I first heard from Iain and Jane in the mid-90s, when they were students at Goldsmiths. They wanted a text for a mail art box project they were doing, Words and Pictures. I gave them, anticipating somewhat the spirit of REDESIGNDEUTSCHLAND, a satirical manifesto. My text took the form of an errata slip in which a firey (but missing) original document, a "dagger to the heart of British phlegm", was toned down by artists who had clearly been "got to" by the British Fire Safety Council and other authorities. Each feeble retraction ended with a peevish and defiant whimper: "Nevertheless, viva Ultra-Paranoid (Extra-Spatial) Portable Art!" I was surprised and pleased when this document appeared in a vitrine in the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris' 1996 survey of the YBA scene, Live/Life. It seemed weird that a rather poised and brittle send-up might be considered part of the laddish and slick YBA movement, and that such a virulently anti-British screed might end up incarnating the spirit of Britain for an audience in Paris. But, you know, mustn't grumble.
Iain and Jane were, anyway, much too young to be part of YBA, even if they went to one of its crucible colleges. When they graduated the inseparable couple immediately started the work they continue to this day, which revolves around the idea of the power of pop music to bind people together and give them transcendental experiences. They started making mixtapes for each other—cassette tapes with spidery handwritten cards and selections of poignant songs taped on them—and exhibiting them in shelves. Then they began a series of re-enactments (simulations involving actors and tribute bands) of historic rock shows: the final Smiths gig, the Ziggy retirement gig, The Cramps' 1978 performance at the Napa Mental Institute. It was a bit like a modern version of a battle re-enactment society, and, although the tone is completely different, parallels with Jeremy Deller's Battle of Orgreave spring to mind.
After that, Iain and Jane made films of people talking about how music and their love lives interact. The first of these, Fucked Up Lover, appeared in 2000. You can see a Quicktime clip of it here. It's British music fans talking about how music brought them together with their partners. You can have fun trying to match up who's with who: the speakers are presented in black and white against a plain white ground, with new characters appearing from time to time and a fairly conventional TV style of editing. Iain and Jane themselves appear in the film, indistinguishable from their guests. Everything focuses on what these people are saying about the power of music and the power of love. The next film, made during a residency in Montreal in 2004, is Everybody Else Is Wrong. The Canadian kids recounting musiclove anecdotes have better skin and teeth than the British indie kids from the previous movie, and seem to present themselves in a slightly more precious, calculated way. There's a fascinating gap between the cute spin of their winning, cloying, collusive self-presentation and the fatal puppetry of the dances their DNA is making them do. It's tempting to think that references to bands like The Polyphonic Spree anchor these kids in time, but the love stories connected to the music are—and I really wish I didn't have to use this word—timeless.
So Iain and Jane are just finishing their new film, Anyone Else Isn't You. It's being shown at The Hospital in Covent Garden, London (that's the gallery belonging to ex-Eurythmic Dave Stewart, the model for the fabulously flipped Doug Rocket character in Nathan Barley) from June 3rd to July 2nd. So I'd better get cracking on my text. Hmm, how to start? "The music's all that matters and love conquers all"? No, wait, those can't both be true...