F.A.M.E (Film And Music Experience), the Gaîté Lyrique’s wonderfully eclectic cinema and pop culture festival, recently celebrated its third edition, including a programme of world premières and special screenings of films from France and across the globe. The British Council was proud to support the participation of Mark Leckey, an award-winning British artist who works wonders with video, music, found-footage and came to Paris to present three of his films at the festival and answer questions from the audience.
When Turner Prize-winning artist Mark Leckey steps up to address the audience, with his long, shaggy hair, hipster beard and painfully white trainers, a child's voice cries out from the packed auditorium.
"That's my three-year old daughter," he mumbles proudly, before being nudged to finish his introduction of the three short films chosen as part of a series of projections celebrating film, music and alternative pop culture in Paris recently at the Gaîté Lyrique.
He describes the order the films shown as a chronology of potential failure, which he goes on to modestly explain has a lot to do with how they were previously perceived. The first film, Parade, is indeed the least interesting. It consists of a series of camera pans and images of an oddly-dressed man superimposed over static shots of two-dimensional backgrounds - the blown out faces of models advertising make-up or sex. It is perhaps a treatise on consumer culture, on the products that proliferate our lives, the various elements through which we armour ourselves as we fashion our own parade down the High street.
The second film entitled Dream English Kid, and the first prize winner of the in-house competition, is a remarkable piece of sensual film-making. Combining British popular culture of the last 50 years, this deeply autobiographical film is an intimate journey into the artist's psyche. Mark Leckey has being quoted as saying, "I make this stuff to feel joy and melancholy and sweet-sadness.” It is also true that the artefacts of our personal memories can now all be found online, a remarkable treasure trove of history, desire and transformation.
The last video is the piece that launched his artistic career, a 15-minute film called Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore. Consisting of found footage of nightclubbers (amateur material that was possibly collected from the personal archives of those featured in the video itself, creating an effect of home-video VHS nostalgia), it charts the history of 1970's northern soul to the 1990's acid house and has been described as a work 'perfumed with wistfulness and tinged with ghostliness'. It is in fact sublimely edited, the artist reinhabiting his own youth in those gigantic, deserted dance halls.
Made in 1999, before the Internet exploded and years before video-sharing platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo became commonplace, Leckey's artwork gained cult status and is a touchstone for a whole generation of video artists (many of whom appeared to be present in the auditorium last Saturday evening, nodding in sage recognition as Leckey rattled off a number of the technical details involved in creating audio loops). There is certainly this aspect of circles in his work, video art that might best be appreciated in a gallery space where the viewer is free to enter and leave at any point, free to return and free to immerse themselves in this skilfully edited pop culture invasion of art, or, as one Youtuber has commented 'A trip down neuron lane.'
Have a look also at this piece in The Guardian where you can find out more about Leckey’s work and career.