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Exhibition: Noughtie Nightlife at Rich Mix

Posted on by Kate Hutchinson

A dressed-up clubber, as part of the Noughtie Nightlife exhibition © Antony PriceClubbing photography exhibition Noughtie Nightlife at Rich Mix launched this Thursday at Rich Mix. It features snaps from across the noughties of the capital's most creative, kaleidoscopic and fashionista clubbers from the likes of Billa Baldwin, We Know What You Did Last Night, Mega Mega Mega and Daniel Lismore. The types of club nights represented, from All You Can Eat and Nag Nag Nag to Kash Point and Caligula combined style, fashion and music tribes, using social networking and the internet to promote themselves and their nights.

You can read more in my launch party preview in this week's Time Out, which talks about this vivid representation of London's DIY style tribes. I've got loads of opinions in there and stuff. But this second, I am hungover, and don't have the brain capacity to write any more about how it's quite depressing that this recent scene of creative nightlife creatures ovah already.

Anyway, for pon da blog, I also interviewed curator Antony Price, a research lecturer at the London College of Fashhion, and you can read his exceedingly detailed explanation of the show after the jump.

Interview with Antony Price

The exhibition defines an era of clubbing that, as you put it, "captured a generation of clubbers who embraced the rapidly expanding world of digital technology and social networking and emerged as a hybrid mix ’n’ match style tribe, both in terms of music, fashion and cultural beliefs". Does this era of clubbing still exist, or is it over now?

"Yes, I certainly would say that it does still exist, however, in a much more aware, less edgy format. Many club nights use blogging, social networking and digital technology as their primary way to promote, document and disseminate there ideas. When social networking first started with Myspace and then Facebook, the people using it weren’t necessarily aware of how important or how all-consuming it would become. Young people just starting out in clubland had a brand new platform to easily share information and images. They started to promote themselves and their creativity without the need for an external PR or promoter in a truly underground, viral way.

"As digital technology and social networks have become commonplace, big brands and mainstream institutions have caught up and latched on to these new channels to access and communicate with a younger audience. Equally, club nights that started out as small, unique places have become brands themselves. So, in a way that era of clubbing is over, as it’s no longer something new and fresh: it is now a business which is targeted and well thought through.

"However, the current generation know no different: they have grown up tagging, sharing, linking and blogging. They understand the power of social networking and self-promotion and have seen it used effectively by the generation above to gain notoriety. In an era of ‘me, me, me’ marketing many of the fashion club kids of the last ten years have done very well for themselves by simply understanding the power of self-promotion and creative networking. Users are now far more savvy and almost blasé about their networks; we ignore most of the multitude of events we are invited to, we gloss over the number of friend requests we get, targeting only those we feel may be useful.

"It will be extremely interesting to see what effect this will have on our culture in years to come. As the CEO of Google states, "I don't believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time," warning that many will come to regret past indiscretions posted online. Perhaps this serves as a warning for just how much we choose to expose ourselves on the web, ushering in a new era of austerity and a considered awareness of online presence, not just in nightlife, but everywhere."

© We Know What You Did Last NightWhy are these particular kinds of club nights so important to a. fashion and b. London's nightlife?

"The club nights that Noughtie Nightlife focuses on were and are important in many ways to London’s nightlife and fashion scenes. They were places where different tribes came together – from art, fashion and music students, to the weird and wonderful dress-up kids, to the outcasts and the in-crowd – all in one place to meet, talk, network, dance and be creative and extravagant in what they wore, without the parameters of ‘normal’ club nights. While the big boys focus on music and branding to the mainstream clubber, nights like Trash, Kash Point, All You Can Eat and Anti-Social pushed a very different type of ethos, appealing to those who never felt comfortable in big clubs listening to mainstream ‘dance’ music.

"Although the music itself was central to the success of these nights, it wasn’t necessarily the main focus. Mad mash-ups of disparate sounds clashed together. Indie versus hip hop, electroclash and grime, techno with classic ’80s sounds all fused together – and not always in a perfect mix like the superstar DJs were doing. Ipod shuffle nights, your mate who just wants a go, one-off performance art and new unsigned bands were showcased and pushed the boundaries of what people expected from a night out, no holds barred and experimental in nature.

"They were rebellious and rallied against the 'norm' and the mainstream. Because of this, it spawned many of the big names in music, fashion and performance such as Erol Alkan, The Klaxons, Bloc Party, M.I.A., Gareth Pugh, Carri Cassette Playa, Namalee Bolle, Jodie Harsh and Scottee.  They were all integral to the scene and many have crossed over to become big players in popular culture. The clubs also represented a wide spectrum of youth tribes of a wide ethnic, social and sexual orientation mix. They gave a home to London’s unusual and outlandish characters who simply wouldn’t fit into the general club scene. As with Blitz and Taboo in the ’80s, London’s fashion-orientated clubs of the noughties have given rise to a unique mix of hedonistic, extravagant and hybrid clubbers, who have used social networking and digital technology to spread the word and invite a multitude of new followers. From glamourous to grotty, the noughties were about blending the past and mixing and matching to suit your mood as well as express your personality."

Why is photography so integral to clubbing these days?

"Photography is a brilliant way of showing yourself and your creation or character to a mass audience. Where you were, who you were with and what you were wearing can be uploaded or downloaded, tagged and spread the very next day. Having your photo taken by the right photographer and at the right club can push you into a network, get you noticed and propel you up the club kid social ladder. An image can show you at your best and at your worst, but whichever, it’s often better to be seen than not to be noticed at all. Club kids of the noughties realised this power and used it to their advantage.  Your photo appearing on Mega Mega Mega, We Know What You Did Last Night or Dirty Dirty Dancing was a badge of honour, a tip of the hat to your friends. Many club kids went just to be photographed, often leaving after they'd been snapped to go somewhere else. In a celebrity-fuelled ‘I want it all now’ culture, the image that you portray and sculpt is paramount to how you are seen online. That character you create is how you are viewed by your peers and by those you seek to impress. You may be a student, an artist or an accountant, but at the weekend, and on your Myspace or Facebook page, you can be a superstar.

"Many of the photographers involved in this exhibition have gone on to work in the fashion and music industries which shows the importance and power of nightlife photography. What may have started as a simple passion to document fun nights out became a career. Billa Baldwin shoots for Super Super magazine and backstage at London Fashion Week. Matthew Brindle of Mega Mega Mega is currently the photographer on 'Britain’s Next Top Model'. Rory DCS and Ellis Scott are up coming fashion photographers shooting editorial and advertising campaigns. Christopher James is sculpting his We Know What You Did Last Night website into a multi functional brand.

"From an educational and cultural perspective, archiving these images is incredibly important. Many of the images that will be displayed only exist in the ether of the internet. They have no physical home and are subject to server storage limits and could be deleted and lost so easily. As Youth culture is so multi-faceted with many disparate tribes appearing and disappearing so frequently, it’s crucial to record them as they happen. The medium of photography itself has become a beast to be reckoned with due to the advances of digital technology over the last ten years. Everyone and anyone can capture events as they unfold. This exhibition is a vehicle to capture, archive and critique the movements, the characters, the styles and the crazy antics that make the noughties unique."

Noughtie Nightlife is at Rich Mix until October 2