« Feeling: Wildbirds & Peacedrums | Main | From the Archives: Mark Leckey Interview, 2006 »

Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore

Thanks to Dirty Sound System's Alain Finkiel Krautrock blog for uncovering 2008 Turner Prize winner Mark Leckey's short film Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (1999), finally available online.

Like a poetic reworking of Dick Hebdige's Subculture, the video piece investigates England's dancefloor tribes from the '70s to the rave era, taking in northern soul's furious spinners and rave's pummeled punters, along with designer-label-sporting football casuals. It's less a work of sociology than of hazy impressionism, culled from murky television footage and collaged together with clunky fades and strange, almost off-putting digital trickery. Arranged in a loose chronological order, the piece hovers on the edge of narrative; it's presided over by a shadowy figure that occasionally appears, gazing out over a darkening cityscape, his back turned toward the camera. It's the kind of image one imagines when listening to Burial, given the dubstep artist's penchant for rainslicked urban blight. And in fact Burial shares lots in common with Leckey's Fiorucci, whose soundtrack loops and smears scraps of classic hardcore into a blurry, ambient drone. It is, in short, a stunning piece of work, a kind of tone poem that gives way to layers of nostalgia and bewilderment.

I saw the piece in CCAC Wattis Institute's excellent Mixtapes show in 2003, curated by Matthew Higgs and also featuring work by Wolfgang Tillmans, Oliver Payne and Nick Relph, and Mathias Poledna. (I've published the text of my exhibition review for The Wire after the jump.)

Do yourself a favor and check out the video. It's longish, nearly 15 minutes long, so I'd recommend waiting til you have a bit of time to sink into its rhythm. As funny as it can be, this is no rave lampoon—more like a cross between Zomby's Where Were U in '92? and Baraka. For the time being, you can also download the full video at UBUWEB.

Mark Leckey MySpace | Turner Prize 2008

Philip Sherburne (originally published in The Wire, 2003)

Mixtapes collects four recent video works by young artists dealing with the intersection between music, youth culture and personal experience. Curator Matthew Higgs describes the exhibit as a series of “melancholic riffs on popular culture,” exploring the agonised underside to moments more often portrayed for their celebratory, epiphanal nature. Shown individually for two weeks apiece, the pieces coalesce into an occasionally contradictory whole that’s strange, moving, visually arresting, and often very funny.

The starkest work in the series comes from fashion photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. In contrast to his still photos, which, informed by documentary and portraiture alike, celebrate youth culture through faces and evanescent moments, Lights (Body) examines only the robotic strobe lights of a Berlin nightclub, which flash and pivot in time to a deep House track by Air. Although Tillmans shot the piece over a series of weekends when the club was full, no people ever appear on screen. Their presence is suggested only by the clouds of dust -- which, as the title subtly reminds us, is primarily composed of human skin -- wafting through the lights. On the surface this could be a video for MTV, but behind the style lurks something much darker. To gaze only into the eaves while a crowded club rages on isn’t only melancholy – it borders on the autistic, suggesting a frightening degree of detachment at the heart of the mass experience.

Mathias Poledna’s Acualité looks like a scrap of rehearsal footage of some long-forgotten (and rightfully so) post-punk band, but it was made with actors on a Hollywood soundstage. A charmingly incompetent, mixed-gender band painfully bashes away at a rudimentary set of chord changes (reportedly borrowed from a Red Krayola song) as rotating Steadicam shots slowly churn, compressing the depth of field and sending instruments floating strangely through the foreground. Every action, even smoking a cigarette, seems tentative and perpetually interrupted, and before you know it, the video is halfway through its second loop. This isn’t Waiting for Godot, it’s simply waiting for the coda.

Oliver Payne and Nick Relph, in their mid-twenties, are the youngest artists in the exhibition, but their piece is in many ways the most sophisticated. Mixtape cobbles together surreal images (a shirtless man holding sparklers in front of a cake decorated with the words, “Besht Friends”) with scenes of preteens rehearsing in a rock band, Starbucks workers covering their facial piercings with electrical tape, documentary footage of hunters killing deer, and much more, all set to Terry Riley’s masterpiece of cutup soul, "You’re NoGood." Toward the end, two middle-aged country dancers battle a sweating raver beneath blinding strobes. It’s a hodge-podge, sure, but any one of Payne and Relph’s images is guaranteed to stay with you, even if the whole slips away as fuzzily as a particularly strange dream.

Mark Leckey’s Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore is at once the crudest and the most engrossing of the four pieces. It patches together documentary footage from Northern Soul parties and early raves with shots of football casuals showing their plumage on the terraces, all set to a soundtrack of battered ambiance and club anthems that sounds mixed down from a 10th generation dub. Urban tribes are Leckey’s ostensible focus, given the way he lingers on the brand-name sportswear of the 70s and 80s and the implicit homoeroticism of young mens’ fashion rituals. But the real fascination is in the dancers he captures: amphetamined-up Northern Soul cowboys twirling like tops, ravers whose arms seem about to fly off their bodies, drugged ghosts that emerge from the darkness like coelacanths. These rituals where the body is disconnected from the mind, acted out in the embrace of the crowd, come to seem as alien as any ayahuasca ceremony. They suggest a raw, primal, even threatening instinct lurking in the heart of all youth culture.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)