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Dobie: We Will Not Harm You

Revitalizing a Lost Era in British Sound and Image

A once invisible republic of 1980s British b-boys, DJs and MCs is uncovered in an evocative black-and-white photo series by music production legend and photographer Dobie. Otherwise known as Anthony Campbell, the cult figure was on the scene to document London’s nascent hip-hop culture as it evolved in the mid-to-late 80s—a time when records from the US mingled with the ragga and dancehall already rumbling out of the sound-systems of the city’s Caribbean contingent. “Before the hip-hop thing, all these cats would have been going to reggae jams,” says Dobie. “That was the draw of hip-hop—with the crews of DJs, it wasn’t too dissimilar to what we were into anyway.” The artist’s photo work, however, began on the skateboarding circuit that centered around London’s South Bank area, where music tastes were of a different kind entirely. “The skaters then were into rock and punk, whereas I was into hip-hop,” he says. “It was convenient as on the other side of the river was where all the breakers and poppers used to be. I used to skate over the bridge and hang out to see what was going on.” Dobie’s career reflects the mash-up well, and he snapped for major magazines like Thrasher before his musical success took hold with his work on R&B group Soul II Soul’s breakthrough albums. In the years since, his collaborators have included Massive Attack, Tricky, Björk and Neneh Cherry, and this month sees the arrival of his new solo album, We Will Not Harm You. A playful mix of tumbling beats and fleeting samples, the release features cover art by long-time friend and Turner Prize-winning artist Chris Ofili. “We used to hang out in clubs,” says Dobie. “I didn’t know he was an artist until later—he was just a mate.” 

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  • On Replay
    On Replay

    Weekend Erotica: The Lickerish Quartet

    An Unseen Clip of Auteur Radley Metzger’s Warhol-Endorsed Classic

    A wealthy Italian matriarch finds an unlikely object of lust in the form of a mysterious blonde visitor in this never-before-viewed scene from Radley Metzger’s 1970 erotica film, The Lickerish Quartet. Metzger created R-rated movies with widescreen ambition and Lickerish marked the high point of his fusion of sensual camp and European-influenced storytelling. Scored by Stelvio Cipriani, it was filmed partly at the famed Cinecitta studios and on location in a town called Balsorano in the Abruzzi Mountains. “Beautiful! Ripe with incredible color, décor and movement,” The New York Times’ wrote of the movie, while Andy Warhol called it “an outrageously kinky masterpiece.” Silvana Venturelli stars as ‘the Girl’, the fantasy woman for a wealthy Italian family: husband and wife (played by Frank Wolff and Erika Remberg) and their teenage son (Paolo Turco). In this alternate version of the film’s atmospheric climax, Metzger achieved his goal in filmmaking. “The films that I had made up to this one had done very well so I could suddenly do whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to try and convince anyone else that it was a good idea,” he says. “I always wanted to do a movie about people who watch movies.” We caught up with the cultish 84-year-old director to get the lowdown on filming a steamy romp in a small Italian village.

    What was filming Lickerish like?
    Radley Metzger: It was very intense—there were no distractions because it was a very little town. The next town over was called Sora, where Vittorio De Sica was born. The star, Frank Wolff, was a very nice guy and full of life and the evening meals were very jolly. We imported a carnival and the locals came and were extras in the film. 

    How did Andy Warhol discover the film?
    RM: There is a photo of us together. He was a big fan of my films and whenever we had an opening he would come. He gave us a wonderful quotation at the premiere of The Lickerish Quartet to use in the publicity. It was very good of him because while it was very flattering, it was also very commercial.

    During the mid-60s and early 70s did you feel you were riding a wave of erotica and popular culture merging?
    RM: I think it was part of a general cultural shift at the time. There were many influences that allowed for the relaxation of [censorship laws]. One of them was Playboy because people always talked about community standards and community could be as small as a little village. When Playboy came out the community became the entire country so it was very hard to apply a standard to any particular city or village or state.

    How did you get into film?
    RM: I started out in editing, the only area in which there was any employment because there were no features being made in New York at that time. I was very lucky to get with Janus films, which is now Criterion. I edited trailers for Ingmar Bergman and Francois Truffaut. To hold the film of those great geniuses was like going to school—it was an education by contact. 

    The Lickerish Quartet is beautifully restored and released for the very first time in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD from February 11.

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    Cai Guo-Qiang: Sky Ladder

    The Incendiary Chinese Artist Unveils His Spellbinding Practice of Painting with Fireworks

    Pyrotechnic savant Cai Guo-Qiang unpacks the metaphysical questions at the heart of his explosive oeuvre for a new film series by fine art visual search engine Director Antony Crook traveled to Los Angeles with his wife, Producer and Editor Marina Cashdan, to shadow the Chinese artist as he readied a site-specific installation for his new show at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. “He’s got this dynamic between an intense spirituality and a real childlike nature,” says Cashdan. “Explosions really do fascinate and excite him. There’s this tension between serenity and chaos—that’s what drives him.” Beyond the combustive opening spectacle “Mystery Circle,” which will feature a sea of mini rockets, 100 “UFO” spinners and its very own “alien” onlooker, the Sky Ladder exhibition’s highlights include the mammoth 108-foot-wide “Childhood Spaceship” drawing detailing the artist’s extraterrestrial fascinations. The show marks the West Coast solo debut for New York-based Guo-Qiang, who has shown at institutions including the Guggenheim and Tate Modern, served as curator for China’s 2005 Venice Biennale pavilion, and masterminded the special effects direction for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

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