“Dream English Kid” began when I found an audio recording on YouTube of Joy Division playing at a small club in Liverpool. A gig I’d been present at but could barely remember. As I listened I wondered if, through enhancing the audio, I could actually find my 15-year-old self in the recording. That led me to wonder whether it might be possible now, through all the DVD re-releases, eBay ephemera, YouTube uploads and the vast resource that the Internet represents overall to actualize half-forgotten memories and produce a niche for seemingly every remembrance.”
The British artist Mark Leckey (b. 1964) describes “Dream English Kid 1964-1999 AD” (2015) as an autobiographical video. Instead of narrating the period from childhood to adulthood through photographs and film clips of himself, he presents a collage of found footage compiled in the course of recent years, mainly from the Internet. He combines this footage in short episodes with analogue and digital reconstructions of places and events he regards as pivotal for his thinking and artistic practice. This includes, among other things, British music culture – the video starts with a TV appearance by The Beatles in 1964 – as well as the great technological advances of the past decades, such as the launch of the NASA satelloon “Echo II” in 1964 – a passive communications satellite which was supposed to reflect signals from space towards earth, a technological precursor to our all-embracing satellite network. Thus, through his autobiography, Leckey offers a reading of our most recent history, which is as personal as it is general, as individual as it is universally applicable. Imbued with the overshadowing nuclear threat of the Cold War, “Dream English Kid 1964-1999 AD” conjures up an apocalyptic image of the late twentieth century.
Leckey presents the images he has found for his memories in the manner of flashbacks – he says that he reconstructed himself using available online archive material from other people’s lives. By means of the loop-like structure of the video as well as the deliberate repetition of individual scenes, Leckey presents visual memories as an infinite loop in which we seem to be permanently caught. In some instances, the images disintegrate before our eyes into pixels and dots of light in the same way that memories fade with the passage of time. As a result, “Dream English Kid 1964-1999 AD“ becomes a compelling treatise on the nature of memory.
The video was awarded a special prize at the 45th International Film Festival in Rotterdam in 2016.