Updated: Mar 9, 2021
Copyright Joëlle Dépont
This is me in my room, London circa 1984, a contact sheet of photos taken by my friend Joëlle Dépont, who lived in the next door room and was a rock photographer, one reason why the pictures are so good. Note the gas fire, the only heating, the futon I bought with the first £1,000 of my Arts Council video artist-in-residence grant, based at the North East London Polytechnic, and the U-matic video player on the floor with a Sony Trinitron monitor. The Trinitron was widely regarded at the time as the best TV to exhibit your work on.
We were living in a quasi-artist’s commune, IGA, short for Intergalactic Arts, just by the Elephant and Castle. It was cheap, and walking distance to central London; always in fact on maps of central London but invariably covered over by the legend in the bottom left hand corner, showing the scale and description of the map. A forgotten corner of the almost city centre, and ungentrified then and hardly even now. It was ‘quasi’, because although the huge ex pub looked like a squat, we in fact paid rent to the council, and we were a diverse bunch hardly into group living, although the seven of us did pay £10 into a weekly fund and everyone cooked one communal meal a week for the others.
There were band rehearsal studios in the old beer cellars, damp, with carpets on the walls, and a dance studio on the first floor. Often I would walk through the front door after a day at the Polytechnic and push my way through groups of tap dancing girls in the hallway, waiting for the studio to become free. If you worked for IGA studios, or Ro and Mandy who ran it, you got your room and food paid for, plus ten quid spending money and a quarter of Pakistani black hash, a workplace benefit rarely seen these days. I was the only one of the seven of us who had a job I commuted out to, and I only worked one day a week at the Poly as a fine art tutor, in addition to the residency.
When the cellar next door was cleared of rubbish, it became a 4 track recording studio for Brian, who didn't live in the house but was closely associated with it and spent seemingly most of his time there, often smoking in a large kitchen with visitors and residents. Brian had been bass player for the Winkies, who had been a 1970s pub rock band and semi famously backed Brian Eno on an album and also on his first and only solo tour.
My friend Tony and I were in the studio with him trying to create an extended mash up mix, based around Chic’s I want your love, coupled with Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Relax. The equipment was ramshackle and temperamental, the space was tiny and we kept getting in each other's way. Brian had a way with words, but he often lost control of them, ending many long sentences with ‘….or whatever’. At this time of confusion he summed the situation up with a phrase where the metaphors themselves were so fused together that it would require an advanced nuclear process to separate them.
“It’s a case Steve and Tony’ he exclaimed in frustration, ‘of too many chefs, and not enough broths’.