Turner Contemporary, Margate
Finally managed to get down to Margate to visit the impressive Turner Contemporary gallery. The current exhibition, Nothing in the World But Youth, is well-thought out and extensive showing works from the nineteenth century to the present; artworks alongside posters and archive television. Standout pieces for me were the eerie video piece, Fiorucci Made me Hardcore by Mark Leckey and Phil Collins’ The World Won’t Listen .
It’s worth seeing the Leckey piece on a large screen, with a decent sound-system. The piece is comprised of edited-together, I’m guessing amateur video footage, of a variety of youth ‘subcultures’ doing their thing. Footage of a Northern Soul all-nighter picked out individuals dancing, their moves slowed down so much so that each gesture is made strange. It exposes the peculiar inwardness and aloneness of dancing in a room full of others. Similarly ravers watch their own hands make fluid shapes in the air to a beat we can’t hear. The World Won’t Listen is a compilation of videos of young people from Turkey, Colombia and Indonesia performing karaoke Smiths songs. It’s genius!
It was great to see a painting by ex-Falmouth College of Art student Andrew Mania referencing his father’s Polish heritage and his mother’s infatuation with a piece of 35mm film of Johnny Weismuller’s Tarzan. Not only was this piece resonant for me as someone who had witnessed the making of this painting at Falmouth but I was similarly infatuated with those films as a girl, albeit the televised versions.
My last visit to Margate was sometime in the eighties, there was no contemporary art gallery then, the destination for my teenage self was the Bembom Brothers White Knuckle Theme Park, formerly (and famously) known as Dreamland. The demise of Margate as a resort is still apparent despite much talk of the Bilbao effect of the Turner Contemporary. The gallery’s café was filled with latte drinkers who were nowhere to be seen in town. Half of the shops and most of the beach-front arcades and amusements were boarded up. We were the only customers in a sorry side-street fish and chip shop, the owners as depressed as the decor. It is arguable whether a windy November weekend is the best time to visit a British seaside resort down on its luck. This is despite being someone quite fond of a former ‘dreamland’ having been brought up (educationally speaking) on Walter Benjamin. It is yet to be seen whether the Turner Contemporary will make a difference in these difficult times. Perhaps the Turner Contemporary is a future Dreamland, a future ruin, one of the last remaining examples of civic investment and of state support of art and culture.