THE REVOLUTION WILL COME FROM BELOW
performed by Hugo Terva in Laurie Grove Baths, London
Laurie Grove baths in New Cross was built as part of a Victorian municipal drive to civilise the “great unwashed” of industrial south London. Now the main pool is filled with art students.
The baths opened in April 1898 and was intended to help improve social conditions through hygiene and cleanliness. Some of the visitors were among the poorest members of the community and the chance to get clean offered them a shred of dignity. Although the pools survived until 1991, the building was used from 1954 by the Anglo-Caribbean Club. At a time when most pubs in South East London excluded black people, Laurie Grove baths provided many people with a place to meet. In 1994, Goldsmiths repurposed the building to a shared studio facility for Fine Art students. Since then, the swimmingpools have been covered with wooden floorboards, on top of which now sit the studios. Walking through the Laurie Grove Baths today, it is easy to forget its original function.
For this work I collaborated with Hugo Terva, a heavy metal drummer. By carefully excavating the screws of one of the floorboards, scraping off layers and layers of paint, I gained access to the large pool. The space of the pool hadn’t been entered for over two decades. We placed Hugo’s drumkit in the cavity of the main pool, and created a trap door through which we would be able to enter the space. Terva played an unannounced 15 minute drumsolo each hour over the course the exhibition. A small hole in the exhibition floor lured the audience to look down to the space below, but alas there would be nothing to see. A television next to the hole displayed a low-quality video feed of the drummer underground.
The sound of the drums echoed against the tiled walls of the pool, sending its vibrations through the floor, resonating throughout the grand hall of what used to be the main pool. Not only was the sound audible, it could be felt with the body, pulsating through feet and limbs. The work makes audible and palpable that which is no longer visible, but decidedly penetrates the entire architecture of the building. An echo of the past.
Special thanks to Nick Grimmer, Mark Heddon and Hugo Terva, without whom this work would not have been possible. Black and white photos by Photos by Rafael Pietka