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Spanking – Matmos at QEH, London

Matmos have played twice in London in the last year or so. Firstly, a show at a make-shift space on the Old Kent Road and most recently at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, as part of the Meltdown Festival. They are savvy, self-mocking and cool enough to make incisive commentaries on where their work appears – ultimate space perhaps an underground club in Berlin. So, to see the show at the QEH is of course funny because this is a proper, grown up space for ‘real’ music (whereas the London show last year was literally in an empty car servicing unit).

 

For Meltdown they pull together a band with drums and electric guitar and, although not filling the venue, manage to deliver an entertaining show. The self-referential and deliberately ‘stagey’ approach works well, as we the audience comfortably seated await each piece. The stand out piece is a tribute to Alan Turing that evokes Nazi era video, decoding and textual reveals, layered with Matmos sound. Watching men (and it is usually blokes not women) huddled over laptop sets with Ableton plinking away can be deathly boring – but Drew Daniel manages to avoid all of these cliches as he anchors the groove and fires in beats and off beats. The elegant guitar playing of Owen Gardner provides subtle twang and scratchiness when required, as MC Schmidt anti-comperes us through the set. At one point a piercing electronic howl emits from a mixing desk and Schmidt easily forms this into the routine. At their best Matmos, play across the live and pre-recorded spaces, so that the works are always fresh but somehow grounded in a core idea. In fact many of the works clearly start out from a conceptual basis and in this instance the humour grins through the set.

 

We are treated to a final piece involving live spanking, glitch video and of course coin-tossing to determine who gets a seeing to. In this manner, we cross into the hybrid space that spans John Cage, industrial music, S&M cabaret and performance art. Not far away at Stratford the London 2012 Olympics breeze on with endless loops of the Chariots of Fire theme tune, while we sit and watch Schmidt’s right bum cheek get redder and redder. Thank you, Matmos.

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Emotional Geocaching

I am very interested in how we emotionally react to our surroundings when embarking on aimless wonders (otherwise known as a dérive). This concept is otherwise known as Psychogeography, which according to Guy Debord is:

“the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.”

The effects of a place on ourselves is very apparent in our day to day lives, from claustrophobic in the city to feeling free and content when back in the countryside. An interesting output from this is how people document their journeys through photography, writing, audio, video, sketching etc.

 

Being someone who does not know the surrounding areas of Westcliff-on-Sea and Leigh-on-Sea I decided to explore my own emotional reaction to these areas, whilst also documenting my travels at specific locations. I decided that I would do it in four ways: through photographing view-points from locations which drew me in; by taking audio recordings at these locations; using a GPS device, record the Longitude and latitude co-ordinates of these locations; lastly, I would also capture these places by recording them as semantic locations. The purpose of all this was as stated above, to explore emotional response, but with all of these tasks in place, it was also to see how this journey worked as an activity and as being something which could be mapped out afterward.

 

As well as absorbing information I also wanted to ‘hack’ the public space and leave something out there which would expand on the semantic locations. As can be seen below, this descriptions were very matter of fact and did not include any reasoning for choosing specific places or emotional reflection. I therefore decided to play on the concept of geocaching and leave my own mini containers (matchboxes so they would be biodegradable), containing my emotional reasoning.

 

Below is my documentation from the journey which I embarked on, starting with a map of the route:

 

 

1) Sat on a bench in front of Chalkwell Hall. 5th along from the left.

N51°32.641′

E000°40.654′

Time: 14:20:38

Sound

 

2) Standing on the bridge over the little stream which runs through Chalkwell Park.

N51°32.658′

E000°40.522′

Time: 14:37:31

Sound

 

3) Standing outside number 141 Kings Road.

N51°32.599′

E000°40.441′

Time: 15:01:07

Sound

 

4) Standing outside number 21 on The Drive.

N51°32.508′

E000°40.439′

Time: 15:23:13

Sound

 

5) In the park facing the row of shops on The Ridgeway.

N51°32.398′

E000°40.472′

Time: 15:44:03

Sound

 

6) On a wall, down a little lane, almost opposite Hall Park Avenue, between numbers 6 and 8 on the The Ridgeway.

N51°32.408′

E000°40.640′

Time: 15:59:19

Sound

 

7) Sitting on the wooden steps leading up to some mini changing tooms on the beach at the end of Chalkwell Avenue.

N51°32.170′

E000°40.714′

Time: 16:17:03

Sound

 

8 ) Almost under the railway bridge on Chalkwell Avenue. On your left as your walk towards the sea, just after the bridge.

N51°32.397′

E000°40.714

Time: 16:33:48

Sound

 

9) Down a creepy walkway/lane thing behind the tennis courts.

N31°32.360

E000°40.649

Time: 16:43:16

Sound

 

10) In the ‘Nature Conservation Garden’ in Chalkwell Park

N51°32.658

E000°40.681

Time: 17:03:40

Sound

 

I tasked myself with this walk as it being something quite experimental and research based; I did not plan the route in advance nor I did not know exactly how I wanted to utilise the data collected from it. Having previously designed pervasive games and interactions in public space for other people in past work, it was refreshing to carry something out for myself and gage my own reactions to a piece, rather than thinking about the unknown other person. Interestingly, the journey became very algorithmic, each task becoming more embedded in every stop off and gradually turning into what one can only describe as laborious. I found it surprising, yet quite understandable, how something very much based on emotional reaction could mutate into something which felt very mechanic and almost forced. One could argue that the methodology set out by myself initially was bound to create this, through using GPS, taking down co-orindinates and writing down descriptions of locations as they were, elaborating on details as little as possible.

 

This still feels very much at the beginning of something to me. I am keen to carry out more ‘aimless walks’, in this way but at some point would also like to think about how other people could interact. with this project. It would be useful to use these ideas in relation to how local people perceive their area and emotionally engage with it.

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