Looking for Looking for Love. Photographs by Tom Wood Remixed & Remodelled by Gareth McConnell
140 Pages (92 colour plates)
19.5 x 24.5 cm
Hardcover / white linen bound / gold debossed cover & spine
Each cover individually signed & editioned by the artists
Clear PVC wrap around dust-jacket
Double sided poster 42.5 x 33.5 cm (folded 17 x 21.2 cm)
Risograph on 120gsm Munken paper
Edition of 250
Including a major new essay on the work by David Chandler and additional texts by Neal Brown and Gareth McConnell
Concept and design by Gareth McConnell
Looking for Looking for Love is a reworking of one of the seminal photographic books of the 1980?s. Tom Wood’s photographs of the clientele of the Chelsea Reach Nightclub in New Brighton, Merseyside were taken between 1984-87 and first published as Looking For Love in 1989. Wood was a regular at the club and shot thousands of pictures over a number of years, however due to budget constraints at the time of printing only a fraction of these were reproduced as full plates in the original Cornerhouse publication. Wishing to honour the cooperation of his subjects and to communicate the scope of the work, the artist constructed a collage (subsequently stolen) to be printed as a double page spread in the opening pages of the book. This new monograph takes this collage as its starting point, the images that fill the pages of the book are faithful in shape, but not scale or sequence, to the artist’s original construction, scanned from Gareth McConnell’s personal copy of the book, the visible dot matrix and asymmetric shapes engenders the portraits with an energy and vibrancy that not only frees the images from the tyranny of the photographic rectangle but makes them almost bounce off the page. Looking for Looking for Love is a chance to revisit a series of photographs by one of the true underground heroes of British photography and catch a glimpse of British nightlife on the cusp of rave and the acid house phenomenon. Included are essays by Professor David Chandler, the author, artist and critic Neal Brown and the photographer and publisher Gareth McConnell.
Tom Wood trained as a painter at the conceptually orientated Leicester Polytechnic from 1973–76, his first exploration of lens-based media was through extensive viewing of experimental films. His work is held in numerous collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The International Centre of Photography, New York, The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, The Victoria & Albert Museum, London and the The National Media Museum, Bradford. Recent monographs include Men and Women (Steidl, 2013) and Photie Man (Steidl, 2005). Recent solo exhibitions include Tom Wood: Photographs 1973 – 2013, The National Media Museum, Bradford 2013, Men and Women, Thomas Erben, New York, 2013, and Men and Woman, The Photographers Gallery, London, 2012.
David Chandler wrote the original introduction for Looking for Love in 1989 while working as Exhibitions Organiser at The Photographers’ Gallery, London. It was his first published book essay and at the time he was dismayed to discover that, on publication, it had been chopped from 2500 to 500 words… We are proud to announce that he has grasped this opportunity to even out the scales! David had also worked as a curator for The National Portrait Gallery and went on to be Director of Photoworks from 1997 to 2010. He is now Professor of Photography at Plymouth University. Recent writings include those on the work of Rinko Kawauchi, in Illuminance (Aperture, 2011); on Paul Graham, both the extended essay, ‘A Thing There Was That Mattered…‘ in his survey monograph (SteidlMack, 2009), and a new essay in Beyond Caring (Errata Editions, 2010); on Jem Southam, in the book Clouds Descending (The Lowry, 2008); and the text for a recent survey monograph on Peter Fraser (Tate, 2013).
Neal Brown is the author of Meditations on Art Hate (L-13, 2010), Tracey Emin (Tate Publishing, 2006), Mat Collishaw (Other Criteria, 2006), and Billy Childish: A Short Study (L-13, 2008). As well as writing for ArtReview, he has written about art for Flash Art, Frieze, Art Monthly, Modern Painters, Parkett, Art and Christianity, Tate Etc., and the Independent on Sunday. He curated To The Glory of God: New Religious Art at the second Liverpool Biennial (2002).
Tom Wood and Gareth McConnell: Gareth McConnell and Tom Wood. By Neal Brown
There is Merseyside and its fine people, and there is Tom Wood, who photographed them at the Chelsea Reach nightclub in the 1980s, with an endorsing rather than a destructive attention. McConnell has made this book, based on two collages Wood made of his own images, by reworking them in a scrupulous exercise in reassembly. The images – the originals stolen, lost – have been scanned by McConnell from his own copy of the book.
McConnell has, in a homage, devised a new specification for Wood’s work, faithfully retracing the individual elements of the collages, and separating these elements in strict accordance with the contours created by their tiled boundaries. It is a coming together of separations: of parallelograms, improbable gestalt-ish angles, indents and other weird geometries, within whose mortice joints are contained a pagan magic – the soul-spirits of young Liverpudlians, enjoying their once great, happy courtship derangements. Wood’s photographs – proxy selfies – show a great deal of affectionately tactile engagement (not just gropes) amongst his young subjects, and McConnell’s project is related to ideas of physical closeness and separation, too: the interrelatedness of the paper of the original collage, the literal retracing of contour lines, the physicality of the ink on the original paper surfaces of his copy of the book.
Wood began some kind of disruptive process in his own work when he introduced into one of the two collages a rupture, running left to right, upsetting the neatly tiled ordering of the images, and in the other collage, a spiral that functioned similarly. In this way he changed the relationship of the original images, closing down the possibility – not that one really existed – of a sensible narrative reading. What McConnell is doing is pushing Wood’s own auto-subversion to a level of rare abstraction, so rare that it may challenge understanding. McConnell’s project could be described as a cross between the kinds of art practice that might take a line for a walk (Paul Klee), with those that cast the negative voids of something solid (Bruce Nauman), or recreate something (the Battle of Orgreave, Jeremy Deller), or engage in a little social examination (Stephen Willats). Less art-worldly, and more spiritually (perhaps), it’s as if McConnell has travelled a great distance to a sacred quarry, to gather a source material – Wood’s images become McConnell’s own version of bluestones, or menhirs, which he has carried over a rough landscape, hundreds of difficult miles, to monumentalise at a new holy site.
In this way McConnell has made himself a kind of Stonehenge: a monument of freestanding, two-dimensional forms, whose architecture contains powerful energy, arranged in a coded, magico-religious arrangement on the page. Although it’s unlikely that McConnell is just breaking up the menhirs of a previous religion to make himself a house, his reassembling of Wood’s work is certainly a highly personal one. It is both funerary and commemoratively affirmative: a revered burial site of beautiful youth and its pockmarked skin, its drive for sex and intoxication, and its drive for hope.
Still lookin. By Gareth McConnell
Tom Wood’s Looking for Love is without a doubt one my favorite photo books of all time. I first picked it up in the college library in Farnham circa 1992 and my belly rolled over at the greatness of it; I often think I should have stuck it up my jumper while I had the chance and a taste for casual thievery as when I finally got round to buying a copy last year it cost me nearly £300, the original £9.95 label pristine on the back laughing at me. If as David Chandler alludes to in his essay Looking for Love was to be compared to a pop song it might indeed be something like ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’, blinding hypnotic beautiful rhythmic uplifting though like the very best love songs rooted in longing and melancholy, a howl in the void for love and comfort, the yearning to transcend filling the pages and like the Four Tops smash, irrefutably a classic, never failing to touch.
Now these years down the line I find myself in the unexpected position of collaborator and publisher of this new interpretation of the work. I had been up in Chester doing a talk to Tom’s students when a post work pint turned into a late night bender. The next morning on the train back to London and spectacularly hung over I fished my newly signed copy of Looking for Love out of my bag and started going through it picture by picture word for word in an attempt to eclipse my suffering. I found myself totally immersed in the collages at the front of the book, studying the irregular images under my photographers magnifying loop like a slightly crazed jeweler mesmerized by the facets on raw and precious gems that until this moment had somehow escaped his attention. When I got home I scanned the collages in, cutting the individual images out in Photoshop, placed them on plain white backgrounds, made a rough maquette and posted it to Tom with the proposition that we made a new book. He said yes.
Regarding what happened to the people in these pictures I can only speculate but perhaps like the people I knew they joined the dole queue or became students or apprentices, became parents and joiners and accountants, teachers, soldiers, artists, bank clerks, shop assistants, went to the docks or the shipyards, became builders and policemen and women (bent and otherwise), crooks, drug dealers, musicians, promoters, DJ’s, alcoholics and addicts, mental patients, suicides, murderers or murder victims, prisoners, émigrés, became rich, became poor or poorer or all of the above, who the hell knows. What I do know is that this is a glimpse of British nightlife on the cusp of one of the most significant and mythologised youth cultural phenomenons the country has ever seen – the acid house movement and the birth of the ecstasy generation.
I never set foot in the Chelsea Reach but I have been to plenty places like it, Sparkles down the road in Carrick, The Coach in Banbridge, The Crescent on Sandy Row and the king of them all, Kelly’s in Portrush. I remember the pints of lager, the smoke, the sticky carpets and slippery dance floors, the fake ID’s to get past the aggro bouncers, screaming to be heard above the music and you can’t fucking move it’s so packed, the smuggled quarter bottle and a five deal of hash, and talking about it all on Monday morning at school coz we were only 13 or 14 when we started. I remember the clothes and the hairstyles and the music, I see the faces of my childhood friends and adversaries. I see my sister in a skinny black tie, white buttoned down shirt and a perm, I see the girls I kissed, the unrequited loves and lost sweethearts, my own and everyone else’s. I see Skimmer who would start unbuttoning his trousers to the first beats of Man 2 Man Meets Man Parrish’s Male Stripper and then spending the next half hour prancing about in a pair of C&A undies. I see the older girls who wouldn’t look at you twice and the nutty boys who would beat you good looking. I see Julie and Cara and Diane and Shirley and Lee and Jackie, oh Jackie, Jackie… I see Logey and Geordie and Blurt and Ricky Doyle and Kelleher and Meeky and Starsy and Aeppli getting filled in yet again for being too funny and good looking and weird. I see the exuberance and hope and frustration and fragility and defeat of youth all mixed up in one boozy, smoky, hormonal stew swaying spinning groping snogging shouting laughing. I see the queue at the chippies and smell the burger vans, the inevitable fights and tears and flashing lights, a hand-job if you’re lucky, a party, the walk home, the lift, the coach, someone’s bed or couch or floor or cell.
I remember when seemingly on mass we all started taking strange little pills and powders and squares of perforated paper with tiny pictures of smiley faces and oms and strawberries printed on them, when we started wearing baggy clothes and growing our hair and freaky dancing and hugging strangers till dawn and telling each other we loved each other and smoking big spliffs on the comedown talking shit and walking home at noon the next day or the day after that listening to the birds sing and putting all our old records and cassettes under the bed coz we knew we weren’t gonna need them anymore and getting in cars to drive round the country and putting on nights and doing deals and reading Mixmag and The Face and ID and saving up for a trip to Ibiza and thinking just maybe anything’s possible after all. There was gonna be no more slow dances for us, no more lights on and getting your coat at 1am, no more drunken fights and sausage suppers, we were going raving, and so was everybody else.
It hard for me not to look back at these pictures without a warm sense of nostalgia, but then simmering though that, comes a great anger and disappointment for what has been lost and for what lies ahead for young and old alike. Over 25 years on, and the Criminal Justice Act of ’94 ancient history, with our every mouse click and phone called spied upon, corporations writing our laws and controlling our systems of information, the NHS up for sale and Citizens Advice banjaxed and Legal Aid dismantled, and the 2011 riots dismissed as ‘apolitical’ (but lets not mention the chasmic economic disparities and social inequalities, or the housing crisis, or endemic police corruption and brutality, stop and search, or kettling, or profiling but their lives somehow more valuable than yours or mine… ) but don’t worry coz you can post ironic comments about it on Facebook or Twitter or borrow a few hundred quid off Wonga or its ilk and boogie on down to the corporate festival of your choice, onsite police force resplendent with sniffer-dogs and strip-cells in a state of the art pop up processing suite, ‘Drug use will not be tolerated here! … unless of course its this pint of warm piss for five English pounds thank you very much’… We find ourselves lorded over by criminal oligarchs and the billionaire wideboys who are deified by sneering lapdog don’t the price of a pint of milk politicians whilst we struggle in the midst of banking induced austerity, with student fees, and workfare, and slim to no chance of a trade, or an apprenticeship, mass unemployment with part-time and zero hour contracts blurring the figures and if even if you get one forget about any rights and the papers and telly full of lifestyle bile, food & property porn masquerading as culture, bookending vilification of the needy and disenfranchised ‘lock up the poor, be a grass, be a tout, dial this number, you’re not like them fuck em’ until it’s you their coming for, and I don’t know about you but I kinda stop and ask myself. Where IS the love?