The photobook Feijóo has produced, roughly A4 in size with 72 colour photographs spread over 113 pages is self-published, and as the title suggests is about the past – more precisely, about the artist’s past experience as a heavy metal moshing teenager. It can be seen as a reminiscence, a ‘coming-of-age’ narrative whereby the protagonist must deal with social liberation associated with adolescence, while at the same time a window into a sub-culture typified by the 90’s metal scene (the Golden Age for those who remember).
In much the same way as Jason Lazarus’ Nirvana, music is the vehicle on which the story rides. For what else is there during these years of confusion and experimentation, these years of searching for a place within society and in preparation for adulthood. The bands we see live, the music we listen to as teenagers are the guiding system for our uninformed youth. The clothes, the hair styles, the attitude all belong to what is generally accepted as normal rebellious behaviour and a right-of-passage most if not all partake. If the hair and clothes and music baffle and intimidate parents then all the better – this time in life, above all other periods, is at once crucial to future development while simultaneously a last ditch effort to hold on to the freedom of childhood.
So the book is filled with photographs that mix, quite well it must be said, dark yet colourful abstractions made by taking photographs of a TV screen with straightforward portraits and sculptural still life. Through the pixelated lights, images appear of raging teenagers squashing and moshing at live music events. Nailbomb, Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden tee-shirts, dyed hair, ripped jeans and blood included. Feijóo manages the context within the work by visually linking individual images regardless of source so that the work flows evenly from page to page. Physical interventions occur within the book itself as the artist includes loose 10x15cm photographs which act as a sort of memento for the reader. We soon see little difference between poetic interventions in nature – a mirror hanging from a tree, painted fruit or discarded clothes – with those pictures of gurning youths.
There is a general sense of nostalgia throughout, and a feeling of a lost paradise, but on each occasion this arises Feijóo quite literally smashes it. The glass bottle, the CD or the piece of fruit which was used to construct a simple but effective sculpture in one photograph appear again later as only a fragment, a piece or a slice. The recurring motif of the oranges and painted fruit go likewise. They appear to symbolise a ripening of age, or character, but as with most people they also conceal. So the fruit we encounter can reflect a kind of secrecy necessary in adolescence, the secret locations teenagers use for drinking, smoking pot, and other nefarious antics; the lying to parents, and police, even the lying to oneself.
Despite the blunt subject matter and hardcore scenes there are quiet moments of tenderness and surprisingly silent sentiment. These usually come with Feijóo’s real-time portraits of the kinds of kids we see documented in the music videos. Now they stand at ease, unconcerned with the world beyond, showing off what makes them unique or ignoring the camera altogether. As one encounters them, surrounded by noise and dirt, a single phrase lingers: The Kids Are Alright.
The final interactive element to Something We Used To Know is the inclusing of a QR code which provides a soundtrack to the book consisting of many metal greats from Motorhead to Pantera to Led Zeppelin. For your pleasure we’ve included the entire playlist here…