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What They Could Do, They Did is an ongoing series of happenings, created and directed by a diverse collection of London-based artists working to create an open space in which things can take place that might not happen in a normal art gallery or performance space. It takes the form of an integrated whole, encompassing static and temporary pieces, texts, workshops and live performances. It is a process, a group of practitioners, and a series of events whose content is defined by artists & participants and curated collaboratively. The artists operate simultaneously as independent agents and as part of the wider social construct, together. Membership is defined by participation and contribution and the structure of the collective is a shifting experiment in formal relationships.

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From The Guardian Guide, July 2006:



Backstory

What They Could Do, They Did was formed in 2006 by a group of emerging artists, musicians, photographers, sound artists, writers, actors, seamstresses and misfits. Given free reign at the Forest Café in Edinburgh for 4 days in high summer, they produced a miraculous micro-festival from the bottoms of their laptops, brains, hands, threads, pens, pencils and pockets; creating not only a diverse, multi-disciplinary show but also cementing an ethic of free art supported by rigorous process. This was in part a response to the type of free space the Forest provides, and in part an articulation of an artistic practice that invites and indeed thrives on collaboration with any unsuspecting wanderer, be it curiosity or simply happenstance that draws them through the door.

Another show followed, this time in the collective's native London (Peckham) in an abandoned car showroom turned art gallery/performance space. Auto Italia South East (run by the then Midnight Blue Collective) played host to another dazzling 4-day show, this time with a much more extensive gallery exhibition that ranged from live time-lapse photography to life-size shadow puppet renderings of bawdy Eskimo folk tales.

2007 also saw the collective return to the Forest Café, this time for 7 days of madness, invited to open the month-long Fringe shennanigans hosted there. With nights given over to individual curators, the offerings were as diverse and fantastical as can be. With nights bearing titles such as 'Avant-Pop' (including a Prince covers set, feminist revolutionary animation and a 20-piece improv pop band), the week was as varied as it was spectacular. The closing party, which featured a live A/V remix of the week's events, laptop rockers, dancers, dressing up, and performances from the likes of Viking Moses and Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls), was quite the spectacle.

Invited back in 2008, What They Could Do, They Did closed the festival with an epic 4-day party: ground vibrating, oscilating with the thud of dancers dancing and the din of lions roaring, burning sugar, made up boys, gorillas walzing with young men, painted bodies, squalling actors, skirt hems, braces and boot laces, memories fading and regaining, faces painted and regaling, orphans, teachers, singers, preachers, costume-makers and heart-breakers, double-jointed pianists, painters painting with their fists, poets, writers, beat! beat! the drum and welcome in everyone.

The 2008 programme also included a collaborative party with Battersea Art Centre performers as part of Forest Fringe on Tuesday 19th August, a prelude to What They Could Do, They Did's takeover of the space from 20th - 23rd August 2008.

From 2008 and into 2009, we have been staging a monthly series of night-time events at Herne Hill's Escape Bar And Art, building our links with other local arts practices. On the basis of a rolling monthly curatorship, we have showcased a broad range of music and performance, from Disinformation's visceral electric "circuit-blasting", Rose Elinor-Dougall's dreamy keyboard pop, Shimmy Rivers and Canal's angular noise, and rising piano-guitar duo So Say So, to Bunty's stunning vocal looping, AK/DK's drum'n'synth duels and The Capsized Smiles' B-movie cabaret.

We were also delighted to be invited to host a room at Shunt Vaults as part of the Beatabet collective's 'All Fours' festival. Monikered 'The Freakeasy', we took cues from Parisian cabaret and the prohibition-era speakeasy, enveloping the space with sumptuous decor and an atmosphere of intimate excess.