Anyone Up For A Ruck?

An event news snippet from the latest Wire:

“London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) has awarded £10,000 to artist Jo Mitchell to stage a reenactment of a notorious 1984 ICA performance involving members of Einstürzende Neubauten and Fad Gadget’s Frank Tovey, among others. Called Concerto for Voice and Machine, the event was legendarily chaotic, with members of the group attacking the wooden stage with pneumatic drills, purportedly in order to reach secret tunnels rumoured to run between government departments and Buckingham Palace underneath The Mall, and the audience joining in by tossing glasses into a cement mixer. It ended when ICA staff turned the power off. The reenactment is scheduled to take place in February 2007.”

It’s not that I’m particularly enamoured of wanton destruction (unless it’s of Coldplay, in which case it ain’t wanton) but I’m impressed and quite charmed by the idea of the ICA sponsoring the reenactment of an event that, 12 years ago, involved destruction of its own property and plunging its staff into panic. Regardless of whether I’d personally classify this as “art”, I like the idea of living in a place where there are people who would. How far I have come. How far in the wrong direction.


  1. I’ll be wary of the reenactment, though, which being the nature of every reenactment, wears on its lapels repetition with identity. If the same organisation which turned the power off in 1984 is now funding for the power to be left on for the 2007 show, it is not difficult to guess just where and how whatever chaos and subversion there was the first time winds up. An instruction booklet for destruction? Perhaps an ICA tech crew would have to be present to ensure that the drills drill “properly” and glasses shatter “efficiently.”

  2. As an absolute aside…

    Sick of Myself [Matthew Sweet] may well be in the top hundred pop songs ever [with Toxic, of course]

  3. shao: My point wasn’t really “Oooh how subversive and cool!”, it was just that whether one is cynical or not about the re-enactment, and whether one thinks it is a truly “subversive” move or not, it still seems a rather non-bitchy thing for the organisation to do.

    Tamara: Oh of course it is! Have written more about my love for that song and other Matthew Sweet songs here if you’re interested. Smog Moon is a real beauty too, and Your Sweet Voice.

  4. I wish I can be there to witness it! I personally think its cool. Esp if they manage to maintain the air of spontaneity and chaos and bring across the mad frenzy that obviously was in the air. Perhaps a bit of angeldust might help :-p

  5. For me, the more interesting thing to note here isn’t about the potential subversive intent of ICA of celebrating chaos, but when the power goes off this time round. This performance is really about how the Organization holds ultimate power over event, over artist, over audience — how the Organization allows for the performance to commence, to proceed and how it decides for it to end.

  6. Mayee: Yes, definitely! I voiced much the same sentiments to Alec yesterday while gesticulating wildly over dinner and sounding like a wanker! God knows I’m not much good at reading the mind of performance artists sometimes, but my guess is that this is a substantial feature of the artist’s interest in staging the re-enactment. And if a pleb like me can guess at that, the folks at the ICA can certainly guess at that. And they’re still sponsoring it.

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