Agitate Britain, an exhibition featuring the work of Jamie Reid and Noki, veterans of the intersection found between punk and creativity, occurred at the NoHawkers gallery in Brighton this June and July. We were lucky enough to get an interview with Noki to discuss the exhibition, modern rave culture and NESTT, the platform he is launching to educate the youth about custom building and sustainability.
This latest exhibition was in partnership with Jamie Reid, how have other creatives such as Reid have inspired your work?
This show with Mr Reid curated by NoHawkers Gallery in Brighton with his (Reid’s) Manager John Marchant was the perfect Noki Unlock Moment for me. I lecture his Legendary Sex Pistols paper collage art work, to put my own ‘textile / cloth’ collage/ mash up into a visual context for my students. At first i was like ehhhhh really OK is this real?
Not till the show was up could I believe he had agreed to show with me. That’s imposter syndrom 4 you. He is very exclusive & does not like most of, let’s say, the worlds creative efforts lol. He had a limited edition mask T shirt printed up, I had much Noki-mash-up fun with it for his fans to take away. Let’s say I was in a future parallel NOKi heaven.
What was your main aim for this exhibition?
Well since our very recent New world, Lockdown, soul searching situation. Sustainability has become a stronger energy force I create NOKI’s from. It means a lot more now than it ever did in ‘96 when I first Brand Mashed up the corporate logo on our T shirts in Shoreditch when it was literally a ghost town. Interestingly most supporters from back then ghost my work now to consume the fake commercial versions for their own commercial gain, which I find inspiring. This show was an important connection to those very close, important people around me that have supported me & allowed me to develop my creative integrity in the authentic way for nearly 30 years now. Sometimes validation is a valuable commodity, this show gave me that energy. MrReid’s punk collage questioned governments and royalty oppression, my Rave mash-UP collage questions the new tier of corporate oppression by having a lot of fun with its landfill gold mines.
You speak a lot about how Shoreditch and its 90s culture has inspired your anarchistic approach to clothing construction. This exhibition was based in Brighton, another area which has a rich internal culture. Do you see a similarity between the two areas in any way? How?
Back then Yes, 1993 / 2002 both were sleepy postcodes and (Brighton) a sea side town with NO expectations, no back stabbing struggle to survive, both now reflect a massive shift and change in society. Back then I felt really free to mash-UP the local charity shop/ car boot/ skips/ lost property boxes etc. These Sustainable textile finds had all I needed in them, the brand IDent and exciting modern textile combinations. I was an original party boy Raver being 17 in 1988 when the acid house raves kicked off, it was magical. I’d left the bullies in my H-ELLON Earth village in Scotland and never looked back at them in anger, but with full inspiration around truth, lies, humour, oppression, suppression & injustice – Everything I put into my creative collages in both Art canvas and soft sculpture fashion style. My work always refers to those early feelings of freedom.
Similarly, you’ve spoken about how your art is inspired heavily by the prime of rave culture in the 90s. Do you think modern rave culture has the capability to inspire art as much as rave culture back then? If so how?
What’s moved on ferociously is the algorithm to the Rave. Manufacturing new rave-wear and flipping the old. Has anything changed here? Is new youth culture actually creating an outrage in their tribal style? Yes, I think in a micro cosmic way … I saw a mash up kid the other day, a she child with a drawn on moustache, hand crocheted top – including a matching toy in hand, patched up long shorts, proud rainbow belt with “cUNT” & “MINGE” graffitied on their platform sole boots, like a wonderful fraggle Rock star ️ crossing the Brighton road. But most seem lost in living a nostalgic cool™️ lifestyle . An algorithmic cool™️ is not cool. It’s already been cool when “cool” WASN’T cool, but rather the essence of cool in the context of cool being dangerous and antagonistic on the verge of anger reforged as a personal LOVE statement, a personnel reflection that protects you against the prejudices that life inflict on why we must JUST DO IT & THINK IT. My mash up motivation was always to fuck with the concept of ‘cool’, back in 96 my work was not ‘cool’ but very ‘uncool’. I was cutting up my own branded rave t-shirts, questioning the branding of the 90’s IN the 90’s. Stencilling Adidas onto Nike t-shirts, cutting up 3 different branded track suits and sewing then back into one, because those brands couldn’t and still can’t give me that ultra cool. Creating the unofficial collaboration in my own bedroom atelier.
Yes Gucci & Adidas collabs etc etc etc are eventually doing it now, but that is 25 years too late and not high fashion but actually really low fashion, as it’s not actually original. It’s taken from an original Noki mash-UP idea and therefore a clunky algorithm, fashion designed, pattern cut, corporate takeover. We need to control our fashion cool. To mash up our own ideas, in our own time, 4 our own community, our way, to have our own rave style tribal fun & every time create a positive NLD (Noki LANDFILL DROP).
We were able to get in touch because one of your students contacted me about an interview. You’ve spoken about how your students are like your kids – do you find that they inspire you to create any differently than before you started teaching?
Youth Is the Future. I pride myself to now be an ESY ‘Elder Sonic Youth’ I have started a legacy school platform called the Noki NESTT (NOKI EDUCATION of SUSTAINABLE TEXTILES & TECHNOLOGY) where Karthur NESTT studies. He reached out to you as part of the TECHNOLOGY class to use the Phone for a ‘Tool not Truth‘ class project to spread the NESTT goodness. So thank you for responding to his request and sending great curated questions. Karthur is a solid student, who joined at 18, and a great asset to the NESTT by bringing fresh ideas to his Custom Builds. He has reached out into the community to do NESTT outreach projects at a local community cafe called Presuming Eds. One that has just been was in association with the famous Trust Judy Blame called ‘Button Up & Plaster The Brand’, the other being
‘Mask UP’ – both an interaction workshop & instillation. I help but take a backseat direction here as I think it’s important he talks to his own generation Z as it galvanises his reasons to be at the NESTT.
You are in the midst of launching the NESTT (Noki Education of Sustainable Textiles and Technology) and have discussed how you want it to be a harnessing of a legacy. What exactly do you want this legacy to be?
This Legacy is important, the Noki CB (Custom Build) is a positive SSES (Sustainable Style Economy Solution). It thrives off the LDE (Landfill DROP Energy). The NESTT is a platform to educate how to Custom Build the Noki style, it’s like being taught how to franchise the famous hamburger . I show you how to CB my classic builds ‘hamburgers,’ but you bring your individual ideas to spice up that CBuild with the textiles you chose to collage together. I call it the NFU (Noki Freedom Uniform). The idea is you are given confident, positive agency in where to initially Scissor cut into that vintage garment to then re-overlock them all back together. You learn & evolve the Custom Build, gain confidence in your creativity abilities and go back into your Postcode community to custom build their sustainable textiles with authentic NESTT credibility. Rather than this new screen-grab and copy negativity. I want my students to evolve the noki culture jamming narrative and take it to the best quality Jam on the supermarket sweep.
Noki is all about sustainability and custom built clothing, making them into pieces one can have for a long time. Sustainability is supposedly having its moment in the sun, with the growth of an environmentally conscious youth, but the boom of the internet, increased online shopping and mass consumption means we may not be as sustainable with our shopping habits as we think. Do you have any thoughts on this?
Yes it’s all good here. The more the 99% consume their new purchases leave us plenty of fun times for my NESTTers to custom build from. The landfill goes Up & Up & Up, it’s inspiring for the custom build. It just means there are even more options to Landfill DROP, DROP & DROP a new Style Build as a positive solution – which will always grow, as the algorithmic need for the unique 1-OFF piece is becoming even stronger and sustainably desired by the new conscious youth tribes.
Special thanks to @nokiofficial for allowing us to ask him these questions and @kathur_a for being the bridge which made it happen. Follow them and @nokinestt for more updates on the things discussed in this interview.