Centrefold: In at the deep end: Underground artists come out to play

Clare Bayley
Thursday 07 July 1994 23:02

Never mind the Proms or productions of Shakespeare in historic houses, this week sees the resurfacing of London's underground artists, as robustly counter-cultural as you could hope for. Based at a converted swimming-pool, now the Bridewell Theatre just off Fleet Street, London Underground plumbs some of London's murkier cultural depths. Poet and author of Downriver, Iain Sinclair masterminds a collection of literary and performance events under the title Subversion on the Street of Shame (14-16 Jul), artist Heath Bunting creates a computer installation exposing a secret geography of London (12 Jul), and Loophole Cinema presents Down There (8-9 Jul), with its usual combination of projection, video, shadow-play and sampled sound (right).

'The name Loophole comes from the fact that we make cinema which isn't cinema,' explains a jovial Greg Pope, founder member of the group. The name is also a reference to its origins as Situation Cinema in Brighton in the mid-Eighties. 'About 20 of us got together and realised that between us we had about eight projectors and 10 cameras. So we hired a pub theatre, set up lots of loops of Super 8, and while they ran had a honky-tonk piano playing and clog-dancing, like a happening. It wasn't quite my original idea, but that was probably a good thing,' he quips.

On one occasion, 10 people with cameras surrounded a prehistoric stone ring on the South Downs near Brighton and filmed as they walked towards it. The resulting footage was projected in a ring which the audience would walk into, and see their shadows interacting with the film.

'We mainly do events in disused buildings where audiences can't sit down,' says Pope by way of explanation as to why audience interaction is so important to Loophole's work. The derelict buildings which the group has used to date include an old tannery on Bermondsey Street, a 200ft munitions factory space in Germany and an abandoned tower block in Birmingham. Compared to this, a converted swimming-pool might seem almost tame. 'It's a fascinating space,' enthuses Pope. 'There's a void underneath the stage where the pool used to be, and we know there are labyrinthine tunnels beneath the building. There was a well sunk, that's why it's called Bridewell, there's the Wren church of St Bride next door, and the river Fleet which runs underneath Fleet Street. Down There uses as much of the atmosphere of the place as possible'.

London Underground at the Bridewell, EC4 (071-936 3456) to 16 Jul

(Photograph omitted)

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