A load of old factories and warehouses in Hackney Wick have been transformed into spaces for unknown musicians, performance artists and visual artists to exhibit their work.
Last year I went to a performance art night in Hackney Wick (an event that, ten years ago, would have been extremely out of place). The event took place in what looked like an old factory, in a car park, opposite a working bleach factory. I noticed a distinct juxtaposition between the bohemian art world and the world of the factory worker, and I was instantly reminded of the slogan “Artists fuck off!” which I once saw scrawled on a wall in Dalston.
The venue of this performance art night was also the home of the artists. They had built the partitioning walls themselves and they were running a bar selling vegan cakes and wine which I was told was their way of funding the event. The transformation of this abandoned factory into a home/art venue essentially realises the self-publication ethos of the 1970′s Punk movement. Graham White characterises the Punk mentality as…
“The do-it-yourself attitude; self-publication, intimate word of mouth networks (…) rejection of social and aesthetic norms and celebration of outsider status”
There is a clear relationship between the art events going on around Hackney (which mainly rely on word of mouth) and White’s definition of Punk.
The performances themselves can be placed categorically in the genre of ‘body art’, which has its origins in the feminist performance art events of the 1970s. A young woman, who sat in the corner of the room while slowly plucking her pubic hair, reminded me of ‘Interior Scroll’, (performed in New York in 1975 by Carolee Schneemann), in which Schneemann extracted a paper scroll from her vagina.
Another one of the performances left pretty much everyone in the room utterly speechless. Two men and one woman entered the space dressed in togas; they performed a ritualistic dance and then simultaneously squatted. It took me a while to notice the large puddle forming under their feet; and then slowly it dawned on me, they were pissing. I can’t think of a legitimate venue in London that would allow their artists to piss on the floor, let alone a funding body that would pay them to do it, which is precisely why these artists chose to piss on their own floor, and to turn their house into their very own gallery.
It is becoming increasingly hard for young artists to gain recognition, funding or even find a place to exhibit their work, be it performance or visual art. The lack of a place for creativity in the current economic climate can be disheartening, but who needs governmental funding anyway? If the government won’t fund you, do it yourself!
 Graham White, The Ians in the Audience: Punk Attitude and the influence of the Avant-Garde, (New York: Palgrave and Macmillan, 2011).