road-tripping the end of the world

derek liddington – dandy gangs: a working-class love story

The Warhols - Dandy Gangs: A working-class love story

This past week I had the pleasure of serving as still photographer for Derek Liddington’s Dandy Gangs: A working-class love story .  Derek’s statement for the performance:

“The performance Dandy Gangs: a working-class love story looks at possible repetitions founded in dandy, hip hop, punk, rock n’ roll and gang aesthetics. Consistent with my interest in melding popular histories and autobiographical moments I have borrowed locations from hangouts I had as a youth growing up in Mississauga, including Mississauga’s Civic Centre and Kariya Park. At scheduled times knowing and unknowing audiences will watch as two groups of dancers and tenors interact through operatic song and dance choreography based on early Fluxus happenings, scenes from West Side Story and operatic interpretations of early 90’s hip hop music. Viewers will watch as opposing dandy-gangs entangle in scenarios of territorial misunderstanding, conflict, tension and resolution expressed through a Fluxus-dance-rock-opera. Gang members will be presented as caricatures melding fashions and attitudes borrowed from the flâneur, dandy and punk; likening the performers to the cultural phenomenon of flash-mobs.” (http://derekliddington.com/section/245097_Dandy_Gangs_A_Working_Class_Love_Story.html)

The two featured gangs were The Warhols (pictured above) and The Stallones, each with a distinctive uniform and their own gang leaders, all wearing masks of their respective namesakes. The outfits were meticulously constructed, with metal studs outlining the gang names on the backs of the clothing (I can’t imagine what all this cost to have made). Wigs were similarly used to distinguish the gangs, and in the same manner, the gang leaders, who had beautiful leather tail-coats.

The performance occurred in three parts: a chance meeting and confrontation between the two gangs during a picnic in a park, a progression of each gang through Square One mall, and a final, operatic-rock battle in Celebration Square, a giant recreation fountain.

Dandy Gangs - Battle at Celebration Square

Photographing the performance was definitely challenging but thoroughly enjoyable. Too often I’ve seen performance work essentially destroyed by a photographer literally pointing a camera a few feet from the performer’s faces; I used a relatively long lens and aimed to be as inconspicuous as possible, and I think I did pretty well. The resulting images were, in my opinion, extremely successful and I quite enjoyed “reliving” the whole performance as I processed the final photos.

Following the cut below I’ve included some of the ‘highlights’ and a few feature photos showing the principal players and outfits.

Dandy Gangs - The Stallones

The Stallones were definitely the more machismo of the gangs; note the gang-leader in leather at right.

Dandy Gangs - The Stallones vest

The vests worn by The Stallones, note the metal studs, leather and denim construction.

Dandy Gangs - The Warhols' outfit

The Warhol’s gang vest – again, metal studs and leather, this time with red cotton plaid.

Dandy Gangs - The Stallones in the park

Dandy Gangs - The Warhols at the park

Dandy Gangs - Confrontation at the Picnic

Dandy Gangs - Confrontation at the Picnic (2)

The park component of the performance ran about half an hour, and featured a well-choreographed encounter and confrontation at the Warhols’ picnic. Laying upon the blanket is the “monarch” of the Warhols, who wore a very distinctive dress:

Dandy Gangs - The Warhol Monarch

The performance then progressed to Square One, where the gangs, individually, walked through the mall, interacting with the environment and to some degree, amused spectators. (at the time of writing this I don’t have any of the mall shots handy). A short break followed, and at 7pm the final, epic, operatic gang battle occurred at Celebration Square.

Dandy Gangs - The Battle Begins

Dandy Gangs - Battle in the Fountain

The visual and musical ‘backdrop’ for the battle had three components, to one side, two singers performing an opera, mounted upon a purple, textured ladder.

Dandy Gangs - The Opera

Across the way, a leader of The Stallones attempts to continously ascend a paper-mache replica of the above ladder, destroying it in the process.

Dandy Gangs - The Ladder

And finally, another leader of The Stallones performs the guitar solo from Guns ‘n’ Roses’ November Rain, over and over (for unrelated reasons, I’d been thinking about this song quite a bit recently, and this part of the performance completely made my week, thanks again Jesse Lee Bellon!)

Dandy Gangs - November Rain

The final performance, overall, was wonderfully successful and I had a great time photographing everything, as much as myself, Derek and everyone involved were completely exhausted when all was said and done. Given the number of cel phone cameras and videos I saw throughout, I suspect a lot more documentation will pop up online over the next few weeks.  The accompanying exhibition continues at the Art Gallery of Mississauga until September 11th, so if you’re in the area, be sure to stop by.

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