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Forming the’ decadent sunset nature’ of nightclubs

Famous guilds have offered masters the perfect stage to design fantasy environments, says Chris Hall

Caligula throwing a party ,” was how the funk musician Rick James described the famed Studio 54 in New York, which opened in 1977. There was a cocaine snort” Man and the Spoon” facet that they are able to descend from the ceiling when required, there were pilings of cash in the back room, unisex showers and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a mare on the dancefloor led by a naked man covered in gold glitter.

The key thing about Studio 54, which is available in a brand-new show about world-wide guild culture at Vitra Design Museum, was its adaptability. It could become a different fiction environment to act as backdrop for the outrageous garbs and theatre of the party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were fallen 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 recognized the rise of the idea that you don’t design a nightclub, you bring the minimal designing elements to make a nightclub ,” says Catharine Rossi, a designing historian at Kingston University, who has co-curated the exhibition.” What’s important is not the physical opening- really the nightclub is just a container. Clubs are made through lighting and sound, psychotropic dopes and people .”

Interior
A target to crash: Manchester’s post-industrial Hacienda with hazard-marking stripes on the editorials. Photograph: Courtesy of Ben Kelly

A new stage set would stimulate a new persona.” Historically, nightclubs have sufficed as infinites for freedom of expression and safe infinites because they’re buried ,” says Rossi.” They’re hidden from daytime standards and presuppositions about behaviour and identity. At night 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 possibles. The society had a door policy where exclusively celebrities and the beautiful or unconventional were allowed in- those seeking their 15 minutes of prominence. This was a surreal, decadent, twilight macrocosm and whether it was Truman Capote, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones or Andy Warhol, it was mutually beneficial, the fraternity burnishing their epitome and vice versa.

The exhibition will be crammed with a fascinating wealth of layout detail to go with the photographs and representations- interior furnishings, illuminating, book motif, way, and the graphics of flyers and posters. One of the exhibition areas will be given to a racket and illuminating installing, without quite being a mock-up of a nightclub.” If you’re going to do an exhibition about nightclubs ,” justifies Rossi,” then elements like feeling and event are key parts of the design of the openings and how that blueprint is exhausted or suffered .”

Nightclub
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 artistic programme to masters. Nightclubs became galleries. Keith Haring designed flyers and biddings, organized exhibitions and installations, and decorated a huge mural inside the Palladium. His canvas was also the human body, painting Grace Jones with his signature kinetic depicts for a live performance at Paradise Garage in New York in 1985.

Another famed society that peculiarity heavily in the exhibition is the Hacienda in Manchester, with its innovative post-industrial design.” Nightclubs have progressed in line with the changing nature of our metropolitans ,” says Rossi.” In the 1980 s for example, the post-industrial city led to the opening up of infinites from warehouses to factories .” Whereas Studio 54 was about exclusivity and decadence, 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 expression of factory interiors given that it was a former boat showroom and had an industrial feel.” There was a line of columns guiding through the opening, which unavoidably would be hazardous where people were boozing and dancing. I employed stripes normally used as hazard brands in the workplace on the pillars 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 elevated dance storey, so I use roadside bollards and adjust cat’s sees into the concrete storey. The industrial conversation evolved through practical reasons .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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