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Sheffield queer collective bring northern club culture to one of London's top galleries

Gut Level's month-long Barbican takeover will include a party full of northern talent as well as a knowledge-sharing session for DIY venues across the region.

GL Barbican 4

Gut Level's aim is to provide social and creative opportunities for underrepresented groups in Sheffield.

Gut Level.

A Sheffield-based collective of queer musicians, artists and activists will take over one of London's top cultural institutions for a month, with the aim of bringing a taste of northern club culture to the capital.

Gut Level have been invited by RESOLVE Collective to programme the Barbican's Curve Gallery throughout June, with a photo exhibition focusing on "the strength, resilience and queer hedonism of the northern DIY scene."

The residency will also feature a discussion day, inviting DIY venues from across the North, including Mondo Radio, Partisan Collective and Wharf Chambers, to share knowledge and discuss strategies for future survival.

"It’s dead exciting to be offered the opportunity to collaborate on a project within this space. But what would we do? Instinctually, it’s hard not to resist the urge to mirror the aesthetics and sensibilities of the institution itself as a place of contemporary art," wrote Gut Level on their website.

"We could attempt to deliver something sleek and polished, pull together a panel discussion or program something conceptual and convoluted. But who would that serve?"

"The truth is, we’ve never been polished, always messy. We’ve always cared much more about the experience people have within our space than the production of some kind of aesthetic ideal."

Gut Level said that when thinking about their residency they had asked themselves how a grassroots DIY venue could "take up space within this institution without being complicit in pandering to its status."

They also wondered whether they could "hijack the space to bring our cretinous sensibilities to an exclusive, arguably impenetrable institution like The Barbican."

The takeover comes at the invitation of RESOLVE, an interdisciplinary design collective founded in south London who use architecture, art and technology to address questions of social justice and systemic change.

The group already have links to Sheffield, having previously taken over S1 Artspace at Park Hill in the summer of 2019. Co-created with local residents and college students, The Garage looked at the various ways the built environment affects us as citizens and how we can affect it in turn.

Resolve thems the breaks

Part of RESOLVE Collective's 'Them's the Breaks' show at The Barbican's Curve Gallery.

RESOLVE Collective.

Their four-month programme at The Barbican, Them's The Breaks, features a series of collaborators exploring the theme of joy in precariousness.

Gut Level are marking the start of their takeover with a party in the Curve Gallery on 3 June called The Cute and Sexy North. It'll feature DJ sets from Cosmic Tom and bossDADDY from Leeds, as well as Sheffield's MYNA and Malus and Gut Level residents.

Gut Level is a not-for-profit organisation currently based in the old Foodhall building on Eyre Street. Its aim is to provide social and creative opportunities for underrepresented groups in Sheffield, with a particular focus on LGBTQ+ people.

They host a range of arts and culture events, skill-sharing workshops, communal meals, music-sharing socials and late-night parties at pop-up venues around the city.

The organisation, which is currently searching for a new permanent home, operates on a membership model. It currently has over 1,700 members, most of which are Sheffield residents and 59% of which identify as LGBTQ+.

GL Barbican 6

Gut Level's photographic exhibition runs from 1 to 30 June.

Gut Level.

"We’re naturally sniffy about institutions like The Barbican, who have been publicly called out for their shittness in recent years," said Gut Level on Instagram, referring to allegations from former members of staff of racism at the prestigious arts centre.

"But we felt this was a fab opportunity to use some of their resources and budget to show off the sexy DIY scene in the north. Big respect to the amazing Resolve Collective for the invite and for being solid friends, advisors and supporters throughout the years."

DIY in The North: Strength, Resistance and Hedonism

Gut Level's exhibition runs from 1 June to 30 June at The Barbican's Curve Gallery, London. Entry is free.

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