Tag Archives: Andy Abbot

GUY LOCHHEAD [on] ADAM REID

Top 10 Soundtracks

  • The Shining {Had somehow never seen this until last night. Put it on at 1am on headphones in the dark. Terrible idea…}
  • Dead Man – Neil Young
  • Twin Peaks – Angelo Badalementi
  • Mogwai – Les Revenants {Not much of a Mogwai fan really, but really enjoyed The Returned, and the soundtrack was vastly better than most on TV}
  • Nosferatu – Popol Vuh
  • White Lunar – Nick Cave/Warren Ellis {A collection of 3 different soundtracks, work really well as one piece also though}
  • Psychomania – John Cameron {Never even seen this film, came across the OST on a blog though, it’s fully mental.}
  • Naked – Andrew Dickson {One of my favourite films ever, the OST carries the tension so well. Very gentle compared to the bombardment of sound & shock tactics often heard in modern Hollywood films.}
Naked. {1993} Mike Leigh.

Naked. {1993} Mike Leigh.

  • GNODorowsky – Cork Film Festival {This hasn’t even happened yet, but will surely be amazing. The Gnod Squad sound tracking Jodorowsky’s Dune, which also doesn’t actually exist.}
  • Zero Charisma – Therion – To Mega Therion {My favourite comedy of the last couple years, using this piece of ‘symphonic orchestral gothic prog death metal’ is a stoke of genius. It’s the lamest thing I’ve ever heard by a long way, perfect for the Dungeons and Dragon’s theme of the film.}

Top 10 experimental skaters

  • Colin Fiske {It seems Guy & I have an affinity for this guy. Misunderstood genius. Dem legs…}
  • Koichiro Uehara {Quickest feet in the East}
  • Gou Miyagi {No words needed.}
  • Chris Pulman {Something about this guy’s skating that makes it really easy to relate too.}
  • Tim Jackson {Only came across his ‘Risk-it’ part recently but it blew my top off, seems to skate walls just as easily as the floor, pays no attention to gravity.}
  • Joe Moore {Leeds, UK vanguard. Been following this guy on Youtube for literally about 7 years. Love or hate, no one in the world skates quite like him.}
  • Takahiro Morita {This guy gets in. Kinda fits a ‘Japanese Gonz’ space in my head, what more could you want?}

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  • Chopper & The Osaka Daggers {Similar approach to Takahiro, big inspiration on the Magenta lads I believe.}
  • Get Rad – Another Every Other {I have no words for this, other than it resembles roughly what my skate part would look like if I ever bothered to film anything.}
  • Nolan Johnson {Welcome Skateboards crusty kingpin. Takes the oldskool style into 2016, next-level mosher shit.}

Top 10 Festivals

A list of two halves…

  • Fat Out Fest {Highlight of the year. Held at the fantastic Islington Mill in Salford, home to GNOD and swathes of other inspirational artists, this 5 story mill is probably the most exciting place in the UK. Headliners were Melt-Banana, Cut Hands and the Charles Hayward Ensemble, which says all you need to know. But the fervent experimental approach the promoters took to billing the rest of the festival which was so great, which can’t really be summed up in words.}
  • Supernormal Festival {Finally made it in 2014. They continuously book the cream of the UK underground, year on year. Best place to see these acts in an open air scenario.}
  • Raw Power {London’s premier promoter, Baba Yaga’s Hut put this on a few months back. Amazing mix of psychedelic/noise acts at Tufnell Park Dome & Boston Arms, perfect indoor London festival space. I played an hour of tunes between acts, the sound engineer thought I’d blown up his rig, success. (See Quttinirpaaq below)}
  • Supersonic {Again, the line-ups kinda speak for themselves. I went in 2012 which was great, but slightly gutted I missed 2010, that line-up is totally un-fuck-withable.}
  • Roadburn {Most have heard of this by now. The premier doom/stoner/psyche/metal festival out there. Went both in 2010 and 2011 when I was fully obsessed with that stuff. Catching Goatsnake’s reunion show was special. The Volcano lead to a bunch of bands missing their flights, but meant Witchcraft did a impromptu one-off show with their original drummer (making it the same lineup as the classic self-titled debut!) They’ve totally gone to shit now so I relish that performance.}
  • Thalassa Festival {Now 5 I haven’t been to before. Out of all the ‘psychefest’ nonsense of 2014, this looks like a genuinely exciting gathering. ‘Italian occult psychedelia’ is the premise and they sure deliver. Acts like Cannibal Movie, Donato Epiro, Father Murphy & Heroin in Tahiti are who make up the scene, plus a bunch of stuff I’ve never heard, which would be half the fun.}
  • Berlin Atonal Festival {A formidable force in the 80s, this returned in 2013. Held in an abandoned power-plant, surely the best indoor venue for this music imaginable. Line-up was just as impressive as the location; Ike Yard, Cabaret Voltaire, Source Direct, Fis, Powell, Roly Porter etc, you get the idea. Bleak.}
Berlin Atonal. {2014} Camille Blake.

Berlin Atonal. {2014} Camille Blake.

  • Incubate & Unsound {Two different festivals, Tilburg in Holland and Krakow, Poland respectively, they both fit together in my head. Huge, sprawling and eclectic line-ups of experimental music, held in varying venues across the cities. I imagine it’s a bit of a SXSW set-up, but with better tunes and less pricks.}
  • Tusk {The admirable TUSK promoters run Newcastle as far as I’m concerned. I’m not entirely sure how they manage it but they consistently mash-up some of the most forward thinking music on the planet and present it to their lucky audiences. Anything goes.}

Top 10 Cacophonous Sarcophagus moments…so far 

  • Hey Colossus @ CS#1 {No licence, no insurance, no clue what I was doing. Noise rock crypt rave. The police grilled me for about 40 minutes so I missed a good portion of their set. The plod let it carry on, so I was finally allowed go back inside where I ended up on the floor tangled in the vocal mic cable about 10 seconds later, was rockin’.}
  • GNOD @ CS#2 {GNOD + soundsytstem + strobe + crypt = bliss. Being able to tick off my two favourite UK acts in my first 2 shows felt good, especially having them play with cult Texan wronguns Shit & Shine.}
  • Sly & The Family Drone @ CS#3 {This was my first time encountering the Drone family, after hearing great things. They went on last after 4 other vastly varying acts and broke the crypt in two. Playing from the middle of the room, it started out as a well formed table-top electronic/techno set, though after about an hour it was free-form chaos with shit-tonnes of drums, noise & nudity. I tried & failed to get them to stop as we’d breached the curfew ages ago, rather glad they ignored me now.}
  • I’m Being Good @ CS#4 {Got the chance to show Bristol I’m Being Good, a criminally underrated Brighton band. They’ve been going nearly 20 years and haven’t hit 400 FB Likes yet. Their unique brand of micro-tonal indie-sludge rock is incredible and they totally nailed it live, they’re still being good.}
  • PigsX7 @ #CS5 {I was super excited to book these guys with that ridiculous name. They only had 1 track at the time but I was totally convinced. Deep, dark winter Solstice in the stone crypt. Could’ve been cold & drab but their energy had the place freakin’. Infectious fuckers.}
  • Terminal Cheesecake/Bong/Michael O’Neill @ CS6 {Can’t really pick a single act from this night, it was just bonkers throughout. 90′s industrial psyche legends + the UK’s best psych/doom band + stark industrial hip-hop from GNOD alumni. Everyone was fackin’ wasted and the vibe was immense. TC have said it was probably their favourite gig ever, can’t argue with that.}
  • Dead Fader @ CS#9 {Another super-selfish line up, proud of that one. 3 brilliant ‘noise rock’ bands, electro-doom-step from Necro Deathmort and my favourite electronic producer all together in one crypt. NDM & DF had previously expressed wishes to work together so having them play together on the same bill for the first time felt like I facilitated something, fingers still crossed for that collab.}
  • Arabrot @ CS#10 {This show felt like a big step-up from the previous ones for numerous reasons (it’s was in a huge fucking church, the acts had come from 3 different continents…). Arabrot played a long-form experimental & at points almost psychedelic set, that was a million miles from the rawkus riffing they’d laid down just a few months prior at The Exchange. Again confirmed themselves as one of the best noise rock bands worldwide.}
Arabrot in the church. {2014} Adam Reid.

Arabrot in the church. {2014} Adam Reid.

  • The Cacophonous Cosmic Dead Jam @ CS#16 {CS#5 worked so well that I thought about just repeating the line-up. Cosmic Dead & Luminous Bodies returned,  I deliberately picked acts that knew each other well so the jam would…JAM. At least 4 different people took the drum stool over 2 hours. Didgeridoos. Miscellaneous drums scattered about. About 10 empty bottles of Buckfast were recovered.  Lamps were destroyed. Shitmatt turned up with a musical chair & log.  The rest is history [aka forgotten in the collective inebriated haze].}
  • Part Chimp/Hey Colossus/Sex Swing/POHL/GNOD/Roly Porter/Killing Sound {This was a bit of a weekender really, can’t choose a particular moment. Immense throughout, a bunch of my favourite acts from literally anywhere. By finally booking Part Chimp & Roly Porter I pretty much finished my ‘dream’ list from when I started out about 18 months prior, success!}

Top 10 dream headliners

{Kinda showing all my cards here a bit, but whatever, if you’ve read this far maybe you deserve a hint. This would change on a weekly basis but some are firm.}

  • Nurse With Wound
  • Skullflower
  • Bardo Pond
  • Demdike Stare
  • Ike Yard
  • 23 Skidoo
  • Quttinirpaaq
  • Drunk in Hell
  • Innercity Ensemble
  • Trad, Gras & Stenar

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Guy Lochhead: of Bristol, UK and started the British Whybrary and Bristol Co-operative Gym.

Adam Reid: is also of Bristol, UK.

THE PIZZA [on] GUY LOCHHEAD

The Pizza: What is THE LIST and how did it come about?

Guy Lochhead: Whenever I hear about something interesting, I write it down to find out more about later (I think everyone does this). In my final year at Dartington College of Arts, I collated all those scraps of paper, napkins etc. into a spreadsheet because I wanted to see all those items alphabetised. I then spent my last project there looking up randomly-selected items off that list, with a view to filling the mise-en-scene of a children’s TV programme with objects referencing the most inspiring things I found out about. Although I no longer have that ambition, the list remains (now 12,573 things long, from 100 Diagrams That Changed The World to Zvi Hirsch Szylis) and I look things up off it on the last Sunday of every month, evaluating whether or not to include them in an imaginary sort of library called the British Whybrary. The knowledge I get from that research informs everything I do, and I also still hope that one day that collection might exist in real life too.

TP: How does your random number generator work, what do you use it for and could you send us a picture of it?

GL: The random number generator was made by my friends Yas Clarke, who designed the algorithm, and Jo Hellier, who built the box. It uses the background noise from unconnected analogue-to-digital converters (ADCs) inside it to generate truly random numbers. I use it to pick the number of the item off the list that I will research next, and to choose films to watch, recipes to cook etc.

random number generator. (c) Guy Lochhead, Yas Clarke, Jo Hellier.

random number generator. (c) Guy Lochhead, Yas Clarke & Jo Hellier.

TP: Can you send us a picture of your favourite diagram?

GL: This is so tricky. I think probably that the diagrams I come back to most frequently are the structures and building techniques in Lloyd Khan’s ‘Shelter’ books. I find them very encouraging. I really like the implications that they have for making anything – the desperate optimism of meticulously designing something you’re going to inevitably end up bodging. I have them on my bookshelf next to Paul Oliver’s book Dwellings, which has the sort of reverse approach, of painstakingly recording work that was often just done out of necessity.

How to build a hen house. From the book 'Shelter' (c) Lloyd Khan.

How to build a hen house. From the book ‘Shelter’ (c) Lloyd Khan.

TP: How does the sorting process work? What makes you decide to put something into The British Whybary?

GL: When I decided that I actually wanted to ask for other people’s help in getting through the list, I realised I’d need to formalise the sorting process so that I could communicate it to others. I ended up with three questions that serve as criteria for inclusion:

1) Does the idea of showing this thing to a child make you feel hopeful?

2) Do you feel that the thing is currently overlooked / misrepresented / undervalued?

3) Would you feel comfortable explaining your decisions to anyone who asked?

Coming up with the questions was a good exercise for me too, helping me get away from the dressed-up “I just don’t like it”s of early articles.

What kind of projects has The British Whybary informed so far? Could you use the random number generator to choose one to tell us about?

I really use the stuff I learn from looking up items on the list in everything I do, but I have made a list of ten projects for which I used information from the Whybrary and I’ll use the random number generator to pick one to write about.

OK, I got number 4: Ernest. I’ve started writing articles for a magazine called Ernest, which is all about slow stuff – cooking, traveling, making things. My first article was about the South West Dementia Brain Bank, where 900 frozen brains are stored for dementia research. I am currently writing articles about a US pilot called William Rankin who fell through a storm cloud, the wildman myth (featuring Enkidu, Buile Shuibhne, Kaspar Hauser etc.), the Tsaatan people of northern Mongolia, Bill Rankin’s radical cartography, JA Baker’s writing about following peregrines in Essex, the Penguin edition of the Domesday Book, the Vestiges of a Natural History of Creation, and other subjects that I often first found out about on the list.

TP: What is the most exciting discovery you have made through researching items on the list?

GL: Oh no, this is an impossible question… All of the things that I include in the Whybrary are exciting for me, but every now and again I find out about something really special. This happened most recently when reading about Geronimo. He was an Apache warrior who led a band of Bedonkohe against Spanish and Texan expansions into Apache lands, and murdered hundreds of Mexicans in retaliation for the murder of his wife, mother and three children during a Mexican raid in 1851. He surrendered to the USA in 1885, and was held as a prisoner of war and not allowed to return to his homeland. He later became a celebrity, appearing as a sort of indigenous trinket at pro-US World Fairs, and his name has since been re-purposed into an exclamation of fearlessness in the US army. The bastardisation of Geronimo’s name into a war-cry for his enemy struck me as a particularly neat, particularly horrific example of the colonial process.

TP: How did you come up with the name The British Whybrary?

GL: It’s awful, isn’t it? I have a problem where I think something is funny for a second, attach myself to it permanently, and then love/hate it for the rest of my life – e.g. I have “Livin’ la Vida Lochhead” tattooed on my back.

TP: What it is that appeals to you about spreadsheets?

GL: Initially, I just used one to sort the list alphabetically. Since then, it’s really got out of control. For example, watching a film with my housemates is now an incredibly laborious process of each selecting five films, randomly selecting a number of those, each rating those in order of preference, and then using proportional representation to decide on a title we’re all happy with. A spreadsheet makes that easy!

TP: Making the list then using the random number generator to choose from it seems to me like an interesting contrast between imposing order/leaving things to chance. Could you talk a bit about this?

GL: I think it’s really easy to sort of curate yourself into a corner, following related videos and Amazon product recommendations until you’re surrounded by things that are all sort of similar and all sort of alright. When I first started looking things up and the items were just arranged in whatever order I’d added them to the list, I noticed this happening – I remember working through a glut of female pilots, for example (Pancho Barnes FTW). Using a random number generator avoids this and allows for some really interesting associations to occur. I’ve been fascinated by this since learning about Piaget’s idea of the schema – the webs of interconnected concepts that he thought we formed when learning. Jumping from reading about Scottish folk guitarists to mercantile Edwardian authors to the first European settlement in the Americas to The Clangers to Boston noise bands allows some really fun conceptual bridges to be built, recognising the similarities and differences between things, and appreciating just how richly varied our weirdo species’s history is.

TP: I like the favourites bit of the Whybrary website too, do you own everything on the list? What are the best slippers?

GL: I don’t own everything on the list, no, but wanting to buy something is usually the starting point for bothering to look that stuff up. Trying to find the best slippers brought to attention the main problem with this whole project though – sometimes there just isn’t a single greatest thing. I reckon I would go for some sheepskin slippers from some legit local farm or whatever. I did find out that Totes made the first slipper-socks though, and that a guy called Derek Fan wore his pair of slippers for 23 years straight, so he’d probably be a good person to consult. I also started reading about Japanese uwabaki slippers, which apparently developed from the sandshoes originally manufactured by the Liverpool Rubber Company in the 1830s, so maybe some variation of them would be good? Or you could go for some velvet Prince Albert slippers, monogrammed in gold.

TP: How would you best like the Whybrary to be used? What’s your dream for it?

GL: I think its primary purpose at the moment is just as a sort of symbol of getting stoked on learning. I think people like the idea of it more than they actually use the website as a resource. Ideally I’d like this to change, and even to have the collection exist in real life, but we’ll see.

I find it very useful for myself as a way to not get stuck thinking about the same thing. I was on the ferry the other day and got so upset sitting in the restaurant, looking around at all the couples just sitting there in silence. How can there possibly be nothing to say? There’s so much stuff! I hope that continuing to work through the list might mean that less people sit on ferries in silence. That’s the dream.

TP: Is the list shrinking (getting worked through) or is it growing – are you adding more things than taking them away?

GL: Growing. In 2009, the list had 8,949 items on it. It now has 12,573. I really am committed to chipping away at it though, and I’d appreciate any help. I spend the last Sunday of each month looking things up. If you’d like to be involved, send me an e-mail: info@britishwhybrary.org.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

THE PIZZA (Rosalie Schweiker, Mario D’Agostino, Hannah Clayden, Joanna Waterhouse from London,UK): They are four friends who invite somebody for pizza every month.

GUY LOCHHEAD: He is a writer, cyclist and enjoys knowing what he is looking at. He founded the Whybrary in 2013.

WISH YOU’D BEEN HERE (EVA ROWSON & ANDREA FRANCKE) [on] THE PIZZA

‘The Pizza’ Interview

Wish you’d been here (a collaboration between Eva Rowson and Andrea Francke) is the start of an investigation to bring together and explore histories of and current thoughts on hosting, socializing and partying as a new framework for reflecting on contemporary art practices that involve working with people. Rosalie Schweiker, Mario D’Agostino, Hannah Clayden and Jo Waterhouse are artists based in London. Together they run a monthly dinner called The Pizza.  Both Wish you’d been here and The Pizza are based in London, UK.

 At Our Shop {Wednesday 16 July 2014}

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Do you do something special with your mushrooms before you put them on the pizza?

It’s not about the food.

We put stuff on there that we really shouldn’t have put on there – like the broccoli.

They’ve changed a lot. Now they’re thin and crispy.

I think it has to be a bit more effort than you would do yourself. It’s in the details.

I just want to feel like I’m on a cruise for once in my life.

How did it start? I had the idea in the shower and emailed you guys and you said yes. Then Jo got pulled in later on – because you live with me! We do all bring something different and special to the night. Rosalie does the placemats, Mario does the pizza, Jo brings the table, Hannah drinks a lot.

You invite someone because you really like what they do and not because you are expecting something back.

Friend-networking. If we had enough money we would buy their work, but as we don’t we invite them and cook them a pizza to thank them for making their work.

Sometimes you like someone’s work and they turn out to be an arsehole, but that hasn’t happened to us yet.

We’ve never been stood-up.

El’s pizza was so busy – it was nuts.

The idea started with how to find a way to meet people.

Petrol can of wine.

Pizza_broccoli

Courtesy of The Pizza.

Guests can bring friends so they feel more comfortable. We put it on Facebook and really rarely someone we don’t know comes. Then it’s friends of friends. We can’t really do more than 10-15 people, can’t really afford to feed more than that and don’t want to be stressed out by it.

You could make it bigger and charge people, but there’s something nice about not having to charge people. We’ve invited people to come so it seems odd to then charge them. Really, it’s good it’s happening in our living room, and people have to leave their coats in my bedroom  – there’s no escape, which is one of the nice things. It changes the dynamic having it in the flat, it’s such a personal thing.

Worst pizza was wheat free, cold.

We’ve never sat down and thought about why and how we do it.

We make it so the artist isn’t on display or having to answer questions about themselves, sometimes you don’t even know who the artist is.

We hardly ever talk about art.

Sometimes there’s an element of fandom and nervousness beforehand.

But there is always one of us that will go: So what do you do?

A strategy for successful stalking. “Hi, I followed you home and would you like some pizza?”

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Every time we try to make a calendar we fail.

You just have to brave enough to knock on the door.

If no one comes do you think of it as failure? It doesn’t have to be about how many people come.

Sometimes people come up to me and say ‘oh I think I’ve met you, I’ve been in your living room’.

It’s anti socially engaged.

If you call it art does it change it?

I wouldn’t wanna do it for an institution as I do my art projects. I wanna do it for myself.

It feels odd to invite people round for dinner and then tell them it’s an artwork.

I would be careful to label any social occasion as an art project.

I would describe myself as an artist and if someone asks me what I do I would take about the pizza to describe my practice, but I’m not sure if I think of the pizza as an artwork in itself.

I use the pizza as an example of how to expand your social group and meet people.

This is going to make my life better so I’m going to do it.

Pizza_diagram

Courtesy of The Pizza

Re-enactment. Artists have hosted dinners and made restaurants. There is value in seeing the small things and the differences each time you do it.

We wouldn’t claim it’s a revolution in art practice.

It’s like when you make something for one person.

It’s a bit like throwing someone a birthday party.

Between the 4 of us there is not a definition of what it is.

Sharing food is quite an intimate thing.

If you do something for a long time it gives people time to realise what it means to you.

They can decide the toppings.

Pizza_face

Courtesy of The Pizza

It’s like inventing our own folk art traditions. It’s just stuff that you just do. We are from a certain kind of tribe and this is our folk art.

I don’t think folk art wants to be in the art world. You do something and you’re so into it but it doesn’t fit in with an art tradition, it has its own logic. It can just exist and it has its own followers without the art world.

I can only host my own dos, I can’t host anybody else’s as then I become a guest. It’s a weird thing to be invited to be a host.

It’s not about making a pizza, it’s about being together.

I’m genuinely not into pizza.

Pizza_image1

Courtesy of The Pizza

 ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

Further information on ANDREA FRANCKE & EVA ROWSON’s project Wish You’d Been Here can be found by clicking their names or the project title.

Rosalie SchweikerMario D’AgostinoHannah Clayden and Jo Waterhouse are artists based in London. Together they run a monthly dinner called The Pizza.

ANDY ABBOTT [on] ANDREA FRANCKE & EVA ROWSON

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

ANDY ABBOTT  is an artist, writer and musician living and working in Yorkshire. In 2012 Andy was awarded his PhD from the University of Leeds with a thesis on ‘art, self-organised cultural activity and the production of postcapitalist subjectivity’. His research interests are in Do-It-Yourself culture, art as social practice, political philosophy, autonomist Marxist and post-anarchist theory. He is a member of the artist collective Black Dogs, makes music as That Fucking Tank, Nope and Elizabeth, and is the director of the arts and music festivals Bradford Threadfest and Recon. Since 2011 Andy has been Fellow in Music at the University of Bradford.

Further information on ANDREA FRANCKE & EVA ROWSON’s project “Wish You’d Been Here” can be found by clicking their names.

YVONNE CARMICHAEL [on] ANDY ABBOTT

{Since 2006 Yvonne and Andy have lived together in Saltaire, West Yorkshire, UK. Andy is an artist, musician, writer and organizer. Yvonne asked Andy some questions about his artwork and interests.}

Yvonne Carmichael: We first met during Situation Leeds: Art in the Public Realm ’05 festival, you had spent three months cutting out card bricks to make a replica of the Electric Press Chimney in Leeds. Did you enjoy the process? And what you do you think looking back at that piece of work now?

Andy Abbott: Looking back on that A Half Scale Card Maquette… project it was a strange time for me. I think I’d found motivation to do art, and had a lot more spare time than I ever had. I was in the last year of Uni, I’d quit my (part time) job working in a call centre to spend more time on studying. I didn’t have a lot of commitments; I was swimming a lot in between getting really boozed and playing music. I think that project helped give me some structure. I treated it like a warehouse job where I was in the studio at a certain time each day to do a shift, trying to better yesterday’s target. Then I’d have lunch, go for a swim, come back and do an afternoon session. I made 8000-odd bricks (boxes) in those months.

My thinking behind the project was that this action reduced the art process (which is often seen as opaque, over-intellectualized and elitist; a bit ‘emperors new clothes’) down to time and graft, in the hope that would somehow democratize it. I thought that people would be inspired by my willingness to use my time ‘productively’ in concrete labour, rather than consumptively, and maybe think about being artists themselves in their spare time. In actuality people saw the finished thing and said ‘Wow, I could never be bothered to do that.’

A Half Scale Card Maquette at Situation Leeds 2005

A Half Scale Card Maquette at Situation Leeds {2005} Andy Abbott

Half Scale Card Maquette

A Half Scale Card Maquette. Andy Abbott.

Half Scale Card Maquette

A Half Scale Card Maquette. Andy Abbott. 

YC: A Serious Waste of Time was an exhibition in an empty commercial space in Leeds, that showed a combination of your works all focusing on activities you have undertaken in your spare-time. How did you go about putting this exhibition together?

AA: I started those projects as a bit of a reaction to some of the more ’socially-engaged’, participatory and collaborative projects I did following things like the chimney project. I’d started doing projects like the Festival of Pastimes, the Your Arms project we did together, and Black Dogs stuff, where I was acting more like a facilitator or curator than an artist. So at the time I wanted to do some more ‘indulgent’, representational, self-contained art, and my PhD allowed me – even encouraged me – to do that. So I began a project about traveling back to the village that I was born in by cycling up and down a bit of canal (Homeward Unbound), another work about swimming at Shipley Pool, a linked project about the DIY punk scene family tree, and then a less resolved project about the Bell Pits on Baildon Moor and heavy metal.

They all shared some similarities in content and form and made what I considered to be a coherent exhibition; they were all quite autobiographical and most used diagrams, maps and music to get the point across. I called the exhibition A Serious Waste of Time to push forward the ‘hobbyist’ aspect of all the projects but looking back on it that was a tenuous thread between them all. I was doing those activities for a PhD which was as much ‘work’ as it was ‘play’, but I like the conversations that arise from that slippage.

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A Serious Waste of Time Exhibition. Andy Abbott.

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A Serious Waste of Time Exhibition ‘Homeward Unbound’. Andy Abbott.

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A Serious Waste of Time Exhibition. Andy Abbott.

YC: Which piece of work or projects that you have undertaken have been the most successful and why?

AA: It depends on how you judge success. The longest running, most consistent, ‘projects’ I’ve done have been That Fucking Tank and Black Dogs, in as much as they keep on going and growing. In terms of a single art project, the one I’ve been asked or commissioned to do the most is the Festival of Pastimes. When I do talks and presentations it seems like some of the earlier projects I did, like the chimney piece, communicate what I was interested in more clearly than my recent work, but I don’t think that means they are more successful. I liked the response I got to the Erewyrehve project I did in Istanbul last year with PiST, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work on that. I think that’s the one I’d judge most personally fulfilling as it sparked a lot of interesting conversations, it is really open-ended and fed a lot of other work, and it looked good as an exhibition too!

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Festival of Pastimes – Leeds. Andy Abbott.

7. Erewyrehve exhibition - PiST Istanbul

Erewyrehve exhibition – PiST Istanbul. Andy Abbott.

8. Erewyrehve - PiST Istanbul

Erewyrehve – PiST Istanbul. Andy Abbott.

9. Erewyreve Exhibition PiST Istanbul

Erewyreve Exhibition PiST Istanbul. Andy Abbott.

YC: Your portfolio of writing includes a range of formats from press releases, web copy, essay, articles and academic papers. I like your style of writing and that it is accessible but covers complex stuff at the same time. What would your tips be on how to write about art?

AA: I guess I’ve always tried to be ‘honest’ with my writing and not use words or terms I don’t really know the meaning of, although I’m sure there are plenty of times I’ve succumbed to the art-talk pressure and you do have to use some specialized terminology at times. I prefer reading something by someone that’s in their own voice rather than relying on cliches and trendy jargon though. At the same time I think you’ve got to give the reader some credit for knowing roughly what you’re on about, or assume they’ll be able to look up words or terms they’re not familiar with. I think the call for ‘plain English’ in art is a tricky one because whilst its good to call out bullshit when you see it, audiences/readers should embrace being challenged too.

YC: You have written a lot about value of punk, DIY and organized activity and its political potential. What are the key things around this you think are important for an audience to know in relation to this when experiencing your work.

AA: Ha, well I often wrongly assume people know what the DIY ethos is, or what DIY even stands for. Over the last couple of years I’ve started to qualify it a bit more as the ‘not-for-profit underground/alternative scene’ or various other things. Someone did an interview with me a bit ago asking me about self-organization and I realized it’s a term I just stopped using because it doesn’t really say much about what I find interesting: the political or socially-transformative dimension of cultural activity motivated by love-not-money.

In terms of what an audience needs to know to experience my work: I guess someone who doesn’t know about – or acknowledge – the harmful effects of capitalism, and thinks there’s either no need or possibility for an alternative way of living together, is unlikely to identify with what I do. I believe that DIY activity is a site where new forms of engaging with the world and one another are experimented with, and that’s where its radical potential lies. If you don’t think social transformation is either necessary or possible then I guess that notion is not something you would agree with or be interested in. You’d also have to be an idiot or a helpless cynic though.

YC: Do you ever think about doing a project just to make loads of money?

AA: When I taught at art college I used to tell students ‘if you are in it to make loads of money then stop doing art and play the stock exchange instead, or go into banking or whatever, where you’re almost guaranteed to be more successful.’ I could have made a lot of money if I kept on being a sales person I think, because I was good at it, but that idea of sacrificing time for cash doesn’t appeal to me. I’d rather just enjoy the time we have. One piece of advise that’s stuck in my head from my parents is that I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and should act accordingly.

At the same time I guess I have a romantic idea that if you do something with as much fidelity and integrity as you can then somehow something will come out of it, and that might even generate money. You learn a lot more skills and competencies through doing things you enjoy rather than things you don’t. So far we keep on keeping on and I’m happy with that.

YC: Your artistic practice utilizes a broad range of medium including: video, sound, scores, diagrams, writing, publications, participatory events and photographs. Would you ever consider streamlining and focusing more closely on one approach or style?

AA: I always hated the way artists ‘specialize’ in one medium or theme, as it seemed to me to be a very cynical way of turning yourself and your practice into a marketable commodity – something that the Institutional Art World and its markets demand, rather than an organic or authentic process. I prefer artists and people who resist that easy reduction to a single type of work or a specific ‘issue’ or ‘theme’, even if they’re known for one or two things in particular. I guess Joseph Beuys and John Cage did that to an extent, and I like them for it.

At the moment though, I am really enjoying making music and animations, I am finding that those are appropriate ways to resolve some of my projects. I can see myself doing more of that. I think it’s good to keep the end result open and show fidelity to the process, reacting to interventions or happy accidents and letting them decide where a project goes, rather than having a fixed destination. That’s not good for art dealers or even funding applications but I think it makes for more vital art.

YC: Threadfest (May) and Recon (September) are both festivals you organize; how have you found putting these events together? What have been the least and more enjoyable bits? Do you see the co-ordination of these events as part of your practice?

AA: Yes, I’ve started to see those festivals as the current manifestation of my interest in events as art, even if the actual process of making them happen—which comprises in the main, lots of admin, funding applications, emails, contracts, spreadsheets, website updates, flyer distribution and so on—doesn’t feel like an artistic process a lot of the time. That’s definitely the bit that’s most like ‘work’ but in a sick way I kind of enjoy it…it’s like the office or ‘immaterial labor’ version of my chimney project.

The most enjoyable bit is definitely when the events actually happen and you see a lot of people brought together in one space, all having a shared collective experience which is ideally something unique to that context or situation. I do feel like those moments have some lasting effect on people as individuals and I try to organize these festivals in places where that is likely to resonate or have added meaning.

YC: What’s the best art event you have ever seen?

AA: As far as ‘proper’ art goes I really liked when we visited Manifesta 2008. It opened my eyes to a faction of the Art World that wasn’t just market-led, commodified nonsense and seemed to have some genuine intention behind it. I don’t think it’s had as much impact on me as being involved in Situation Leeds (2005), or even the first squat party I went to in Leeds, but that’s a different kind of process I suppose.

YC: What’s the best gig you have ever been to?

AA: There were a few gigs in the early 2000s that I saw in Leeds and Bradford that really opened my mind up to the idea that ‘the best’ music wasn’t necessarily going to be experienced in big spaces and was just as likely to be had in the top rooms of some dingy local pubs, houses or social centres. I saw bands like Sweep The Leg Johnny, Red Monkey, Bilge Pump, Black Heart Procession, Trans Am, Trail of Dead around then that were really inspiring. It was motivating because of the balance between them giving such spirited performances and at the same time it seeming so achievable to play the places they were playing.

YC: What’s the best meal you have ever eaten?

AA: Aside from the ones you’ve cooked me or we’ve eaten together I think the best meal I had was on the first European tour I did with Kill Yourself. We played at Metalkova in Ljubljana, Slovenia and were starving hungry when we arrived. The promoter, Ivo, then spent about three hours or more making us a gigantic meal that everyone involved in the collectively-run venue sat down to eat together. It was incredible; a venison stew with loads of salads and a vegan gnocchi dish if I remember right. I was almost crying. I don’t think it’s possible to enjoy a meal as much as that in a restaurant or even at home…there’s something about the collective experience (and the unassuming settings) that make it have much more impact, that and being very very hungry.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

ANDY ABBOTT:is an artist, musician and writer interested in the role of cultural activity in social change. His practice and research focuses on alternative forms of work, Do-it-Yourself culture, self-organization, participation, collaboration, counter-institutions, and post-capitalist subjectivity.

YVONNE CARMICHAEL: is an artist and independent curator living and working in Leeds and Bradford, UK.