Monday 25 March 2013

Chernozem @85a @GFT @THE FLYING DUCK

The first incarnation of 85A's Chernozem was a site-reponsive jamboree. Taking over The Glue Factory, a natural home for the collective's broad mash-up of post-industrial chaos and Teutonic expressionist paranoia, they presented the film as a series of scenes, connected by DIY funfair rides and strict injunctions to tour the building. If this edition sacrifices the theatricality for a more traditional cinematic experience - it is being shown in the Glasgow Film Theatre - the surrounding events at The Flying Duck are a reminder that this crew are all about more than just the celluloid.
The evening begins with the Renegade Maskerrade: a masked ball starring redneck hill-billy stomp from Sister Deadfoot and, as 85a put it, the audience's own dreams of barefoot zombie sex teetering on the edge of civilisation. Then a short parade down the road, and the film begins. Judd Brucke's Chernozem is unashamedly bleak - it has the nightmarish surrealism of early horror, a fascination with totalitarian imagery and the harsh, snappy editing of an industrial rock video. Taking in themes of control, dark sensuality and domination, Chernozem is a post-apocalyptic thriller that has the flavour of a fragmented, and thought lost, documentary from cinema's early years.
Finally, it's back to The Flying Duck for the 85A DJs - known to make a rare noise that evokes the energy of techno and the brutality of 1990s industrial. And if the Collective aren't devising a hyper-cinema this time, this triptych of events echoes their enthusiasm for the immersive.
Although it is easy to spot the influence of post-industrial decay in their output, with various members intrigued by refitting old spaces or materials, 85A's most obvious precedent is the rave culture of the 1980s, before it was absorbed into superclubs and name DJs. The willingness to involve different art forms, as attested by their long  association with grim storytellers Luona, and build new worlds to encase their art harks back to rave's warehouse parties, that would construct pleasure domes within old factories. The rough, DIY ethos and aesthetic is an implicitly political statement of affintity with movements of the 1980s and 1990s that shunned the capitalist mainstream. Even their occasional fondness for Soviet iconography is more combative towards global capitalism's influence on art, than leftist sentimentality.
Unlike many groups that use the noun, 85A are a genuine collective, a disparate  gang who come together for specific events. Their politics are not easily discerned, thanks to their refusal to shout the slogans that usually pass for engagement within the arts and their route to the GFT, which has been self-funded, is a more eloquent statement of integrity and self-determination than a thousand letters or Facebook entries bemoaning the current state of Creative Scotland. Chernozem's fantasy of a blackened planet may be a reflection of contemporary Britain's cultural anguish, but 85a's very identity is an act of resistance to the mundane.

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