Last night, having felt like I've been majorly culture-deprived, I went to the ICA to catch Face Addict, having missed the UK premiere last week and after reading some words by the director Edo Bertoglio, I was determined not to let this one slip by me. Edo Bertoglio arrived in New York in 1976 and stayed there until 1990, living the New York 'downtown' years to the max, the glory period being 1978-1982. He became the photographer for Andy Warhol's Interview magazine and subsequently fell into the whole Factory crowd. 'Fell' being the operative word as Bertolgio fell hard into a destructive heroin addiction that made him leave New York and go back to his hometown Lugano, Switzerland. A few years ago, he decided to return to New York, to open up his photographic archive and look at those faces that he shot, many of them now dead, swept up in AIDS and ODs in the mid-80's. The film itself revisits his recollection of New York, that no longer exists and the 'survivors' of the scene who are now much changed. The film recounts and reminisces through Bergtoglio and other survivors such as French fashion stylist/designer/photographer Maripol, Bertoglio's ex-girlfriend, the hilarious Glenn O'Brien who has done everything from fashion advertising and journalism to stand-up comedy and poetry and Debbie Harry also puts in a few words too. There's a bit of a disconnect between the people these survivors have evolved into and the young wild things of the New York no wave scene that repeatedly get shown through Bertoglio's photographs. The disconnect though is a good thing seeing as those that still insisted on partying to death quite literally drove themselves into a graveyard.
Bertoglio may have found it hard to open up those archives and look at those faces once again but as an outside spectator, somebody who was born just after that New York heyday era, selfishly I look upon the effort, and the blatant desire to look special taken upon these characters (and that's how they are portrayed…) in the pictures. The sharp angles and dramatic shapes that both men and women sought to create in their clothes and their make-up and the complete unbashed abandon people had towards the way they lookedc. Looking at this set of images that Bertoglio took on his rooftop of the underground 'IT' girls (too derivative a name as they were all pretty much involved in their own random creative endeavours)… there's a latent sense of danger as they stand strong and beautiful and it's unknown whether they will survive or not. Underneath the immaculate make-up, the carefully chosen pieces that always look 'sharp', lies something even sharper, something self-destructive…
Maripol who styled Madonna at various points in her career, most notably the 'Like a Virgin' wedding look, also took pictures, mainly polaroids on a camera given to her by Bertoglio. Again there's a violent burst of energy in these that is still very relevant now as we look ahead to a season of strong shapes and self-determined attitude.
I never got to see Downtown 81, the film directed by Bertoglio, produced by Maripol and co-written by Glenn O'Brien, starring the legendary American artist Jean Michel Basquiat and featuring a cast full of those New York things but I'll attempt to pick it up to immerse myself in a time and place that is ever so close to my time but comes off as entirely strange and alien.