Armchair Destructivists Action 3
Peckham has a bad reputation for muggings and beatings.
Notes on the destruction and re-construction of a chair
Peckham has a bad reputation for muggings and beatings so it seemed like a good place as any to take two no nothing chairs on a Saturday night and see what happened. We could’ve just left them on the high street I guess but random sittings and kickings aren’t really in the spirit of Armchair Destructivism so we took them down to the Scrapclub in Area 10 and offered them up for an especially nasty beating that we could capture on film.
We’d picked up the chairs in the afternoon. One was off the street and the other came from a house clearance place. They were nothing special – mass manufactured and stuck together with little more than glue and a handful of nasty staples. We just missed out on getting one from a crack house but that’s another story.
So Jimmy and I hauled them into Area 10 already feeling like some sort of jailers offering the innocent up for sacrifice. It was the same uneasy feeling as last time when we threw the chair off the cliff at Eastbourne.
Even though we’d only just met these two chairs we had already managed to personify them and project all sorts of human emotions onto them so both of us were feeling guilty as hell knowing what we were about to put them through..
The Scrapclub is held once a month in this huge grunty old warehouse down in Peckham. The guys that run it spend weeks gathering up all sorts of throw aways from around the city – pianos, washing machines, computers, bits of ugly pissed on furniture Come the night they drag these wretched objects ten at a time into a ring and club goers don hard hats and arm themselves with sledgehammers and crowbars and see how much damage they can do to all the stuff in a limited time. They have rounds like a boxing match so the place has the appearance of the Fight Club after the council recycle blokes have had a go at decorating.
We line the two chairs up beside a piano that some girl is gazing at forlornly. It turns out it’s a piano that she’d had for ten years and it won’t fit in her new flat. Seeing as no-one else will take it she’s decided to have it put down. Her sadness is palpable and the place starts feeling like the death room at Battersea Dogs Home. She cheers up a bit when I tell her about the chairs. I say that although we are going to let them get a good beating we will take all the bits back to the workshop and rebuild them before sending them back into the world for a more natural destruction.
Gimpo turns up armed with his camera and some mikes. Its his job to document the armchairs’ destruction. Film will allow us to see the action later without emotion and watch the transformation of the chairs from functional form to whatever they become. It will also be a good reference for the way we reconstruct them.
Round One starts and the whole place explodes into an earsplitting orgy of crashing and banging – steel on steel, shattering glass, crunching and smacking. The ten people in the ring wield their tools with great precision. Its fast and furious and noisy as hell. Theres one woman in there and she is like some Nubian warrior queen- fiery and strong and sexy and working her sledgehammer like she’s slaughtering all her ex husbands at once. Peckham starts to look like a very good place to hang out.
Round Two and we still hold back on the chairs but piano girl decides its now or never so gives the nod to the crew moving stuff into the ring and her beloved piano is next up on death row. She gets into the ring and sits right underneath it. The whole place goes really quiet as she starts playing a swan song on the strings. Its very beautiful and everyone is moved. By the time shes finished a few people are crying but the playing seems to have been a good catharsis for her and next thing you know shes in a hard hat and smashing that little blameless piano to smithereens with a crowbar thats almost bigger than her. Yihaaa – its a fine night at the rodeo.
By Round 3 Jimmy and me are feeling like we did when we were kids and used to stick our heads in bass bins just for a laugh so we go outside to get away from the noise for a bit. Fernando and Jo have turned up looking very serious and smart in their Armchair Destructivist overalls. They have volunteered to be ambulance men for the chairs so have brought a makeshift stretcher made from a couple of scaff poles and an old army tent.. They have become Destructivists since the last action and although into the theory of the movement they are now feeling the same sickening guilt as us when it comes to the action. Like me, Fernando is a chairmaker, so initiating the destruction of chairs is a bit like two doctors setting rottweilers onto the neighbours children just so we get something interesting to stitch up. Or maybe its just some sort of fucked up guilt about wanting to destroy the things we love. Best not to go too deep or might end up at art school.
Round 4 we put the first chair up in the ring. We limit the number of beaters to three and give them only a minute to do their worst. We call it a One Minute Wonder.
I give a little speech explaining what we are about then stand back and watch the destruction. The chair is such a frail thing anyway it crumbles with the first blow. Its arm hangs loose and then its wing flaps off and you can hear the frame cracking and splintering inside the fabric. Its like watching a pensioner get battered on their way back from the Post Office. Not nice. By the time the round is over its a sad flattened little chair not fit for purpose. It’s tenderly picked up and carried off on the stretcher and laid to rest in the yard
We let another round go by and then offer up the second chair. This one is bigger and looks alot more solid so we give the three selected beaters two minutes this time to do the beating.. They go for it – smashing and thumping. Its fat with foam so it puts up some resistance to the first blows but then inevitably begins to crack and break. The back is broken, the arms twist and splay unnaturally and then one whole side of chipboard creaks and crumbles and just caves in. Finally the stupid chair just gives up the will to live and is pummelled and battered into a miserable overdressed heap. When the end of round bell rings we sigh collectively and applaud halfheartedly as it is removed smartly from the ring. The Armchair Destruction is over. We load the broken carcasses into the car and drive home unable to speak.. Peckham has a bad reputation for muggings and beatings.