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In 1999 the Tate Gallery in Liverpool held an exhibition entitled ‘Remix’. Among the exhibits was a video installation by Mark Leckey intriguingly titled ‘Fiorucci made me Hardcore’. For those of us old enough to remember Fiorucci in its heyday, we think of halcyon days on the terraces in the early 80s. Fiorucci jeans and sweatshirts obviously made its mark on some. I ventured down to the Tate to see if Mark Leckey had been one. Could this be the only piece of contemporary art to acknowledge the sub-culture known as Casuals. I returned home without disappointment. ‘Fiorucci’ charts the rise of British youth cultures. Starting off in the 70s with video clips of northern sole dancers. The shift of styles and sound underlines the change in the cultural landscape. The video climaxes after 15 minutes with scenes of acid house raves from the early 90s. Set to Marks own soundtrack, a voice over takes us through an array of designer brands championed by Casuals throughout the 80s.
80s -Great title Mark, but why Fiorucci? What was the inspiration behind the title?
M.L.-It was from a bit of Graffiti outside Studio 54 in New York. I liked it because of its intense belief in something that was just fashion, trivial stuff.
80s-You start off in the 70s with Northern Soul, was this something you were brought up with?
M.L.-No, it was a bit before my time and I was in Ellesmere Port, Northern Soul’s heartland was Wigan. I did get a double black eye from trying to copy a lad who moved to our school from up there though. He was doing some soul spins and he thought I was taking the piss so he finished his pirouette with a lovely head butt. But I’d seen enough of Northern Soul to know that when I first went raving that it was the same, working class and fiercely independent, and that’s the history I wanted to put across in Fiorucci.
M.L.-I was always fascinated by how it happened. How something like that grows from a few Bowie fans in Liverpool to this enormous, but to the rest of the world completely invisible, movement. It also taught me a lot, that’s kind of what Firoucci made me Hardcore means, about how you can take something that’s already out there in the world that your excluded from and make it yours. I thought that was brilliant. I remember when I was about 17 coming down to London with a small crew and going into Burberry, this bunch of no mark kids from up north, and we knew exactly what we wanted which really threw the staff and customers there. It was like a far more sophisticated punk. That’s what this Chav thing is. It’s the middle class revenge on being made to look stupid.
M.L.-I got really lucky with the Northern Soul stuff, this bloke had the uncut footage of a seventies documentary about Wigan Casino. The Casual stuff was a lot harder, I just had to scout through regional Television archives. The footage I used the most though is from a documentary about the ICF called ‘Hooligan’.
80s-Did the designer names used come from your own wardrobe?
80s-Why only use this era for the voice over?
M.L.-I don’t know, I was just imagining a bloke with a little PA at a market.
80s-You obviously have a strong interest in British sub cultures but has ‘Fiorucci’ put the lid on your love affair with the 80s and using it in your work?
80s-Finally Mark, where d’ya get yer trainees from? Back in those days.
Mark Leckey was born in Birkenhead in 1964 and followed Everton home and away in the 80s. Known for his atmospheric projection pieces and audio sculptures blending popular culture with visual art. He now resides in London and has had major exhibits across the globe including Germany, Canada, Chile, Switzerland, Greece and at Tate London.