A number of possibilities presented themselves for last Thursdays evening’s entertainment, but after some deliberation I opted to attend the launch of a photographic book entitled Where Were You?, which was being hosted by the Gallery Of Photography. I was somewhat intrigued by this notion of a book documenting Dublin ‘youth culture’, as ‘youth’ and ‘culture’ were not two things I would normally associate with each other. I was also swayed by the fact that the Gallery of Photography can normally be relied upon to provide an acceptable enough vintage at their openings.
It was a blustery night, and after fighting my way through the dreck of Temple Bar, I finally arrived in the door, late and in sore need of some liquid fortification. I quickly located the drinks counter and after having failed to spot the wine, inquired as to its whereabouts. You can imagine my astonishment when I was told that there was none – only Carlsberg was on offer. I stepped back to gather my thoughts and, assuming there was some mistake, approached once more with the same enquiry. Unbelievably, this was met with the same response. It was only after asking a third time, and receiving the same answer again (delivered in a somewhat testy manner if I may say so), that the full horror of it dawned upon me. There was indeed no wine.
I hastily consulted my watch, in an attempt to determine if I could quickly rearrange my schedule for the evening, and make it to one of the other openings across town instead. Alas, my earlier tardiness put paid to this notion, and with a sinking feeling, I realised that there was nothing for it but to drink the Carlsberg. In my experience it is best to face unpleasantness head-on, unflinching, so I grabbed a beaker of the dreaded stuff and downed it in one go. There was little enjoyment to be had from this, but luckily no unpleasant side-effects either, so I took a second one and proceeded upstairs to the main part of the gallery.
Some chap by the name of Friday was launching the book, but to be honest I couldn’t even hear what the blasted fellow was droning on about as I was unable to even squeeze in the door of the main room, such was the density of the throng of revellers that had turned up. Undeterred, I popped downstairs again for another Carlsberg, and it was only when I returned that I started to realise what an unusual throng this actually was. It was largely comprised of men who were, shall we say, of a certain age. Now, I am no ingénue myself, but nevertheless I am more accustomed to being in the company of bright young things at these sorts of events. In addition to this, their styles of dress were unconventional to say the least. A chap beside me had green hair fashioned into some sort of spiky abomination, while others sported shaven heads, braces, and boots laced up to the knees.
I was onto my fourth Carlsberg when it hit me that the aforementioned ‘youth culture’ actually refers to those adolescent codes of behaviour, dress, and musical taste, by which impressionable youths designate themselves as being “punks” or “rockers” or “goths” or some such nonsense. It perplexed me as to why grown men would continue to dress according to these conventions and it took one more Carslberg before the answer to this conundrum revealed itself to me. Surely what was happening here was that this was a sophisticated form of post-modern pastiche, and these fellows (perhaps the entire event!) were in fact participants in an art performance. Delighted with myself, I rushed back upstairs to put this to the group of shaven-headed “skinheads”, who were at that point jostling each other in the corridor and guffawing loudly. I was eager to discover more about the motivations behind their work.
At this point, dear reader, it pains me to carry on and try and describe what happened next. You can say what you like about contemporary art, and believe me, most of the time I have no idea what that damned stuff up on the wall is actually supposed to be (if it even is on the wall that is), but at least one is usually guaranteed a civilised conversation, and I don’t ever recall a provocative enquiry of mine at an opening in the Rubicon Gallery being met with fierce threats of outright violence. I pondered this as I fled down the stairs and out the door, and vowed to stay away from the Carlsberg in future.
Our wine correspondent attended the launch of Where Were You?: Dublin Youth Culture and Street Style 1950-2000 by Garry O’Neill (Hi Tone books). Where Were You? is now available at a range of Dublin bookshops and other outlets, or can be ordered online here.