Mark Leckey established his career with 1999’s Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, a classic video on UK’s music subcultures from the late 70s through the 90s. In one feverish montage dubbed with a slowed-down soundtrack, Leckey passes through 70s disco, 80s Northern Soul, and climaxes with 90s raves. “Fiorucci” refers to the Fiorucci clothing label, associated with UK “casual” culture and the acid house, rave, and Madchester scenes. “Made Me Hardcore” suggests the project is a personal one for Leckey, so it’s not surprising that Leckey is in rave-influenced bands JackTooJack and donAteller.
To make Fiorucci, Leckey had to track down rare footage by word of mouth – that was before it was all posted to YouTube. A bootleg recording of Fiorucci has over 18,000 plays on Vimeo, and, in turn, the easy availability of endless material has influenced Leckey’s increasingly wide-ranging lectures. He won the 2008 Turner Prize for an exhibition that included videos of talks weaving Felix the Cat, Philip Guston, and Titanic into a highly personal history of art and film. His recent lecture series, The Long Tail, deals directly with internet distribution and creation. In retrospect, Fiorucci has become a predecessor of YouTube’s amateur compilation videos and remixes.
Music always returns as Leckey’s cultural reference point. His monolithic Sound Systems are homages to the bootstrapped PA systems of ’60s Jamaican dub culture. In a series of performances called BigBoxStatueAction (2003–11), Leckey directs his sound systems towards modernist sculptures, attempting to “elicit a response.” In one iteration at Tate Britain, Leckey played a set that included Throbbing Gristle, Händel, Little Richard, Gabba music (particularly repetitive ’90s techno), and Japanese synthesizer disco for Jacob Epstein’s alabaster Jacob And The Angel.
For his show opening today at London’s Serpentine Gallery, Leckey reprises BigBoxStatueAction, turning his speakers on a Henry Moore sculpture. He will also attempt to communicate with a Samsung “smart” fridge in GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction, a piece that was in New York last year at Gavin Brown enterprises. Leckey has compared the Henry Moore sculpture to the Samsung refrigerator, both aesthetically and as high-profile brands. And that point isn’t too far from what Leckey has been up to all along, putting Gabba on the level with Epstein to see if he can elicit some sort of conversation.