Dreaming with Mark Leckey - Art Collector

Mark Leckey, Dream English Kid, 2015. Production still. Courtesy: the artist and Cabinet Gallery, London.

By Emma Capps

On the opening night of Mark Leckey’s most recent video work at Cabinet Gallery, most people arrived in groups – cramming themselves into the building’s entrance, down the long, narrow hall, past the buckets of beer, and into the main gallery space, where stacks of speakers and a large screen faced a sitting crowd.

The video,
Dream English Kid, 1964 - 1999 AD, is a vivid, trancelike spectacle, assembled from found footage, recycled advertisements, moving graphics, and syphoned scenes from cinema. As its title suggests, the work traces the artist’s formative years (Leckey was born in 1964), but any narrative contained in its structure is only barely implied. As the video progresses, we become aware of passing decades – via loose suggestions of cultural movements, politics, war – but what we are mostly left with is the feeling of an individual’s sprawling consciousness.

Like Leckey’s famed
Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore (1999), Dream English Kid is a social document which binds itself tightly to club culture; both in its themes, and its rhythmic exuberance. The entire work is punctuated with overlapping samples, scratches of electronic noise and droning basslines, which surge, repeat, broaden, and tighten, before fading out. The effect is mesmerising – the video washes over the tightly packed crowd, and we all sit rapt, staying to watch it a second, third time.

Part of the video’s distinct energy seems tied to drug culture – to a tradition of thought that favours loose associations and nostalgia over logic. But perhaps, more than this, the video’s atmosphere feels linked to the vaporous world of the Internet. Certainly, our interactions with the work seem sharpened by our exposure to the infinitely shareable and discoverable films, music videos, GIFs and clips available online. As
Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore is now enjoying something of a second life on the Internet – as its YouTube link is posted on Facebook walls and inserted into Gchats – Dream English Kid feels similarly linked to YouTube’s culture of reckless curiosity, unstructured research, and audio-visual accumulation. Leckey’s ability to create a frictionless whole from the breadth of influences which informed Dream English Kid seems both remarkable, and somehow relatable – as the crowd at Cabinet demonstrated, we all knew how to sit peacefully and enjoy a loud, sprawling montage of dislocated ideas.

The night was colder and darker when people started to leave the gallery; and as beers were finished, and groups started to form on the pavement outside, people were turning to each other, wanting to find out what was happening next.

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