Paul Gorman is…

Five Disobedient Objects which embody the spirit of contemporary protest

Jul 24th, 2014

//Inflatable cobblestone made by the Eclectic Electric Collective in cooperation with Enmedio for protests during the Spanish general strike in Barcelona 2012. © Oriana Eliçabe/

The exhibition Disobedient Objects opens at the V&A tonight; here curator Catherine Flood – who originated the concept for the show – talks me through five exhibits which embody the spirit of contemporary protest.



//How To guide: Makeshift Tear-Gas Mask. Illustrated by Marwan Kaabour at Barnbrook//

Disobedient objects are often those which are simply to hand and waiting to be re-purposed. These masks made from water bottles were used during last year’s Gezi Park protests in Istanbul as a response to the unprecedented amounts of teargas used against protestors in Taksim Square, and became symbolic – they were featured in street art and graffiti and there are photographs of whirling dervishes wearing them.

One of the key points of the exhibition is to demonstrate that excellent design can emerge from people with limited resources and not much time but brilliant ideas. These also show that design doesn’t have to be about professional practice or commercial purpose but can still make a wide impact; people also tweeted images from local chemists of the products which could be bought to make up a survival kit when gassed. As an accessible form of design we chose it for one of our “how to” guides because it is a great example of  “swarm” design, documented by one group so that others can use them in different contexts.



//A message to you Vladimir. Gay rights activist protests at Putin’s re-election in 2012: “We won’t give it to Putin a third time.”//


//Protestor – who has subsequently had to leave Russia – with his placard, which was collected by Flood herself. She was in Moscow taking an exhibition down when the protests were on//

This placard was made for demonstrations against Putin’s re-election in 2012 and marked a different style of protest in Russia: rather than a crowd united under by one slogan, hand-painted placards were produced with personal, sometimes witty messages. There’s nothing especially innovative about hand-rendered placards but this time they were used in conjunction with social media so were a bit like tweets, conveying pithy messages which were photographed and put on Twitter.

This was created by a gay rights activist and says: “We won’t give it to Putin a third time,” apparently quite a crude reference in Russia and playing on his homophobia. The protestor told us that this was the first time the LGBT Rainbow colours were used in public. He has subsequently had to leave the country.



//Testing an inflatable hammer made by Eclectic Electric Collective at the Berlin Mauer Park, 2010. Photo: Jakub Simcik//

The Berlin-based Eclectic Electric Collective (now called Tools For Action) produce inflatables of protest objects such as cobblestones and hammers. When they’re thrown at police lines they change the dynamic of demonstrations; the police either become distracted by the big shiny thing or they throw it back and the exchange turns into a game, like a surreal version of volleyball.

It’s a really interesting way of occupying public space. This element of unruliness upsets the authorities because the protestors are not abiding by protocol and the accepted rules of engagement. The clever use of props – giant puppets have been used elsewhere – allows the protestors to wrest control.

Another example in this section of the show is the book block, a painted shield in the form of giant works of literature and philosophy made by students protesting at education cuts. When they demonstrated, the students were effectively being defended by culture, and by striking the shields, the police evoked the destruction of booksm and were forced into performance without realising it.

This started off in Italy and was taken up in Britain and America by students who had seen them on social media.

The Eclectic Electric Collective made us a cobblestone for the exhibition. This is an issue with this material, because quite often it is destroyed in the process of protest.


6. Chilean Arpilleras wall hanging Dónde están nuestros hijos, Chile, Roberta Bacic's collection, Photo © Martin Melaugh

//Dónde están nuestros hijos (“Where are our children?”). Chilean Arpilleras wall hanging, Roberta Bacic collection. Photo: Martin Melaugh//

We start in the 70s and the rise of neo-liberalism; among the earliest objects in the show are Chilean appliqued textiles produced by women in workshops during the Pinochet regime. These documented the social realities of the disappearances, the tortures, the economic hardships. These worked on a number of levels.

Made from scraps of material, these were sold, so provided economic support, and in the act of gathering to make them, the women found solidarity and collective strength.

There are accounts of women saying that it was only when they had their eyes down on their sewing that they felt safety in confronting what was going on and were able to document what they were otherwise proscribed against speaking about.

These textiles often left the country, and were seen as innocent by the authorities because of their resemblance to folk art, but carried letters and communicated with the outside world. This technique spread, and we have examples from Colombia in 2010. It was also used in Ireland by women protesting against the use of Shannon Airport in extraordinary rendition.


19. The Tiki Love Truck, detail, Photograph by Paul Herrmann

//The Tiki Love Truck, Art Car Parade, Manchester, 2007. Photo: Paul Herrmann//

This is one of the biggest objects in the exhibition. Made by British ceramic and mosaic artist Carrie Reichardt, The Tiki Love Truck protests against the US death penalty. It’s an incredibly powerful piece, not least because it features the death mask of John Joe “Ash” Amador, who had corresponded with her and asked Carrie to be a witness at his execution.

Her friend Nick Reynolds went with her and cast the mask, which was woven into the truck and driven in the Art Car Parade in Manchester 10 days after the execution.

Disobedient Objects runs until February 1, 2015. More info here.


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Let It Rock – Malcolm McLaren exhibition in Copenhagen next month

Jul 9th, 2014
LetItRockMMMirrorpix copy

//Malcolm McLaren outside 430 King’s Road, March 1972. Photo: Mirrorpix//

In the shop’s various incarnations I made clothes that looked like ruins. I created something new by destroying the old. This wasn’t fashion as a commodity; this was fashion as an idea.

From his foreword to The Look: Adventures In Rock & Pop Fashion, Malcolm McLaren, 2001

The first exhibition to examine the late cultural iconoclast Malcolm McLaren’s engagement with fashion in the 70s and early 80s is to be held next month in Copenhagen.

Let It Rock: The Look Of Music The Sound Of Fashion – curated by Young Kim of the Malcolm McLaren Estate and me – is being staged from August 3-6 as part of the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair; creative directors Pierre Tzenkoff and Arnaud Vanraet have commissioned the show in conjunction with an exhibition entitled Industrial by Nature by streetwear guru Virgil Abloh.


Let It Rock will investigate McLaren’s deep roots in fashion (his mother + stepfather operated the womenswear brand Eve Edwards in the 50s and 60s and his grandfather was a master tailor’s cutter) and will also demonstrate how he drew on his art-school investigations into environments to become the progenitor of the pop up shop concept.

Let It Rock revolves around an installation dedicated to the shop from which it takes its title, complete with a recreation of the frontage in black corrugated iron and pink rock&roll signage McLaren designed when he opened the premises with Vivienne Westwood in 1971.

The exhibition is divided into six sections each dedicated to the manifestations at 430 King’s Road as well as Nostalgia Of Mud, the outlet operated by McLaren and Westwood at 5 St Christopher’s Place in London’s West End from 1982 to 1984.

These  sections will all feature rarely-seen and never previously publicly-exhibited clothing designs, photography, sketches, notes, magazine spreads and even pages from McLaren’s notebooks.

Among the exhibits is McLaren’s own ‘I Groaned…” t-shirt from Sex, the Chico hat and grey Crombie coat he wore in the famous portrait for the Witches collection taken by Steven Meisel for Vogue in 1983, the short sheepskin jacket worn through the Buffalo Girls and Duck Rock period and a Let It Rock drape suit fitted personally by McLaren for guitarist songwriter Marco Pirroni.


//McLaren modelling Witches in the Chico hat and Crombie coat with Talisa Soto and Vivienne Westwood by Steven Miesel, US Vogue, June 1983//


//Button, pocket and cuff detail of Marco Pirroni’s drape jacket fitted by McLaren and made by Sid Green, 1974//


//Leather t-shirt with Let It Rock label from 430 King’s Road in summer 1974 during the transition from Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die to Sex//

Ben Kelly – who realised the design for the exterior of Seditionaries in 1976 and is now professor of interiors & spatial design at University Of The Arts London – is contributing photographs taken of his work at the time for his portfolio and there is a very special leather t-shirt bearing a Let It Rock label during the transition in 1974 to the incarnation as Sex.

Contributors also include photographers Robyn Beeche, Bob Gruen, the David Parkinson Estate and Sheila Rock as well as others close to McLaren during his game-changing adventures in  the fashion world.

Find out more about the show on the CIFF site here.

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“There’s so much pollution in the world you should use the gear you already have, not buy something because it’s fashionable” – Trevor Myles + Paradise Garage in Jackie magazine December 1971

Jul 3rd, 2014

//Trevor Myles in front of his store at 430 King’s Road, autumn 1971. Photographer: Not credited//


//pp6-7, Jackie, December 4, 1971//

Well done to vintage collector/dealer Sharon of Sweet Jane’s Pop Boutique blog for spotting this wowser on a Facebook group: a 1971 article in teen fashion and music magazine Jackie about the game-changing fashion outlet Paradise Garage run by Trevor Myles at 430 King’s Road.



//Myles with Bradley Mendelson (in ‘Bradley’ studded top) outside Paradise Garage. Photographer uncredited//


//Myles on his tiger-strip flocked 1966 Ford Mustang Pony car. Photographer uncredited/

Paradise Garage is important because it was the first shop in Britain to import and sell used denim in a meaningful way. Using the astounding environment created by Electric Colour Company, faded and worn denim, sometimes appliqued or patched, was stocked alongside an acutely compiled selection of soon-to-be-familiar dead-stock: Hawaiian shirts, baseball and souvenir jackets, Osh Kosh B’Gosh dungarees, bumper boots, cheongsams and so on.

Myles opened Paradise Garage in May 1971 as a reaction to the Pop Art flash he had engineered at Mr Freedom with his ex-partner Tommy Roberts. In the Jackie article he makes a point about fashion and environmental sustainability of pertinence today:

“There’s so much pollution in the world that we thought you should use the gear you already have – not buy something just because it’s fashionable. By throwing the old lot away you only add to the pollution problem. So that’s why we’re using it all up.”

Also interviewed and photographed is shop manager Bradley Mendelson, the New Yorker whose November 1971 encounter with Malcolm McLaren while Myles was absent overseas resulted in the establishment of Let It Rock at the same address.

The publication date of the issue of Jackie – December 4, 1971 – is poignant; by the time the feature appeared Paradise Garage was gone and McLaren and others, including his art-school student friend Patrick Casey and Vivienne Westwood, had taken over the outlet and were refurbishing it to match Mclaren’s radical British take on 50s retromania.


//Mr Freedom designs produced under Myles’ former partner Tommy Roberts appeared elsewhere in the same issue. Here customer Elton John sports an appliqued top//


//The female cover model wore a pair of green and white winged boots from Mr Freedom (detail cropped out)//


Read the Sweet Jane’s Pop Boutique blog here.




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Nick Abrahams: Lions and Tigers and Bears

Jun 27th, 2014

//Artist/filmmaker Nick Abrahams in a catsuit with a cat//

Looking forward to the opening tonight of Nick Abrahams’ new work Lions And Tigers And Bears.

Abrahams is releasing a companion single which includes a recording of a snail eating a lettuce.

snail, eating – from ‘Lions and Tigers and Bears’ from nicholas abrahams on Vimeo.

Lions And Tigers And Bears runs at the Horse Hospital until July 19.

There’s an interview with Abrahams at The Quietus here.

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Jun 18th, 2014


John Beck and Matthew Cornford’s intelligent and measured book The Art School And The Culture Shed may be a slim volume but it packs a hell of a punch in locating the ravages wreaked on our cultural life over the past 20 years by privatisation, the failings of local councils and town planners and the depredations of property developers.


//Left: Moseley School Of Art, closed 1975. Right: The site of Sidcup School Of Art, occupied since 2010 by a Morrisons and a car park//

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Christie’s homes in on collectible Granny Takes A Trip suits first featured on The Look blog in 2008

Jun 17th, 2014

//From the catalogue for Christie’s Pop Culture auction, June 20,2014//

Six years ago on The Look blog I posted images and memories supplied by Terry Slobodzian, who ran boutiques Explosion and Lacy Lady in the upstate New York town of North Tonawanda in the late 60s and early 70s.

Such shops as Slobodzian’s and The People’s Space (run by Tommy Hilfiger in the neighbouring Emira) were part of a regional US trend for wild and usually wildly-named clothing stores sparked by eccentric retail ventures such as Granny Takes A Trip in England.

As I discovered through contact with vintage dealer/expert Ben Cooney, these are the places who showed at the National Boutique Show in NYC and broadcast their wares from the back pages of Baron Wolman’s fashion/music mag Rags: A Long Time Comin’ in San Anselmo, The Bead Experience in Baltimore, The Great Linoleum Clothing Experiment in LA, Bouncing Bertha’s Banana Blanket and Jenny Waterbags in New York, Mom’s Apple Grave in San Francisco…you get the picture.


//From The Look blog, December 2008//

Granny’s occupied a totemic status for the people who operated these outlets; Slobodzian visited London on a buying spree in 1970 and naturally dropped in at 488 King’s Road. “What a trip it was,” he told me in 2008.“Every piece fit like a glove right off the rack. The craftmanship and choice of fabric was amazing.”

Now Slobodzian’s Granny’s suits as featured on The Look blog are in this Friday’s Pop Culture sale at Christie’s along with two shirts from Bouncing Bertha’s Banana Blanket.

Here’s Rod Stewart in the same paneled velvet suit design as Lot 55 in the sale:

Read The Look post here.

Find out more about the Pop Culture sale here.

Cassandra Tondro has uploaded pages from Rags Magazine here.

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‘How can you say no to a place called Watchet?’ – England Expects: The World Cup Art of Kosmo Vinyl

Jun 4th, 2014


It’s that man again; Kosmo Vinyl has another exhibition of his artful football-based collages.

On the heels of last year’s Is Saitch Yer Daddy?, England Expects coincides with this year’s World Cup in Brazil and reflects – in Vinyl’s “lick-and-stick” style – on the national team’s engagement in the competition past, present and possible.


//Collage courtesy Contains Art//

The show opens later this month at Contains Art in Watchet Harbour, Somerset. “I was invited and I accepted,” says Vinyl. “How can you say no to a place called Watchet?”

Organised under the auspices of regional arts body Creative Somerset, England Expects: The World Cup Art Of Kosmo runs from June 18-29.

Visit here for venue details and here for info on the show.

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Magick Is Freedom! (After Barney Bubbles) opens in London this week

Jun 2nd, 2014

magickSHOWwebx_0 When I first saw it I was questioning a lot of things, not least my adequacy. Things like inspiration, influences, references . . . where do things come from? Copying things—not as “homage’”or “pastiche”, but dying to get inside a thing. Inhabit it. Nostalgia too. Using machines. Colour. Systems. Perpetual motion. Automatism. Copying things. Graham Wood on Existence Is Unhappiness.

This week sees the London opening of Magick Is Freedom! (After Barney Bubbles), an exhibition of the series of prints made by designer Graham Wood in response to Existence Is Unhappiness, the fold-out poster for the 12th issue of underground magazine Oz published in May 1968 and designed by Barney Bubbles with Sid Squeak and others.

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48ers: Around the world with Fennica’s Drinking Jackets

May 30th, 2014
photo 1

//Beams staff in 48 jackets (unplanned , no memo) at a press preview for FW13 collections, Tokyo//

I love my calico Fennica 48 drinking jacket right down to it’s beer barrel buttons.


//In my 48 last weekend at the Pablo Bronstein show, Herald Street, east London. Photo: Mrs Gorman//

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I Knew Jim Knew: Jim Walrod knows a thing or two…

May 27th, 2014

//Jacket photograph Terry Richardson with shots from Walrod’s Instagram feed//

Design authority Jim Walrod wears a deep and wide-ranging understanding of his subject – specifically that pertaining to modernism in furniture, interiors, product design and architecture  – lightly.

This is refreshing in a field populated by bloodless experts and humourless know-alls. The founder of important 90s/00s store Form & Function, Walrod -  described as “the ultimate design raconteur” by André Balazs and “the furniture pimp” by the Beastie Boys – is above all an enthusiast.

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