which they saw Sun Ra as the base daddy for Hip-Hop, calling their installation Astro Black, A History of Hip Hop.
Video stills from Soda_Jerk's Astro Black A History of Hip-Hop
Sun Ra’s original film and score happened in ‘74 complete with silver suited droid type peeps and far away landscapes. Famous for the immortal lines “the music is different here, the vibrations are different – not like planet earth....”
Only he had taken the whole 60’s space thing a bit further. This being more about an escape to space away from tyranny and prdjudice;
Excerpt from Sun Ra's Space is The Place ; 2min37
Soda_Jerks compilation a History of Hip-Hop went even further including Flavor Flav from Public Enemy in the imagery – who were not without their own controversial press surrounding their take on prejudice and tyranny.
Soda Jerk’s rhetoric on their website relates to the work as;
"'Astro Black: A History of Hip-Hop (Episodes 0-2)' (2007-08) is 3-channel video work that is constructed entirely from audio and video footage sampled from existing film and music sources. Drawing on the insights of Afrofuturism, this work positions the sci-fi aspects of hip-hop as a form of social politics by reworking the 1974 film "Space is the Place". In this film, 'cosmic jazz' musician Sun Ra visits earth in his music-powered U.F.O to confront the racial oppression of 1970's America. 'Astro Black' extends this narrative both backwards and forwards in time, exploring the intergalactic origins of Sun Ra's musical style and how the science fiction elements of his practice are reflected in the future generation of hip-hop musicians. In this sonic fiction, turntablism is exposed as an extraterrestrial language that was delivered to the Bronx through the alien abduction of DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaattaa and Grandmaster Flash. Public Enemy also feature in a later episode, returning from the future to battle against the armageddon of Ronald Reagan's presidency."
I just love it though, when music and art and philosophical imagery come together.
So anyway it wasn’t surprising that I noticed there is still (just - until May23rd ) an exhibition at Boo Hooray Gallery in NY by writer and dare I say philosopher? Jon Savage along with artist Linder Sterling of stuff they did 1976-81. A recognition of stuff- I say stuff because it was literally collaged fanzine and poster stuff made in Manchester, which at the time wasn’t seen as art but has been rendered so now.
Take a look at their look book from the exhibition,
Linder Sterling and Jon Savage; The Secret Public
Those bleak images whether taken in London or Manchester - were exactly how Manchester looked at the time, a lot of new building had been done, but even as late as the end of the 70’s, the 1940’s bombed out shells of terraced houses in central Manchester and Didsbury were still being cleared. This took a long time to be regenerated – cos I remember seeing them from the bus when mum used to take me from Notts to Manchester to see grandma who had been *re-housed* in Wythenshawe. There is something spooky as a child seeing those shattered homes it sort of brought the war closer to me, but as a child, I suppose more of the question marks associated with war.
I continued to do the Manchester route during the late 70’s & 80’s to the Hacienda and such. Post war Manchester had the musical traditions of jazz bands like Chris Barber, and American blues artists like Muddy Waters who frequented the host of small venues that housed and brought the centre to life. Continuing through rebellious teen 50’s rock and roll years to early 60’s beat. This was all brought to an abrupt halt when the Chief Constable convinced Parliament to pass a law to close the venues down.
Manchester does have a special vibe and these images certainly eschew the strong emotions that were permeating at that time; the idea that you could make a difference, you could be creative without an official stamp of competence. With a million others also doing their own flyers and fanzine-y type things alongside the music, fashion and most important, the entire attitude.
In a quote from a recent Dazed Digital interview, I reckon Jon Savage was right in saying “It’s taken British people quite a long time to recognise there is a lot more to punk than angry lads shouting with guitars”.
It’s so much, much more than that.
Sun Ra Arkestra "A Myth" live at the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art, July 2009 ;
Soda_Jerks video; Pixel Pirate ll Scratch trailer
Wednesdays post is brewing.....