Dancing with Death: The Excremental, the Sacred & Ecstatic Community in Free Party Culture

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Image by Darkam

‘The slaughterhouse is linked to religion in so far as the temples of bygone eras … served two purposes: they were used both for prayer and for killing. The result … was certainly a disturbing convergence of the mysteries of myth and the ominous grandeur typical of those places in which blood flows. … In our time, the slaughterhouse is cursed and quarantined like a plague-ridden ship. Now, the victims of this curse are neither butchers nor beasts, but those same good folk who countenance, … only their own unseemliness, an unseemliness commensurate with an unhealthy need of cleanliness, with irascible meanness, and boredom.’
Georges Bataille (1)

In 1999, in the shadow of the approaching millennium, a disused abattoir on Waterden Road in Hackney Wick was squatted and used over an extended period as a venue for free parties. The adjacent property was a large warehouse, which had been converted to an Evangelist Church. The area, which has now been demolished to make way for the London 2012 Olympic development, was a crumbling industrial wasteland contained by motorways, railways and waterways; there was little through traffic. Waterden road was made up of various warehouses, a nightclub, a bus depot, and a site which had been home to a community of travellers for over thirty years. Next to the Church stood the former Hackney Wick dog/speedway stadium, falling into dereliction. Every Sunday, the stadium car park came alive as an ad hoc market, where people came to trade all manner of goods, many rumoured to be of dubiously legal origins. The area had a liminal feel, as if thrown together, with premises that were in decline being put to unexpected uses. Hackney psychogeographer Iain Sinclair describes this lost street as ‘the very essence of edgelands’ (2).

This juxtaposition of church and abattoir falls short of the convergence of prayer and killing that Bataille identifies in archaic temples. But together these accidental neighbours form a disjointed figure through which to explore relations to death in contemporary society. I visit this landscape to set the scene for a short detour through and beyond Bataille’s thinking on ecstasy and the sacred in order to approach another matter: the experience of community. I argue that those free parties created an environment in which the experience of being-with-others had a particular intensity which can be understood as religious, but that this religiosity differs from that of the church. As I explore the edgelands, I will show that to think community is to inhabit a space of limits: the limits of the subject, of representation, and of the city. As such, the spatiality of social relations is connected to architecture. [Read more →]

Cyrus Bozorgmehr, The Rabbit Hole (Creative Space, 2013) and other writings (Book Review)

Cyrus Bozorgmehr,
The Rabbit Hole
(Creative Space, 2013)
and other writings at djbroadcast.net

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Writing about music counter-cultural tendencies that we participate in poses questions about historification that are not easily resolved, but are rather left in a state of perpetual negotiation. Those who choose to undertake the task of critical writing that present counter-narratives to the omnipresence of music industry journalism in print magazines and on a plethora of music websites inevitably make strategic choices about modes of counter-dialogue to engage diverse readerships. In the last few years, there has been a resurgence of artists/musicians/participants who have printed a number of provocative books that we have followed with great interest. The medium of photography and the photo book was used to tell multiple, interconnected stories about free parties in the Paris catacombs in the truly illuminating Paname sans dessus, dessous! published in 2006. In datacide 10, I reviewed the problematics of Pencilbreak: A Graphicore Compilation, which took the strategy of representing music through the visual medium of flyers, posters and album covers. Published in 2011, Sudden Infant: Noise in My Head, The Actionistic Music and Art of Joke Lanz is a fascinating book that operates on multiple levels as a memoir, a photo book, a collaborative self-history and a discography through the inclusion of an interview with Joke Lanz, drawings, photos of performances, manifestos, poetry, concert posters and flyers, texts by collaborators, and a visual discography. Riccardo Balli engaged in a plundering of counter-narrative strategies in his Italian language publication on Milan’s Agenzia X called Apocalypso Disco: La Rave-o-luzione della Post Techno. The excellent book includes interviews with artists such as Christoph Fringeli, Sansculotte, Daniel Erlacher (Widerstand Records), Ralph Brown and others. Several chapters are made up of Balli’s ingeniously amusing counter-histories of interconnected music genres in a fictional plundering of writings of Philip K. Dick and Fulcanelli (first published in English in Datacide). Another book chapter blurs the boundaries completely between fiction and non-fiction in a retelling of some aspects of the Dead By Dawn parties in 1995. Academic writing informed by ethnographic and anthropological methodologies about sub-cultural musical experiences are investigated in the interview with Graham St. John in another book chapter. Most recently this year, there are two engaging examples of mixing the curatorial project of presenting counter-cultural tendencies through exhibitions with that of a companion book. One project was the exhibit and book Berlin Wonderland: The Wild Years Revisited 1990-1996, which featured short personal narrative texts by artists in music, theater and the arts that gave context to photographs grouped together in themes like ‘open doors’, ‘disarmament experts’, ‘wild gangs’ (both which focus on Mutoid Waste Company), etc. Opening on October 1 in Newcastle, Australia is Fistography – Bloody Fist Records – The Exhibition that displays all the label’s releases in chronological order along with ephemera including press clippings, posters, flyers, equipment and photos. This is a truly monumental archival undertaking documenting the years 1993-2004. Simultaneously, an internet radio broadcast out of Hertford featured the BF back catalog. The exhibit is complemented by a show featuring Xylocaine, Hedonist, Epsilon and Mark N spinning BF tunes on Oct 3. Mark N has also published a 300-page book documenting the label’s history titled Fistography: Bloody First Records, Newcastle, Australia, 1994-2004. Critical readers and participants may have these and many other examples in mind when undertaking the ruckus, fictional experience that is The Rabbit Hole.

This is a deeply amusing fictional novel that will no doubt make readers laugh wildly and at the next turn snicker knowingly at the maschinations of a collective that in one summer throws massive renegade soundsystem parties in various locations in and around London. Many readers, including myself, track down this paperback or ebook because it is one of the few fictional narratives about the worldwide teknival movement, and it is written by Cyrus Bozorgmehr aka Sirius, member of Spiral Tribe and SP23. One of the pleasures of reading this book is the constant elision between fiction, personal experience, and (non)-history – the reader may ask herself at any particular moment, ‘Is this a history of a soundsystem crew revealed in a over-the-top, far-fetched retelling, or a narrative slight of hand imagining what could be?’. That inquiry only takes the reader so far since there’s a lot going on in the book. What becomes much more satisfying is the reader’s traversal of the literary play between the comical, the serious, and the caricatured as the crew members’ grapple with the principles that inform their collective actions, deploy strategies of collaborative artistic creation, experiment with the transformative potential of music, deal with the insidious nature of the music industry and commercialism, and negotiate state repression and infiltration. [Read more →]

Fight The Criminal Justice Bill (1994)

A double page spread in the first issue of Alien Underground dealt with the (then) threat of the new Criminal Justice Bill (which was to become law in as the 1994 Criminal Justice Act shortly after with minor alterations) in three sections. The first was more of an opinion piece, the second a brief rundown of central sections of the law, the third a report on (then) recent protests. Published in 1994 in Alien Underground 0.0 [Read more →]

THE ASSESSOR

the-assessor

The Assessor is an incorporeal being with a love of the severe and disturbing. Possessing immense strength, it has a mind as sharp as a scalpel, ever ready to dissect what comes its way. THE ASSESSOR assesses from afar and sometimes communicates to humans, yet it is rarely reduced to using words as it is now. If provoked it is lethal. [Read more →]