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Forming the’ decadent sunset nature’ of nightclubs

Famous sororities have offered artists the perfect stage to design fantasy environments, says Chris Hall

Caligula throwing “states parties ” ,” was how the funk musician Rick James described the famous Studio 54 in New York, which opened in 1977. There was a cocaine snort” Man and the Spoon” peculiarity that would condescend from the ceiling when required, there are still mounds of cash in the back chamber, unisex bathrooms and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a pony on the dancefloor is presided over by a naked boy covered in gold glitter.

The key thing about Studio 54, which is available in a new exhibition about world sorority culture at Vitra Design Museum, was its adaptability. It could become a different imagination environment to act as backdrop for the outrageous outfits and theatre of the party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were lowered from the club’s ceiling on New Year’s Eve or when the fashion designer Valentino had a circus-themed birthday party with sand and mermaids on trapezes.

” The 60 s and 70 s witnessed the increase of the idea that you don’t design a nightclub, you drawing the minimal design constituents to make a nightclub ,” says Catharine Rossi, a layout historian at Kingston University, who has co-curated the exhibition.” What’s important is not the physical seat- truly the nightclub is just a container. Clubs are made through illuminating and sound, psychotropic medicines and parties .”

A region to gate-crash: Manchester’s post-industrial Hacienda with hazard-marking stripes on the articles. Photograph: Courtesy of Ben Kelly

A new stage set would induce a new persona.” Historically, nightclubs have helped as infinites for freedom of expression and safe spaces because they’re masked ,” says Rossi.” They’re hidden from daytime standards and presumptions about behaviour and identity. At nighttime we can try out different identities .”

Playing with personas was something Andy Warhol was drawn to at Studio 54, where he would document this emerging culture with its transformative possibilities. The squad had a door policy where exclusively celebrities and the beautiful or unconventional were allowed in- those searching their 15 hours of fame. This was a surreal, decadent, twilight world-wide and whether it was Truman Capote, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones or Andy Warhol, it was mutually beneficial, the sorority burnishing their persona and vice versa.

The exhibition will be crammed with a fascinating fortune of designing detail to go with the photographs and prototypes- interior furnishings, lighting, book blueprint, style, and the graphics of flyers and signs. One of the exhibition areas will be given to a chime and illuminating installation, without quite being a mock-up of a nightclub.” If you’re going to do an exhibit about nightclubs ,” interprets Rossi,” then elements like sky and event are key parts of the design of the infinites and how that intend is ingested or known .”

Staying cool: the Philippe Starck-designed Les Bains Douches in Paris. Photograph: Foc Kan

In the 70 s and 80 s, New York societies, such as Area, Club 57, the Mudd Club, Paradise Garage and the Palladium, offered a innovative programme to masters. Nightclubs became galleries. Keith Haring designed flyers and biddings, set exhibits and installations, and decorated a huge mural inside the Palladium. His canvas was also the human body, covering Grace Jones with his signature kinetic portrays for a live action at Paradise Garage in New York in 1985.

Another legendary society that features heavily in the exhibition is the Hacienda in Manchester, with its innovative post-industrial design.” Nightclubs have advanced in line with the changing nature of our metropolis ,” says Rossi.” In the 1980 s for example, the post-industrial city led to the opening up of spaces from warehouses to plants .” Whereas Studio 54 was about exclusivity and debasement, the Hacienda was about inclusivity and a different kind of escapism. In short, it was the difference between cocaine and ecstasy.

Ben Kelly, who designed the Hacienda, says that it seemed logical to him to use the visual language of factory interiors given that it was a former boat showroom and had an industrial feel.” There was a line of towers running through the opening, which unavoidably would be hazardous where people were boozing and dancing. I made stripes normally used as hazard commemorates in the workplace on the lines in the nightclub, and yellow-and-black stripes on to the riser of the stage. There was another safety issue getting on and off the invoked dance floor, so I used roadside bollards and define cat’s attentions into the concrete floor. The industrial conversation derived through practical reasons .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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