I’ve been reminiscing about the early days of live coding, living in London UK around the year 2000 and taking part in experimental electronic music events there. There is some kickback for the phrase “experimental music”, it doesn’t make sense as a genre label (once it’s a genre, is it still an experiment?) or an institutional alignment (could/should institutions experiment on culture?), but I think it makes sense to talk about experimental events where new ideas and software are tried out, which might result in failure.
One place was the Foundry, a pub on Old Street/Great Eastern Street where I spent a lot of time. You never knew what you were walking into, from full-on digital noise to (actually, more often than not), a lady reciting poetry about worms, uncontrolled explosions in the vaults.. If you wanted to do something yourself you just spoke to Gimpo and would get a date in the diary.
The pub was closely associated to the KLF, and a framed poster by Bill Drummond was on display titled “I COULD FUCKIN’ DO BETTER THAN THAT”. On reflection I think my life would have been very different if I hadn’t read it. We organised quite a few VXSLAB events here, even a generative art exhibition in the basement (old bank vaults). The ethos of doing stuff without looking for permission or funding, just doing it is something we took into many dorkbotlondon and other free events.. Making things happen felt easy.
Another place was Public Life, an underground toilet squatted by Siraj Izhar and turned into another amazing space for experimentation. It’s rules for operation were similar to the Foundry:
- not to solicit activity, all activity had to be self initiated, volunteered or uninvited
- not to say no to anything, reject anything but attempt accommodation in some way
Slub played here regularly, at events like the Sunday Deriver, and Plug and Play. The space had a projector (they were starting to become affordable), so we were able to start projecting our screens..
With venues like Fabric closing in London, lets not forget the other end of the spectrum – venues created for open experimentation, existing for art outside of funded institutions and commercial venues. They open up where artists can move in, before property developers push them out. Without these spaces, I wouldn’t be making music or events now. Do they still exist in London? Sheffield has Audacious, Access Space, DINA etc, long may they continue..
Interesting post, good to know there are places around like that in Sheffield!
Do you know of any in Manchester with a similar craic? I’m sure there are some around. I try and go to The Noise Upstairs as much as possible, which is a once-a-month improv jam not a venue but still great for people who want to play weird music without any bullshit about arts councils, academia or portfolios.
Sorry only just seen your post, Sam! No I don’t know Manchester too well, noise upstairs sounds good.