Pop Konst Design
Inför sommarens stora utställning Pop Konst Design på Moderna Museet i Stockholm bjöd Bulletinen in den amerikanska konstnären Jann Haworth (född 1942) att skriva en text. Haworth är en pionjär inom mjuk skulptur och hon deltar i utställningen Pop Konst Design med verket Cowboy från 1964. För Bulletinen ger hon ett personligt perspektiv på 1960-talets London där hon var verksam vid popkonstens genombrott. Tillsammans med Peter Blake gjorde hon bland annat det berömda omslaget till Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I Bulletinen publiceras texten översatt till svenska men här kan vi vänner läsa Haworths originaltext på engelska.
En text av Jann Haworth för Bulletinen
If you were being utterly realistic about 60's 'Swinging London', you'd have to admit the decade was surreal even without drugs.
Where can you even start? ….Maybe with….
Twiggy…and the 'Jiggery Pokery Man?
The Beatles and Hitler?
Marianne Faithful as Morgan Le Fay upsetting the Vicars?
Kim Novak, Paddy Chayefsky and the Peach Pie Picnic?!
Eddie Robinson's Birthday Party and Peking Duck…
Screaming Lord Sutch campaigning for a parliamentary seat with Drum Majorettes
Bruce Lacey's Clapping Machine
Liberty spitting in the face of Hollywood Babylon's author Kenneth Anger?
Or…The Jamaican Girl who rolled cigars on her thighs, sitting on Brando's knee busting a gut watching Chaplin
Or…A half-full bottle of red wine poured in my lap [on my self-made white wool counterfeit ‘Courrèges’ suit] because the Chinese waiter was transfixed by my dinner mate: Tony Curtis.
Or…Maybe the Smithfield's butcher in bloodstained whites waiting for the 'tube' at Holborn with pigs ears pinned either side of his butcher's cap.
No…Prince Monolulu, the 'Tipster' in full African King Attire, riding the London Underground barking out: 'I gotta horse' [Richard III ...where are you when your horse is found! We now know, in a parking lot]
Maybe tho' Quentin Crisp says it all with his pink hair and orange pancake makeup.
But why should you trust the P.O.V. of a beach bum pompom girl dropout from the Land of the Body Snatchers to cherry-pick through a 'celeb' garnished youth. And isn't that tediously reminiscent of Andy Warhol hawking celebrity? And after all so what?
Who, for example, is Ida Barr? So famous in her day….She closed the era of The Music Hall in 1963 at the Met, Edgware Road singing 'Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries'. Indeed, cherries again. 'Live and laugh at it all…' And Fame Fades as the curtain falls.
"But what was it like REALLY?"
London smelled of cat spray-not cats so much as privet hedges; of cigarettes and ashtrays (smokers and the smell of breweries boiling hops); the hops becoming in turn stale beer in pub carpets; smells of fresh bread, of greasy fish and coal. The last of the 'Pea-Soupers' was Nov/Dec 62. Sylvia Plath died Feb 63, across the street from where I was painting.
The Slade smelled of turpentine and oil paint, wet plaster and models then suddenly it was acrylic paint and fiberglass and we refused to draw the models. AND a world of possibilities was lost.
Male students tried to drink 8-10 Imperial pints of beer per night to prove their manhood. Then, next day hung over, they reeled into the Slade slipping past the Beadle, signing in late…only to throw up on their soggy bacon-grinning fried egg breakfasts.
Exotic things lurked in dingy bed sits-like a box of Australian Aborigine 'soul-stones' under the bed of an Aussie student. Terrible to me, as at UCLA I'd seen the films his father had made in the 20's of these 1st Australians and I am still haunted by the thought of lost souls in a cardboard box adrift near Tottenham Court Rd.
But, what about The Sound of the 60's….when I arrived in 61 it was 'skiffle'. Pathetic to me having chowed down on Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Wee Willy Wayne, The Penguins…UK Skiffle Really?! 'Pick a Bale of Cotton'?? England's Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele like 'poor man's' Elvis and cute white boy manufactured singers. With the zeal of a knowing time traveler missionary I imported my Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, and the Big Bopper hoping to educate the Brit Natives about the real thing.
Somebody was listening to The Beatles, who sounded like the Everlys to me. In fair trade I took a Beatles LP to LA in the fall of 1963 and no one wanted to know. London parties were then dancing to The Supremes and Motown sound. The Ronnettes produced by Phil Spector: Women singing - that was huge. They rocked London concert venues -Roy Orbison bled his heart out in sound and we cried. The Beatles, Kinks, The Who, The Stones, the Pretty Things, The Animals, Freddie and the Dreamers, Gerry and the Pacemakers… where were the UK women? [PS Dusty Springfield-Cilla Black-Marianne Faithful]. It became a healthy two way cultural exchange-US to UK and UK to US.
Time Magazine and Life said London was 'Swinging' [note it was the Americans telling London] and the thought became real. Terry Southern - Timothy Leary - Brando - Tony Curtis - The Bunny Club came and went--our young stars--came and went conquering NY LA…
Conquests of Hair, Fashion, Visual Art, Comedians, Authors, Musicians, Stars of ALL Stripes in the 'rockets red glare' came and went and the photographers and filmmakers followed. You know the funny thing was that it was the Playwrights that lit the fuse late 50's early 60's. Beckett, Pinter, Wesker, Jeremy Sandford and the mad-caps of 'Beyond the Fringe' and an 'Evening of British Rubbish'. Those guys set the stage for the working class creative energy to muscle in and thrive.
The broad brush stroke would mythologize this perhaps as a bloodless Art Revolution. The Post War emboldened working class rioting with paint brushes, miniskirts, electric guitars, drums [there are always drums in revolutions] scissors, scripts, cameras, up and over the conservative barricades waving pantyhose. They seized the money, limos, spotlights, big houses-ousting the gentry from their country seats and invaded the Halls of Fame…The Tate, EMI, grabbed the Platinum discs, the Grammies, Golden Globes and Oscars, rushed the BBC, and The Palladium (rattling the beads of the Queen herself)…….BUT
Later…? How did it end? Why did it end? Eventually, 'Peace Man' got them.
We Marie Antoinetted it in the bucolic English country side and gave up the Red Flags - and hard to believe- Knighthoods were given [!] and harder to believe accepted: Sir Paul, Sir Mick, joined Sir Cliff.
The beads became Pearls, once again. And were kept by the establishment and tho’ briefly cast before swine, returned to their 'proper place'.
How close did we really come to changing medievalism and the stratified society? Report Card: Queen and gentry are still there-richer than ever and not riding bikes. Conservative Government back in the saddle. Is Education better? Housing? Public Transport? Are wages keeping up with the cost of living? Health? Can you afford…fish? What fish?
Pop onto your computer-bring up Joni Mitchell-on You-Tube 1970…'Both Sides Now', she was by the way disapproved of by the 60's Brit cognoscenti. Insert England in the lyrics like this,,, I've looked at England from both sides now , from near and far and still somehow, it's life's illusions I recall…I really don't know England …at all.'
Text: Jann Haworth, april 2013