“Artists are so bizarre and come from such strange places”: Glenn Ligon interview below

Mark Leckey, Dream English Kid, 1964-1999 AD (2015)

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We can tell a number of things about Mark Leckey from this autobiographical film. So, the Merseysider grew up in the shadow of the Beatles, the A-bomb and the 1999 solar eclipse.

Dream English Kid is a life story made with footage found online. So we also pick up on memories of motorways, pylons, football crowds, nightclubs, London squats and sex shops.

One presumes, the national grid has found its way here through the phenomenon of nomative determinism. ‘Lecky’, a homonym for the artist’s name, is of course slang for electricity.

To underline this, he compiles shots of MANWEB stores (the Merseyside And North Wales Electricity Board). Plus a sheet of paper with ‘lekke’ scrawled in childish hand.

As any Freudian will tell you it is precisely this type of slippery play which characterises the dream. And so the artist relates to YouTube as any good analysand would relate to his/her unconscious.

Both dreamer and fetishist, Leckey offers us several moments with a Hitchcockesque blonde in a corset; she teases out her hair as we focus on the mechanics of her stockings.

What is Leckey telling us here? Or when the camera pans across several shelves of blue movies in Soho? And was he aware of the traditional dangers of auto erotic dreaming?

From Saint Augustine to Alex Portnoy, sexual fantasy has been a central part of mental life. Though for a visual artist, blindness would be catastrophic, ‘watching’ the eclipse doubly dangerous.

Light and shade provide an equally dangerous contrast in a sequence of footage captured in Eric’s nightclub in Liverpool in 1979, on a night legendary band Joy Division came to town.

Epileptic singer Ian Curtis can be seen risking a fit as he winds his arms up and down in the midst of a frenzy of strobe and cacophonous post punk rumble. Leckey was at the gig.

So the 23-minute film is as much a bildungsroman as a therapeutic confessional. Stark images of a sleeping bag on a lonely mattress in a bare room have the quality of a cocoon.

The artist pupates. Some more professional nightclub footage (1980s, big hair, with Cinzano Rosso as tipple of choice) pre-echoes his 1999 film Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (another autobiography).

For me the most intriguing shot was the hands flicking through a record rack at Black Market Records in Soho. An album by The Shadows plays with the notion of chiaroscuro.

We also find Joy Division (Eric’s!), Kraftwerk (motorways!), and the Beatles (hometown!). I seem to remember it was A Hard Day’s Night, whose famous opening chord is sampled elsewhere twice.

Most spooky is a comedy LP by Kenneth Williams called On Pleasure Bent. It was the title Leckey borrowed for his first monograph and a 2013 film which may have been a prototype for this one.

Of all the racks in all the lands, the artist came across this one. This is dream logic at someone else’s fingertips, as the unconscious works through the dark, vinyl-like grooves of the mind.

Dream English Kid can be seen at Camp & Furnace throughout the 2016 Liverpool Biennial (July 9 – October 16).



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