Monday, May 29, 2006

Nantes - Breweries, Old Cookies and the Hub Collective

It all started with a toilet problem. John Morin of the Hub Collective communicated me this little inconvenience via mail. In my imagination I saw a rusty coloured yard full of old bicycles, cartires and the remains of a schoolbus and in a corner the concrete rests of what once was a toilet. The toilet problem got solved. Portable cabins had arrived. But soon another mail revealed another problem.
The door of the Blockhaus had been damaged. And in the same niche of my imagination a 30 centimer thick iron door appeared, blown out of function by thirty kilo's of
dynamite. Also the door problem got solved. But yet another mail arrived: the equipment had been stolen. The courtyard in my imagination remained the same, but
this time it rained and the raindrops looked like stainless steel. John had left. Night fell over my fantasy, but not over the HUB-collective.

When I arrived in Nantes I noticed that I was ahead of springtime. I was struck by a fierce wind, majestic light and huge clouds. I was hosted by Carinne and John in their petite residence, who told me a petite histoire of Nantes, city of shipbuilders and breweries, and once a port to the many who sailed the ocean to find new life and also to the few who sailed out to join in on old cruelties.
They also told me the story of HUB. A collective of local musicians who had rented an WWII sheltering bunker near the river. Not exactly the rusty courtyard I had
thought of, but located in an area with vanishing commercial activities, alongside a railroadtrack, where the hardest work was done by nature. A building site added some temporarily desolation. The good point was that it might help the HUB finding public: what now looked like concrete geometrics, was meant to house students in a
year or so.

I was there two days. Those two days gave a nice illustration of what HUB was capable of: I did an illegal concert in the last shipyard of Nantes. Equipment, recording gear and documentation were provided by John and Carinne. Then I did a concert in the Blockhaus (over John&Carinne's private stereo) with -surprisingly- a
very nice and warm almost pluchelike atmosphere and did one of the most relaxed concerts of the tour; Last, an interview and live radiophonic production for the local JETFM-radio, also this meeting being arranged by John and Carinne.

Again I encountered musicians who were willing to spend time and energy in producing some kind of music, host soundicians, maintain contacts with soundicians abroad,
produce CDr-'s, try to get more visibility. They get some support from the local council, that serves to pay the rent; it's not enough to finance other activities.
Apparently most of the money goes to the Lieu Unique, an organisation that resides in an old cookie factory. Also they do good work. But the artists that they invite don't belong to the margins anymore. And since this blog is all about the ultramargins, and the importance of supporting and stimulating the ultramarginal soundicians in order to keep alive the base where it all comes from, I decided to
write a letter to the people of Lieu Unique.


Dear,

When I was in Nantes last april, I didn't have the time to visit the old cookie factory. Maybe I will do so another time, because I am very interested to see how a factory got transformed into a centre of the arts. The website gave me some impression of the character of your place: it seems that it aims at making the new and somehow still experimental arts more accessable to a broader public.

I sincerely hope that you succeed in this policy, because it also gives some sense to the activities of people who are way ahead of you. I don't mean that these pioneers are way ahead in taste. They are exploring the very limits of the arts, and can do so, because they don't feel the pressure of a programmer or curator who will judge these activities by their commercial but surely also their artistic value. These judgements define the distance.

I know from first hand information how staalplaat started almost 25 years ago in an Amsterdam squat selling cassettes that were handed to them by the musicians. From that point onwards staalplaat developed itself into a shop with a worldwide network.
It took staalplaatsoundicians 25 years to become what they are, including worthy of being invited to the I.D.E.A.L. festival.

I write to you, because I am part of a sonic world, and as such have been hosted by the HUB collective in your town. They operate in the margins, with marginal help of
the town council. The lack of money puts limits to their activities. Through their network they could be able to attract soundicians from outside France.

And it is in this respect that I write to you. I would like to ask you to study and consider the possibility to host Hub collective at the Lieu Unique every three months. Give them some financial help and artistic freedom and see what kind of programme they can present. It will surely give you a pleasant insight in the activities that take place in the ultramargins of the sonic world.

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