Dream English Kid 1964–1999 AD 2015 is a single channel projection with surround sound, lasting twenty-three minutes. It consists of archival footage shot in Britain from the 1960s to the 1990s, meticulously sourced and reconfigured by the artist, combined with new material including CGI animations. The starting point for the film was the discovery on YouTube of a bootleg recording of a concert Leckey had seen in 1979 at Eric’s, a club in Liverpool where he saw the band Joy Division play. What Leckey had considered a lost – yet significant – private episode in his life, was there at his fingertips and he realised that he could reconstruct his own history of ‘found memories’ from snippets of music, film and adverts, collaged together from material found on the internet. The film focuses on key episodes in Leckey’s life between 1964 and 1999, positioned in relation to various cultural and technological influences that culminate with the end of analogue information and the rise of digital media.
The film begins with black and white footage of the space race (Leckey was born in 1964 at the height of the quest to put a man on the moon). Early satellite launches, telecommunication experiments and clips from Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s ‘white heat of technology’ speech of 1966 are juxtaposed alongside images from the period of the artist’s childhood. These range from a clip of The Beatles performing ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ (released the year Leckey was born) to images of high street shops as seen from the side window of a car, and a brand new, deserted motorway. A woman in fishnet tights combs her hair, sitting at a 1970s dressing table. This scene merges into a pylon skyline, the reticular shape of the woman’s fishnets echoed in the metalwork of the anthropomorphic latticed towers.
Throughout the film, images co-exist as disparate fragments. These include footage of early nuclear bomb tests, news coverage of Korean Airlines Flight 007 shot down by the Soviet Union, and gangs of youths running through deprived areas of Liverpool, suggestive of the Toxteth riots of 1981. Reverberating countdowns, images of the full moon and the phrase ‘Time to Totality’ reflect Leckey’s interest in the space technology and the celestial. The passage of time is present elsewhere in a series of CGI animations of a bridge, which over time becomes graffitied and then finally re-painted in a municipal shade of blue. In other sections of the film Leckey reassembled the experience of being at the Joy Division concert in Liverpool in 1979 and his life in Windmill Street, London in the 1990s, where the artist’s silhouette is seen wandering in the night through Soho.
The film maps an autobiography of sorts and can be understood as an attempt by the artist to create a record of significant moments in his life up until the Millennium. It explores ideas around identity, the status of the individual, matters of subjectivity and collective memory. However it is more than a self-portrait. While it reflects Leckey’s conviction that the Internet can be thought of as a repository of memories, to be negotiated by an individual mind, it also functions as an index to Leckey’s long-term interest in the power of images and objects. References to the full moon and lunar eclipses of 1964 and 1999 highlight his fascination with astronomy and how we connect to the greater universe, whereas the recurring motif of the pylon (which also features in his sculptures) reflects his interest in animism and the peculiar qualities of everyday objects themselves.
The film exists in an edition of six plus two artist’s proofs; Tate’s copy is number one in the main edition.
The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London 2013.
Mark Leckey, exhibition catalogue, Verlag der Buchhandlung, Cologne 2014.
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