Hatch Twelve: ABC (Alternative Bar Crawl)

Text: Wayne Burrows
Photography: Julian Hughes

ABC (Alternative Bar Crawl): Twelve

Of course, participatory work is a feature of many platforms, and another example has its own rather different set-up outside the Angel Club (north) booth in the Embrace cafe-bar. ABC (Alternative Bar Crawl) have been regular contributors to the Leicester Hatch platforms, and for Twelve they chose to set up a kind of research station, asking visitors to write down information in one of two formats, either a moment by moment account of a single day, or a recollection of some key date to be written onto a two-dimensional representation of an object: a book, medicine bottle, clock, plate or wine glass.


Like Angel Club (north), this puts ABC firmly into the area where the work is made by the audience rather than the artists, though the follow-up here, with the many accounts festooned on string around the cafe to create a kind of ever-expanding indoor rain-forest of handwritten leaves and lists, ensures a visual impact on the day that is slightly absent from the results of the minute booth, which pass into the digital realm after the event rather than occupy the space on the day of the performance. As we put on headphones and are guided through the questions and instructions, the process of private memory being made public is certainly felt.


In this sense, ABC’s piece has its roots in the 1930s investigations of everyday life instigated by Mass Observation, asking ordinary people questions about everyday subjects in order to unwrap the textures of life as it tends to be lived by most of us, most of the time. The idea, original in its time, that the brand of tea we might drink, the colours of our curtains, our hours of work and leisure, might all offer a way of looking at the operations of larger social forces at least as revealing as more traditional applications of anthropology has a long history behind it. Which is to say that ABC seem to be pursuing a whimsical spin on something well established: a social history that doesn’t dig too deep, but can on occasion still reveal intriguing things.


Reading the many leaves where they spread upward from the ABC vineyard as the day progresses suggests that our individual uniqueness lies less in how we spend our time than how we feel about it. Does the prevalence of drinking wine after work evoke hedonism and pleasure or a widespread coping mechanism? That so little TV is watched in these accounts might be a refusal to admit that this is how many of us spend a lot of hours, or a more straightforward by-product of an audience whose viewing habits are significantly different to national averages. Who knows what some future statistician could make of these oblique, enigmatic and – by the turn of 11pm, rather picturesque – fragments of documentation?

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