Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Vidal Sassoon... The Interview (Ponystep Magazine)

The name of Vidal Sassoon is synonymous with an era considered to be the height of decadence considering social concepts and attitude. The 60's 'look' embraced modernity into the creative equasion taking inspiration from contempoary art, design and architecture, Vidal Sassoon was one such person who felt compelled to instigate a need for change. 
An orphan for 7 years of his early life and child of worn torn Britain, these factors shaped the young Vidal who soon became  aware of the political climate whilst endevouring to throughly revolutionize former concepts of beauty and style... but not without his struggles. His vision, passion and ideals are legendary, Sassoon is forever locked into our consciousness as an innovator. Nowadays Vidal spends his life living between London and Los Angeles. Vidal currently in London town opens his door dressed in a natty grey ensemble complete with matching and rather jauntily placed flat cap, ever the style icon, his presence is at once charming and welcoming as he leads us into his flat full of strategically placed contemporary paintings, sculptures and furniture set out in a minimalist style. Joining us today,  John Vial who joined London salon 'realhair' as a creative director 2003 but worked closely with Vidal as part of Sassoons team, being creative director in Asia throughout the 90's. John Vial shares the great passion Vidal has, consequently never really seeing Vidal as so much as a work colleague... more of a Dad! 

I am fascinated by Vidal's beginnings, there is a timeless quality to Sassoons aura and I find myself immediatly captivated as the stories begin to unravel. Starting his training in 1942, at Adolf Cohen's salon, 101 Whitechapel Road, 'He was the top guy in the neighbourhood!' Sassoon found himself in the midst of World War Two, age 14, 'Across the road the buildings had been bombed down, no one was rebuilding during the war. Didn’t make any sense to.' Sassoons memory of the time is crystal clear. He remembers how the community supported eachother, 'They were just tucking in with neighbours and in the underground. The tailors union would wait for someone to give them a job for the day.' In the midst of all this trauma hairdresser Adolf Cohen catered for the grooming needs of the area. Who were the people that went to Adolf Cohen’s? Painting a vivid picture, Sassoon explains, 'I would say the local people, but there was an enormous amount of kids in uniform, in the army and women.' Even though times were hard, presentation was of utmost importance, a sense of self preservation prevailed in Cohens salon, 'Trousers pressed, shoes cleaned, nails clipped, all whilst living in the shelters.' Cohen's standards were high, and it's from this initiation Sassoon laid the foundations of his future. The ethos and basic training were to reappear in later years when Sassoon opened his own salon in the mid 50's. Sassoon describes his daily life at the time, 'There were no cleaners then because most of the women were on wool-work and in factories, so we’d have to go and scrub the floors and then scrub the clients.' 

Meeting Vidal Sassoon for the first time, I admit I was totally mesmurized, and I'm really not sure if Vidal is actually aware of the effect he seems to create around himself. He's a real eastend boy with a down to earth attitude and that really is part of his affable charm. We got talking on this occasion and I relayed a story of a book milliner Stephen Jones lent me to read some years ago. It was the story of Mayfair hairdresser Mr 'Teasy Weasy' Raymond Bessone.
Mr 'Teasy Weasy' Raymond

At once Vidal rather excitedly tells me he worked under Raymond, it all makes complete sense now I think to myself.  Raymond was known for the teased behive hair of the 1950's, all very set and 'dressed' hair confections of the time.  'Yes, that’s why I broke off. My year with Raymond was just wonderful, I really learned how to control a pair of scissors. But without discipline from my first job at Adolf Cohen I probably wouldn’t have got to Raymond.' Raymond was somewhat of a showman, with TV appearances, even a fake French accent and become somewhat of a celebrity of the day. Vidal was keen to soak up all the knowledge he could, 'And part of that was leaving places I wasn’t learning anything, so I’d take off. Once I was 6 weeks without work as I earned a bit of a reputation as someone who didn’t stick around.' Vidal pays homage to Mr Teasy Weasy, 'That was my last year of training before I went out on my own. And it was the best year. He taught me how to cut hair, with scissors, to get rid of the shears and all the other nonsense... Raymond, lovely work, the very very best of the other style. The best of what was going on before we came along.' This was about 1952, two years later in 1954 Vidal Sassoon would be opening his first salon in Bond Street, Mayfair, revolutionizing the way people thought about hair. 'It was imperative that we got rid of all that backcombing. Women were taking off in the wind.' Partial to a bit of backcombing myself I am fascinated by the way Vidal took fundamental elements of Teasy Weasie Raymond's cutting techniques and set a creative backlash, working with the hair rather than against it. This was all rather radical in the mid to late 50's and it wasn't really until the 60's that the concepts Vidal had been pioneering eventually saw the light of day. From his small salon Vidal stuck by his guns and perfected the 3 basic cuts that would become Sassoon cornerstones.

The kind of ethos and basic training Vidal first encountered via Cohen and Raymond carried a high standard that Vidal took through into his own realm. Looking the part and presenting yourself in a smart fashion became fundamental to the 'look' of Sassoon. It must have become apparent Raymond saw in Vidal a drive and ambition... 'Compared to many of the stylists at Raymond’s who’d been there for many years, I’d only been there one year, he said to me “I’m opening in Cardiff and would you like to go there take over and manage?” I told him I would, but I was  much more interested in the artistic side. I asked could it be named 'Vidal And Raymond'. He said, "no we don’t do that, as it’s not part of company policy".' Vidal continues, 'I realised that while Cardiff may be a charming city, I was thinking of New York'. 
Funnily enough years later John Vial would open Sassoons in... Cardiff, Vial explains, 'Vidal and I opened up Sassoon in Cardiff in about 1990. It was great fun'. Vial turns to Vidal noting, 'It’s funny that Raymond was offering you the job of opening up there and you were saying “no it’s Cardiff”, and yet 40 years later one of your stylists would be doing just that.' John Vial goes on to relay the excitement and stir the Sassoon salon ceated, 'It was a really big deal, it was like being a celebrity. Everybody in Wales at the time had long curly hair and all our kids working there had bonkers geometric haircuts and neon hair. You knew who’d been there. It was amazing. It must have been your 25th salon'. As part of the Sassoon team John Vial travelled the world, 'We had loads of great trips in Asia, Hong Kong and Singapore, Tokyo, Japan. For me that was my favourite time in hairdressing, running round with Vidal, Ronnie, Tim and Martin.' John Vial is curious to know about Vidal's best time in hairdressing? Vidal considers the question, 'Obviously the design side, from '54 to '67 when we brought out the 'Greek Goddess'. I’ll never forget that. We took two rooms at Grosvenor House and spent a whole weekend to get it perfected. When people were tired they took a few hours to sleep or got some food. We had a salon there, Roger Thompson and me. By Monday morning, Annie Humphrey had done the perm and Roger Thompson had done a beautiful geometric cut. It was beautiful, I said, “That’s it, lets photograph it”.
John notes how the impact this new concept of styling a 'perm' must have had at the time, 'Even that was a massive revolution. It was the first ever wash and wear perm. Permed hear was always previously set or blow dried out'. Rather humourously Vidal and Vial wonder who actually perms or has perms nowadays, Vidal continues, 'I’ve seen young girls with beautiful hair that I can’t tell if they have a perm, but I guess we’ve put a stop to perming, it’s very old fashioned. It’s all in the cut and colour.' 

But I diverse, this pivotal moment signaled a change for Vidal Sassoon, 'After that I went away and thought to myself, 'Do I stand behind the chair for the rest of my life, where I’d had marvellous times, or do we go international?' From that moment Sassoon the brand was born, 'So we started a show team and a product company. You don’t do that without superb people around you. We had Rodger Thompson in New York and Christopher Brooker in London. A marvellous team and very good management.' 
On a parallel, Sassoon was on the path to revolutionizing hair with amazing cutting techniques, at the same time he was also revolutionizing the the way he promoted himself, the way his staff dressed and the look of his salons, the complete package was considered. Later Vidal Sassoon would involve his own branded products into his burgeoning empire, up till then there really hadn't been anything like it before Sassoon came along. With vision, incredible drive and a real perfectionists attitude he had a precise way of going about things and making his dream become a reality. 'The precision was in the discipline... the ideas that come out of peoples’ heads. You can’t make rules for that. Though the more hard work you put in the more likely you are to make something happen. I  must go back to the team because all the top people that I had, had chosen to come; I wanted them to feel that this was their company. And they did. Not for the shares but for the love of the work. We‘ve had people cry when we’ve had to tell them “we don’t think you’re going to make it”. They would say, “Where can I go?” The standard was and is incredibly high, Vidal himself set the precedent, 'To open up new salons meant training, training, training. The teaching team had their own spiritual way, they were proud that you could get hold of someone very young and teach, teach, teach and the artistic team oversee. So the organisation was terrific which allowed me the freedom of working around in New York and getting involved with products.' This work ethic is still with him, and Vidal, age 82 has continued with a schedule a person less than half his age would feel exhausted at the prospect of, 'These last two years have been madness, I’ve written my own book.' Vidal: The Autobiography'  'Which', he adds, 'Is not ghost-written.' Then there’s the film, 'Vidal Sassoon The Movie' produced by Michael Gordon, who incidently is really quite a legend in the hairdressing field himself having founded salon and product line Bumble & Bumble. Vidal proudly exclaims, 'The film has been taken by the New York Film Festival and was one of the top six out of 60. It’s going out in the cinemas in February 2011'. 
Vidal and grace

What do you think of when you think of when you think of Vidal the man, I mean the real man? I don't know about you but I think of the 60’s and possibly Sassoons many peaking moments as he created images for some of the most glamourous women in the world including Twiggy, Carol Channing, Peggy Moffitt and Grace Coddington. Sassoon was and is a sexy and incredibly driven guy, there he was in the thick of things, swinging in London and NYC creating these amazingly modern haircuts. Touted as a sex symbol at the time Vidal looks bemused, and modestly replies when I put the question to him, whether he ever considered his sex symbol status, 'No, if other people thought I was then that’s fine.' Adding with a saucy glint in his eye, 'They were wonderful days, penicillin cured everything, you didn’t have to worry about a damn thing!'  Ha, ha, ha, oh Mr Sassoon, so the 60’s were all swinging parties and free love?  'Well,' Vidal confidentially tells me, 'It was all the same as it is now. Just a very open society and if you fancied one another it was very simple. It was sometimes easier than it was to get a hot dinner... Well the food in London was dreadful!' He adds,  'Then, not now.'  

Being in the middle of it all, Vidal set about the next phase, 'The thing that really happened was that we opened an academy and it just grew and grew. People were just coming from many different countries.' Vidal further explains, 'Our way was very different, there was a French way and there are other ways of doing hair and they do it beautifully. The young  people wanted to learn our way. So when you have people from all over the world that want to learn the Vidal Sassoon method, we are their teacher, I don’t think you can go better than that. You could make a billion dollars on products, whatever you do, that’s only money. This is affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and that is very important to me. And very exciting.' It's precisely this optimistic attitude that continues to inspire Vidal and his team, John Vial reiterates, 'Everybody that you work with at Sassoon has it. Everybody was proud to be part of what was, and still is perceived to be the best in the world. And you wanted to be as good as your contemporaries, you want to work with the best. You’d always be looking round and thinking, “that’s a good haircut, better make sure my graduation is clean”.

Vidal Sassoon is philosophical when thinking about hair, 'Thing is, what other part of the body can anybody use to create shapes and angles? Only plastic surgery and that takes months. Hair can be done within a day.' Possibly it's this way of seeing that became part of concept. 'People used to say, “I bet you look first at peoples’ head of hair?’’ And I’d say, “No, I look at the ankles and then work my way up.” Adding rather logically, 'Because I wanted to get a feel of the bone shape and the body shape. Nobody objected to that.' At the time Vidal must have appeared quite eccentric, in the book first published in 1978 'Cutting Hair The Vidal Sassoon Way' Vidal from the late 1950's is described as a 'crazy young man in Bond Street trying to do something really new with hair'. Advantguarde concepts were not always accepted as immediately as we might imagined back then, but Vidal persevered, 'The excitement of working on a substance growing from the human form, that no one else can do, deserves much more credit than it gets.' 

Next stop New York and although Vidal had always had his heart set on 'the city that never sleeps' it seems he happened to get there quite by chance, 'It was very strange, there was a show in New
York, which showed hairdressers from 14 different countries. They asked me if I’d be the guy to represent Britain. “Why not?” I said, I was very proud to. The show was on a Sunday at the Pierre Hotel.'  It was 1964 and Vidal Sassoon's reputation had already spread across the Atlantic, 'We thought that no one would be there, but the press came and we were told by the editors that they had to have pictures in by
Sunday for the Monday morning papers. So I was suddenly cutting these three girls and I gave them all different haircuts and shapes and suddenly we were surrounded by press. There was some beautiful hairdressing going on all around us, but it was hairdressing. What we were doing were geometric cuts to suit bone structure. I used to say, “Eliminate the superfluous”. Create beautiful shapes. The following day we had coverage in the five main newspapers and on every beauty page we had pictures.' The buzz must been incredible, 'So suddenly I get a call saying a Mr Richard Saloman would like to speak with you. I went to see him and we had a chat for a few hours and he said, “O.k. I’ve heard enough, I’ll buy a building on Madison Avenue, you go there, spend a year training your staff especially for New York”. Vidal continues, 'I said, “I don’t have the kind of money to do this”. He said, “my problem is the money, yours is the artistic problem”, and suddenly were in New York without literally spending a penny.' The 60's really were a time of possibilty and Vidal was well aware of the opportunities... '1964 we did the show. 1965 we opened. There is a little bit of luck to go with the talent. You’ve somehow got to be at the right place at the right time. The 60’s were definitely it. The Beatles had just come over and the Rolling Stones were soon to follow. It was a total madhouse; it was like being in London'.  Sassoon became affiliated with the London invasion and underground happening scenes of New York and by the mid 80's Andy Warhol even modeled for him endorsing Sassoon's hairspray for men. 'Well Andy did a commercial for me. A magazine commercial not a film. I’d have loved it had he done a filmed one. Thing is you met so many people being in the craft.'

The hairs styles emerging from the doors of Sassoons soon became seminal and iconic, the asymmetric bob, geometric bob and the five point cut as worn by Grace Coddington.  Styles such as the Nancy Kwan, the Greek Goddess and the Graduation, the pixie cut Vidal gave Mia Farrow in film Rosemary's Baby and of course Mary Quants classic bob truly epitomised London's hip scene in the 60's era. In Europe too the atmosphere was beginning to embrace the future, Vidal remembers, 'Grace [Coddington] was walking around Paris and these models were coming over and asking, where can I get my haircut and she would say, “London”. John Vial, too young to have lived through the experience recently spent time with Grace at an airport, he interestingly quizzed her on her personal experience of the time asking, 'Have you got any idea what you two did? She replied saying, 'She didn’t realise at the time what was happening, it was just what you were doing. She had no idea of the revolution that was actually taking place.'

Sassoon has great affection for his craft and the world eventually caught up with the ideals he and his team pioneered, 'All those years, we all go through it, when you’re an unknown and you’re struggling and learning, it never happens suddenly'.  Vidal is very aware of the grass roots role of being a hairdresser, 'I think hairdressers are some of the nicest people I’ve ever known. You know why? Every day they have to please every client. They can’t walk in a bad mood and do bad work. They’ve got to please them (the clients) and make them feel and look better than when they came in. I find very few miserable hairdressers'. There is something very rewarding about hairdressing, I did hairdressing from '76 to '78. I totally agree that it’s really nice to have that one to one interaction, John Vial readily agrees, 'It’s almost like giving somebody a gift. When you are pleased with it and you see the client walking away pleased'. Vidal Sassoon himself took very special care of clients and colleagues, time and time again he mentions his team and the importance of the aims they were all working towards whether in his own salon, on session work or going on to set up their own ventures. 'It's all about bringing elegance to the craft. I once sent a guy home because he had dirty shoes.' And on taking care of clients and the importance of the role of the hairdresser, 'Here’s a lovely story,' Vidal says, 'Suzy Parker was the only one I’d take downstairs and give her the rollers, pin curls, the whole bit. Because she had straight-ish hair that when it was dried in an old fashioned dryer, all you have to do was put your fingers in it and it would fall into lovely shapes.' Later on Suzy had a proposition, 'She called me and told me she was doing a two-day shoot', and added, 'I’ve asked if you’d do the hair. It was for some major company. I said to Suzy that they just wouldn’t pay. They think that we (hairdressers) just work for
the credits. She said, “Charge them a thousand pounds.” Vidal realized it was very important then to assert his role, 'A thousand pounds was a lot of money in those days. So the guy from the company gets on the phone and say’s “Mrs Parker wants you to do they hair for our company and we’ll send you lots of products.” I said, “No you won’t. Two days work, it’ll be a thousand pounds.’’He said, “What?” and slammed the phone down. He called back an hour later and said, “Mrs Parker insists, you’ll get your thousand pounds.” Vidal felt so strongly about setting standards he really stood his ground... A case in example, 'The films that Leonard did with Stanley Kubrick. Leonard had to do phenomenal hair because it made the picture, it made the frame. There was quite a few [The Shining, Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket],  They were so special and I thought, “My Goodness, no mention, no awards.” The way they treated hairdressers… they’d say, “we’ll send you £100.00 worth of product.” And I’d say, “No you wont, you’ll pay me.” I said, I wouldn’t degrade not only myself but also the craft.' John Vial agrees, 'I think all of us that have opened our own salons have carried that on the Sassoon discipline. We still take the same care, love and attention.' Vidal adds, 'It’s our students that have come out of Sassoon and kept the standards going. People that have been with us for years and then left, opened their own salons, they’ve kept the standards, and we couldn’t do it alone. They’ve kept the international side going, which I’m very proud of. It is vital that the people we train go out and train.'
The main thread of inspiration in Vidal Sassoons life and the legacy Sassoon stands for continues with an honest and determined energy, Vidal sums up his life's work, 'I would say the great loyalty that I’ve had from people around me, because you have to inspire to bring out the best... And that the spirit and energy is still there'.

By Princess Julia for Ponystep Magazine

POLY STYRENE for Clash Mag


In '76 Poly Styrene began a career as the confrontational singer of X-Ray Spex, her image and music immediately caught the imagination of a small group of musicians, artists, and rebels that soon became the epicenter of a movement that within the year become known as Punk Rock. Punk was fundamentally anti fashion, playing with the idea of rebellion and confrontation, the stars of the scene becoming style icons in their own right. In a matter of months X-ray Spex and Poly became a fixture on the tiny but burgoning scene playing gigs at infamous Roxy in Covent Garden and a residence at The Man In Moon pub on The Kings Road, which was really where it was all happening in the 70's. All this is well documented and Poly Styrene's legacy, which spans over 30 years, has become quite legendary. Her music and personal style of the day was somewhat unique even then as she strode into London with her short hair, braced teeth and Oxfam clothes trimmed off with ankle socks and stilettos. 'I tried you know, I did have an amazing amount of confidence, I think you do when you're young, I just did not care, I just went out there wacky.' She adds with a sense of humor, 'I remember my mum refused to walk down the road with me because I had odd socks on... anyone would have thought I had a mini skirt on up to my cheeks. Jesus, she wouldn't go out with me....' She remembers with an amused tone. When describing the way Poly presented herself and the way it went with the music, the misconception is that everyone thinks in the days of punk everyone walked around in bin liners with saftey pins hanging out of theirs noses. In actual fact everybody had their own individual look. Siouxsie Sioux went for an S & M look, whilst Jordan wore Seditionaires jazzed up with skyscraper hair and geometric makeup . Girls like Tampax and Cat Woman customised themselves with an uniqueness that would make you look twice even today. Poly Styrene stood out for her way of jumbling things around. 'Doing it on a budget, you don't really get paid a lot of money when you first start gigging, living hand to mouth that can make you a bit more creative...' Wearing clothes that represent your personality at any given time, Poly's personal wardrobe flourished in X-Ray Spex, 'You've got put your own personaility into what you wear.' And certainly Poly's wardrobe assemblages reflected the ironic but socially conscious side of her music. 'Oh Bondage Up Yours' a two fingered salute to society, Poly donned a a political stance and looked like the lyrics she sung... 'Some people say little girls should be seen and not heard'. Poly could be seen and heard! I asked her whether she was aware of her impact of what she was doing, 'It's funny', she says, 'when you do something, you don't think about that sort of thing at the time, you just go out there and do something'.  Her DIY stance was all very tongue in cheek and her short lived self named shop in the Kings Road became a hang out for bands and style seekers alike. 'In the beginning I was well styled focused'. She adds. 'but later on I was playing so much it got a bit more Oxfamy... we got so busy that i didn't have so much time.' 

Her image was at that that time really was very individual, 'I thought that was quite important,' she explains, 'Early on  I tried to create a different look, with short hair and I had braces anyway, that was different. Dresses by Sophie Horgan, I had these stilettos and the day glo rolled down socks with tights and leotards.' Her ingenious attitude developed as time went on but by 1979 it seemed X-Ray Spex was over when Poly Styrene left the band amid a flurry of rumours. A debut album 'Germ Free Adolescents' and a string of singles behind them, in those few years Poly had created a lasting legacy with her various looks and unique music.

Much of X-Ray Spex's music became anthems of the time, living on through the 80's, 90's and 00's to the present day. Just like the image, Poly's music has become seminal, she says, 'I did feel there was something about it, I just thought this feels right, it feels like it's connecting with everything in the world. Sometimes you get a little magic feeling about what you create, and that album has a magic feeling about it.' As I talk to Poly she reveals her song writing process, 'Sometimes I don't feel like I've written my songs, it's like I've been channeling them, coming through me with the melodies.' There were no other bands at the time that had your particular sound, I state and Poly readily agrees, 'Yes I wanted that, some of  the other bands had a nilistic end of the world doom and gloom. I didn't believe that, i'm quite an optimist really.  I tried not to be like the other bands, not that I didn't like them because I liked the Pistols, I liked the Clash. Some of the influences I did like, John Lydon for his vocal style and the Clash for their high energy. I saw a lot of those bands live at The Roxy, The Jam were always very good. It was good to be a bit different...' 

Living very much in the now Poly Styrene is presently battling with cancer, she's in reflective mood as she tells me, 'It's quite amazing that I get all this positive feed back - how it's influenced other people. As long as you can influence for positivity, I think thats great.'  Her current album Generation Indigo produced by Youth makes a reverent nod towards X-Ray Spex such as on the track 'LUV' nevertheless it has a forward thinking attitude attached to it. Deciding to do something again after a gig at the Roundhouse in 2008, she was amazed at the response she got and it was suggested she start work on a new album, 'It could have been an X- Ray Spex album but it would have to have had that particular sound.' She decided on a more contempoary feeling, something which gave her scope to experiment in a less limited way. 'It was liberating to do it as a fresh start.' When Youth was suggested as the producer, Poly went away for a bit and came back with 20 songs.'Obviously we lost some a long the way, I just thought it was a new experience, I'd heard of Youth but i'd never met him. I thought why not try it, i'd never really worked in the indusrty in that way before where a producer had been suggested and I really enjoyed it, so that's how Generation Indigo came about.' 

Princess Julia for CLASH MAGAZINE

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Leigh Bowery 50th Birthday

Can you believe it the amazing and influential Leigh Bowery would have been 50 this year, to celebrate his life and work the ICA are holding a one day event on the 1st April, kicking off with a talk at 1.30pm from bezzie mate Sue Tilley who relaunches her book about their friendship 'The Life And Times Of An Icon'

Leigh bowery
I first met Leigh in the early 80's... Leigh Bowery experimented with notions of body distortion. AIDS was becoming an epidemic, Bowery represented this by painting yellow huge yellow circles on his face. His weekly club Taboo was a melting pot of ideas showcasing Leigh's increasingly wild attire and social commentary on sexuality, body adornment and humorous but valid views on style. Bowery arrived in London from Australia in the early 80's and started developing a small collection, 'Pakis In Outer Space' which set him on a path that in the future saw him designing costumes for dancer Michael Clark. Hilton Als explains,  *'Bowery's great stroke a year into his London stay was to turn the uniform of the dandy on it's head, he combined Mannerism with Modernism. He parodied excess'. His vision, which at the time was regarded as quite spectacular was infact Bowery's attempt at wearable fashion with a twist. Futuristic maybe but Bowery's influence can be felt in many of the advant designers of today. Leigh himself said, +'The looks were a total package. I can't think of one thing without the other. When I'm working on a look, everything is taken into consideration'. Bowery paraded his latest looks at the clubs he frequented, he used social occasions to confront and have fun both with his own persona and the reaction he caused around him. Equally Bowery's day look was quite confronting on a subversive level, he got into wigs which he customized resulting in toupees shawn so you could see the webbing amid tufts of nylon hair. Other times the look could be quite coiffured. He took to wearing trainers inside clog type shoes, all in all he looked quite eccentric, he had pierced cheeks and with natural make up his dimpled piercing's gave him a  perverted air. Still he insisted that he could pass for 'normal'. Leigh Bowery eventually poured his creative energy into various unique stage costumes for his own performances which included giving birth and a live enima show, he gave up the idea of designing collections as such, but created further outfits for Michael Clark eventually becoming part of his dance company with cameo roles. His art status increased with a week long installation piece at the Anthony D'Offay Gallery in 1988, his friend Sue Tilley explains the scenario, $'There was a simple set, just Leigh and a chaise-longue. In the gallery he had the sound of traffic playing and each day a different smell was wafted around, one day banana the next marshmallows. Every day Leigh wore another one of his looks. He would lie on the chaise-longue and then maybe prowl around or do some high kicks or keep a pose for ten minutes depending on waht sort of mood he was in.' Leigh later became a model for artist Lucien Freud and formed his band Minty, he died in 1994. 

Sunday, 6 March 2011


Artist Matthew Stone asked me to contribute a written title for an imaginary show to take place at the ICA entitled THE NEXT 100 YEARS, as part of the 2011 ICA fund raising gala.  I came up with
'S U P E R N A T U R E', which came to me via a disco song by Cerrone.

'Once upon a time 
Science opened up the door
We would feed the hungry fields
Till they couldn't eat no more'

'S U P E R N A T U R E' conjures up ideas of lost studies, diagrams and landscapes. Future scientific breakthroughs in communication, personal appearance, modifying nature to suit human needs and aesthetic. 

'But the potions that we made
Touched the creatures down below

And they grow up in a way

That we'd never seen before'


Angus Fairhurst

Simon Popper

'They were angry with the man
Cause changed their way of life
And they take their sweet revenge
As they trample through the night'

Richard Long

'For hundred miles or more
You could hear the people cry
But there is nothing you can do
Even God is on their side
(God is on, God is on, God is on their side)'

Wolfgang Tillmans

Live sex life drawing class with porn star Ashley Ryder

'Cars will break the light
Come flowing in the air
The creature will decide
Who goes where'

Installation from Scottee
Adham Faramawy


Film by Angel Rose and Owen Parry

'How can I explain

Things are different today
Darkness all around
No one makes a sound
Such a sad affair'
No one seems to care'

cindy sherman

Marc Quinn - Buck Angel


Martin C De Waal

'Better watch out
There's no way to stop it now

You can't escape
It's too late
Look what you've done
There's no place that you can run
The monsters made
We must pray'

Victorian venus

Hans Bellmer

Sue Webster, Tim Noble

'Maybe nature has a plan
To control the ways of man
He must start from scratch again
Many battles must he win
Till he earns his place on earth'

Installation Paul Kindersley

Yoko Ono  light installation

'Like the other creatures do
Will there be a happy end
Now that all depends on you'


In todays musical climate visual communication is key for bands, singers and clubs alike. In the late 70's, as we all know MTV proved a pivotal moment for the 'pop video' to evolve, custom made with a view to airplay, poptastic film and live coverage endlessly played out on our TV screens. All this meant big budgets and lavish production that the bigger labels could afford, in the affluent 80's our pop stars became superheroes exploring their own their own musical dramas, 3 minute epics filmed in glamourous locations and film studios propped up to the nines with fantastical storylines and extras... or in the case of Michael Jackson over 10 minutes of filmic epilogue. The so called 'underground' scene relied on snatches of super 8 film, low fi endevors pieced together that have since become rather novel in their niavety as they verge on arthouse sensilbilities in order to get a message across. At the time film maker and artist John Maybury used the pop video format to breach and explore new and instant technologies, chroma keyed backdrops and special effects became part of Mayburys artistic style. Working with Neneh Cherry, Marc Almond and Sinead O'Connor he stepped up and embraced the pop video as breach between his original art films and full length features.
John Maybury experimental film 80's

As for me, I became fascinated early on, being part of Visages 'Fade To Grey' and working with Godley and Creme who created this seminal video intrigued me. At the time the digital age seemed like something out of Star Trek - the original series! But here we were filming straight to screen in a set up that resembled something not far away from Dr Who's Tardis. 
Technology really has moved on! Todays version of super 8 could be on your phone, computers have made available not only the recording of instant music but instant film, and yes I am stating the obvious perhaps but come on let's all make a pop video, face facts we're all film makers now... as well as dj's, photographers and musicians. The world of the App is empowering us to record snatches of memory and thus create something that appears everlasting, which seems to be a thing that us humans are addicted to, overwhelming evidence suggests that mankind likes nothing more than to record his own activities and tell everyone about it, me included! 
So much for futurism, nostalgia also has it's place in the fast world of image. Film maker and photographer Emmaalouise Smith has tapped into a style which resembles early film noir when she creates her boyfriend Brandon Jacobs' films for his band Good Night And I Wish*. Seeking out dead film stock she puts things together in a very traditional way, processing film and waiting for the result can be a lengthy and pecarious excercise when compared to digital downloading, but she says,  'Hand processing super 8 in a dark room is an art in itself; temperature, light and how much of a perfectionist I'm feeling on the day often hinder the final result. With expired finds there is definitely an unpredictability and somehow spiritual quality to it'. 
Goodnight And I Wish by Emmaalouise Smith

On the club scene self expression is ripe, and the current explosion of nifty edits record the club event itself and the stars of clubland in full glory soundtracked with suitable pulsating beats. Gabriel Gettman who has worked in the realm of fashion producing experimental film shorts recently concocted a film for Circus, for his version he sliced together a clever collage of stylish club goers in full color attack. Photographer Dorota Mulczynska likewise is producing film shorts directed by the artists and performers from London's The Ace Of Clubs. 
Fruit Loop 

At Shabba Dabba Da they regularly update and record their hedonistic nights and over at Neo Romantic night The Face it's all go with the posing and fb pasting! 
Film makers Tree and Adam Carr cut a dash when they projected a vision of their night Switchblade on Youtube last year, they cleverly injected and spliced apt cult film classics into the equasion.

Switchblade promo

Artistic license always hits the spot, think Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground, think Wolfgang Tillmans or  Derek Jarman and the Petshop Boys. And perhaps thats where todays technology sits so well, the tools that enable us to explore the elements of creative expression and imagery combined with the notion of immediacy... start a band, do some gigs, flip on your Flip, get editing and secure a deal! 

Words- Princess Julia