1st June - 1st July
Dancing in Outer Space
Bill Daggs, Harold Offeh, Rene Matić, Sola Olulode
In 1979, UK jazz-funk outfit Atmosfear released their seminal club track, 'Dancing in Outer Space'. Set against seismic shifts within British politics, and amidst the dust of punk and Soundsystem culture settling onto the dawn of jungle and rave, the release of ‘Dancing in Outer Space’ captured a pivotal moment in UK’s sonic underground. Expansive, thundering, and riding on a groove with enough force to carry you far out from your moment on the dancefloor of an inner-city community hall, the record solidified a turn to worldbuilding and collectivism that sought to transcend – if just momentarily – the continual oppressive turbulence surrounding race, class and politics in the UK.
Taking its name from Atmosfear’s lauded record, this exhibition seeks to examine how a distinct mode of cultural production, and its transgressive performativity, has acted as a subversive political force through acts of sonic worldbuilding on the dancefloor. This is not to be defined simply as escapism; rather, an advanced mode of critical intervention that undermines the institutional desire to divide, segregate and compartmentalise society. Taking the dancefloor as its launchpad, these sonic spheres of heterotopian joy form a collective resistance that is inherently political – not least if you take Jacques Rancière’s characterisation of political as 'disruption of the dominant social order'.
Bill Daggs’ film If The Rain Stops..., has its roots firmly embedded historically in the various different subcultures that belong to the UK music scene. Though it is absorbed in a rich aural history, it is not anchored to a particular time or place, and in that sense, it is a document that is concerned with time travel, and blurring the lines of periodical importance in music.
Harold Offeh’s installation Creating Patterns (After 4Hero) reimagines UK Afro-futurist group 4Hero’s debut album Creating Patterns. A turn of the millennium album, it embraces futurist and speculative narratives perhaps most embodied by the track ‘Twelve Tribes’. Each poster-like drawing, assembled to blackout the gallery window reminiscent of nightclub exteriors, responds to the subject and title of each track on the album. The 15 drawings manifest as a series of A1 posters, together with a recording of a performance- lecture by Offeh and a listening station for visitors to hear the original album, the installation seeks to extrapolate speculative futures through 4Hero’s sonic world building.
Rene Matić often takes their departure point from dance and music movements such as Northern soul, Ska and 2-Tone, using them as sites to queer and re-imagine the intimacies between West Indian and white working-class culture in Britain. In Dancing in Outer Space, Matić shows two intimate portraits of DJs Nadine Artois, co-founder of monthly club night Pxssy Palace, and Sippin’ T, co-founder of the QTIPOC curatorial collective and club night BBZ. Offering a celebratory yet anti-symbolic snapshot into often undocumented nightlife worlds, Matić encapsulates moments of defiance and collective joy unique to the dancefloor.
Sola Olulode’s dreamy queer visions explore embodiments of British Black Womxn and Non-Binary Folx. Working with various mediums of dyeing, batik, wax, ink, pastel, oil bar, and paint she develops textural canvases that explore the fluidities of identities. Drawing inspiration from lived experience, friends, and cultural reference points to centre Black Queer Womxn, Olulode emphasises the integral need of representation and celebration of queer intimacies. Olulode returns to her nightlife scenes for Dancing in Outer Space through a new limited edition series of monoprints.
The various sonic stations positioned throughout the gallery offer portals into underground sites of resistance. Through Soul Time, Matić references the histories of 1960s UK soul clubs, reconfiguring the self by employing subculture as a kind of ‘attainable afro-futurism’ where spaces are created through breakage and glitches. Playing through his sonic sculpture Clio 2002, Daggs presents a new soundscape that envelops the gallery space. Daggs states, "we're outside the club, Charms, 1989. The muffled warmth of the low end, the inaudible voices of the dj's toasting, the joy in revellers flattened tones, all inviting us to the call of the dance”.
The exhibiting artists in Dancing in Outer Space are united in their ability to intercept and magnify the ritual of this split-second moment - of community, of collective joy; one that rests on a pulsating wave from a subwoofer, continually redefining the unrivalled influence of these parallel sonic worlds that thrive beneath and beyond the surface.