My wife, an artist, took me to a performance of The Readers in Hackney the other night, an avant-garde performance art group led by two contemporary artists Ramon Salgado-Touzon and Jones Tensini. “What do they do?” I asked her dismissively, on the way to the venue. “Well, it’s hard to explain,” she replied. “They’re specialists in keynote, foreground and electro-acoustic sounds, which in English means they play and perform music quite like you’ve never heard and seen before.” I judged this to be a euphemism for “obscure, abstract, nonsensical arty bullshit!” But hell, I was wrong. What I heard and saw that night was wonderful, extraordinary. Think the minimalism of Phillip Glass but rife with even more sounds – a cornet, a harp, a bell, a glockenspiel, a vocoder, a human scream, a musical saw, the list of instruments does not end here. Think the melancholic, haunting voice of Billie Holiday but from a contra tenor dressed in a striking dress and corset, and wearing high heels. I lost myself in the performance and music, the group’s mantra ringing in my ears: “The Readers want to free you from your need to consume.” Why was I so moved, entranced? Well, my work as a film producer and novelist is predominantly hard-nosed and commercial: I want people to consume what I create. The end product might inspire artistic feeling in the viewing and reading public, yet the making and selling of it rarely does. Today, a producer, even a novelist if truth be told (writers have to get out there now like everyone else does and flog their work), hustles and pushes all the way, money driving the process, creativity typically way down the list of priorities. And here, in The Readers, was art for art’s sake, crucial and precious in a world which commodifies everything. Go see them, lose yourself in them, and learn to value real art once more.
Go to The Readers