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Creating the’ decadent sunset world-wide’ of nightclubs

Famous societies have offered artists the perfect pulpit 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 snorting” Man and the Spoon” boast that would sink from the ceiling when required, there were heaps of cash in the back chamber, unisex showers and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a pony on the dancefloor led by a naked soul covered in gold glitter.

The key thing about Studio 54, which features in a new exhibit about world sorority culture at Vitra Design Museum, was its adaptability. It could become a different fiction environment to act as backdrop for the outrageous attires and theatre of the party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were plunged 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 fetching the minimal design elements to make a nightclub ,” says Catharine Rossi, a motif historian at Kingston University, who has co-curated the exhibition.” What’s important is not the physical room- certainly the nightclub is just a container. Clubs are made through lighting and sound, psychotropic drugs and people .”

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

A new stage set would invigorate a new persona.” Historically, nightclubs have provided as seats for freedom of expression and safe openings because they’re masked ,” says Rossi.” They’re hidden from daytime norms and presuppositions about behaviour and identity. At darknes 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 merely celebrities and the beautiful or unconventional were allowed in- those trying their 15 hours of prominence. This was a surreal, decadent, sunset world-wide and whether it was Truman Capote, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones or Andy Warhol, it was mutually beneficial, the organization burnishing their image and vice versa.

The exhibition will be crammed with a fascinating abundance of design detail to go with the photographs and modelings- interior furnishings, igniting, book motif, pattern, and the graphics of flyers and posters. One of the exhibition chambers will be devoted to a racket 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 flavour and know-how are key parts of the design of the infinites and how that motif is downed or suffered .”

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 creative platform to masters. Nightclubs became galleries. Keith Haring designed flyers and summons, organized 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 rendition at Paradise Garage in New York in 1985.

Another famed society that features 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 metropolitans ,” says Rossi.” In the 1980 s for example, the post-industrial city led to the opening up of spaces from warehouses to factories .” 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 usage of mill interiors given that it was a former yacht showroom and had an industrial feel.” There was a line of lines guiding through the infinite, which unavoidably would be hazardous where people were drinking and dancing. I set stripes normally used as hazard tags 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 caused dance floor, so I employed roadside bollards and define cat’s attentions into the concrete flooring. The industrial usage derived through practical reasons .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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