Saturday, 1 February 2014

Continue Without Losing Consciousness - Rob Churm, Raydale Dower and Tony Swain Dundee Contemporary Arts, 28 June - 24 August 2014

When Rob Churm, Raydale Dower and Tony Swain opened up Le Drapeau Noir 
for the duration of the 2010 Glasgow International Festival of Visual 
Art, the nightly word of mouth happenings that took place in the former 
hairdresser's shop down a city centre back street became as legendary 
as the forbears they emulated, paid homage to and reinvented for the 
moment via a series of gigs, performances and events in a speak-easy 
environment tailor-made for underground conspiracy.

Le Drapeau Noir drew inspiration from Dada-ist nightclub Cabaret 
Voltaire, founded in Zurich by Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings in 1916. 
With Le Drapeau Noir translating as The Black Flag, referencing the 
anarchist flag as much as American hardcore band, Black Flag, the 
spirit of anarchist talking shops and any late night boho dive where 
dreamers and schemers have plotted assorted invisible insurrections for 
centuries were also in the minds of Churm, Dower and Swain.

All of which should make Continue without losing Consciousness, the 
trio's latest, Le Drapeau Noir referencing collaboration at Dundee 
Contemporary Arts, a tantalising prospect even as it scales up Le 
Drapeau Noir's original sense of self-mythology for DCA's bigger space. 
Continue without losing Consciousness will form part of GENERATION, 
20154's major Scotland-wide celebration of contemporary art in Scotland 
over the last twenty-five years, and which will feature some fifty 
galleries hosting work.

“Continue without losing Consciousness, like GENERATION as a whole, is 
based on the strong ecology of the recent generations of artists 
operating in Scotland,” DCA's Exhibitions Curator Graham Domke 
explains. “Rob, Tony and Raydale - an Englishman, an Irishman and a 
Scotsman - have as many connections to one another in terms of 
underground music as they do as artists.

“Social connections and intellectual discourses lead to healthy, lively 
communities, and Le Drapeau Noir was my absolute highlight of the 2010 
Glasgow International, and it profoundly acknowledged the importance of 
collaboration and conversation. The idea for DCA is to have three 
distinct solo presentations by the artists alongside space to 
contextualise what Le Drapeau Noir was about and, just as importantly, 
programme new gigs, zine launches, events, interventions and keep true 
to its original spirit.”

In recent times, as well as Cabaret Voltaire, such kindred spirits to 
habitues of Le Drapeau Noir may have been found in Greenwich Village 
Beat cafes in the 1950s and 1960s, Glasgow's original arts lab, The 
Third Eye Centre, in the 1970s, which so influenced the flowering of 
contemporary artists across all artforms in the city before being 
transformed into the far glossier Centre of Contemporary Arts, and 
Richard Strange's recently revived Cabaret Futura club, which first 
appeared on the London scene in the early 1980s. Like all of these, Le 
Drapeau Noir was a DIY temporary autonomous zone to hang out in as much 
as anything, and was founded on a Punk Rock aesthetic prevalent in the 
ever fertile art/pop crossover in Glasgow which Churm, Dower and Swain 
are key players in.

Swain has had solo exhibitions at the Fruitmarket Gallery and 
Inverleith House in Edinburgh, and was a member of the influential band 
Hassle Hound. Dower is a graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone College of 
Art and Design in Dundee, where he was involved in the city's skate 
scene which used the derelict garage that was on the site of where DCA 
now stands as a base. Dower also featured in the DCA tenth anniversary 
exhibition, The Associates, and has had solo exhibitions at Changing 
Room Stirling, and Tramway, Glasgow. He is currently a member of 
avant-pop troupe, Tut Vu Vu, and was a founding member of leftfield 
blues hollerers, Uncle John and Whitelock.

Churm has shown at venues such as GoMA, Sorcha Dallas and the Glasgow 
Project Room, and recently had a residency at Cove Park, in Argyll. 
He's played in bands Park Attack and the Gummy Stumps, and still 
programmes the events at the now permanently christened Old 
Hairdressers venue where Le Drapeau Noir took place.

“DCA is a social space, a combined arts centre and is also a part of 
the legacy of the last twenty-five years of contemporary art in 
Scotland,” says Domke. “Since 1999, DCA has presented artists at key 
points in their practice to flourish on an international platform 
whilst also fostering audiences for trailblazing art. Generation as a 
nationwide celebration of contemporary art in Scotland has the 
opportunity to take underground or under the radar activities and make 
them accessible to a larger community.

In Continue without losing Consciousness, then one should “expect nods 
to revolutionary art movements such as Surrealism, Dadaism and Fluxus, 
channelled through with contemporary influences. The biggest 
celebration of the Scottish contemporary art scene is unthinkable 
without artists like Rob, Raydale and Tony, who keep on keeping on.”

Scottish Art News, January 2014


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