"Every story ever told really happened. Stories are where memories go when they’re forgotten."Art The original venue for Mark Leckey's Dream English Kid was supposed to be the Saw Mill, originally the entrance hall to Nation the building which hosted Cream. Sadly a week before the Biennial was due to open, a fire led to too much structural damage for it to remain a safe place to have an artwork so it's been moved to the Blade Factory, part of the complex which includes the Camp & Furnace bar and restaurant. Which means instead of finally stepping inside a building which I somehow managed to avoid in its heyday, I instead enjoyed a Proustian rush as I returned to the building which, when it was still owned by the AFoundation, I worked as an invigilator ten years ago, something I eventually revealed on this blog.
-- The Doctor, "Hell Bent"
Apart from the orange lighting which heralds the entrance to the display room, another Leckey piece titled SOX Lamps, the single other piece is Dream English Kid, a 22 minute repeating found footage montage. As the Biennial website explains: "In 1979, Eric’s nightclub in Liverpool hosted a gig by Joy Division that Mark Leckey attended in his youth. Recently, the artist located amateur footage of the event on YouTube. Realising that many of the personal memories that we have can be found online, Leckey began to assemble a film, Dream English Kid, that uses archival material from television shows, advertisements and music, to recreate a record of all the significant events in his life from the 1970s until the 1990s."
In other words, a more esoteric version of Terence Davies's Of Time and the City or the recent Arena documentary about 1966, with a more contemporary time frame which shifts from the mentioned shots of the gig at Eric's through film of the first test launches of media satellites, what look like clips from BBC's Threads, amateur material of Liverpool in the 70s and 80s and some repeated shots of a corseted lady in a dressing room. This is all accompanied by asynchronous sound, snatches of single bars from popular songs, a word or beat, pieces of voiceover evoking a particular time as well as the inevitably wheezing and groaning noise of the TARDIS (over black and white footage of a small boy playing in a garden - perhaps this is supposed to be Leckey himself).
The result is fascinating, just as all found footage concoctions tend to be, even if some of the connecting threads are even more maddening to comprehend than some of Adam Curtis's recent voiceoverless creations. Like Davies, in presenting elements from his own life, he's inevitably forcing us to juxtapose them with our own memories or feelings and although our fields of reference are slightly different, I was certainly sympatico with the way in which he evoked how our minds sift through memories when gripped with nostalgia or at least wanting to make a connection with the past, something which, visually is far easier thanks to the internet.
For years, I had the memory of a terrifying nightmare involving a giant blue man-shaped tiger which I'd experienced as a baby. Now, thanks to YouTube, I know it was only Animal Kwackers. If I want to see footage of Speke Airport in the 1970s, here it is. Liverpool City Centre in 1989? Ok then. You'll be surprised how little has changed. Clayton Square had just opened. What about the bus I used to get to school? Might as well call the thing ProustTube or some such. But as I was reminded in returning to the Blade Factory, the real places are usually still there if we want this blast of memories. Does Mark Leckey return to Eric's often?