‘Don’t take yourself too seriously and take yourself as seriously as death itself… Have ironclad confidence… Believe you are the baddest ass in town.’ Bruce Springsteen delivers rock 'n' roll mantra (from his keynote speech at the 2012 SXSW festival) in artist Andy Holden’s monument to youth. In seven film installations, he wanders into the minds, the haunts – and the bedrooms – of MI!MS (Maximum Irony! Maximum Sincerity), an artistic movement founded in 1999 by the then-adolescent Holden and four chums from Bedford.
The work is essentially a feature length film sliced into several parts. Young actors reenact the original MI!MS members recalling the movement. They talk about the horror of discovering that their most deeply felt emotions have universality, beat out the grammatical details of their manifesto (yes, there’s a manifesto, signed in 2003), confuse Hegel with Marx and never swear once. But there’s no mocking undertone. This, unapologetically, is a celebration of youth, with a critical eye on what ‘youth’ itself might mean.
The installation surrounds you with the sound, sculpture, performance and original works of MI!MS, all made with maximum sincerity and equal (perhaps postmodern) irony. Yet, in the end this show is an exposure of earnestness and the pretences of former selves so bloodily open-hearted that it cannot fail to move. Leave cynicism at the door, perhaps you’ll forget to pick it up on the way out.