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Generating the’ decadent autumn world’ of nightclubs

Famous clubs have offered artists the perfect programme to design fantasy media, 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 snorting” Man and the Spoon” peculiarity that they are able to condescend from the ceiling when required, there were collections of cash in the back area, unisex showers and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a mare on the dancefloor to be provided by a naked soldier covered in gold glitter.

The key thing about Studio 54, which features in a new show about world-wide society culture at Vitra Design Museum, was its adaptability. It could become a different fiction environment to act as backdrop for the outrageous clothings and theatre of the party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were discontinued 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 delivering the negligible design elements to make a nightclub ,” says Catharine Rossi, a design historian at Kingston University, who has co-curated the exhibition.” What’s important is not the physical space- genuinely the nightclub is just a container. Clubs are made through illuminating and sound, psychotropic drugs and parties .”

A home to disintegrate: Manchester’s post-industrial Hacienda with hazard-marking stripes on the lines. Photograph: Courtesy of Ben Kelly

A brand-new stage set would induce a new persona.” Historically, nightclubs have dished as rooms for freedom of expression and safe seats because they’re secreted ,” says Rossi.” They’re obscure from daytime standards and assumptions 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 prospects. The squad had a door policy where merely celebrities and the beautiful or unconventional were allowed in- those trying their 15 times of prestige. This was a surreal, decadent, twilight nature and whether it was Truman Capote, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones or Andy Warhol, it was mutually beneficial, the team burnishing their image and vice versa.

The exhibition will be crammed with a fascinating wealth of blueprint detail to go with the photographs and patterns- interior furnishings, igniting, album intend, way, and the graphics of flyers and signs. One of the exhibition rooms will be given to a phone and lighting installation, without quite being a mock-up of a nightclub.” If you’re going to do an exhibition about nightclubs ,” shows Rossi,” then elements like feeling and know-how are key parts of the design of the cavities and how that pattern is destroyed 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 clubs, such as Area, Club 57, the Mudd Club, Paradise Garage and the Palladium, offered a creative scaffold to masters. Nightclubs became galleries. Keith Haring designed flyers and summons, arranged exhibits and installations, and painted a huge mural inside the Palladium. His canvas was also the human body, covering Grace Jones with his signature kinetic describes for a live accomplishment at Paradise Garage in New York in 1985.

Another famous golf-club that boasts heavily in the exhibition is the Hacienda in Manchester, with its innovative post-industrial design.” Nightclubs have evolved 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 cavities 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 plant interiors given that it was a former yacht showroom and had an industrial feel.” There was a line of pillars guiding through the seat, which inevitably would be hazardous where people were drinking and dancing. I employed stripes normally used as hazard distinguishes in the workplace on the editorials 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 developed dance flooring, so I applied roadside bollards and mount cat’s eyes into the concrete flooring. The industrial speech advanced through practical reasons .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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