Before taking part in Metal’s online series of mini-festivals, artist George Maund talks about the organisation’s role in our cultural ecosystem and the new digitally connected reality for performers.
Adapting to a life lived cooped up with minimal IRL interactions and a dearth of varied stimuli has been a challenge to everyone. Streaming media of all stripes has no doubt helped; some people have found solace in building a life around culinary routines, others have turned to creativity for an outlet or distraction from the oppressive nature of lockdown.
Those who identify as artists, meanwhile, are searching for ways to adapt to a world without shared physical experiences, exhibitions and real world events. Some are understandably struggling while others are finding new leases of life through virtual means. For the organisations which facilitate artists, this has been a period to find new ways to continue to play their role oiling the wheels of creativity, providing platforms or lending a helping hand to their clientele.
A long-time pillar of Liverpool’s creative community, Metal have stood out as an organisation reacting at speed to the unprecedented circumstances and have aided creatives through funding support, commissions and resources. The latest in their efforts comes in the shape of Metal Future Network Shorts.
Starting on Thursday 28th May, Metal Future Network Shorts will exhibit 10-minute long works by a selection of artists, taking place on the last Thursday of each month. The opening programme, co-curated with sister Metal sites in Southend and Peterborough, brings together six artists including Liverpool-based performers Amina Atiq and GEORGE MAUND.
“It’s going to be pretty experimental but a really good taster for what you can expect to blossom out of their next phase,” Maund tells me across Zoom, referring to Metal’s ongoing support to the artists featured in the mini-festival series. “I would actively encourage people who don’t know [Metal] yet to step forward. People interested in the written word, interested in stuff that blurs the boundaries, maybe they don’t think of themselves as an ‘artist’.”
As well as regular Zoom workshops and events like the one on Thursday, Metal’s Remote Residencies support artists in developing their projects which have been affected by the pandemic. A £1,000 stipend, as well as advice and mentoring and practical advice on all facets of their practices, will be a welcome boon to many artists who are understandably struggling in the current environment.
Maund’s own relationship with Metal developed from a live event at the Kazimier Stockroom in November last year. Sharing a bill with Russian artist Aneliya Avtandilova, who was developing a Mass for the city as part of a residency at Metal’s Edgehill train station base, ‘15 Minutes with…’ included performances by IMMIX Ensemble’s Daniel Thorne, George Maund and Matthew Barnes of Forest Swords. The gig, part of a series of shows which showcase artists working with metal in a laidback encouraging environment which encourages experimentation with works in progress is another example of the organisation’s contribution to the leftfield music and arts scenes in the cities they serve.
“They’ve fostered some very, very interesting creative practitioners to pass through their various sites,” Maund continues. “Paul Rooney is a fascinating local-ish musician, and the project The Seven Heads Of Gog Magog was a project from a few years ago from Metal Peterborough that I found in the [Popular Music Show, BBC Radio Merseyside’s long-running alternative music show] archives that’s a set of sort of completely bizarre, lo-fi folk tales. So Metal sort of really lift up a rock and sort of show an ecosystem of trilobites underneath it!”
Maund himself has been involved with a host of innovative projects in Liverpool over his 15 years based in the city and it’s only natural he has found a kinship with Metal. At times a member of such respected outfits as Ex-Easter Island Head, a.P.A.t.T. and Indica Ritual, before going on to perform under the moniker Big Effigy and being part of the team which hosts egalitarian club night Cartier 4 Everyone, Maund has traversed Liverpool’s avant garde underground with much success.
His performance for Metal Future Network Shorts is the sequel to the one at the Stockroom last year and a now rare solo outing for the artist. “I wanted to host people more and not necessarily play out all the time, so this is kind of ex-artist coming out of retirement,” Maund says as I try and prise more details about the performance out of him. The description on the Metal website explains his “predisposition toward the transient, the instant; the spontaneous, and the temporary”, and Maund obviously doesn’t want to prescribe audience’s expectation too much either.
He somewhat clarifies that his 10-minute piece, to be delivered via Instagram Stories, will be a “signal-to-noise-ready alternative TED talk about macrodosing, Jack Dorsey, and being in thrall to new gods – for the attention economy.” He also lets slip how his adventures in experimentation got him into “the spoken word, text-to-speech synthesis, the sound of the machine talking, the computer interpreting the written word with live instrumentation”.
It all makes for an intriguing evening of entertainment, a break from the weekly Zoom quiz or the bedroom acoustic player. The new landscape of online connectivity and isolation doesn’t seem to have been overly conducive to Maund’s own creative process, however. While he shares a house in L8 he is looking to play with the streaming format more to share some of his “good fortune” with more isolated friends in his network, but is struggling in some ways. “To be honest, and I don’t think I’m alone in this, I’ve found it difficult to turn on the creative tap,” Maund explains. “I’m fascinated by this side of people who have been able to crack on but then those who would normally be alright flexing their creative muscle on an evening, or of a weekend but are just finding themselves freefalling.”
All the more important, then, for organisations like Metal to provide a safety net for such artists. Future Network Short is sure to not only be an interesting experiment in developing work but also inspiring to us looking on. The shorts will take place across the day via various platforms, from Zoom to YouTube to Instagram and beyond. Audiences can expect podcast sections, discussions, how-to guides, dance, short talks, workshops, scratch shows and more, hosted live by artists from their homes.
Future Network Shorts starts on Thursday 28th May. To get all the info on Future Network Shorts follow Metal Culture UK on social media. Follow @MetalCultureUK on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, where they will announce artists, set times and digital access information.