INTERVIEW: Eugene Schlumberger | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It’s almost as if, rather than being demolished, the Hacienda exploded.” Bobby Benjamin, co-curator of Middlesbrough’s inimitable Pineapple Black told me ahead of Eugene Schlumberger’s seminal Hacienda Landscapes show in the venue’s Stockroom Gallery. Long story short: Eugene has put together a book of photography inspired by, and in collaboration with, Hacienda interior designer Ben Kelly, who’s iconic ‘aesthetics of precaution’ in the legendary nightclub still resonates with those of a certain age, and the first fruits of this labour are showcased in the show.

Anyone who has already seen Eugene’s work will be familiar with his thought-provoking, and consistently excellent photographs of the minutiae of the towns we live in, occasionally sprinkled with that familiar colour theme, as the artist explained. “When I started taking photographs again, after a long hiatus, I realised I was consciously trying to capture the feel of the music I loved. It seemed natural to take that a step further and start using the design associated with my record collection as a reference in my photography. Again, the Factory thing is at the forefront of that. There’s also a link in the kinds of environments I usually work in. If you listen to the music of Joy Division and early New Order, what you hear is a soundtrack of what Britain – and specifically Manchester – looked like back when they were making that music. There’s a huge geographical influence in their work and that has rebounded into my visual outlook, much of which is about finding glimpses of beauty in amongst the grubbiness.”

I went to the Hacienda – as a club and as a live music venue – but my love for the place centred around the way it looked

So, how did the collab with Ben Kelly come about from such humble beginnings, I wondered. “With each photograph of mine, I included a photo of Ben Kelly’s of the empty club and an explanation of what I was doing. We met up in London at 180 The Strand, a fantastic arts space and venue which he was involved in re-designing at the time and chatted about music and design. Ben had also taken photographs which referenced his design of the club, and the book is primarily a collection of both of our work, alongside some fascinating and previously unseen work from Ben’s own archive – things like his plans and drawings from the design stage and photos of the construction of the interior of the club. The book has been assembled by an excellent graphic designer called Darren Wall and we also have some exclusive artwork from Peter Saville, created especially for this project, which is obviously hugely exciting.”

While the Hacienda was the hedonistic escape of its era Eugene’s work on Hacienda Landscapes, and more overtly the book of the same name, seems to juxtapose residual memories of the club into the everyday present as well as mirroring the aesthetic that influenced its design in the first place. “For me, it’s completely about the design. I went to the Hacienda – as a club and as a live music venue – but my love for the place centred around the way it looked; the way it felt to move around the building and its place in that whole mythology of Manchester and in particular Factory, which I find so fascinating. And yes, I do feel like the club exploded and rather brilliantly, Bobby has a poster, ripped from the wall of the Hacienda on the night it closed which will be the first image in the show. The end of the club is the starting point of this show. Obviously, the photographs I’ve taken are of things which weren’t influenced by the club but the other way round. These are pieces of the Hacienda ‘in the wild’ as it were. These are the fragments of the club after it exploded. The kinds of things I’m photographing are the kinds of things that fed Ben’s initial concept.”

With Eugene’s star firmly in the ascendency, the artist was keen to tell me of his future plans. “I’ve got a few projects on the go at the moment. Next up is a show at The Modernist in Manchester with Jo Stanness. I’m also in the middle of a project focusing on the topography of the A66, following its route from South Bank to Workington and I continue to make paperback books inspired by song titles and lyrics. I’ll be working on these with Punk and Judy over in Manchester and there’s hopefully another very exciting music-inspired project, but I can’t say any more about that until we have got it over the line. It’s a good one though and involves the photographer Mark Parham and one of the best lyricists in the country. Keep your eyes peeled.”

Hacienda Landscapes by Eugene Schlumberger opens at Pineapple Black (Stockroom Gallery) on Friday 17th September

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