Atrocity Exhibition, Limerick, Ireland. November 2015
This paper examines three elements in Joy Division's presentation circa 1979: the lyrics of Ian Curtis, Peter Saville's sleeve designs, and Martin Hannett's studio production.
The lyrics repeat themes of movement and velocity that mirror the propulsive momentum of the songs, but this motif contrasts with portrayals of circumscribed and claustrophobic physical and emotional spaces (particularly rooms, cars, and the "distance" between people). The astronomical images on the sleeve of that single are in stark contrast to the narratives of urban malaise and emotional turmoil. The studio production diffuses the punk energy inherent in Joy Division's instrumentation and arrangement. Artificial echo and reverberation strip sounds of indexical relationships to place of origin, re-situating them in an imaginary space.
The lyrics, artwork, and production appear initially to be operating independently and with conflicting modalities. But they are congruent in how they emphasise containment, frames, distance, and absence. These elements provide spaces, both literal and figurative, in which the music and the listener can meet.