This month’s exhibition at Flash Projects takes its title from the Rolling Stones’ most political song, a track inspired by Mick Jagger’s experiences at the anti-war demonstration outside London’s U.S. Embassy in 1968.
Who? This month’s exhibition at Flash Projects takes its title from the Rolling Stones’ most political song, a track inspired by Mick Jagger’s experiences at the anti-war demonstration outside London’s U.S. Embassy in 1968. With this pivotal year as its starting point, this show features photographs of the leading artists of the day, juxtaposed with portrayals of crowds at gigs and out on the streets. Together they work to represent the power of rock and roll music as a focus for rebellion, and how it is inseparable from the political context of its time.
What? The photographs within the exhibit include Caroline Coon’s celebrated images of punks such as The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Slits and The Buzzcocks, alongside extended series of the crowds rioting at Rolling Stones concerts. These are interwoven with images that trace the wider sociological context of street protests, from CND marches, civil unrest in Ireland to the Poll tax riots, which serve to demonstrate the root causes of the unrest and dissatisfaction that had erupted onto the pavements of the UK and worldwide.
Why? The 60s is a decade famous for free love, the pill, rocketing hemlines and rock and roll, and Street Fighting Man serves to place the political activism of its youth, which inspired and was vocalized by the rock and punk bands of the time, back into the limelight. This seems particularly pertinent given the recent resurgence of youth protests, with active participation returning to the student agenda and accusations of police brutality once more on the front pages. Then, as now, music served as a mouthpiece for dissatisfaction and a rallying cry for action, and with last month's wave of national demonstrations fresh in people’s memories, this exhibition is an explosive trip down memory lane.
Street Fighting Man at Flash Projects, Savile Row, London, runs until 18 June.
Text by Tish Wrigley