I’ve been working with Paul Michael Henry over the last few months and I met up with him to discuss this project. He describes himself by saying his practice is the practice of being alive – something that he doesn’t say to be vague. His work is inextricably linked with the thoughts he has when he gets up in the morning. Why get out of bed? Why do anything else? He thinks work starts being made before you become aware that you are making. The product of his practice is often live performance although it is sometimes writing or live music. His work is geared toward digging underneath the surface layers of social conditioning to create ritual performance that allows something new and undiscovered to emerge.
I asked him what punk means to him and I spoke about what it means to me.
We talked about whether punk always had to be in opposition to something. If you are creatively expressing your politics does this mean your work is inherently punk regardless of the form it takes?
Something that really excited us was what the offer is or can be for an audience during a punk show.
How would you assume about the audience of a punk gig? How do you think people would behave in response to hearing loud, politicised music?
I was really keen to hear what Paul thought the current performance community of Glasgow might need. Having felt like my project has taken a step away from being a case study of site, I wanted to hear about what people/artists might need. What did Paul say?
We spoke about a need for transparency.
We spoke about the importance of working together. When we are working toward the same goal or at the same level as our peers, why do we not join forces to create? Why is it so easy to work in opposition of one another by competing to access the same resources? Why do we not band together more often?
We spoke about what it means to have a popular narrative of progression thrust upon us by society. What does it mean that we are told we cannot create or experiment once we “outgrow” our youth? What happens when we challenge what success, art or society looks like? Can we find space to celebrate work that doesn’t cater to societies expectations of us?
I told Paul that I think that’s what I was trying to do by setting up this project. I wanted to attempt to articulate myself against a larger culture of socially acceptable behaviour. I wanted to explore what punk and contemporary performance practices offer Glasgow and other spaces in the UK. I wanted my findings to help me find ways to support conversations between artists and those that hold the key to much needed resources. I wanted to learn if DIY methods could frame fruitful collaborations between musicians and performance makers to establish new ways of presenting work to an audience. I wanted to use my agency as a producer to explore the structures used in venues to support the work of artists. I wanted to try to make things better for the artists whose work I believe in.
The very nature of punk and contemporary art forms is that they are the exploration of self and the world around us. These art forms carry a sense of urgency. We need to communicate how we feel and what we think now. As an artist/human/curating producer, I want the work that I do and the way that I live my life to always be in response to what the people around me need. I want to make people happy. I want to help those that are struggling to be heard. I want to use the power of art to connect to others and make change.
With these thoughts in mind, while producing the work of artists, I want to hold those that work in venues, that provide financial backing for projects, that attend performance and make performance accountable for their actions. I want to highlight the collective responsibility of society to hold and support the needs of the individual. I want my use my experience as an artist and audience member of cathartic, aggressive and expressive art forms to fuel my passion for staging live events. Following the last few weeks, I’m not sure if it’s about finding space for people to meet and connect. I think it might be about claiming the space in which people choose to gather.
If I could talk to you, I’d ask you:
- How has your interest in music influenced your practice?
- Could you talk a little bit about your understanding of community? What keeps a community together?
- What role do you think venues have in supporting the work of artists?
- Do you think an arts practice is sustainable without venues to house the process or product or artists?
- What does punk mean to you?
- What does contemporary performance mean to you?
- What do you think the cross overs are?
- What do you think Glasgow needs right now?
- What do you think the UK needs right now?
- What do you think the world needs right now?