MUNICH.- Mark Leckey's early works could be described with words like "flamboyant" and "dandyish". With the video "Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore" (1999), an ode to the British dancehall and club culture of the 1970s to the late 1990s, Mark Leckey achieved his artistic breakthrough. After that, his career quickly picked up pace: Five years following his first solo exhibition at the Migros Museum in Zurich (2003), Leckey won the Turner Prize in 2008 for exhibitions in Cologne and Dijon.
Yet, the acclaim he acquired in 1999 was preceded by a nearly ten-year absence from the art world: From the time he graduated from Newcastle Polytechnic (1990) to 1999, Leckey created very few works, e.g. "The Model" (1994) and "Are You Waiting" (1996), which is being exhibited for the first time in many years in the exhibition at Haus der Kunst.
The exhibition is divided into four chapters: Autobiography, Sound Systems, ZooVidTek and GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction.
Mark Leckey often found the artistic production of the 1980s too distant and ironic; disinclined to create works of "critical disinterestedness," which were common at the time, Leckey decided to use his own autobiographical background as material. This serves as a template in which one can recognize other things that have shaped his or her own biography; for example, changes in media and, subsequently, changes in our communication. Thus, in telling his own story, Leckey also tells one about youth culture; in the catalog, Alex Kitnick speaks of "everybody's autobiography".
"What the title [...] means to me is this investment of energy into something as kitschy and crassly commercial as a fleetingly fashionable pair of jeans [...], commented Mark Leckey on "Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore", "and this belief in the brand, that somehow symbolizes a way of life', becomes something almost sacred." The film is a 15-minute chronicle of the Northern Soul parties of the 1970s through to the raves of the late 1990s: Young people moving - from absentmindedly up to ecstatically - to music, in spacious dancehalls or small studios. Born near Liverpool in 1964, Leckey was just a bit too young to attend the Northern Soul parties. The footage, which he then still had to collect from archives, also speaks of the nostalgia of completely losing oneself in the music's collective experience.
Of Leckey's latest video, a first rough demo version will be presented. The story begins in 1954, ten years before Leckey was born, with the birth of rock and roll as his father-figure and ends in 1999 with the threat of the Y2K or Millenium Bug. Similar to an album with different tracks, Leckey tells of stages of development: The awakening of erotic desire as he watches his "aunt" in her bedroom changing, or trying to find a trace of himself in a Joy Division matinee concert he attended in 1979, now on YouTube.
Standing in the foyer to the cinema in which his latest video and "Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore" will be shown are cardboard cut-outs shaped like electrical pylons. They are bathed in the orange light of sodium street lamps, which causes the colors to fade, as if they were memories.
The five loudspeaker systems at the center of the exhibition constitute a kind of control center. They are ensembles of speakers that resemble sculptures while retaining their original function - transporting sound and tones. Their inspiration lies in street parties and mobile discos. As an alternative form of contact between people, technology and the cosmos, Leckey uses these sound systems to break down the distance that often exists between art and viewer. The five sound systems are combined here for the first time; their arrangement is reminiscent of Stonehenge and other places with a magical effect, where "things happen by themselves".
This part of the exhibition, which Mark Leckey calls ZooVidTek, evoking a collection of ancient sculptures (Glyptothek'), unites films and videos from the last decade. They all present objects that Leckey brings to life, including, in "Felix the Cat", the eponymous comic-book character, who acted as a test subject for the first television broadcasts in the late 1920s. It stands in front of a mechanical scanner on a rotating phonograph. Grating noises underscore the then still very laborious transformation of an object into a television image.
Fast-forwarding through the history of media, in "GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction" Mark Leckey presents a refrigerator in front of a green screen, like that used in film in digital production. The fridge is staged as a fetish object and acts like a 'smart' device that understands and anticipates the needs of its owner. In the accompanying video, the appliance reveals its innermost thoughts and compares itself to similar objects of a ubiquitous product and brand world. For this purpose, in an inner monologue, it speaks of its cosmic connectedness with things and with the sun, moon and universe ("My kith and kin between the Sun and Moon").
Leckey does not assume the role of a critic; rather, he surrenders himself to the fascination and maelstrom that such products and developments exercise on him. "GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction" becomes a depiction of a society in which our relationships become connections to things rather than people, as was once the case. We speak to our machines - and they speak to us.