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Best Before End
Photographs by Stephen Gill
Words by Will Self
Edited and sequenced by Stephen Gill
Design by Melanie Mues
Published by Nobody in association with the Archive of Modern Conflict
43 colour photographs
265 x 362 mm Printed on Phoenix Motion Xantur, 170 gsm
Printed at EBS, Verona, Italy
Published in 2014
“‘Best Before End’ is at once a stairway to heaven and a descent into hell. It nearly was the end of Stephen but luckily for us produced one of the most lucid responses to being alive in the history of photography. Will Self in his introduction to the book of this work states that ‘The Best Before End series memorialises the freewheeling decline of the west’. I would go further and say the end of mankind is quantified and measured in these pictures. Death is shown to be the only viable strategy for separating matter from its subject. The most sensual of dances emerges as the final sleep speeds towards us. One day I sat down with Stephen to witness the cooking of the images in the different energy drinks. The process was extraordinary as the amphetamine like juices of our cultural wasteland became part of the history of alchemy. Stephen coughed a lot I coughed and felt nauseous. Through an effort of the will Stephen finished the series as his body was breaking. Of course he ended up in hospital. This was his last work made in London. New horizons of a redemptive nature are now his favoured habitat and laboratories. Even in this new environment his forensic analysis of the metropolitan dilemma continues apace.“ – Timothy Prus
The series Best Before End is an attempt to reflect and respond to the intensity of inner city life by focusing on the phenomenal rise of energy drinks. These powerful and potentially dangerous stimulants are being sold and consumed in ever-increasing quantities as the demands of modern life and the growth of a 24-hour society almost forbid us to become tired.
With Best Before End I decided to give the subject of the series a direct physical presence in the images. The colour negative films were part-processed and soaked in energy drink, which caused image shifts and disruptions and softened the film emulsion. This softening allowed for manual stretching, moving, tearing and distortion of the layers of film emulsion to take place, and further manual shifts were added with a soft brush while the emulsion was still pliable. All the drinks were sourced in East London, which is also where the images were made.
Tiredness can indeed kill but then whats death if not a big Chandleresque sleep, in which wiseacre gumshoes drive to the end of the night only to discover that its their own involvement in the case that led to the murder-spree. Ill sleep when Im dead, for all sleep is the sleep of reason we need our wits about us: its an accelerated world out there, demanding split-second decision making capability to hit the right button so as to make the right multi-million dollar trade, or order the next pizza, or download the next app. We swim through an orangey brinelight: a carbonated energy field of unified, fizzing awareness; its dreamlike this existence most certainly but its a waking dream, and for that we have energy drinks to thank.
Stephen Gills beautiful images, which incorporate energy drinks as an integral part of their processing, capture this strange state of being at once driven and aqueous, simultaneously sweet and oh so bitter. The Best Before End series, memorialises the freewheeling Decline of the West; which, to paraphrase Alfred Jarry, the founding father of pataphysics, is best conceived of as a downhill bicycle race sponsored by a major-brand energy drink, in which all of the pursuit riders have the red head of the Minotaur. For myself, Im way out in front of them and pedalling HARD.