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Activating our Archives: 90s Oxford by Thomas Nicolaou

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In early June 2020 Activating our Archives participant Thomas Nicolaou took over Modern Art Oxford’s Instagram feed with his own archive of photos of Oxford in the 1990s. Here we share his project using archival images to spark community dialogues. Scroll down to find out how you can get involved with Thomas’s ongoing project and plans for a future exhibition.

Words and images by Thomas Nicolaou.

Thomas Nicolaou, Radiohead (crowd scene), 1993, The Venue (now 02 Academy Oxford), Oxford

To fit with the project’s themes of ‘community dialogues’, I chose to select from my ‘archive’ photographs taken at social spaces within the city including, music venues, pubs and art colleges. During the #ActivatingOurArchives workshop we discussed how images when ‘activated’ could take on new meanings (or readings) outside of their original context. Observations from this crowd scene resulted in questions, how socially connected were / are we at gigs? 

Ride, 1994, The Jericho Tavern, Oxford

Conversations about Oxford’s town and gown identities were also discussed during the workshops. Seeing local bands like RIDE at The Jericho Tavern meant more than just a great night out. For gig-goers, it was also a ‘community dialogue’, a sense of place, for those who may have had no connection to the ‘gown’ life of the city.

Ride (crowd scene), 1994, The Jericho Tavern, Oxford

Going to a gig/concert was (and hopefully still will be) in a sense a ‘community dialogue’ on many levels, both locally and internationally, be it a physical and now digital one. Through ‘activating’ these photographs, through instagram, we have a window to continue the ‘community dialogue’ from past to present. See yourself in the crowd?

The New Inn, 1995/96, Cowley Road, Oxford

I came across this photograph of the interior of the beloved but long gone pub, The New Inn, Cowley road, Oxford. Taken around 1995/96, The New Inn was the place to gather for both music fans and Oxford bands. The pub was located opposite Bloomin’ Arts, todays @fusionartsox. The distance in the photograph between the camera and the locals reminds us of today’s social distancing and the uncertainty of when our next visit to a pub will be?

Jeremy Deller, Oxford Brookes University, 1993

This photograph of artist Jeremy Deller is from April/May 1993, taken in the old (and now gone) Visual Studies mac suite of C Block Oxford Brookes. The photograph was taken on the occasion of meeting up to design and produce the first draft of Pensées: a book in five chapters (a book of graffiti found on the walls of the British Library lavatories, ‘found poems’).

The book was part of Matthew Higgs’ mail art project Imprint ‘93. Art colleges for students (and staff) are their studios, today’s student artists (and their collaborators) wait in their liminal spaces until campus life returns to the ‘new normal’.

Supergrass, 1995, The Jericho Tavern, Oxford

Over 25 years ago (January 1995), I took some photographs of Supergrass at The Jericho Tavern. In these pre-cameraphone days there would have been just a handful of photographers at the gig.

Anyone else out there who attended and took photos at these three 90s gigs? Supergrass (The Jericho Tavern 1995), Ride (The Jericho Tavern 1994) and Radiohead (The Venue 1993). Or perhaps you took photographs in the 1990s of other bands who played at The Venue / The Zodiac, The Jericho Tavern or at other Oxford venues?

Photographs of gig goers / fans and music venues also welcome.

If so, please get involved on Instagram and post your own 90s photos using the hashtags #ActivatingOurArchives #90sOxfordGigs

Find out more about Thomas’s work and project here.

Modern Art Oxford’s Activating our Archives project is a live digital archiving and curating project led by artist and curator Sunil Shah, organised in collaboration with Fusion Arts Oxford. Click here to see live work surrounding the themes of storytelling, identity, communication and ownership in the digital space.