So, Blast Theory is 30 years old. Those freewheeling years of our twenties – all parties, waking up in unexpected places, fraught future plans – are over and it’s time to get serious.
Those little shudders when I met people who weren’t born when we started has given way to ones when I’m working with people who were in nappies when we held our 10th birthday.
We just recorded a short film about our first show Gunmen Kill Three. In it, an audience member was invited to shoot a performer with a paintball gun. We don’t have any video of the show because in those days shooting a video was too expensive. Even the photos are black and white.
Because Nick is the new kid – he joined in 1994 – he sat me and Ju down to ask us about the very first moments when Blast Theory came into being and why we shot someone with a paintball gun.
The video of that conversation will be out soon… but you can watch the teaser below:
While some things have changed beyond all recognition, some things still hold. We started out to make live work that embraced technology. We believed there was an audience hungry for ideas about how power works. We wanted to blast theory and bless practice. We wanted to surprise and provoke and take risks.
One of my strongest memories of the first few years of Blast Theory is that we were scrabbling to find a language to express our ideas. Every show seemed like it could be our last.
We wanted to work with video but could only afford to hire a video projector on the day of the performances. So for a work-in-progress showing of Chemical Wedding we hung big sheets of paper as ‘projection’ screens and then I described what would be on them throughout the performance.
So it’s fascinating to look back and see those early shows – Gunmen Kill Three, Chemical Wedding and Stampede – as the roots of our aesthetic. They were raw, sometimes chaotic and very interactive. Part club night, part performance. Computers are front and centre.
Early supporters like Deb Chadbourne, Tim Etchells, Lois Keidan, Sonia Serafin and David Hughes helped us when we were scrappy upstarts. Their encouragement was a lifeline then. Our first commission for the ICA in London was for £250 and we were delighted.
Mark E Smith wrote “only humans carry their past around”. Nostalgia is dangerous but we’ll be exploring our past a little over the next couple of months. Where we came from drives where we will go next.
In the meantime, the studio will be closed over Christmas and we will be back on the 5th January. I wish you a very happy 2022.