A film by Jeremy Deller
This film by Jeremy Deller, commissioned specifically by Grizedale Arts for the Sao Paulo Bienal, tells the extraordinary story of Adrian Street.
Adrian Street was born into a coal mining family in Wales in 1940. As a teenager he was fascinated by bodybuilding but was ridiculed in his community and abused in the mine - this interest being seen as effeminate rather than macho. He fled to London in the 1956 to pursue a career as a professional wrestler. Whilst hanging out in Soho with the likes of Francis Bacon and Leigh Bowery, he developed a persona that combined the hyper-camp of the post war pop culture with the hard-as-nails attitude of his working class past. His increasingly exotic image took him to America where he now lives, still wrestling in his 70s and running an artisan cottage industry, producing bespoke costumes to the wrestling industry. (http://www.bizarebazzar.com/art.htm)
His influence on post-war, post-industrial culture (such as Glam Rock and early performance art) is significant and reflects the Ruskinian ideas of self-improvement and the life creatively lived, as well as the complexities brought on by the shift from manufacturing to tertiary industry that underscores contemporary culture. However it also reflects the complicated legacy of Ruskin with all its misinterpretations and mutations, in the same way that the legacy of his Arts and Crafts legacy was transcribed into a multiplicity of contradictory strands, not least a pervasive autonomous modernity at odds with his intentions.
Whilst not a direct response to Sao Paulo as such, it has enormous relevance to current cultural and social changes in Brazil that parallel Britain's industrial growth in the 19th century.
In this context the film functions as a case study, a point of reference and an educational tool from which to extrapolate the complex thinking that is required to understand Ruskin's ideas and the relationship to our current situation - with a rapidly developing Brazil and a Britain striving to develop a new creative knowledge economy to counter its post industrial decline.
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