There’s a group of kids sniffing brake fluid down in Vauxhall pleasure gardens, and a drunk guy smashing up a bus stop too. The kids are dressed head to toe in Nike and Adidas, their faces covered by goggles and masks. But this isn’t just another day in South London, this is Mark Leckey’s gang of miscreants.
Mannequins of those kids greet you in the basement of this show, all bathed in acrid yellow street light. In the film installation next door (first shown at the Tate in 2019), they huff chemicals and chug sugary drinks in an underpass. A star rises, they get high, then they get higher, the lights spin, the music pounds. Leckey presents the underpass as a site of communal, magical, esoteric ecstasy, these kids are like druids and this is their ceremony. He’s re-imagined the underpass as a modern day Stonehenge, because this is where kids convene and interact and rave and have life changing experiences. It’s Adidas as ritual clothing, the rave as modern solstice party, working class shamanism.
It’s Adidas as ritual clothing, the rave as modern solstice party.
Upstairs, Leckey’s built a minimalist black bus stop. Its digital advertising boards show a video of a man diving through the glass of some bus stop on some nameless English street. A bit of drunken 2am idiocy which the artist found posted to some banter messageboard or Facebook group and has now replicated, showing it over and over like it’s a dance move. Another screen shows images of an ancient cave filled with candles. He’s showing violence, destruction and drunkenness not as vandalism, but as acts of piety, as something for future archaeologists to try to decode.
Throughout this, Leckey is drawing links between a spiritual past and a grotty, collapsing present. He treats the bus stop and the underpass as places of holy communion. It’s hard, intense, beautiful and so good it almost makes you want to start huffing brake fluid.