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Causing the’ decadent autumn nature’ of nightclubs

Famous squads have offered artists the perfect platform to design fantasy environments, says Chris Hall

Caligula throwing a party ,” 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” feature that they are able to descend from the ceiling when required, there are still stockpiles of cash in the back chamber, unisex bathrooms and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a mare on the dancefloor led by a naked gentleman covered in gold glitter.

The key thing about Studio 54, which features in a brand-new exhibit about world-wide team culture at Vitra Design Museum, was its adaptability. It could become a different fantasy environment to act as backdrop for the outrageous outfits and theatre of the working party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were dropped 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 rise of the idea that you don’t design a nightclub, you returning the minimal designing ingredients to make a nightclub ,” says Catharine Rossi, a blueprint 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 medications and people .”

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

A new stage set would invigorate a new persona.” Historically, nightclubs have dished as infinites for freedom of expression and safe spaces because they’re masked ,” says Rossi.” They’re concealed from daytime standards and beliefs 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 possibilities. The team had a door policy where simply celebrities and the beautiful or unconventional were allowed in- those searching their 15 times of fame. This was a surreal, decadent, autumn macrocosm and whether it was Truman Capote, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones or Andy Warhol, it was mutually beneficial, the sorority burnishing their likenes and vice versa.

The exhibition will be crammed with a fascinating opulence of designing detail to go with the photographs and prototypes- interior furnishings, igniting, album blueprint, way, and the graphics of flyers and signs. One of the exhibition areas will be devoted to a resound and igniting facility, without quite being a mock-up of a nightclub.” If you’re going to do an exhibit about nightclubs ,” clarifies Rossi,” then elements like feeling and know-how are key parts of the design of the infinites and how that design is exhausted or knowledge .”

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 pulpit to artists. Nightclubs became galleries. Keith Haring designed flyers and invitations, ordered exhibitions and installings, and coated a huge mural inside the Palladium. His canvas was also the human body, painting Grace Jones with his signature kinetic moves for a live execution at Paradise Garage in New York in 1985.

Another famed golf-club that features 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 metropolis ,” says Rossi.” In the 1980 s for example, the post-industrial city led to the opening up of cavities 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 communication of mill interiors given that it was a former yacht showroom and had an industrial feel.” There was a line of editorials leading through the seat, which inevitably would be hazardous where people were sucking and dancing. I introduced stripes normally used as hazard markers in the workplace on the columns 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 parent dance floor, so I expended roadside bollards and mount cat’s seeings into the concrete flooring. The industrial expression evolved through practical reasons .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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