Art & Music: Mark Leckey & The Cult of Nostalgia

In my mind nostalgia was a term allotted within the experience of mid-XX century immigré in the alien urban metropolis or an impossibly melancholic Tarkovsky movie of the same title. At least up until recently, when this word started to be increasingly used in relation to everything, starting with furniture and ending with conceptual art.

Talking about the latter... One earlier work of Turner-awarded artist Mark Leckey started to pop up quite frequently when talking about culture's current reluctance to move beyond obsessive recycling of the past. The work in question is his "Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore" video (1999), depicting British youth' possessive drive to transcend the dreary everyday existence by means of leading live-for-the-weekend lifestyle and fierce loyalty to successive underground dance subcultures of the late XX century. 

The montage of lightly-treated found footage of nightlife is highly fascinating, but arguably the most important part is its soundtrack. Or, more appropriately, sound-collage in the Burroughsian "cut-ups" style. It has been released in its full glory as the first instalment in The Death Of Rave series curated by popular Manchester-based music distributor Boomkat.

In hindsight, "Fiorucci" inspired a whole number of artists and musicians that came in its wake. Obliterating Burroughs testament to employ the technique to glimpse at the future their work is firmly rooted in staring at the past. Often the end result is hyper-modernist on the surface, but deeply melancholic or "nostalgic" in its essence. 

Curiously, Leckey's influence is much more perceptible in the works of musicians, rather then fellow visual arts chaps. From the recent memory... Burial with his reverb-drenched mourning for rave. William Bassinski's disintegrating tape loops. The whole back-catalogue of labels like Ghost Box. Lee Gamble's collage of old jungle mixtapes "Diversions 1994-1996" re-imagining this frenetic dance genre as haunted soundscape more fitting for the gallery' installation than nightclub. Leyland Kirby work under his many aliases, including decaying 30's ballroom vignettes of Caretaker, new beat disfigurements of V/Vm and the overheated "Blade Runner"-esque synth opuses on "Intrigue & Stuff" 12"s. 

Does it all mean that we are no longer interested in or maybe even afraid of the future after it ceased to be cute, glossy and comfortable as seen in fashion and photography of the sixties? Or maybe it's the effect of what Simon Reynolds once described as internet-infused atemporality and incessant collective reminiscences made possible by the total access to any kind of historic (and often copyrighted) data. 

At this time we are clearly paying the price with the recently-uncovered assaults on privacy and safety of personal information and everything can change once more. For now we have a lot of great art and music and one fascinating account of several generations moving through the cycles of history repeating itself.