After the fall of the Berlin Wall, The Mutoid Waste Company drove a convoy of lorries to an ex-Soviet munitions dump in the old East Germany, hoisted two MiG fighters and three tanks onto low loaders and trucked them to the no-man's land in front of the shell-riddled Reichstag. There, the tails of the MiGs were jacked into the air and the tanks were fashioned into an arch, the sides painted in neon-graffiti readiness for a giant one-night rave. And then dismantled right afterward. The industrious artist responsible for Tank Henge was Joe Rush, part of a generation of British scrap designers who typically launched their careers putting on illegal parties.
Like Tom Dixon and his band, Funkapolitan, who were behind London's first hip hop club, the Language Lab, located ...in a strip club. Once the girls finish their set, Dixon and singer Nick Jones would load the PA into the tiny elevator. "Every night was pyrotechnics," reminisces Jones. "Loads of people turned up. Boy George, Tim Westwood, Spandau Ballet, all these people were saying what is this kind of music? What’s going on?" When the crowd outgrew the space, the party moved, pirate-style, to London's industrial deadlands where the sparks flew. Literally. Cars were cut up, the crash of the fuel-spewing wrecks providing the evening's light show. And it was these demolition derbies which ignited the idea to weld scrap metal into furniture. "We came up with this idea of buying one tonne of scrap, dropping it in the gallery and welding it in the window until the exhibition was opened at the end of the week," adds Dixon.
From illegal parties in the North Venice bus depot to the Venice Biennale, the Notting Hill Carnival, a gig at Manchester’s Hacienda & even a stop at Buckingham Palace to collect an OBE for services to design, these bits of broken Britain have since morphed into fabulous furniture, collected by the likes of Mick Jagger, Mario Testino, Paul Smith, Elton John, Janet Jackson, Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood & Jean-Paul Gaultier. And a book homage: *Cut & Shut: the History of Creative Salvage* - the first of this caliber to cover the art of crafting furniture from found-items, including interviews with Ron Arad, Mark Brazier-Jones, Tom Dixon, André Dubreuil & Joe Rush; plus an archive of previously unpublished images & a cover designed by Ben Kelly. "It started with a hip hop night in a Soho strip club," notes co-author & furniture collector Nick Wright who penned Cut & Shut with Gareth Williams, Head of Contemporary Art and Design at the fine-art auction house Bonhams. "The sampled furniture which followed was welded under the influence of a 'Camberwell carrot'** and, like the backbeat to the narrative, became a metaphor for a generation of Londoners defining themselves by their diversity. It was sex, drugs and cabriole legs."
Cut & Shut launches at Bonhams on December 3, 2012 & is available at Amazon.com.
- Lesley Scott
**From one of the best cult-movies. Ever. Withnail and I!
Marwood: "It's impossible to use 12 papers on one joint."
Danny: "It is impossible to roll a Camberwell Carrot with anything less."
Withnail: "Who says it's a Camberwell carrot?"
Danny: "I do. I invented it in Camberwell and it's shaped like a carrot."