Sunday, 30 December 2007

Loraine Leeson: Art for Change

A retrospective of Loraine Leeson's practice over 30 years combining activism, politics and education. Leeson’s grassroots campaigns using classic photomontage techniques are important documents of East London’s rich social history over the last 30 years.

The exhibition Art for Change celebrated Loraine Leeson as an artist whose work has influenced and supported social change for over 30 years. The exhibition presents a retrospective of work from the mid 70s to the present day. Combining activism, politics and education Leeson's collaborative grassroots campaigns are among the most exciting in East London's rich social history.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Touring LA with Rayner Banham

Lovely set of photos on this virtual tour of LA here...for more background see this earlier post

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Thamesmead, Riverside School 76 - 78

Fantastic, evocative photo set here.

"In my early days I was employed, at my second school, as a science teacher at Riverside School, Thamesmead. Situtated on the Bexley/London border, it was a relatively new school in a "London" housing estate. Riverside School is now Bexley Business Academy.

I went into teaching full of belief and idealism, knowing that our children had limitless potential. After 5 years I realised that there was no place for idealism in teaching. I left in 1978 not knowing what I would do.

Some of the photographs in this set were shown in a "Half Moon Photogaphy Workshop" exhibition in 1979. I titled the exhibition "Lost at School". Of course I was referring to my own situation, not that of the children in the photographs".

Museum visitors will also, of course, know that Thamesmead was the main location for Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971). There's nothing that sinister in these photographs though.

Qdos = whodos??

Not strictly speaking a 1970s post, but I thought the way in which this new 'service' is being marketed smacks of some of the surveillance/identity anxieties tracked elsewhere in this blog...don't really know if its thrilling or chilling....certainly conjures up some sort of big brother moment...

Friday, 23 November 2007

Conference in Portsmouth, July 2008


The School of Creative Arts, Film and Media at University of Portsmouth
have been awarded a large research grant from the Arts and Humanities
Research Council to write the history of British visual culture in the
1970s. This is headed up by Professor Sue Harper. Part of the project is to
run an interdisciplinary conference on the 1970s exploring the relation
between the society of the period and its culture in the broadest sense.
This conference will take place in Portsmouth on
1, 2 and 3 July 2008.

We are looking for papers on the following areas:

Avant-Garde practices
Media (radio/magazines/journalism)
Literature (novel/poetry)
Theatre/performing arts/dance
Sexual and gender politics
Race/class/national identity
Sub-cultural practices
History of theory

This list is not exhaustive so please forward abstracts for other areas
relating to 1970s culture that are not included.

Please send abstracts of 250 words to:
Peri Bradley –
and Professor Sue Harper –

The deadline for abstracts is 31 January 2008. Please ensure you include
your name, affiliation, email address and a brief biography at the top of
your abstract.
For more information, please visit our website:

Running on Empty

From Metropolis Magazine:
"With fuel prices reaching record highs and concern about the planet’s dwindling resources mounting daily, Mirko Zardini, director and curator of the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), thought the time was ripe to revisit the moment when the reality of an energy crisis first crashed into the public consciousness. The exhibition 1973: Sorry, Out of Gas, on view at the CCA until next April, considers that decade’s oil crisis and the architecture community’s response, which included sig nificant experiments and research that Zardini fears are now being ignored. “Architectural thinking is very strange,” he says. “These people were heroes for a few years, and they have been forgotten. I feel that it is intellectually necessary to go back and pay homage to their contributions.” But if the show is in part a celebration of green pioneers like Michael Reynolds and Steve Baer, it is also a warning to contemporary architects enamored with solely technological-driven solutions, and a call for societal changes to combat looming ecological disaster."

More information here.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Gordon Matta-Clark

Gordon Matta-Clark's artistic project was a radical investigation of architecture, deconstruction, space, and urban environments. Dating from 1971 to 1977, his most prolific and vital period, his film and video works include documents of major pieces in New York, Paris and Antwerp, and are focused on three areas: performances and recycling pieces; space and texture works; and his building cuts.

Interesting collection of films here.

Monday, 12 November 2007

McLuhan comments on the 1976 Ford/Carter televised presidential debates

That's one of the reasons why Reagan beat Carter in 1980 - he understood TV. Joshua Meyrowitz analysed this intelligently in his 1986 book No Sense of Place.

Marshall McLuhan on YouTube

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Television ate my family (1973)

I've just unearthed this extraordinary documentary series, An American Family, which first aired on PBS in 1973. It chronicles the slow dissolution of a Californian family, who, on the surface of things, seem to be a model of a conventional, affuent nuclear family. It's an absolutely fascinating portrayal of a family going through a tectonic social and cultural shift in the norms and mores of American society. Jeffrey Rouff has written a book about it in which he argues that the series marked the beginning of a distinctive new phase in social representation on television, drawing not only on the intimate, handheld camera style of the independent documentary movement, but also on the conventions of soap opera. Anthropologist Margaret Mead, with whom the producer of the series had worked on a documentary series in the 1960s, declared that this approach was "as important for our time as were the invention of drama and the novel for earlier generations: a new way to help people understand themselves."

This blurring of public and private lives created instant notoriety for the protagonists, who included the 20-year old Lance Loud, one of the first openly gay men to talk frankly about his life on mainstream television. The backdrop to the series is Nixon's America of 1971, in a post 1960s hangover where progress and affluence still seems to be unquestioned but uncomfortable questions about the family, about gender roles, about work and about the authenticity of everyday relationships are hanging in the air like heavy storm clouds on the Californian horizon. The family become kind of 'everyman' figures, cyphers and symbols for the social changes sweeping through the world of the American television audience. In this sense it could be argued that the series held up an uncomfortable mirror to the face of white middle class America. Members of the family subsequently claimed that the presence of the cameras, and the subtle influence of Craig Gilbert, the show's producer/director, led them to dramatise their lives more spectacularly than perhaps they would have done if left alone.

Lots more footage here and on YouTube. But a proper DVD release of the series would be a really good idea. It's clearly one of the defining pieces of work of US TV of the decade, and foreshadows so much else that we have now come to understand as 'reality TV'.

Network (1976)

"The only truth you know is what you get over this tube...Television is not the truth, it's a goddam amusement park..." Another tour de force for director Sidney Lumet and writer Paddy Chayevsky, it perfectly encapsulates the post McLuhan generation's anxieties about the growing power of corporations, the huge weight of the media spectacle and its power to control and mould events. A bit more information on Wikipedia here.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Vision On

One of the really smart and innovative BBC childrens' TV series of the 1970s - here is a website devoted to it. Certainly was formative for general praxis in helping us understand what inclusive learning and art-making could look and feel like, before we even knew they could be called that.

"Vision On was made at BBC Bristol. It was totally unique and broke new ground by combining Art, mime and music in a format that brought both hearing and non-hearing children together.

Here was a programme that successfully captured the imagination of its viewers and despite the fact it is almost 30 years since it was on our screens, there are thousands of artists, designers, performers and animators that were either heavily influenced by it or got their first break as contributors - including David Sproxton who developed 'Morph' and later went on to be involved in Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run etc. 'Vision On' won many awards (quite rightly) and was exported to many other countries - notably Canada."

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Brunswick Centre, 1972

From Nothing to See Here, a lovely little piece about the Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury:

"The Brunswick finally opened in 1972 but the flawed execution doomed it to membership of an inauspicious club of similar buildings which all shared a love of concrete, as well as the knack of being distinctly unpopular. Other offenders included the Trellick Tower in west London, the Bull Ring in Birmingham and the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth. These ambitious structures were collectively labelled as Brutalist architecture, a style which became synonymous with failed social projects. Decline was often hastened by government reluctance to supply adequate funding during the recessions of the 70s and 80s. Over the years the public association between brutalism and decay became entrenched and the buildings became a prime focus for Prince Charles’ carbuncle obsession. Yet, although often flawed, the modernist utopian vision which underpins the schemes is emblematic of a post war vision to engineer a better world. That their design still provides us with a powerful sense of the future so far in the past, perhaps says much about our contemporary desire and ability to build a better tomorrow."

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

The Girl Chewing Gum

This superb little documentary from 1976 not only depicts a fascinating slice of east End life but also raises some important questions about truth, fiction and representation in documentary film-making. Godardian in its ambitions, it uses the representation of a street corner in a Dalston neighbourhood to produce a hilarious montage of effects and questions. To begin with you might think that the narrator is adopting a Tati-esque micro-choreography but the perspective soon shifts...

Watch it for yourself and then you will see...

For a more thorough analysis of John Smith's work, see here.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Dan Hill on 1970s brutalist architecture, australia, tropicana and climate change

This post from the excellent blog CityofSound encapsulates precisely why we should be interested in the 1970s as a source of zeitgeist fuel in the early years of the 21st century.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Dictators, dodgy politics and the struggle for democracy

The other side of the 70s, the flip side to happy shiny techno modernist futurism (the dark side of the moon?)...features a selection of horrible, corrupt, right wing politicians. In this museum exhibit we collect together some effects and artefacts gathered from that era. The 70s also feature the turbulent emergence of liberation struggles into the mainstream of the political process, as oppressed peoples struggle for self-determination against the forces of repression and control, in increasingly globally observed, bloody and interconnected conflicts, linked to liberation movements in the West and the ongoing stare-out draw of the Cold War. No wonder Star Wars appeared in this decade. (That will be another exhibit too).

Here are some pieces of evidence:

Dictators and dictatorships: artistic expressions of the political Romania and Chile (1970s - 1990): an introduction

Caterina Preda (University of Bucharest)
"Art and politics in non-democratic configurations is a highly disregarded topic if one looks at the cases of Latin America and Eastern Europe. This particular approach to the study of politics focuses mainly on the fascist and Nazis experiences and in a much lesser degree on the soviet world. The relationship between art and politics in dictatorships represents therefore the main focus of this research. The two lines of investigation are represented on one side, by the dichotomy of authoritarian versus totalitarian regimes and on a second side, by the relations linking art and politics. Thus, the theoretical articulation of this study is based upon two grand lines: political theory and history of art/theory of art.

Having as a broad area of investigation Latin America and Eastern Europe, the case studies it seeks to highlight are Ceau┼čescu's Romania and Chile under Pinochet's rule. The period under scrutiny goes from 1975 until 1989. It coincides with the strengthening of Ceau┼čescu’s leadership and with the beginnings of the Pinochet regime in Chile and with their ‘unwanted coordinated’ fall.

The main question of research is: What is the relationship between art (both cultural policies and culture as resistance) and politics in a non-democratic regime? How is art (in the broadest sense) used by non-democratic regimes as a method/technique of ideologisation?"

Kissinger's extradition to Uruguay sought over Operation Condor

"An attorney for a victim of Uruguay's 1973-1985 dictatorship has asked his government to request the extradition of former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger over his alleged role in the notorious Operation Condor.

Condor was a secret plan hatched by South American dictators in the 1970s to eliminate leftist political opponents in the region. Details of the plan have emerged over the past years in documents and court testimony.

The Latin American dictatorships of the time "were mere executors" of a "plan of extermination" hatched in the United States by a group led by Kissinger, said attorney Gustavo Salle, who represents the family of Bernardo Arnone."

Pillage and Plunder: an anthology of African Dictators
So how come the global political movers and shakers allowed them to stay there for so long?

Pol Pot: life of a tyrant
Year Zero, dictatorship, genocide. See this exhibition of photos (not for the faint hearted) to get an idea.

Apartheid in South Africa
This had been happening in one form or other for over 100 years but the 1970s saw some massive popular uprisings against apartheid... and the beginnings of some cracks in the regime...the Soweto Uprisings of 16th June 1976, in which black students protested against segregated education, are often regarded as a turning point in the struggle against apartheid - not least because this iconic photo of murdered schoolboy Hector Pieterson was splashed across the world's press...

The rise of Thatcher (another exhibit will have to deal with this in more detail), apologist for and general supporter of oppressive regimes, including Chile's Pinochet, South Africa's and PW Botha ("The big crocodile").

Saturday, 31 March 2007

Braniff Airways: The supersonic future

"You don't have to carry a passport, because a friendly computer already knows more about you than you do..."

Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles

Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles (1972) from Repazzo on Vimeo.

This is a work of genius. 1970s pop modernism and intelligent urbanism. Reyner Banham on LA as the city of the future and how it's infected everyone's consciousness, direct from 1972. It might not stand up to ecological scrutiny, but it encapulates a certain techno-futurist optimism that predates the oil crisis. Fresh as anything.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

THE 1970S

This is a homage to the power of memory; of recollection, the stories we tell ourselves, and it is simultaneously a research project about cultural artefacts and the hidden life of memory.

there currently seems to be a zeitgeist-ish moment in which the 70s are in the ascendant: whether this is because of resource crisis, a generation coming to power, or film, fashion and television, I don't know...

but in this new project we are going to conjure up some virtual worlds and some peculiar associations.