An afternoon in Dundee’s cultural hub

Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee

Dundee Contemporary Arts is firmly established as the centre point of Dundee’s cultural scene. A building that houses a bar, restaurant, galleries and cinemas, a shop, and workshop studios is bound to attract a loyal customer base in any city, but even more so when said city is small, niche, and design focused. So you can appreciate the value that DCA offers the community here in Dundee, particularly the creative people living and working in Dundee – it’s our hub.

I visit DCA for lunch or drinks fairly frequently. The atmosphere is consistently vibrant and the menu is simple but interesting, plus it’s on the doorstep of my ‘day job’. The cinema is another reason I love the DCA; there are two screens, both fairly small, and they show everything from Hollywood hits to independent, foreign films. I prefer it for Oscar nominated movies or films with a style thread running through; recently, I saw The Post here, but it’s also exciting to see visual masterpieces, such as A Single Man, at the DCA because the location itself sets the scene before you’ve begun watching.

As soon as the release date for the McQueen film was announced, I made plans to see it at DCA. I knew it would be a special film, and I didn’t want the typically loud and smelly cinema experience to distract from the viewing. I decided to take the afternoon off earlier this week, and invited my mum to join me for lunch and a look around the new exhibition before seeing the film.

Lunch at DCA

Lunch was great: fresh and hot and served quickly. We had Thai fishcakes, which come with salad, and we ordered piri piri fries on the side. (I actually order this a lot at DCA because it’s always so good.) It was so nice to chat to my mum, just us two, as it had been for so many years. No distractions, just us. Even the second lot of fries wasn’t enough to stop us gossiping and laughing.

Eve Fowler

We popped upstairs to the gallery to see the newest exhibition by Eve Fowler. Her work is based on her intense feminist engagement with the words of writer and poet Gertrude Stein, which she’s recreated as posters, prints, billboards, paintings and installations. I liked the work, but I’m not sure if her interpretation of Stein’s work is a misrepresentation.

McQueen

Onto the film. As with all things McQueen, I expected great things from Ian Bonhote’s and Peter Ettedgui’s documentary, and great it was – an exciting story told by those closest to the designer (friends, family, colleagues) in an engaging set of chapters named after Alexander McQueen’s most iconic collections. The film is dotted with footage of McQueen himself, often behind the camera as much as he was in front of it, and this intimate story-telling method infiltrates the viewer’s perception of McQueen. We see the real Lee McQueen, firstly as a naughty, cheeky young man starting out in tailoring and fashion, enjoying his city – London – with his friends, right through to the boy-done-good at Givenchy and with his own hugely successful label. Sadly, as expected by anyone who knows his story, that success (and the pressure of maintaining that level of success) impacts McQueen in a very detrimental way. Coupled with the loss of his mother, it’s catastrophic.

The DCA description says of the film, “The film becomes more sombre as it illustrates the impact the loss of two of the most important women in his life… had on McQueen’s life. The death of an exhausted and grieving McQueen by his own hand leaves us finally with many uncomfortable questions about whether the ruthless fashion industry could have done more to protect one of its shining lights.”

Personally, I don’t think the fashion industry was responsible or could have helped him. He was a lost soul who found himself in creating dramatic clothes and shows inspired by his own thoughts, feelings and history. He was so good the world put him on a pedestal – but this wasn’t necessarily where McQueen wanted to be. He couldn’t get off the rollercoaster that was fashion – either way, he would fall, because without fashion he was lost.

With thanks to DCA for my press ticket to see McQueen.

Top image courtesy of DCA.

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