From London daily The Morning Star:
When British art was radical
(Monday 09 April 2007)
EXHIBITION: The Secret Public: The Last Days of the British Underground 1978-1988
Institute of Contemporary Arts, London
CHRISTINE LINDEY is reminded of the time when young British artists were driven by a need to change society.
IN the early 1970s, the dominant aesthetic in Britain was still US-style abstraction.
Wanting to close the gap between art and life, progressive artists aimed to topple art from these rarefied heights.
So they broke the boundaries between the various art forms and raided the media, but not the content, of mass culture.
Breaking free of paint and clay, they made videos, films, posters, photomontages, books and banners.
They invented installations and performances in which they used sound, objects, costumes and their own bodies.
Often fired by socialist theory, they questioned the constraints of class, gender, sexuality and race.
The aim was to change life, not art.
Oddly, this exhibition focuses on the last phase of such art, which it interprets, according to its pamphlet, as a “dark flowering of creativity … which was as much an extension of subcultural lifestyle as it was a consequence of art making.”
Taking its title from The Secret Public, a 1978 fanzine by the writer Jon Savage and the artist Linder, it presents the work as a “generational grouping of artists and personalities” who “were responding to the darkling view of the modern world.”
Within this topic, it dwells upon artists concerned “with gender, sexuality and their performative self – the body as a performance, as a spectacle.”