The Brick Box: proponents of Live Pop Art?

This is the first in an extremely sporadic series on how we think The Brick Box might relate to the Art world and how the Art world might relate to us. Written by Eleanor Barrett, Director of The Brick Box.

 

“An exhilarating snapshot in all its neon, vinyl, faux-leopard-skin glory”

“Fun, engaging, colourful, revelatory, opinionated, racy”

“Brash, Bold and Exciting”

Reading these reviews of the Pop Art exhibition which opened at Tate Modern on 17th September, The Brick Box instantly popped into my head. We are always looking for ways to describe the whys and the who fors of what we do and I wondered if Live Pop Art could be an interesting moniker to toy with.

Some pop art definitions from Warhol, and other seminal pop art folk:

“Employs aspects of mass culture such as mundane cultural objects”

‘Popular, transient, expendable”

“Witty, sex, gimmicky, glamourous”

“Optimistic, generous and naive”

“…celebrated objects and ideas that were not only familiar but also banal in content”

“Culture emerging from the masses themselves”

“Big business”

Some elements of these definitions would definitely describe our antics. Some not so much (big business?!) And we dont make visual art. Each Brick Box event is a one off interactive live experience we co-create with our audiences and together we take great delight in dancing rough shod all over the very idea of being commodified.

There are four key elements to our approach:

 

  • The Content

The Brick Box has a joyful smash and grab approach to taking whatever we fancy (culturally speaking that is, not from jewellery stores) and putting it wherever we feel like. Well happily mash up opera, toast, twerking zombies, tea leaf readings, plate smashing, rave, congas, cabaret, the okey cokey, pass the parcel, Elvis, pinball machines, sock puppet karaoke, Nigerian hair wraps, the Maypole, boxing, light up dance floors, chess, cardboard box sculpture, brass bands and UV discos to name a modest selection of past programme content. But is it Art?

If Art is a commodity or a way to define culture through the filter of recognised mediums of authority then probably not.

But if Art is a way to colour in social interaction, encourage people to let off their own creative steam and share inspiration for ways to understand and approach life, then yes I very much think that what we do is Art. And you can interchange Art with the word Magic as far as Im concerned. And Love for that matter.

 

Thamesmead Fete-21

Street Dance the Maypole at the Thamesmead Fete, May 2015.

  • The Location

As well as being cultural liberty takers we also revel in the power of juxtaposition. Art is much more exciting when its not where you expect it to be. We have produced our events in funeral parlours, flyovers, launderettes, greasy spoons, buses, car parks, goods lifts, dock sides, cobbled streets and sheds to name a selection of venues. As I write weve just returned from our latest project where we spent five nights on the trot in a loading bay. Not only does being completely out of context create a wonderful sense of excitement, it also means we have to rise to the many challenges of our locations which keeps us constantly on our toes.

 

A13 Green no.8

The Bikini Beach Band at the A13 Green in Canning Town, August 2015.

  • The People

Who is it all for? Well we find its a lot more fun to share Art with people who may not normally get a look in (sometimes because of where they live but more often than not because they have good reason to feel excluded) and who have plenty to say for themselves on the subject given half the chance. They also already have their own cultural scenes, formats and ways to express themselves creatively which we always respect and learn from. Its all about a social exchange and a shared experience. We bring things. Our audience bring things. We share them with each other. We have fun. We all learn stuff.

When we rolled into Bradford with our Electric Fireside to share it with Muslim mothers in Manningham, they embraced the co-created storytelling concept wholeheartedly (as well as the balloon modelling and cycle powered light up dancefloors) but afterwards also told us in no uncertain terms that if they curated it themselves (which we hope to sort out asap) theyd want an all Katy Perry playlist and a panto dame involved. Quite right too.

 

The Electric Fireside Manningham

The Electric Fireside in Bradford, October 2014.

  • The Irony

We cant be arsed with the irony.

This ensures that we have a completely clear head when the fun starts. We believe that the energy expended in delivering knowing nods and winks, arching eyebrows and staring down increasingly opaque post post-modern telescopic filters is better spent on unreconstructed dance moves and unfashionable enthusiasm. As a Northerner Ive just about got used to the prices in London (HOW much ?!??????) but Ill never understand the reticence to look like youre having fun in case it doesnt look cool. To be honest Id rather make a complete chuff of myself than look knowingly bored and ironic.

So, could what The Brick Box does be described as Live Pop Art?

You can be the judge of that. I’ll just leave you with a comment from one of our satisfied punters regarding the Toast Temple (in my view a fine example of Live Pop Art if ever there was one): “it’s like Duchamp on acid”.

Maybe the next in this sporadic series will be Surrealism and how we do that. But in the meantime I’ll leave you with a Live Pop Art mantra: Popularity! Conviviality! Solidarity!

DSC_5362

The Toast Temple at Wandsworth Arts Festival, May 2014.

Posted on 19 Nov 2015, under Blog.