Thursday, 21 May 2009

We Are The World + Moonspoon Saloon 'White Crane' at Victoria Miro Gallery - 20 May 2009

We Are The World

To a frantic beating of drums, the band appears. They appear to be wearing doublet and hose, they have red, sombrero–like hats and their faces are masked behind long red veils that hang to their knees. Their hands are gloved in black, the fingers bizarrely elongated until they turn on themselves like talons…


A few weeks ago, I happened across the Los Angeles-based avant-garde band We Are The World. I had a listen to them and was very struck with what I heard. A check of their itinerary showed that they were playing a single UK date as part of a European tour, but that this appearance was to be as part of an exhibition and fashion show held at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London.

A few emails later and here I am, as a guest of the Moonspoon Saloon collective, admiring the strange yet appealing art works of co-founder and painter Tal R. This is an exhibit entitled Arms de Chine, which takes as its genesis a Chinese manual about ancient weaponry. The objects portrayed in the book are now so archaic that you can no longer tell what they were used for, and the artist has used them as inspiration for his own interpretations of their original purpose. To quote the Press Release there are “owls, sad penises, eggs, elegant guard women with buns, lost scouts, wrong fruits, melted minimal ice cream, sad fruits, junk and bottles, tombstones, embarrassed old uncles.” And very nice they are too.

The We Are The World performance accompanies ‘White Crane’, the latest fashion collection of Sara Sachs and the rest of the Moonspoon Collective. Talking to the band afterwards, it seems that they were rather surprised at this element of the evening, and it must be about the only time that they have not been the most outlandishly attired people in the room…

…Flash Forward.

Identically attired, the band features a percussionist pounding the living tar out of a series of electronic drums and tinkering with other items of equipment. There is a female vocalist, writhing and arching her back as she progresses down the runway accompanied by a pair of dancers/acolytes.

The ‘White Crane’ collection features bright colours, geometric shapes and allusions to ancient empires. There is an almost militaristic undercurrent, heightened by the thunderous percussion and the wearing of intricately designed medals as accessories. The costumes are extravagant, but not necessarily beyond the bounds of propriety, this is on-the-limit club wear and only the brave and the beautiful can carry it off. Sometimes the band mingles with the models, who are struggling to keep their composure amidst the tumult.

The band performs all the songs I want to hear – ‘Fight Song’, which is a potent call to arms, ‘Clay Stones’, which uses beseeching repetition to startling effect. And the mighty track ‘Goya Monster’. Halfway through the set, the veils and hats are dashed aside, to reveal bejewelled, face-covering balaclavas. It’s kind of camp terrorist chic. It’s disturbing but powerful imagery.

The audience are here for the fashion and the art, but are mightily impressed with the music. Each song seems faster and more disorientating than the last, culminating with all four members of the band hurtling and leaping into the onlookers. Sara Sachs and her collection are roundly and rightly applauded.

The differing elements of the evening’s entertainment have meshed excitingly together, the fashion, art and music fused into a complementary whole. Decadent, sure, but playful and funny too. We Are The World are phantoms, here one moment, gone the next. Watch out for them.

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