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Developing the’ decadent twilight world’ of nightclubs

Famous fraternities have offered creators the perfect platform to design fantasy environments, says Chris Hall

Caligula throwing “states parties ” ,” 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” feature that would descend from the ceiling where needed, there were batches of cash in the back area, unisex bathrooms and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a pony on the dancefloor led by a naked serviceman covered in gold glitter.

The key thing about Studio 54, which is available in a brand-new exhibition about world fraternity culture at Vitra Design Museum, was its adaptability. It could become a different fantasy environment to act as backdrop for the outrageous dress and theatre of the party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were declined 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 read the rise of the idea that you don’t design a nightclub, you introducing the negligible designing components 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- certainly the nightclub is just a container. Clubs are made through igniting and sound, psychotropic doses and beings .”

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

A new stage set would invigorate a new persona.” Historically, nightclubs have sufficed as seats for freedom of expression and safe openings because they’re disguised ,” says Rossi.” They’re hide from daytime standards and premises 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 instants of prominence. This was a surreal, decadent, autumn 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 affluence of blueprint detail to go with the photographs and patterns- interior furnishings, illuminating, album layout, fashion, and the graphics of flyers and postings. One of the exhibition chambers will be devoted to a chime and igniting facility, without fairly being a mock-up of a nightclub.” If you’re going to do an exhibition about nightclubs ,” shows Rossi,” then elements like feeling and event are key parts of the design of the openings and how that intend 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 golf-clubs, such as Area, Club 57, the Mudd Club, Paradise Garage and the Palladium, offered a creative programme to artists. Nightclubs became galleries. Keith Haring designed flyers and invitations, set exhibits and stations, and coated a huge mural inside the Palladium. His canvas was also the human body, decorating Grace Jones with his signature kinetic attracts for a live execution at Paradise Garage in New York in 1985.

Another famous fraternity 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 metropolis ,” says Rossi.” In the 1980 s for example, the post-industrial city led to the opening up of seats from warehouses to mills .” 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 factory interiors given that it was a former yacht showroom and had an industrial feel.” There was a line of lines flowing through the space, which inevitably would be hazardous where people were drinking and dancing. I applied stripes normally used as hazard stigmatizes 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 elevated dance flooring, so I used roadside bollards and mount cat’s sees into the concrete flooring. The industrial communication evolved through practical reasons .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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