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‘Blowing up bridges so there is no way back’: Malcolm McLaren, Situationists + Sex Pistols remembered by Fred Vermorel in new exhibition catalogue

Nov 16th, 2015
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//Front and back cover designs//

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//Pages on McLaren including image of the 1977 God Save The Queen muslin top designed with Vivienne Westwood and featuring Jamie Reid’s graphic and lyrics for the Sex Pistols track//

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//Vermorel’s memoir includes images of McLaren’s student work such as this mixed media piece produced while on a fine art course at Goldsmith’s College in 1969//

Considered as an artwork, a two-and-a-half year project, and in its own terms, McLaren’s Sex Pistols’ was as seminal and resonant as Picasso’s Guernica.

Only this was a masterpiece made not of paint and canvas but of headlines and scandal, scams and factoids, rumour and fashion, slogans, fantasies and images and (I almost forgot) songs, all in a headlong scramble to auto-destruction.

For it was equally a Situationist treatise-by-example, the unremitting and obdurate core being McLaren’s grasp of the theory of situations as proposed by the SI.

Indeed, the story of the Pistols is a Situationist textbook of how to create situations from which there is no return. You refuse to negotiate, to compromise, to be co-opted, you exacerbate every crisis and recklessly play loser wins and then you blow up all the bridges so then there is no way back.

We are then forced to invent another future. Or maybe simply relish the mess, “the ecstasy of making things worse”.
From Fred Vermorel’s memoir which appears exclusively in the new exhibition catalogue.

The catalogue for the exhibition Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges is now available.

The lavishly illustrated 100-page book includes a foreword by John Hansard Gallery’s Ros Carter and Stephen Foster, my introduction, an essay by co-curator David Thorp and a specially commissioned memoir of Malcolm McLaren and his connections to post-war radicals by his art-school friend and collaborator Fred Vermorel.

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Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges: Installation shots from radical art, beat + punk exhibition at John Hansard Gallery

Oct 16th, 2015
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//Top: Anarchy Shirt designed by Malcolm McLaren + Vivienne Westwood, 1976. Worn by Sex Pistols acolytes Jordan (Pamela Rooke) and Simon Barker for performances and TV appearances by the group. Private collection. Above left: screening room for Paris Capital Of The XXIst Century, Malcolm McLaren, 2010; right: vitrines and monitors in gallery 2. Photos: Steve Shrimpton//

Hope you enjoy this selection of installation shots from the exhibition Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges: Joining The Dots From The Situationist International To Malcolm McLaren, currently wowing visitors to Southampton’s John Hansard Gallery.

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Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges: Opening a great success

Sep 28th, 2015

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//Viewing exhibits in Gallery 2 at John Hansard Gallery. Pic JHG//

The opening of new exhibition Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges: Joining The Dots From The Situationist International To Malcolm McLaren at the weekend was a great success.

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//Visitors Nick Abrahams + Suze Malyon with their dog Mrs Shufflewick//

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Installing our exhibition Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges: Joining the dots from the Situationist International to Malcolm McLaren

Sep 21st, 2015

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Today David Thorp and I worked with the team at John Hansard Gallery on the first day of the installation of our forthcoming exhibition Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges: Joining the dots from the Situationist International to Malcolm McLaren.

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

Aug 18th, 2015

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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.

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Getting It Straight In Notting Hill Gate: Jo Gannon’s quintessential snapshot of W11 in 1970

Aug 13th, 2015

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Taking its title from a song on hippie outfit Quintessence’s debut album, Jo Gannon’s documentary Getting It Straight In Notting Hill Gate – as featured on the BFI’s website – captures the social churn in the west London neighbourhood at the start of the 70s.

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Anarchist, Situationist + Yippie texts + an army munitions handbook: Fashion graduate Imogen Hunt unearths the radical roots of Seditionaries’ incendiary Vive le Rock/Punk Rock Disco design

Aug 6th, 2015

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//Front and back of Vive le Rock/Punk Rock Disco and the radical political and military texts used as source material for the design//

There were T-shirts left over from the Wembley Rock & Roll revival festival in our cupboards in South Clapham; we had to do something with them. Sid Vicious liked them just the way they were and was often photographed in the original Vive Le Rock! design. But I needed to throw a few messages across them and reinvent them. So, I married the slogan and images of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis with words and drawings from various texts, using the title of The Anarchist Cookbook as well as the famous phrase of the Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durutti.

Malcolm McLaren 2008

Imogen Hunt is a recent graduate from London College Of Fashion who tells me she was inspired by my work to write her thesis for the college’s history of fashion and culture course.

Part of Hunt’s dissertation – on the importance of the Situationist International and King Mob to the development of punk style – is dedicated to an examination of the influences and source material for the double-sided design Vive Le Rock/Punk Rock Disco, which was printed on the front and back of t-shirts and tops first sold in Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s King’s Road store Seditionaries in 1978.

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I Groaned With Pain: Malcolm McLaren’s own t-shirts to feature in exhibition of status quo-disrupters

Jul 17th, 2015
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//The t-shirts show the deliberate production of variants within the limited edition designed and written by McLaren and printed on the simple square pattern produced by Vivienne Westwood in 1974. © Malcolm McLaren Estate//

Two of Malcolm McLaren’s t-shirts from the very first production run of I Groaned With Pain – the notorious text design produced with Vivienne Westwood in 1974 – will be featured in Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges, the exhibition I am co-curating with David Thorp at Southampton’s John Hansard Gallery this autumn.

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//T-shirt with central tear on light blue jersey with exterior seaming, labelled, Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, 1974. 360mm x 375mm. © Malcolm McLaren Estate//

I Groaned With Pain is named after the first four words of the paragraph of text McLaren lifted from beat writer Alexander Trocchi’s erotic novel Helen And Desire (published in 1954 by Olympia Press under the pseudonym Francis Lengel).

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Introducing first UK screening of Malcolm McLaren’s completed Paris: Capital Of The XXIst Century at The Performance Studio next week

May 30th, 2015

Malcolm McLaren

McLaren opened up the frontiers between artistic and wider cultural attitudes by taking fashion and music out of their respective contexts and translating them into new formats that captured the wider popular zeitgeist. A closer look at his seemingly disarticulated, exuberant and streetwise oeuvre shows it to be consistent and, in its own way, profound.

David Thorp

On Wednesday (June 3) I’m introducing a screening of Malcolm McLaren’s Paris: Capital Of The XXIst Century at The Performance Studio in Peckham, south London.

This is a the first-ever opportunity in this country to see the final work, which McLaren completed a matter of weeks before his death in April 2010. A working version was shown here just once, at Newcastle’s Baltic in November 2009.

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Blessed & Blasted: Roots of the Anarchy Shirt part 2

Mar 2nd, 2011

Two “manifesto” designs which emanated from 430 King’s Road – the You’re Gonna Wake Up t-shirt and the Anarchy Shirt – share a reference to “The Black Hand Gang”.

I had long assumed that both referred to Spanish anarchists La Mano Negra, since the group’s name was listed with that of their fellow countryman and revolutionary Buenaventura Durruti.

But on the t-shirt, the absence of an “and” or connecting device had me pondering the possibility this was another Black Hand Gang; maybe the secret society dedicated to Serbian unity (linked to one of the events which triggered the First World War, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914)?

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