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Forming the’ decadent twilight nature’ of nightclubs

Famous squads have offered artists the perfect pulpit to design fantasy situations, 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” feature that would pitch from the ceiling where needed, there are still accumulations of cash in the back area, unisex bathrooms and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a pony on the dancefloor led by a naked humanity covered in gold glitter.

The key thing about Studio 54, which features in a new show about world golf-club culture at Vitra Design Museum, was its adaptability. It could become a different fantasy environment to act as backdrop for the outrageous attires and theatre of the party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were drooped 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 pictured the rise of the idea that you don’t layout a nightclub, you producing the minimal pattern parts 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 infinite- genuinely the nightclub is just a container. Clubs are made through lighting and sound, psychotropic narcotics and people .”

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

A new stage set would invigorate a new persona.” Historically, nightclubs have served as seats for freedom of expression and safe infinites because they’re masked ,” says Rossi.” They’re veiled from daytime standards and presumptions 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 potentials. The association had a door policy where simply celebrities and the beautiful or unconventional were allowed in- those attempting their 15 times of prestige. This was a surreal, decadent, sunset world and whether it was Truman Capote, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones or Andy Warhol, it was mutually beneficial, the squad burnishing their persona and vice versa.

The exhibition will be crammed with a fascinating capital of intend detail to go with the photographs and representations- interior furnishings, igniting, album layout, pattern, and the graphics of flyers and signs. One of the exhibition chambers will be given to a phone and lighting station, without quite being a mock-up of a nightclub.” If you’re going to do an exhibition about nightclubs ,” excuses Rossi,” then elements like feeling and event are key parts of the design of the seats and how that layout is consumed 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 organizations, such as Area, Club 57, the Mudd Club, Paradise Garage and the Palladium, offered a innovative stage to creators. Nightclubs became galleries. Keith Haring designed flyers and summons, formatted exhibits and installations, and coated a huge mural inside the Palladium. His canvas was also the human body, decorating Grace Jones with his signature kinetic pulls 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 advanced 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 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 ship showroom and had an industrial feel.” There was a line of pillars running through the infinite, which inevitably would be hazardous where people were drinking and dancing. I introduced stripes normally used as hazard markings 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 caused dance storey, so I utilized roadside bollards and prepare cat’s eyes into the concrete floor. The industrial speech progressed through practical reasons .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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