Mining the past in pursuit of the spirit of contemporaneity has become the default mode of expression at Gucci. That thesis is most directly embodied by creative director Alessandro Michele’s anachronistic ready-to-wear collections, naturally, but it’s also readily discerned in the house’s diverse artistic pursuits. Today, we see it again in the return of a partnership between the label and the arts organisation Frieze – the two parties are joining forces on an ambitious project to document artists’ perspectives on a pivotal moment in youth culture, namely the ‘Second Summer of Love’.
Thirty years after the explosive youth music movement swept the United Kingdom, the United States and Europe, Gucci has charged the Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller and the filmmaker and visual artist Josh Blaaberg with creating two distinct films that dissect the lasting impact of this singular moment in time on contemporary culture. Both films, which are currently screening at the brand’s flagship Wooster Cinema Space in New York, are accompanied by four minute-long prelude films directed by Adam Csoka Keller Evelyn Benčičová that more explicitly demonstrate the timeless appeal of Michele’s wares, which though they draw as much on the 1980s as they do 18th century, have come to signify the present moment in more ways than one.
But first, some context: 1988’s Second Summer of Love has its roots in the radical acid house scenes of that were propagating all over Europe and the States by the mid 1980s, from the home-grown Italian disco scene to New York’s queer nightlife; from the warehouse raves of Berlin to the burgeoning house and techno cultures of Chicago and Detroit; all the way through to the nascent youth culture of Britain at the time of Thatcher-era tumult. It’s this vastly variegated landscape, buoyed by the same unifying counterculture spirit that erupted in the late 1960s, that Deller and Blaaberg survey in their respective pieces, teasers for which can be found below.
In Deller’s Everybody in The Place: An Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992, the lauded British conceptual artist illuminates the intersection of the social and culture pressures that were reshaping Britain in the 1980s. He does so by situating these stories in the context of a high school A Level politics class – the tension between the youthful naivety of the students and the world weariness of those for whom those days are but a memory shedding new light on a radical moment in youth cultural history.
In Blaaberg’s Distant Planet: The Six Chapters of Simona, the fictive, archival and interview modes are conflated to explore how reality and desire are inherently intertwined. Blaaberg’s subjects are the much-maligned stars of the Italo Disco scene, the long-forgotten pop idols who occupied a liminal space between their native and borrowed cultures and whose stories have been relegated to the footnotes of cultural history.
To right what Blaaberg perceives as they wrongs these stars have endured through time, he constructs an imagined universe where, in the mid-1980s, three stars of international Italo disco are so adored that riots erupt on the release of new music, and Campari fountains are installed in the streets of New York by Presidential decree. That, in any language, sounds like music to the ears.
Everybody in The Place and Distant Planet: The Six Chapters of Simona will be screened exclusively at the Gucci Wooster cinema space in New York until July 20, with four screenings per day. More information is available here.
Tile and cover image: Courtesy of Gucci