Paul Gorman is…

Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges: Exhibition joining the dots between a group of supreme troublemakers

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Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges* is the title of the forthcoming exhibition about the creative interplay between a group of remarkable radical artists, poets, writers and activists who initiated, perpetrated and influenced a range of post-war alternatives.

The show, which opens at John Hansard Gallery in Southampton next month, presents works by the junky beat figurehead William Burroughs, Situationist International founder Guy Debord, his collaborator, the artist and writer Asger Jorn, poet and author Alexander Trocchi and King Mob, the UK Situationist group headed by the brothers David and Stuart Wise.

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Psychogeographic Guide Of Paris:  Discourse on the passions of love: psychogeographic descents of drifting and localisation of ambient unities. Guy Debord, 1957. Edited by the Bauhaus Imaginiste. Printed in Dermark by Permild & Rosengreen.

EFBUB - DH Memoires cover copy

//Sandpaper cover, Mémoires , Guy Debord and Asger Jorn, 1959. Derek Harris Collection//

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//Ainsi on s’ensor, Asger Jorn, oil on canvas, 60.5 x 43cm, 1962. Museum Jorn//

EFBUB - DH King Mob Echo 1 copy

//Front cover, King Mob Echo 1. Derek Harris Collection//

By presenting artworks, clothing, ephemera, films and publications, co-curator David Thorp and I examine the ways in which the approaches of this bunch of difficult fellows not only intersected with each other but were adopted by Malcolm McLaren in his endeavours to disrupt the cultural and social status quo from the 1960s to his premature death in 2010.

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Ten Guage City, William Burroughs, 1988. 98 x 30cm (double sided), Octopus Gallery//

We look at how, having repudiated painting as a bourgeois form of expression like Jorn before him, McLaren’s work in fashion with Vivienne Westwood and in music with the Sex Pistols and Jamie Reid was inspired by such Situationist techniques as détournement (the juxtaposition of pre-existing elements), Burroughs’ ‘cut-ups’ and Debord’s emphasis on the staging of situations “that bring a revolutionary re-ordering of life, politics and art”.

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//McLaren’s own t-shirt bearing his design, based on his Burroughs-style cut-up of text from the Trocchi novel Helen And Desire//

Strands of the output of these troublemakers may also be detected in McLaren’s other investigations into music as well as film – such as the Pistols biopic The Great Rock N Roll Swindle and his position as ideas guru to the likes of Steven Spielberg in Hollywood in the 1980s – advertising, media and even politics, with his candidacy for Mayor of London in the late 1990s.

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“Demolition of the work ethic takes us to the age of the primitive”. McLaren’s lyrics for Bow Wow Wow espoused the Situationist rejection of the spectacle. Music press ad, Jamie Reid, 1981//

MM - I Will Be So Bad

//I Will Be So Bad, Malcolm McLaren, oil on canvas, 1987. Malcolm Mclaren Estate//

MM- Mayoral campaign leaflet

//Campaign leaflet, 1999. With thanks to Paul Burgess//

In his final years, McLaren paid tribute to Debord et al with the film installations Shallow 1-21 and Paris, Capital of the XXIst Century.

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//Still from Shallow 1-21, Malcolm McLaren, 2008//

Both filmworks will be screened at Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges, which will also feature the first UK public display of McLaren’s student paintings from Goldsmiths College in 1969, as well as material from the Malcolm McLaren Estate archive, including notes, sketches, personal items, fashion show notes and clothing from Sex,  Seditionaries, Worlds End and Nostalgia Of Mud, the notorious and sometimes publicly vilified boutiques he ran in tribute to those with “eyes for blowing up bridges”.

Fred Vermorel, McLaren’s associate from their days together as students at Harrow Art School, is contributing an essay to the exhibition catalogue which discusses the influences and inspirations he and McLaren drew from a variety of  post-war radical art and social movements.

*The title of the exhibition is derived from the phrase de beaux yeux pour faire sauter des ponts, taken from correspondence between Guy Debord and Hervé Falcou, 1949-53.

View/download the press release here.

More information from John Hansard Gallery here.

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