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And then the weekend comes

Gordon Dalton responds to the work of Plymouth-based artist, Carl Slater




The lows are really low. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to Tuesday, possibly Wednesday, before your world, your life, seems to fall out from beneath you. You can be stood at work on a production line, staring at a screen or stood in the queue for the post office, football or the dole queue. You can try and drink through it. The decline has been gradual because the pills were quality, but now, your God has punched you in the stomach and left a hole right through you, which spins you off your already fragile axis and sends you tumbling into despair.

But before that, it’s all about the anticipation of the rush. If you’re lucky it will begin Friday morning, possibly Thursday before your world, your life starts to have meaning again. The pills might be dodgy but you’re hoping for that mad rush. It starts in that hole in your stomach and rises through your body like red hot electricity in your veins, pumping in your forehead spinning you off your increasingly confident axis and into a blissful, sweaty, gurning, fist pumping, feet stomping, loved up state of euphoria.

The history of dance culture is constantly evolving and being rewritten. The work of Carl Slater sits somewhere in the footnotes, in the underground, exploring and expanding the archives, somewhere between the anticipation of ecstatic euphoria and the crashing comedown.

Slater is 35. Born in 1981, he missed both the explosion of dance culture in the mid to late eighties as well as what he Slater describes ‘the golden age’ of techno and rave. He excavates this modern history, making a folk archive of its imagery, subcultures, politics and drug-ridden experiences, where little pills with an encyclopaedia of names surreptitiously swapped hands in pubs and openly, joyfully, swapped between tongues in clubs, warehouses and fields.

Slater mixes in his own late 90's clubbing experiences with a rich seam of UK club culture, which has a very different feel to its US origins and very different again to 90s American club culture. Provincial towns across the UK all had their own unique scenes, which felt part, for the weekend at least, to be connected through the drugs and driving around looking for the next dancefloor. This communal culture is critically celebrated in Slater’s work, where the vagaries the football terrace and the factory floor were forgotten in favour of a pill.

A throbbing bass line and sensory overload runs throughout his work, but it is removed or half remembered, a muddy memory of Saturday night. The smell of Vicks (used to enhance and prolong the buzz of ecstasy) hangs in the air. Your retinas burn with day glo and op art illusions, so clichéd, yet so true. Slater gives his fastidiously edited films, objects and paraphernalia iconic status.

Church-like installations place you somewhere between the pulpit and the pew, both preacher and preached to. Curtains are draped open like confession boxes or the faded glory of town centre discos turned into clubs, where sticky worn carpets and velvet curtains fail to give off VIP velvet-roped vibes.

Archive footage shows the crowd move as one, slowed down in the strobe lights. This isn’t fashionable or a passing fad, this is religious fervour, a communal confession that life is a constant disappointment other than for that mad rush of ecstasy. This is real participation, real community spirit, not some in this together, socially engaged big society.

Everyone around you feels the same. All of your friends, all of your new friends and all of your new friends’ new friends and what seems like everybody up and down the UK with their hands in the air. All back to mine to laugh and love and hug each other and do it the next night and the night after and the night after trying to put off that mundane slide towards that punch in the stomach. But right now. You are God. We are all Gods.

And then the low hits you. When the sermon is over and you have left all your confessions out there, the last pill of communion has worn off. You are back on the factory floor or staring at a screen. What is left, what was there all the time and is now plain to see, is fear. Not love, but paranoia, fear and loathing.

And then the weekend comes.



Gordon Dalton is an artist www.gordondalton.co.uk and Network Manager for Visual Art South West www.vasw.org.uk

Carl Slater was at G|39 Cardiff 23/7/16-20/8/16 with 'Miss America's trip to Technoland'

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