How One Art Exhibition Turned a “Good Day” Into A “Very Good Day”
By Anton Constantinou and Sumit Rehal
A weekend visit to Hackney held many surprises in store for the Highlight Nation team
In a Sunday of big ideas, Sumit and Anton came away from the creative venue, Stour Space, with several new concepts in mind with which to take this platform forward.
The purpose of the trip was to see a new hip hop themed exhibition called Good Day. As chance would have it, Trump’s inauguration on January 20th, coincided with the very same day Ice Cube talks about in It Was A Good Day, in 1992.
Putting the attention on the song, a group of artists choose to conceptualise it in such way we’d never thought possible. Here is how our day went:
I first came across the exhibition in a copy of Timeout magazine. Trump’s inauguration has been a popular talking point in recent weeks, but it never occurred to me how one might tie it in with an Ice Cube song released 25 years previously. It Was a Good Day is a classic tune, but, for many people around the world, Trump’s appointment was far from that. I dunno about you, but I had my suspicions this exhibition was put on for ironic effect.
I also thought it was to commemorate 25 years of the release of the track but I saw in the first piece in the exhibition that it was actually to mark 25 years of the actual “good day” – 20th January 1992! This was the theory by Donovan Strain, who analysed every single aspect of the song and narrowed it down to one possible day!
What struck when I first arrived at Hackney Wick station is how desolate the area is. Graffiti can be instantly glimpsed as you leave the station along with building work. This is how I imagine Shoreditch to have looked back in day, prior to all the art students moving in: a concrete jungle on the brink of a creative explosion.
However, unlike Shoredtich, you’re not greeted by a plethora of cafes, restaurants and you as you pull in to Hackney Wick. Instead, all you get are old industrial buildings.
What were your first impressions?
I go Shoreditch often and enjoy the hot spots like Boxpark and Cargo. I had never been to the back alleys of Hackney however. The infrastructure was a whole another world from the roads around the corner. Most buildings were derelict and there were no shops or pathways.
I really loved the graffiti myself and found it fascinating but I can’t imagine the local residents basking in the ambience everyday of their lives!
There’s some interesting developments going on in the local area. The Omega Works Apartment complex near Stour Space looks pretty slick. At one point you touched on how the area hasn’t really evolved to coincide with ongoing developments. What did you mean by that, exactly?
It was highly noticeable that the gentrification is being highly forced on the area as there are flashy new apartments but everything around it looks like downtown Bratislava. I feel that the development should go at a slower rate so the locals can enjoy the buzzing culture rather being forced out. A few people joked that they are looking at Margate to relocate as they can’t afford to live anywhere nearby!
There’s redevelopment going on all over London but it doesn’t seem to benefit the natives but is another option for those with a bit more money to move for a city life. It’s going on in my area, south of the river too. A lot of the cultural hubs have been forced out for more expensive trades to set up shop. So what did you think of the actual space then?
For a tiny art space, they did well to pack in so many pieces. It’s amazing how they brought Cube’s song to life in so many different ways, from the blown-up WhatsApp conversation with Goodyear to that ice cream print made up of mini AK-47s. I think my favourite exhibit was that sort of GTA San Andreas style urban sketch Ice Cube next to a bottle of malt liquor. How about you?
That GTA influenced one did it for me too. I actually have GTA to thank for my love for old school hip hop. I was 12 in 2002 when Vice City came out and it had proper 80s electro and rap. Then when San Andreas came out, it had Dr Dre, Compton’s Most Wanted, Geto Boys, Cypress Hill and of course, Ice Cube! That piece gave me nostalgia in all sorts of ways! Which other pieces caught your eye?
It was interesting how they managed to weave in a collage on femininity. The woman in Ice Cube’s song is far from a heroine, but, then, what examples does she have to follow in society? Language and fashion aren’t exactly supportive at times, as I think this piece demonstrates.
Yeah, I found that piece quite interesting, especially the cutout that said “How to be a slag without the tag”. The term slag in itself is a tag so I found it a really interesting oxymoron. The fact that there’s an article about it can cause a huge debate about feminism in itself and it got me thinking about how the magazines themselves are quite exploitive of women’s insecurities.
You know what, how amazing would be if there were other exhibitions which focused on specific hip hop songs. Public Enemy’s Fight the Power, for example, could be easily brought to life in art form; the same goes for Changes by 2Pac. We totally need to run with this. Choose the tracks and commission a team. What do you reckon?
Oh for sure! We take the art of music for granted these days as there are millions of singles released around the world and people always want to hear something new. We don’t appreciate that one single in itself is a work of art that should be exhibited for generations.
It Was A Good Day itself perfectly documents the ideal life of a youth in south central LA. My whole impression of non elitist LA was based on the picture that Cube painted in this song. When I finally visited the city 12 years later, the picture I had matched reality. The environment, the culture and the all round ambience!
We need to preserve other art pieces like this, especially in hip hop as it is social commentary and needs to be highlighted for the future.
The food was pretty dope. I thought I’d gone for something pretty boring, but the cannellini beans on toast turned out to be really nice. I like how they used full fat milk in the tea as well – fuck skimmed.
Haha, I didn’t know you had such a hatred for skimmed milk! I had a bacon sarnie but I have to say that I’ve never had such a flavoursome and crispy bacon butty like that before! I would go back to east London again just for that.
I saw you chatting with that bloke in the gallery shop. Is he looking to team up with us?
My man Gregg was killing it with the creativity! Would be great to work with him on some design projects in the future, he said that he’s down for some collaboration. Perhaps our first exhibition would be a great start!
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