Modern Institute, Aird’s Lane, Glasgow until May 11th
‘Stonehenge - Built by Immigrants’ reads the official looking sign set against the red-brick and very un-Stonehenge-like wall that points to some kind of industrial past. This conflation of ancient and modern social histories is the perfect marker to this new show by socio-civic provocateur Jeremy Deller, which puts the 62-minute film made in 2018 that gives the show its title at its centre.
More clues of its contents come in Justified and Ancient (2014), a screenprint of a big yellow smiley, rave culture’s iconic symbol, and here adorned with neolithic stones for eyes.
Shelleys Laserdome (2019) is a neon sign for a Stoke-on-Trent nightclub that became one of the Meccas for a new generation of lost boys and girls.
The film itself is a vital living history of how working class culture got from the industrial revolution to the 1980s free party scene, taking in the miners’ strike, New Age travellers and Greenham Common en route. Filmed during a lecture to A-level Politics students, Deller charts the move from picket line to pleasure palace as disenfranchised post-industrial youth took collective action on the dancefloor to create a cultural revolution that terrified the establishment enough to make them outlaws as they fought for the right to party.
This politicisation by default was one of the key drives behind Kieran Hurley’s recently filmed stage play, Beats, and here Deller talks of techno as folk music, and how the democratisation of dancefloor hedonism was ‘a death ritual’ for industrial Britain, as temporary autonomous zones were co-opted by a mainstream of superclubs and superstar DJs. Using archive footage, he points to the contradictions of all this using images of Paul Staines, one-time hippy entrepreneur turned founder of right wing news website Guido Fawkes.
The students look suitably baffled in this inspiring overview of what might just have been the counter-culture’s last glow-stick illuminated gasp. By historicising a youthquake ‘more punk than punk ever was,’ as someone says, it offers alternatives for people to come together once more.
The List, April 2019