Joy As An Act Of Resistance – An Art show at HM Electric Gallery, Hoxton, East London, August 2018 – Not sure what you’d make of this art exhibition if you’d just happened to stumbled upon it and took it to be just another art show in just another slightly edgy venue that isn’t quite a gallery, just another art show that’s in some space where people’s lives were once played out, not sure what you’d make of it? This time we’re in another old car repair garage workshop in another East London backstreet, actually this is the perfect place for this particular show, by accident or design who knows, but they’ve managed to find the perfect venue for this particular show. An art show is a now empty backstreet garage, oil stains still on the walls along with the dubious calendars and the spark plug stickers that are still on the bathroom mirror. Wonder what happened to the former occupiers, probably priced out, I expect the place is earmarked for demolition sometime soon (what we really need in Hoxton is another block of fancy flats that some faceless Far East or maybe Russian investment firm can buy and rent back to us at prices no one from around here can even dream of affording, we really need another,, we haven’t got enough, build those flats where people once lived and worked and played and fought and loved, build them high, price them higher). .Not sure what you would make of this art exhibition if you’d just happened to stumbled upon it…
If this was just another art show you’d probably be thinking okay, you’d probably engage with a couple of the pieces for a moment and then politely say thank you to the person sitting at the table looking after things and politely walk out again. But this isn’t just another art show (is any art show never just another art show?), and when you know that this is art made by a collection of artists interpreting the…. what am I trying to say here? If you’d just come across it and took it to be just another art show you’d maybe think it to be little more than just okay, kind of interesting, maybe not that exciting, interesting enough though, you’d maybe take note of one or two of the stand out pieces and want to know more about a couple of the artists, you’d admire the sculpture in the corner, wonder about the bubble gum cards of wrestlers and did the artist collect them as a kid, bought by his or her dad and lovingly kept in a shoebox under the bed? You’d smile at the collage as you search for a way to read what it might be trying to say, that big wedding party photo with “Joy” imposed over it that looks like a typical Irish wedding in somewhere like Birmingham or Bristol or Cardiff back in the 70’s, if you’re of an age you’ll smile and remember times like that when you were a small kid and uncle Eamon said he;d give you 50p and a badge if you promised to support Aston Villa instead. You’d maybe smile about families and glasses of stout and too much hairspray, you’d maybe connect that maybe a lot of this show is about families and people. You’d think okay and you’d politely leave like you do so many times with so many art shows in so many back streets of East London.. But you see, you need the whole package and you need to have soaked up those words over and over and over again and caught new ones as you listened again and got to know the songs a bit more, scoffed at the selfie wot Francis Bacon done, did you see it? Didn’t look nuffin like ‘im, You see, you really need to need to know who and what Idles are, and how Blighty wants his country back, you need to know what’s actually going on here in this “gallery” that once was a car repair shop, and then when you know a little bit of the background to this art show, then you’d know that this is a a little more than just another art show in just another back street, that this is actually a brilliant art show, that this is a show that connects in so many ways, in so so many of the right ways.
You need the context to see more than just the pretty colours (actually there aren’t that many pretty colours in here, Idles aren’t about pretty, beauty yes, pretty no), you need to have soaked up the the words of that first inspired Idles album, soaked up Brutalism and those lines that you catch more and more with each listen as the band deliver things in just that so so right way of theirs. That so right way for the here and now and the Brexit chaos and the blame everyone else culture and the fear that leads to panic and panic that leads to pain and the pain that leads to hate and… You need to be anticipating that there surely will be even more bite and positive hope and joy in Joy as an Act of Resistance, appetite already whet by the beauty of his blood bother or that Nigerean mother three and that this art show is made of flesh and bone and not of fear or pain, that this is an important art show.
To really get this art show I suspect you need to already know just how vitally important a (punk) rock band Idles are right now; for they are a vitally important band, a beautiful band, a band to really care about, a band who really do care about you and me and each other and him and her and them over there. A band as a beacon of something or other in these fractured times where things could go in so many of the wrong way. Idles are so so needed right now, they’re made of you, they’re made of me, this is England, this is love, this is the love of the ordinary, the extraordinary to be found in the ordinary, the you you you, the yadda yadda yadda.
Idles are launching their new album tonight with an art exhibition, most rock bands couldn’t get away with doing that, idles can, this is a beautiful exhibition in an old garage in the back streets of London on a Wednesday night. This is just so right and I might be gushing to much but then you see, I don’t really care, this is why art matters, this is why music matters, this is about the emotion (this is why I make art, this is why I write about it). I love this band and I want you to try, I love this art show, these interpretations of songs from the new album I haven;t heard yet. So important that a band have the guts to do this, to embrace art and people and culture and community and celebrate it in such an ordinary way, a natural way, nothing on a pedestal, come in, take a crisp, have a glass of wine, a beer or a can of orange fizzy pop. Come in. celebrate the beauty of ordinary, the ordinary beauty of Englishness and how we all fit together, how it all fits together if you want it to, if you let it – a Magical Mystery Tour all of their own, the film rather than the music, light ales on the bus to Blackpool, family and friends, the neighbours, everyone..
Change isn’t a crime, this sin;t nostalgia, no one ate anyone’s hamster, Islam certainly didn’t, celebrate our neighbours, don’t be burning bridges and closing doors. The joy of imperfection, the joy of each other’s imperfections, the joy of an act of rebellion, defences down, learn to trust, trust in art, the art of trust, new ideas. I like Idles, I like that they’re about people, about community, about trusting each other, that a band can be comfortable putting on an art show and chatting about Tiger Bay or bubble gum cards, just chatting with singer Joe Talbot and his dad – Joe sung about his old man being a sculptor on the first album, and here he is, he really is a sculptor, sculptor Nigel Talbot, that’s his piece in the corner, the big sculpture, really like that big sculpture (and the tales Nigel tells of the band and the pride he clearly has in his son) . Actually that’s the one big downer on the show, besides Nigel 9and a chance bumping into him over a can of beer and finding out who he was in passing), we can’t put names of artists to the art, no information or labels or lists, we don’t know who’s created what, really want to know who did what so we can go find out more about them and their art. Beside the lack of artists details this is so so right (and I’m sure they’ll put names to pieces later, they’ve probably done it by now, it was the private view we were at, they said the names would be there for the proper opening, they were very apologetic about it, so easy to forget these things when you’re putting an art show together and the stress of hanging it all, we’ve all done it).
The fact that singer Joe’s dad has a piece in this show kind of sums it all up, there they are standing together in front of the piece, father and son, proud, and you get the impression that the other artists here are long time friends that the band care about rather than just random artists they’ve found for a marketing idea and a record launch, this feel very honest, very real .So much of this show and this art and this band is about real, about people, about bonds, about trust and sharing together. This show is about family and a feeling of fierce love, a pride in the ordinary, a love for the place you’re in, in an uncompromising way, a celebration of uncles and aunties and the Polish people from the shop on the corner or that uncle Noel did once have a fight at the wedding and we all can laugh about it now, or that the car mechanics may have left this building but you can still feel them here with the bits of boyracer Ford or the stickers or the union Jack cushion on the chair they left behind. Actually where the art show starts and ends is a little blurred, I like that, I like that the art show and the life that was in here before it blur together and the “nibbles” in the bowls in the old office on the old yellow workbench are as much a part of the show as the big sculpture in the corner or the collage in the frame on the wall, I like that. I like this show, Idles are a band who care, they’re a band to really care about, they’re not just another band and this is not just another art show, this is an excellent art show, this is so so right, the thought of the joy of the act last night is making me smile this morning, that was a great opening, it isn’t a perfect show, but then it doesn’t need to be, loved it.. (sw)
Footnote: If I were you and you can make the show and you haven’t explored idles yet, I’d get over to their Bandcamp page, I’d soak up the first album Brutalism for a couple of hours, maybe take it with you as you travel to the show, have a listen to the couple of tracks that are up there from the new album that’s out this Friday, then armed with that information, go see the show, I suspect it will make far more sense if you do it that way… .
Here’s what the press release ahead of the show said: To celebrate next Friday’s release of Idles’ “Joy As An Act Of Resistance.”, the band are putting on an art exhibition at HM Electric Gallery, 65 Nile Street, London, N1 7RD. The show is open on August 30th and 31st, midday until 8pm. The art show is based around the album’s themes, featuring artwork from Orlando Weeks, Joe’s father Nigel Talbot and many more. The gallery will contain 18 pieces of work across several mediums, with contributions from: Orlando Weeks, Nigel Talbot, Tao Lapsley, Russell Oliver, Robin Stewart, Tom Ham, Dapper Signs, Chris Nicholls, Ed Barrett, Beth Cater.
Click on an image to enlarge or to run the fractured slide show