Bridges, Roads, and Odes at the CCA

You are currently viewing Bridges, Roads, and Odes at the CCA

Words: Ava Ahmann (She/Her) 

(First, put on DJ Persuasion’s Dedicated to the Dedicated 94-95

Bridges, Roads, and Odes, a mixture of poetry, visual art, and dance music production, debuted at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow on the 11th of April. The audience sat enthralled as Nina Stranger and Catriona Beckett wove together a story of futurism, change, movement, and human desire. As Beckett laid out in spoken word the story of a character grappling with language and exploring their lived environment, images of the M8 in its bifurcated glory – parts unfinished, featuring familiar and unfamiliar stretches of roadway – spun and distorted to the sounds of dance music of all colors; the main tint however, the sound of jungle. Jungle, in its blend of raw elements and feverish drum patterns is certainly industrial to a degree – in the opaque way that all dance music is to a degree industrial – but has a raw feeling of emotion that tethers it to the human, whether through snippets of vocals or in the delivery of the amen break alongside haunting chords, that edge of danger, of the ‘‘ruff.’’ 

The poeticism of the event centred around ruminations on interconnectedness, and the links between the human-inhuman; the built and the natural environment. In turn, the M8 began to take on the role of a vessel in which to envisage a different way of living. The M8, an infamous hallmark of Glasgow’s physical DNA, is testament to the impact that urban planning has on our lives, influencing our movements and becoming part of the visual fabric of our existence. Take the indelible image of the light blue underbelly of the roadway bifurcating the skyline at the end of Pollokshaws Road, the scene of clubbers sitting on the stoop of concrete at the precipice of the M8 by the Berkeley Suite, or a snippet of hazy individuals skating down a bit of closed roadway during deep pandemic days. Our daily life is both explicitly and unconsciously influenced by infrastructure, as our paths, movements, and memories become mixed into the concrete, stonework, glass, and scaffolding that surrounds us. 

At the time of its inception, the M8 was a futuristic and highly regarded addition to the city’s arteries, heralded as a key development for transport in Scotland. The development of the M8, however, was concomitant with the destruction of various parts of the city in order to make way for its creation. The roadway also faces contemporary social resistance, with the Glasgow based organization Replace the M8 seeking to change the M8, focusing on more ‘human driven’ infrastructure such as green spaces and pedestrian thoroughfares. The M8’s literal bifurcation of the city, at one time deemed futuristic and essential, is now seen as antiquated and unhealthy, a relic of a bygone era of city planning. 

There is an inherent social and political element of urban planning, and the period during which the M8 was constructed, over a drawn out 15 years from 1965 to 1980, mirrored a similar push towards large-scale highway developments in the United Kingdom and United States. In the US, the movement towards an intensive interlocking highway system decimated communities of color, as, according to the US Department of Transportation, ‘475,000 households and more than a million people were displaced nationwide.’ The Instagram page @segregation_by_design documents these instances of grave upheaval resulting from urban planning, through careful renderings of the before and after of urban infrastructure projects, such as roadways. Just as the M8 resulted in the displacement of many, and allowed for the quartering off of the wealthy West End from other parts of the city, roadways have been utilized to displace and harm poorer residents and restructure cities to uphold classist and capitalist world visions.  

The work of Stranger and Beckett allowed the mind to roam on matters of social interface with the built environment, in order to question the impact and use of urban planning in our lives. Stranger, an Aberdeen-based DJ and motion designer, and Beckett, a Glasgow-based interdisciplinary artist, were able to capture a video game-esque version of the city, in an impressive and mind boggling display of virtuality. As Beckett’s softened delivery of poetry gave way to Stranger’s sonic composition, the playful nature and intelligence of the work made it enthralling, evoking curiosity in the spectator. It was like zooming out on our everyday lives, seeing ourselves as part of a larger pattern of decisions and alterations of our lived environment. Something video game-like, but of our own reality, that of Glasgow and of the M8. The mix of poetry, with its romantic sensibilities, and historic identity as a means of storytelling, worked well alongside the soundtrack, which had that exciting, propellant nature of ‘‘video game music’’ so to speak, a reminder that games like Grand Theft Auto and Tekken are their own sites of sonic distillation and taste making. The exhibition was cinematic, and the use of jungle and breakbeat production made it more so, as Glasgow was transformed into a neither here nor there digital ghost town, the haunting and emotive texture of jungle aiding this visualisation. 

Jungle originated from the tying together of both a traditional, grounded dance sound with a clear futuristic tone, one that continues to captivate audiences to this day. Jungle’s development was largely borne out of large cities such as London, where Black DJs and producers generated the sound. The genre’s inception and its development are akin to city architecture; the amalgamated product of decades of sonic building blocks, beginning with dancehall, continuing through dub and hardcore rave sounds, and giving way to drum and bass and dubstep. The ‘‘hardcore continuum’’, as termed by music journalist Simon Reynolds, conceives of the ebb and flow of ‘‘hardcore’’ dance music in its orbit around jungle, and jungle’s predecessors of breakbeat house and ragga techno. Much like the piecemeal additions to urban infrastructure that become embraced and then mutated with time, dance music is constantly caught somewhere between the past and present. Like a ghostly being two-stepping on the dance floor, there exists an essential blur, as every movement we make as dancers is as indebted to the past as it is conducive to the future. 

Bridges, Roads, and Odes in its careening and spiritual treatise on the future of our everyday, of our cities, and of ourselves, was an exploratory delight whose emphasis on dance music sewed together different mediums deftly – leaving the audience to ponder as well as daydream.


0 0 votes
Article Rating

Leave a Reply

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments