116 pages photos
21.6 x 26.7 cm
Essay by Niall Griffiths
Edition of 1000
New York Times Magazine and American Suburb X top photo books of 2014 selection.
Close Your Eyes is a frenzied reworking of the accumulated archive of photographer Gareth McConnell. An onslaught of kaleidoscopic imagery fuses portraits he took of rave-goers in Ibiza with hyper real, vivid scenes of the sun rising as the night bleeds into the morning. We see bleached out crowds appearing like faceless spectres dancing en mass, and figures bursting into light as if in symbolic emancipation. Punctuating the book are various examples of paraphernalia found by McConnell relating to the Zen mystic Osho, who gained an international following and whose people are said to have experimented with Ecstasy and taken it into clubs in Ibiza for the first time. Other found imagery in the book references a number of key moments in recent British history from the Battle of the Beanfield to the London Riots of 2011.
Close Your Eyes is a personal political piece – a frustrated meditation on the nature of human movement and occurrence, an embodiment of the power of mass communion in it’s many forms, and the delirious but bittersweet pleasure of losing oneself to hedonism from the view of someone who saw it from within. As an object, the book is an immersive experience, galvanized with a primal energy that distills the raw energy of the rave, it’s rapture and it’s ecstasy. Glitches and repetition as figures emerge and withdraw into abstraction see the book follow a current similar to what one would have found in those raves and we find ourselves moving through it charged with the same raw energy – rhythm, pulse, rave, repeat. By Joanna Cresswell
‘Close Your Eyes is a book for which I have not seen a precursor. It is wholly original in content and reminds me that there are people out there still making work on the fringe, the marginal, with a wholly original aptitude for color, liminal diaristic intent, and perfectly obtuse lens culture.’
‘This is my favorite publication of 2014. I think to miss the proverbial boat on this one would relegate your own limited understanding of to what photography can be and to where it is heading as the millstone of traditional image practice sinks to the bottom of the lake with so much dead weight attached to it.’
Both quotes from Brad Feuerhelm’s review on American Suburb X
GET BORN, GO TO SCHOOL, GO TO WORK, AND DIE. By Niall Griffiths
What is she looking at? The face on her. The expression on it. She’s rapt and enthralled; looks like she’s seen the face of God or something. Looks like, whatever she’s been searching for her entire life, every second of it, she’s now found, over the heads of the people dancing, through the steam coming up off their pressed and dancing bodies, all kaleidoscoped by the lights, all broken up and put back together again each half-second by the strobes. The steam comes up like it does off a hot bath and that’s where she would’ve been, a couple of hours ago. Getting herself clean. Making herself clean in preparation for getting sweaty and smelly and manky.
She would’ve seen her reflection, in the bathroom mirror. She would’ve studied her own face in the mirror as she got glammed up, put on the spider-leg mascara and the thick blue panda-rings and the lipstick and the foundation and the blusher or maybe that’s not blusher it’s just a glow in the skin of her face. She would’ve studied those things closely, their application, and maybe she had music on in the background, her mates were there and they were all talking and laughing. Maybe it’s physical; like a Brocken Spectre, maybe there’s enough moisture in the steam to give the image of her face back to herself, the way mountaineers on high ridges see their shadows cast on nothing in certain weather conditions. Maybe it’s how the sun worked for the Aztecs. Or the Wendigo for the Sioux. Whatever it is that’s caught her eye and held it, she can’t stop staring. She’s transfixed. Maybe she’s just off her face and the flashing lights and the mirror-ball spinning seem like miracles to her, in this moment.
She starts to move, with her hips, just her hips doing a little sway like she’s warming up for something. She’s still staring. No expression on her face, really, or not that I can make out cos I can only see her in profile. Her eyes are all big and her lips are open a wee bit to show a glint of tooth. She swallows something, and the lump moves in her throat, bobs up and down. Maybe she’s blind. Maybe she can’t see anything. But that can’t be right cos I saw her earlier reading the label on a beer bottle and talking to her friends and looking at their faces. It’s more like she can see everything. It’s just a moment. She wasn’t expecting it and she won’t remember it and that’s why it’s so important to her at this instant. And to me. Because although I don’t know what she can see I can sense the value of it; it’s the most important thing in the whole fucking club. Nothing else matters but the thing that’s in her eyes. Doesn’t even matter what, exactly, it is.
She shakes her head as if to get rid of an annoying fly or an unwelcome thought and moves into the crowd to give off her own steam. She gets absorbed and I lose sight of her in the mass. I’ll look for her later, outside the club, but I know already that I won’t be able to see her anywhere.
Leaning against the bar and coming up. Waiting for the first proper rush to drag me into the dancing mass, and hoping that it would coincide with a perfect moment in the music, a bass lift, a drum surge. Spotting them in a group nearby, three of them, kick-off merchants all, stabbers, knifers, bullies, holding their pint glasses like weapons, the same sneer on all three faces, oozing contempt as they glared and smirked at the happy dancers. Thinking to myself that I’d better move away from them. Thinking it was dangerous, being so close to those three. And then, as I watched, I saw their expressions, their shared body-language, change; slowly they began to nod to the beat, to jerk their knees in rhythm. At first they seemed to be hating this reaction in themselves but within a few minutes they were grinning and within a few more minutes they were hugging each other and then a few minutes after that they were hugging me. I could feel the pulse and crackle of the chemicals in their ‘roid-swollen shoulders. These psychos, these blade-carrying lovers of violence; they were having a laugh with me. What was going on? What was happening here?
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC ORDER ACT 1994
Part V – Powers in relation to raves – Section 63
Powers to remove persons attending or preparing for a rave
(1) This section applies to a gathering on land in the open air of 100 or more persons (whether or not trespassers) at which amplified music is played during the night (with or without intermissions) and is such as, by reason of its loudness and duration and the time at which it is played, is likely to cause serious distress to the inhabitants of the locality; and for this purpose –
(a) Such a gathering continues during intermissions in the music and, where the gathering extends over several days, throughout the period during which amplified music is played at night (with or without intermissions); and
(b) “Music” includes sounds wholly or predominantly characterized by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.
Orgreave. Shipton Bellinger, and the Battle of the Beanfield. Trafalgar Square during the Poll Tax demonstrations. The screaming and the running. The black-uniformed men on horseback. The repetitive beat of truncheons against human skulls.
Yet others defined it differently; how repetition led to trance. Ecstatic transport and the transcending of the body and the rapture and the ecstasy. The essential holiday from the physical binding. A global phenomenon; Greenlanders on the ice-sheets, utterly without vegetation, have known for millennia that, should they eat a certain type of spawning fish on a certain night of the year, they’ll become intoxicated, in a hallucinogenic and empathogenic way, and that this experience can be galvanized and enhanced by the accompanying thump of a sealskin drum. South Sea islanders use the sea as a percussion instrument; they drink palm wine and gather in the ocean up to their waists and make music by slapping their palms on the water. And Nietzsche said: I should believe only in a God who understood how to dance. And Baudelaire said: One should be drunk, always, and he did not specify an intoxicant. And we knew all of this; and we knew it in the best way, without knowing that we knew it.
Of course it turned sour; that amount of illicit activity, and the amount of money potentiated, just could not stay unpolluted. I remember doormen forming their own warring armies; I remember shootings and deaths and the unbreachable gulf between what it used to be like and what it had become. The anticipated fun and the irreconcilable aggression; how actively seeking certain people out quickly mutated into desperately avoiding them. The casualties mounted up, and drive and ambition and motivation vanished, for many. But what could you do? What, truly, could you do, when the only alternative was dullness and surrender?
Listen to them, and the words they endlessly repeat:
This is an aspiration nation.
We’re for the workers, not the shirkers. The strivers, not the
We’re for the people who want to work hard and get on.
And ask the questions: Aspire towards what? Work hard at what? Strive to do what?
This: leave school, go to university (if you’re privileged and lucky enough to be able to afford it), get a job (if you’re lucky enough to find one), get a mortgage, have a couple of kids, pay your taxes, be quiet, and die, leaving no ripples, causing no fuss. You might as well be an ant.
Death weighs heavy; you’re aware of its inevitability, you know it’s going to happen, and you know that it could claim you at any time. And so life weighs heavy; you know that your time is short, your moments are so few, and each one demands that you fill it, with a racing heart and a tingling skin so as to make it valuable and unforgettable, even if the act of doing that, in some of its manifestations, can annihilate parts of your memory. Existence is to be justified; never is it to be wasted or squandered. What’s the point of the universe, you ask, and the universe says, no, what’s the point of you?
And God weighs heavy. In the Swedenborgian sense; that there is nothing so distasteful to the primal energy, the first mover, as dullness, as predictability, sameness. It Will Do; they’re the three ugliest words in the language. It will never just do. The human urge to settle for the mediocre, this is the enemy, always. It is to be fought and transcended. If a thing is easy to do, then don’t do it. Find the hard way. We know this; we’ve always known it. Same as we’ve always known that some of the ways in which we chase this idea are illusions but, God, they’re powerful illusions. Which makes them better than giving up.
And boredom weighs heavy. Christ, boredom weighs heavy. This is at the core of it all. Orwell’s vision of the future as a boot stamping on a human face forever; replace the boot with a polished, neat, sensible and inoffensive shoe. And not ‘stamping’ so much as steadily wearing down into a grey, featureless, colourless and insipid paste. God, the weight of this boredom. Like a mountain.
Spending the night in a barn in mid-Wales, dancing, flying. I’d arrived there at night-time, as had everybody, and when the doorway began to lighten the entire crowd had staggered outside and stood, as one, in awe; the sun coming up over the encircling mountains, doubled by its reflection in the lake. The music stopped and there was breath and birdsong. Scarlet and orange on the hill-ridges. The light coming back to the world and every white and tired face turned up towards it.
Don’t be a bully; that phrase contains all the dignity ever needed. So, yes, you can allow yourself to hate them, from the soles of their sober shoes to the tops of their neatly trimmed heads and every neutrally-shaded, sensibly-suited inch of them in between. They care more about a less-than-impeccably-knotted tie or a scuff on their toecap than they do about you and your dreams and your hopes and your loves and your heartbreaks and despairs. Truly, they do. You mean nothing to them. And yes they have power over you but a way of annulling that power is to live wildly and vividly and intensely at each moment and in doing so, fuck them forever. Just fuck them and all that they stand for. Rave on and on and on and on.