Artist Brandon LaBelle and youth from Struer turn silo into Freedom Club

“A club for me is a transformative space; you leave the club and quite often, if you haven’t been changed, you were kind of searching for it to begin with.”

American artist Brandon LaBelle and young people from Struer invite us out for clubbing at the old industrial silo on the harbour during Struer Tracks. Together they form an art project that investigates clubs as zones of social experimentation and transformation.

“Basically”, says artist Brandon LaBelle, “we’re gonna establish some kind of club or creative environment by the harbour”. He is talking about the installation “Freedom Club” he will be doing for Struer Tracks in collaboration with The Union – a group of international students from Struer Boarding School.

The space will function in multiple ways: as an installation with works of video and sound art; as a rehearsal space where musicians can gather, hang out together and jam; and a club, which will open on certain nights and where bands will perform.

Another zone of behaviour

The industrial part of Struer Harbour that will be the setting for LaBelles exhibition 

When LaBelle talks about clubs he is referring to places often appearing in abandoned buildings or industrial warehouses, underground or in hidden places. They are dirty places filled with music, sound, listening and movement:

“Clubs are a bit undefined, a bit off track, in the periphery. And all those qualities contribute to the experience of clubbing in terms of entering into another zone of behaviour, relationships, and expression.”

This is exactly what LaBelle wants to investigate. What emerges from these subcultural spaces driven by music culture? What relations? What politics? What fantasies?

“A club for me”, LaBelle says, “is a transformative space; you leave the club and quite often, if you haven’t been changed, you were kind of searching for it to begin with.”

Sweat, beer, noise, and alternative worlds

“The Union focuses on music, so I will bring video- and sound pieces into the club to open up a space for reflections. So on one hand there is a performative dimension, where we build this club, we perform in it, we live it. And then there is more of a reflective level, where we talk about clubs in general, talk about teenage life, sound and listening.”

To LaBelle there is a very strong autobiographical aspect in the Freedom Club project. Visiting the harbour in Struer made him think about his own experiences as a teenager attending clubs and playing in rehearsal spaces filled with gear, sweat, beer and noise in a messy, loose and rough atmosphere.

He started as a drummer playing with his best friends in a garage:

“These places became extremely important for engaging with something that is outside the family structure. They are a bit anarchic and offer space for other kinds of sociality. It’s where teenagers can come together and create their own worlds. That is something I’ve experienced myself and feel very shaped by.”

Working together – living the club

Collaboration is central to LaBelle´s artistic practice both in general and when it comes to Freedom Club. The Union and LaBelle have just recently started working together, but the young people already have their own ideas and a lot of drive:

“The Union focuses on music, so I will bring video- and sound pieces into the club to open up a space for reflections. So on one hand there is a performative dimension, where we build this club, we perform in it, we live it. And then there is more of a reflective level, where we talk about clubs in general, talk about teenage life, sound and listening.”

From now on the process will involve exploring and unfolding ideas together, responding to each other and exploring the possibilities, LaBelle says.

Connected by sound

Collaborations and relationships are essential not only for LaBelle’s artworks but also in the way he thinks about sound in general: “I guess my approach to sound or what excites me, is the way sound enables relations. Leading us into, or intensifying our sense of being interconnected. Giving us the possibility of relating to something outside ourselves”.

To LaBelle this is not only about engaging in already existing relationships, but also imagining other kinds. To relate and engage in the unknown, and to recognize and embrace that we do not know what we are and what the world is. Sound and listening can help create those kinds of connections.

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Brandon LaBelle is an American artist, writer and theorist living in Berlin and working with sound, performance, text and sited constructions.

Struer Tracks is an international biennial of sound art that takes place in the urban space of a little Danish town, Struer. The biennial will take place for the third time from August 20 to September 5th 2021 - The theme is "Landscapes of Sound" and is curated by Charlotte Bagger Brandt