Goodbye London. Radical Art and Politics in the Seventies

26 June–15 August 2010
Opening: 25 June 2010


NGBK, Oranienstraße 25


Stuart Brisley, Victor Burgin, David Hall, Margaret Harrison, Derek Jarman, Peter Kennard, John Savage, Jo Spence, Homer Sykes

Project group

Boris von Brauchitsch, Peter Cross, Astrid Proll, Jule Reuter

“Their crisis - our jobs” declares a poster in bold letters, campaigning against unemployment and for real work. But this poster is not contemporary. It is more than thirty years old, part of a radical social eruption that shook British society and ended with Margaret Thatcher and the birth of Neo-Liberalism. The exhibition ‚Goodbye London‘ highlights many issues that are relevant today, or always relevant, in a complex exposition on politics, life and art that reflects the experience of living through a profound crisis.

Sombre photographs by Jon Savage and Homer Sykes show entire neighbourhoods of London that stood empty due to speculation, but also document the development of growing protest movements that generated new forms of solidarity. In addition to the squatting movement, the exhibition looks at the gay movement, feminism, industrial disputes and solidarity with international liberation struggles.

Against the background of economic decline in Britain, a vibrant art scene developed in the capital, creatively exploiting the empty factories and warehouses. A collective was established in Tolmers Square, north London, that worked with activist groups to print posters as part of their political work. Artists such as Peter Kennard, referring to the visual aesthetic of John Heartfield, responded directly on the international political stage with collages and photographs. Margaret Harrison and Jo Spence, with the Hackney Flashers Women’s Photography Collective, took feminist positions. The video artist David Hall dissected the militance of the media, Victor Burgin used the aesthetics of advertising to analyze the far-reaching consequences of an unequal balance of political power. Derek Jarman’s early 16-mm films strike a different tone. They point with their aesthetically charged images to his later films, translating homosexual desire into a violently beautiful visual language. The performances of Stuart Brisley embody a contemporary counter-aesthetic, in which the artist exposes the existential borderlines of continuous, total isolation.

The exhibition shows the potential that can develop from a crisis, and the possibilities and limits of radicalization, highlighting the artistic positions of a politically engaged art scene in London that have been until now, at least in Germany, largely unknown.

A small publication with texts by Boris von Brauchitsch and Jule Reuter accompanies the exhibition (48pp, in German and English) ISBN: 978-3-938515-36-5.

Press commentary

taz, 18. 7. 2010 (Ulrich Gutmair)
“Die Stadt sieht aus, als habe eben noch Krieg geherrscht, ganze Häuserzeilen ausradiert von Hitlers Wunderwaffen. An den Straßenecken türmen sich Unrat und Müll. […] Seine Serie von Schwarzweißfotos des menschenleeren London hat der Kulturkritiker Jon Savage 1977 aufgenommen.
Savages Fotos innerstädtischer Viertel, die von Spekulanten dem Verfall preisgegeben worden sind, bilden das Entrée zur Ausstellung “Goodbye London, Radical Art and Politics in the Seventies” in der Neuen Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst in Berlin Kreuzberg. Die Siebziger, das zeigt sich hier einmal mehr, waren nicht nur die wahren Sixties. Die Siebziger waren für die neue, jetzt anbrechende postfordistische und flexibilisierte, individualistische und liberale Ära das, was die Zwanziger für die Hochmoderne gewesen waren: ein Labor neuer Lebensentwürfe, Arbeitsweisen und Selbstbilder.”


In English and German

Tuesday, 20 July, 21h. Night Screening I:
Nightcleaners, a film by the Berwick Street Film Collective.
Introduction: Prof. Dr. Claudia Gather, Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Recht, Berlin

Tuesday 27 July, 21h. Night Screening II:
Nighthawks, 1978, a film directed by Paul Hallam and Ron Peck
Ron Peck will be present. Introduction: Wieland Speck, Director, Panorama Section of the Berlinale

Tuesday 3 August, 19h: Gallery Talk
Street Strategies. The work of art after the age of mechanical reproduction
With Peter Kennard, Klaus Staeck, Sylvia Stevens, Nick Wates and Peter Cross (Arbeitsgruppe Goodbye London)

Thursday, 5 August, 19h: Artist’s Talk
Radical Art Practice
Margaret Harrison and Astrid Proll (Arbeitsgruppe Goodbye London) in discussion.