It’s nice to have a theme for an evening, to know that different places you are going to are in sync and working together. Like an experienced DJ ‘working the wheels of steel and spinning the platters that matter’, you know there isn’t going to be a jarring Slipknot in the middle of your ambient. As the theme for both the new Grundy exhibition and Supercollider’s one night only event was musical, I was assured of a smooth mix.
Dance Swing Dance, the latest exhibition at the Grundy Gallery has internationally renowned artist Matt Stokes exploring the world of musical subculture, namely Northern Soul, Punk and Rave In A Cave.
All five of the Grundy’s galleries are used for the show, which displays a huge variety of personal memorabilia and text/film reference. The word memorabilia is used here in its truest sense, these are items that are linked directly to a personal response to the music and events. So often the word is used in the context of ‘things you can buy’, from shops or conventions; Star Wars, Dr Who, sports events etc, but the items on display here are true and honest objects that remind: home made mix tapes, photocopied flyers or ticket stubs and hand made T-Shirts. These items are given a new perspective by the very fact of their inclusion and almost reverent display within the gallery context. It’s lovely stuff and very much tied to an earlier time, a time when taping from the radio and the bootleg cassette were king. A future collection like this will be a different animal coming from these days of downloading and iTunes playlists, where the ease of assembling your musical passions has somewhat stolen the excitement of the hunter/gatherer feeling of finding that last 7″ single for your collection.
The exhibition isn’t just memorabilia though, large photos of what seem now to be comically huge-trousered Northern Soullers speak of the universal bad fashion that seemed so cool at the time that we all go through in our youth. Who here can’t put their hand up to a ludicrous trouser flare or an 18″ high dyed black crimped to an inch of its life back combed Goth-Afro type hair style? (or was that just me?)
Huge (and I mean huge) banners of text almost wallpaper the main gallery space. Quotes from the lost generation of ravers describe the illicit thrill of of seeking out that all nighter (often literally lost, driving around country back roads looking for a rave that might or might not be happening).
The films on show also capture the feeling of energy and aggression that those dance till you drip nights out used to generate.
The American Punk in Austin items are for me the real pleasure of the exhibition, desperately handmade flyers bristling with letraset and badly photocopied anger and bile adorn the walls of the (often underused in my opinion) upper gallery space. It’s worth the trek up the stairs to see these snapshots of the time. Be aware – strong language is on show, as is the fast becoming legendary image of Manley Speers, the cowboy clad only in his Stetson. The strength of the language on display throughout is on the strong side, but within the context of the work, and the gallery setting, exploration of these often angry or raw musical movements are not sensational or designed to shock. They are more an honest reflection of the language of the ravers, pogo jumpers and talc sprinkling soulers.
All in all, a great exhibition and also a brave one for Blackpool that will warmly linger in the mind long after you leave the gallery.
Hot on the heels of the Grundy exhibition, and a short chilly walk across town, the perennial favourite contemporary gallery space Supercollider was hosting a one night only response to the Grundy, Sasha @ Shaboo 1990. The Cookson Street gallery was given over to the screening of a single film; a raw quality handheld VHS camera wander about recording of then legendary club DJ Sasha filmed in 1990 at the Blackpool seafront club Shaboo.
Previously Jenx when Indie ruled, Shaboo was a late 80s early 90s alternative Mecca which regularly had bands like Ned’s Atomic Dustbin or Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine playing live but as the ‘second summer of love’ dawned, the club turned into the rave on capital of Blackpool. Sasha@ Shaboo records one night of the club, from queuing up outside to the last desperate cries of ‘one more’, in all its gloriously shakey handheld wonder.
It’s an inspired choice for a screening, relating so neatly to the Grundy’s exhibition. Mirrored are the youthful abandon of dance and belonging to a musical scene; the unforgivable lapses in fashion. Heat sensitive Global Hypercolour T-Shirts anyone? Because luminous sweat patches are so attractive.
The 90 minute filming has the horde of floppy-haired long sleeve T-shirted clubbers going from zero to sixty as the night progresses. Those seen earlier on in the film smiling and chatty become wide eyed and gurning as what I hope is just the Red Bull they are drinking takes effect.
Its a Lo-Fi classic of a filming and the many who gathered in Supercollider to watch it were either fascinated by the film or quietly smiling, knowingly, as it captured the essence of those heady days.
So another quality night from both the Grundy and Supercollider. When the two spaces do coincide with events it works so well. This format, in my opinion, with its mutual crowd crossovers, adds an extra depth to the evening by reinforcing a sense of Blackpool’s art scene, which echoes the similar inherent feeling that both the above shows do about belonging to a music scene’.
Dance Swine Dance runs till March 29 at The Grundy.
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