We leave ordinary life outside as we enter Pure Evil gallery for the DJ Food exhibition on this fine Thursday evening in an increasingly cold and miserable London. DJ Food’s The Search Engine has finally been released on Ninja Tune and this exhibition is showcasing sound, visuals and fine art connected to the close-to one hour of revelation of sonic pleasure. On the ground floor, the crowd is lounging around, sipping beer, networking and loosing themselves in the intricate, mind-numbing and enticing art of Henry Flint, comic book illustrator of 2000AD as well as freestyling artist. A mixed flavor of unstoppable creative flows come together at this show at Pure Evil gallery, which can be explained by the owner’s, Charles ‘Pure Evil’ Uzzell-Edwards, love for all things creative. In addition to Henry Flint’s mind tripping artworks, DJ Food’s psychedelic audiovisual installation and the collaboration between the two, Will Cooper-Mitchell’s hot photographs of DJ Food in a replica astronaut suit are on display. All this is featured in a limited comic-sized 48-page CD booklet for sale at the gallery.
DJ Food, who has been a fan and a collector of Henry Flint’s art/illustrations for years, writes on his blog that Henry Flint’s work was the main source of inspiration for this exhibition. We can read how their collaboration begun on NinaTune.net: “The images were exactly what he [DJ Food] had been looking for as the starting point for the artwork on a series of EPs he was making, later to form an album on Ninja Tune. Henry sent a stack of images for Kev [DJ Food] to pick from and gave him permission to color them for the artwork, which were issued as foldout poster covers on three 12″ EPs.”
I know what is hiding in the basement and make my way down into the audiovisual world of DJ Food aka Strictly Kev. The powerful installation is pulsating in our vision and in our ears, inviting us to jump on that space train with loose teasing rhythms in curious sonic collages. Do I need to mention that the ambiance is hypnotic? The visuals contain details of molecular worlds of unknown life forms and entrancing mandalas are flying over our faces like an extra layer of skin. It strikes me that we are wrapped up in an angular momentum here; the force vibrates between the layers, smoothly merged together in time and the extended body of this mass affects us in some way as we sip our Peroni, but I am not sure how. DJ Food’s sonic art is not disturbing as Gordon Mumma’s The Dresden Interleaf 13 February 1945 from 1965, the notorious noise piece performed on the twentieth anniversary of the firestorm bombing of Dresden, because rather than reacting politically to a world in disorder, Strictly Kev is reacting poetically to the cosmos and the aim of his music is to take us out of the material realm and further. If this music, this sonic art, had been played to Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris, who was head of the Royal Air Force during the bombings of Dresden in 1945, he would have resigned and enrolled for NACA (early NASA).
“I began to see sounds, to feel sounds, like waves against my skin […] Have you ever touch a sound? Ever seen thunder?” From In Orbit Every Monday on The Search Engine
As described by Robert Lamb, one of Discovery News’ contributors, DJ Food has been “dropping cosmic noise, robotic bleeps and alien hip-hop on Solid Steel Radio Show listeners for 17 years”. Coldcut and PC of the Cinematic Orchestra were originally included under the banner ‘DJ Food’, which is now synonymous to Ninja Tune artist Strictly Kev. “DJ Food?” The name puts a smile on people’s faces, but honestly, I want to eat his recent Ninja Tune release The Search Engine. He is still an ambassador of sonically enhanced poetry and track 5 Sentinel (Shadow Guard) rests on the meanest bass line since Squarepusher’s Tetra-Sync. If there is one element that is missing in the show in order to reflect the essence of DJ Food, it is the lyrical. A spoken word performance would be an interesting addition to the next exhibition.
DJ Food asked Henry Flint to draw “A cosmonaut, hanging in space, strapped into an unfeasibly large backpack, the kind you could only wear in zero gravity”
A wide range of art works by Henry Flint is on display and he certainly knows how to use that ink. His art has a life of its own. As an artist, his subject matters evolve around a universe with magnificent potential, mystery and demons lurking in the corners of impossible buildings and perplexing situations; monstrous misfits and unseen patterns pour out of the subconscious mind of an artist who could have been an architect was it not that he had too good ideas. There is dazzling movement, detail, diversity and complexity; all of which comes beautifully together within a sheet of paper. I am almost upset that I haven’t come across his work earlier, but I now have the accompanying publication BROADCAST – The TV Doodles of Henry Flint. This is a compilation of works Flint made while allowing his conscious mind to be distracted by the TV, hence leaving the subconscious in charge.
Many years passed since DJ Food delivered a full length to the world and as I look back on the release of Kaleidoscope in 2000, I remember many nights with The Crow on repeat. In my industrial hometown in Sweden, Västerås, we were listening to the album with awe while plowing the Internet for useful Cubase VST plugins and VJ softwares, painting on the walls and writing poetry in between. DJ Food has always inspired hyper creativity and it is only to be expected that he manages to put this night together at the Pure Evil gallery, with the help of Pure Evil and his beautiful assistant Molly.
The icing on the cake is when Pure Evil comes downstairs and opens up the door to his old school music studio. He urges us to come over and jam on drum machines and on “I think they call them drum kits. It is what they used in the old days to make a beat.”