Mr Brainwash London 2012 Launch
The Old Sorting Office, New Oxford St, London – WC1 • August 5-31, 2012
At the beginning of August, I was a cog in the Mr Brainwash hype machine, and despite being annoyed by the obvious manipulation of an innocent crowd, I hate to say that I quite enjoyed it.
A few weeks ago, I received an e-Shot about a collaboration between the two Guettas. House DJ David Guetta and artist Mr Brainwash, Thiery Guetta, made famous through Banksy’s documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop. I was keen to see how a visual and sonic collaboration between the two would turn out. Videos on the official website had David talking about his love for raves and his excitement for doing something in a secret location for the first time since the ’90s, and showed Mr Brainwash throwing paint around in his usual, slightly surreal manner.
The invite that fell into my inbox for the event showed a painting of David Guetta with a Ziggy Stardust lightening bolt and a t-shirt saying ‘Music Is My Art’, which would become his slogan for the evening! I started to get excited – not everyone that registered had got tickets, so I’d been invited to something that could be really special!
I rocked up at 8 o’clock when the doors opened, and was confronted with a queue that stretched round the corner, with people drinking cans, bottles and pub bought drinks all down it. I joined the back and waited – and waited – and waited. Making friends with the people around me, most who were there for David Guetta and had no idea who Brainwash was, we must have waited a good hour before we moved! After about 6 feet, a lovely PR girl came round and told us it was at capacity and it was one in, one out. We wondered how a queue that had barely moved for an hour could mean the venue was at capacity? Having seen the Mr Brainwash hype machine before, I understood that they were trying to create a buzz. I understood how powerful a queue of people could be and no sooner were we told it was one in, one out, we moved… we moved more in the space of 5 minutes than we had in an hour. Maybe the door policy wasn’t so strict after all.
But then, after more waiting, another PR girl came to politely tell us we wouldn’t get in, as the venue was at capacity. Refusing to give the name of her PR company, she got an earful from the people standing behind me (quite right really, they’d let us queue for over an hour) as she moved on to relay the bad news to the people behind us. But our resolve was strong. None of us wanted to be defeated – if we stood here long enough, they’d let us in… right?
Then, another PR woman, appeared…
“Will we get in?” we ask.
“It’s one in, one out.”
“We were just told no one else was getting in?”
“I’ll find out.”
Then, yet another PR representative comes round to ask us to leave. That’s right, with invites to the event, and after queuing for nearly 2 hours, we were actually asked if we could please leave as none of us would get in. More shouting from the girls behind us, but, as we noticed no one else was budging, we decided we might as well stay where we were. And then, you guessed it, another PR rep, this time doing a head count:
“Are we going to get in?”
“Well, that’s why I’m counting.”
“We’ve been told no one is getting in now and we were asked to leave.”
“Well, I’m counting to see how many of you will get in.”
It was like a form of torture. While this was happening, the hard bass of the music in the main room echoed through the corrugated iron door next to us. A fit guy that had queue jumped (I assume we all silently let him do so because he was so attractive) explained that the venue was half empty. By this point, we were so close I could no longer smell the shitty drains, but now I could smell sweat, and alcohol, and excitement, and art. Lots and lots of art. And then, we were in!
The first thing that struck me was how annoyingly empty it was. I took some pictures, bought a drink (£5 for a double and a mixer – not too shabby) and headed through to a room where, surrounded by random pieces of art, David Guetta was DJing. This of course, was always going to be a spectacle. We had men dressed as Beefeaters and Storm Troopers. We had Mickey Mouse in the back of a black cab. A souvenir red Telephone Box in a case. A massive pink ghetto blaster. A heart made out of paint cans. Several horse sculptures dripping with paint. It was quintessential Brainwash. My favourite piece of the art that we could actually see (much of it was covered up) was a collection of portraits spanning one wall of influential artists: Dali, Frida Kahlo, Damien Hirst and Banksy with writing painted over the top of them all. I had to stand as far back as I could to read the words, which were daubed with a paint brush in fuchsia pink, “If everyone thought the same, nothing would ever change”. At that moment, I stopped caring about the Mr Brainwash hype machine, whether he is real or whether his art says anything, and I became truly moved by something that was in front of me. He makes a very powerful statement, whilst acknowledging all that has come before him, and it’s something I connected with very easily. Elsewhere there was a pile of empty Burn cans (Coca Cola’s new energy drink, who sponsored the event) with a Gorilla made out of rubber tires, more horses and his famous Elvis prints.
All the while, David Guetta was relentless. Much harder than I expected, the commercial house was kept to a minimum and the more noisy electro house was pumped to the max. My personal highlight was the UK debut of his next single with the amazing Sia Fuller. The anti ‘Titanium’, ‘Falling In Pieces’ is a full on Sia ballad, set to a stomping Guetta beat and when it drops, it’s harder and heavier than anything he’s released commercially in years. One of the girls behind me kept gesturing to us and saying in a disgusted tone, “they’re not even here for Guetta”. I was there for Guetta, just a different one to you, love!
I decided to stay till the end and along with one of my new friends I made my way to the front with ease to get a good look at David Guetta! His happiness is infectious, and even when he played songs I didn’t like (or messed around with ones I did – David, what did you do to “212” by my beloved Azealia Banks?) he still made me want to dance and have a good time. Mr Brainwash appeared next to him behind a cardboard cut out of the Queen and Prince Phillip in DJ headphones, making them dance to the music. It was surreal to say the least and when it was time for us to leave, as Guetta’s last song finished, the audience carried on singing (inexplicably ‘Seven Nation Army’ by the White Stripes) and Guetta did something I’ve never seen anyone do! With a massive grin on his face, he began playing along with the audience on his drum machine! As the crowd grew louder, David added more drums, accompanying the audience’s vocal. It was truly magical…
For me, the most important piece of art was at the door on the way in:
PLEASE READ THIS NOTICE CAREFULLY: Today’s events are being recorded and may form part of a film.
The art of hype was clearly spelt out for us, cleverly just by the door so we didn’t see it for 2 hours. The greatest piece of art was in fact the deftly orchestrated hype.
I’m not against the Brainwash hype! I understand he’s an artist entirely created out of hype. But I felt for the innocent David Guetta fans who made up the majority of the queue. Most of them, not even knowing who Mr Brainwash was, were duped into thinking that they had been invited to a private David Guetta show. Their only crime? A taste for slightly dodgy commercial house music, most of whom would go to see David Guetta if he was opening an envelope! The German girl I was talking to didn’t even know who Banksy was – these people have no place being used as pawns in the whole business! I’m a Brainwash enthusiast (I wouldn’t call myself a fan quite yet, I’m still not 100% sure that it’s not all a big joke!) he can use me as much as he wants, but don’t exploit the confused and innocent!
I will be going back to see the rest of the show (I have to, half of it was covered up) but I certainly do not plan to queue for over 2 hours again for the privilege! It really wasn’t THAT interesting!