Nightclub membership badges /key rings(8), metal, various producers, used by Victor Li, Australia, 1988 - 1993
Throughout 1989 there was a dance party in Sydney every week, often on both Friday and Saturday. At Sweatbox dance parties, the music was frequently provided by DJ's Mark Alsop, Pee Wee Ferris, Stephen Ferris, Stephen Allkins, Robert Racic, Ben Drayton. There were several themes injected into the Sweatbox parties: Let The Eat Cake was a baroque extravaganza with a rococo theme; Royal Command was a performance based dance party; Barbarella had a space ship on the dance floor - drag queen Cindy Pastel played Barbarella; Sign of the Times showcased 1980s design, displaying 80s iconography such as the smiley face, VW sign, Mercedes Benz sign, hammer and sickle, and hearts with wings.
In June 1990 the Liquor Administration Board clamped down on dance parties at the Hordern Pavilion after complaints from local residents about noise and disturbance. All events involving amplified music were banned. This drove dance parties underground and was the beginning of the rave scene that flourished in the early 90s.
The late 1980s was the era of the nightclub promoter. The donor of this archive and his partner did not own nightclubs; however, they promoted regular weekly nights at clubs like Site - in the Piccadilly Hotel in Victoria Street Potts Point, and at Kinsela's at Taylor Square in Darlinghurst, Sydney. Site featured DJ Maynard's Madd Club on Monday nights, Sensoria or Blitz on Wednesday nights, the very elite Meltdown (based on New York's Studio 54) on Thursday nights and Junkyard on Friday nights. The Famous club on was held on Wednesdays nights at Kinsela's. Famous first took place on the night Kinsela's opened in 1989. The idea was for patrons to have fifteen minutes of fame. A photo ID was taken and made into a laminate. The idea (and the artwork) for this was of course inspired by popular culture artist Andy Warhol.
The donor and his partner established Chinese Laundry nightclub in 1990. They actually owned the rights to the concept of the club, rather than just being the promoters. It was located where the Slip Inn pub is situated on Sussex Street Sydney currently. The name Chinese laundry was registered; however, the donor let it lapse and now Justin Hemmes has a club of the same name at the same place.
These badges are part of a large archive which documents in a clear and comprehensive way a subculture that flourished and diverged into other subcultures. It also illustrates the passion that the designers and creators had for providing a dance party and nightclub experience that transcended the popular culture notion of this genre of entertainment.
The membership badges were designed produced for the Sydney nightclubs The Front, The Freezer, Hydrogen, Arthurs, Sensoria, and Hype. The stylised letter F appears to be hand cut with metal-cutting tool.
The donor of these membership badges attended many nightclubs and dance parties in the 1980s and 1990s. He and his partner were, in fact, dance party and nightclub promoters, and later nightclub owners.
The donor was an accountant who attended many dance parties in the 1980s, and decided he could organise much improved ones. The first party he organised was in February 1989. He called his parties Sweatbox; and they were designed to create a unique and emotive atmosphere.
The donor formed an innovative and creative party design team with his partner. They designed the concepts, graphics, artwork - much of it designed on Letraset on lounge-room floors - and attained high standards in lighting and sound for the parties. Their reputation for creating dance parties with art and style was quickly established. They transformed dull, sterile spaces into uniquely themes party environments. Set Designer Paul Hinderer also made an important contribution to the set design of the first three Sweatbox parties.
The very first Sweatbox was scheduled for a week after Mardi Gras. To publicise it, they created a float for the Mardi Gras Parade, and had it travel at the back of the entire parade. The first Sweatbox party was called Meltdown. Its aesthetic was industrial chic. The venue was the Hordern Pavilion in East Sydney. The foyer was transformed into the mouth of a cave from which a mine shaft led to the dance floor which was surrounded by three giant earth movers with lighting rigs attached.
The badges are part of a large archive donated to the Museum which documents the rave, dance party, nightclub and gay subculture scene in the 1980s and 1990s.