Oliver Sieber – Imaginary Club and dreams of the past…

  • Oliver Sieber-Imaginary Club-GwinZegal-BöhmKobayashi-Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity-2I think I first came across Oliver Sieber’s work via an exhibition of his called Skinsmodsteds and One Punk at The Photographer’s Gallery back in 2002, which was shown at the same time as documenter of 1950s rock’n’roll reinterpreters Karlheinz Weinberger’s work.

    At The Photographer’s Gallery site it says this about Oliver Sieber exhibition:

    Where Karlheinz Weinberger’s irreverent teens, showing in the gallery at No. 8, dreamed of a different future for themselves, Oliver Sieber’s latter day sub-culturalists seem to dream about a different past.

    Which made me think about looking for utopias in the modern world.

    In times gone by society seemed to look to some imagined future, a world filled with blinking computers, every day luxuries, easy and fast mass transportation, miniature communication devices, hermetically sealed homes controlled by the aforementioned computers and so forth. A kind of populuxe-esque vision of the future.

    In the modern world, in the West at least, much of that has come to pass, albeit in a more day-to-day, less overtly grand or futuristic manner.

    All of which made me think of the concept of hauntology and the idea “that society after the end of history will begin to orient itself towards ideas and aesthetics that are thought of as rustic, bizarre or “old-timey”; that is, towards the “ghost” of the past.

    Which to a certain degree seems to have happened; sometimes overtly with the ongoing popularity of vintage / retro / burlesque etc culture, sometimes less overtly whereby chart topping acts are essentially retro recreationists, though not marketed directly as so.

    Oliver Sieber-Imaginary Club-GwinZegal-BöhmKobayashi-Afterhours Sleaze and DignityMaybe now, without strong utopian visions of possible futures and paths, a visionary, idealised or recreated past has become a place where subcultures and post-industrial society goes to dream (to paraphrase William Gibson).

    All of which brings me back to Oliver Sieber.

    In his 2013 book Imaginary Club, a vast array of subcultures are represented, intermingling in a, well, imaginary club.

    There are two photographs in particular that I’m drawn to, one particular subcultural corner of the club; the vaguely workwear 1950s-esque cover image and a sort of reinvented neo-rockabilly – the second of which in particular puts me in mind of and seems to draw a circle that heads back towards Karlheinz Weinberger’s rock’n’rollers who had recreated their source material as though they’d only heard it via an out of tune radio (to paraphrase myself paraphrasing somebody else).

    Visit the Skinsmodsteds and One Punk exhibition here. Visit Oliver Sieber and a considerable preview of Imaginary Club here and at the books co-publisher GwinZegal here.

    Visit Karlheinz Weinberger at Afterhours here (amongst other places around these parts).


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