Face to face with style
If you are into the cutting edge of British urban youth culture of the Nineties, then plug in, switch on and light up at the Barbican Gallery's jam show. Have your preferences confirmed while turning the pages of the most recent crop of style magazines like Dazed and Confused, Blow or True (all successors to the now well-established The Face and i-D) while drinking coffee in a lookalike version of Islington's Crowbar Cafe. Then, with the help of Durrell Bishop, redesign yourself using the latest digital camera and computer technology before you go clubbing via the peepshow voyeurism of Trip Media's Virtual (reality, of course) Nightclub.
A blatantly extrovert celebration of the highly effective collaboration between the makers and image-makers of hyped up trends in music, clothes and entire life-styles for the young, jam (note the consistent rejection of the upper case) proudly disassociates itself from anything resembling the usual white-boxed, fine-art exhibition. "Forget Cork Street, even Goldsmiths, the style and music arena is - for the first time since the Sixties - where the excitement is really happening," writes Jane Alison (the joint editor of the book-catalogue with Liz Farrelly and "project coordinator" - no tainted curatorial role here), thanking "Rankin, the driving force behind Dazed and Confused, for planting in my head the notion of a 'walk in magazine'".
And that, very much in the manner of the ubiquitous promotional pages set aside in any number of publications, is what this event is all about. Connections and collaborations are stressed. Alison emphasises the importance of photographer-stylist partnerships like Knight and Foxton, Sims and Cockburn, Aurell and Monheim (all cult figures in the extensive world of youth subcultures) in advancing the careers of fashion designers like Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Jessica Ogden, Stephen Fuller and Brian of Britain, while Farrelly affirms that "interactivity is the order of the day". She stresses the key role of the computer both in the design process and in the provision of a common language for the various participants.
Like so many signposts guiding the visitor through the battery of electronic displays, graphics, photography, music and fashion garments are the clusters of record sleeve designs, each one inviting recognition of subcultural identity. For the initiated young, these offer sometimes subtle inflections of meaning. For the visually informed, they carry echoes of earlier forms and structures re-used here in different contexts for different purposes. All of which casts doubt on Alison's claim that "jam is neither art historical, anthropological nor deliberately instructive."
Teachers and tutors daunted by the prospect of taking on the hallucinatory, computer-manipulated photography of Biggy G Riphead, the disorienting, interactive computer installation of Synoptican by Hex or the totally unpredictable outcomes of the design cooperative, Tomato, should take advantage of the Education Private View and Talk on September 26, when Jane Alison will be on hand.
GCSE and A-level students can attend workshops concentrating on the inventive recycling of materials with Jessica Ogden while those at A-level and above who are interested in fashion, graphics, photography or the media can go behind the scenes of True or Dazed and Confused magazines. All the day-time and evening talks are accessible to young adults.
For information on talks and events, tel: 0171 638 4141, ext 7640. To book a visit, talk or event, tel: 0171 638 8891, minicom 0171 382 7297.