An exhibit called “Eyes for Blowing Up Bridges: Joining the dots from the Situationist International to Malcolm McLaren” opened this past weekend at the John Hansard Gallery in Southampton, UK. Endeavoring to do exactly what the subtitle says, the exhibit features, among many other artifacts, porn novels by the Situationist-affiliated novelist Alexander Trocchi, radical tracts published by the UK anarchist group King Mob, and the punk music and fashion instigator’s student artwork, notes and sketches, all to underscore the influence that the Situationists’ critique of Capitalism’s insidious effect on everyday life had on McLaren’s cultural-prankster sensibilities at the time of his seismic impact on early UK punk.
Presenting rarely exhibited material – including cut-ups, film, video, sound and slide, as well as self-published books, pamphlets, anarchist propaganda, punk ephemera and graphics – the exhibition examines the creative interplay between William Burroughs, Guy Debord, Asger Jorn, Alexander Trocchi and King Mob, and their collective influence on Malcolm McLaren in his endeavours to disrupt the cultural and social status quo from the 1960s to his premature death in 2010.
Having repudiated painting as a bourgeois form of expression like Asger Jorn before him, McLaren’s lifelong work was inspired by such Situationist techniques as détournement (the juxtaposition of pre-existing elements), Burroughs’ ‘cut-ups’, and Debord’s emphasis on the staging of situations “that bring a revolutionary reordering of life, politics and art”. Eyes For Blowing Up Bridges will present representations of the “defiguration” paintings exhibited by Jorn in the early 1960s, alongside the détourned comic strips of the Situationist International’s literature and Debord’s cinematic masterpiece, The Society Of The Spectacle.
To celebrate the opening of the exhibit, curator Paul Gorman has shared a wonderful rarely seen clip from a French TV special called “Being Malcolm.” It was released by McLaren’s estate via Dazed Digital, and in it McLaren discusses the inspiration for bondage pants and work-safely demonstrates the utility of a zippered split crotch.