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Composing the’ decadent autumn macrocosm’ of nightclubs

Famous organizations have offered artists the perfect stage to design fantasy contexts, 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” boast that they are able to descend from the ceiling where necessary, there were piles of cash in the back area, unisex lavatories and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a pony on the dancefloor led by a naked man covered in gold glitter.

The key concept about Studio 54, which features in a brand-new exhibition about world squad culture at Vitra Design Museum, was its adaptability. It could become a different fantasy environment to act as backdrop for the scandalous costumes and theatre of the working party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were sagged 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 realized the rise of the idea that you don’t design a nightclub, you returning the negligible intend constituents to make a nightclub ,” says Catharine Rossi, a intend 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 igniting and sound, psychotropic stimulants and beings .”

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

A brand-new stage set would invigorate a new persona.” Historically, nightclubs have served as seats for freedom of expression and safe rooms because they’re concealed ,” says Rossi.” They’re hide from daytime norms and assumptions 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 alternatives. The organization had a door policy where merely celebrities and the beautiful or unconventional were allowed in- those attempting their 15 hours of prestige. This was a surreal, decadent, twilight world and whether it was Truman Capote, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones or Andy Warhol, it was mutually beneficial, the golf-club burnishing their portrait and vice versa.

The exhibition will be crammed with a fascinating asset of motif detail to go with the photographs and prototypes- interior furnishings, lighting, book layout, fad, and the graphics of flyers and posters. One of the exhibition rooms will be allocated to a seem and igniting facility, without quite being a mock-up of a nightclub.” If you’re going to do an exhibition about nightclubs ,” illustrates Rossi,” then elements like ambiance and know-how are key parts of the design of the seats and how that designing is ingested or experienced .”

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

In the 70 s and 80 s, New York guilds, such as Area, Club 57, the Mudd Club, Paradise Garage and the Palladium, offered a imaginative stage to masters. Nightclubs became galleries. Keith Haring designed flyers and requests, organized exhibitions and installings, and decorated a huge mural inside the Palladium. His canvas was also the human body, decorating Grace Jones with his signature kinetic attractions for a live concert at Paradise Garage in New York in 1985.

Another famed squad that boasts heavily in the exhibition is the Hacienda in Manchester, with its innovative post-industrial design.” Nightclubs have derived in line with the changing nature of our cities ,” says Rossi.” In the 1980 s for example, the post-industrial city led to the opening up of spaces from warehouses to mills .” 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 speech of factory interiors given that it was a former yacht showroom and had an industrial feel.” There was a line of pillars loping through the room, which unavoidably would be hazardous where people were drinking and dancing. I made stripes normally used as hazard labels in the workplace on the articles 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 raised dance floor, so I exploited roadside bollards and adjust cat’s seeings into the concrete floor. The industrial expression evolved through practical reasons .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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