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Insight: Styx across the River Lea by The Judgement Hall

Text by Piotr Bockowski

DIY multimedia setup under a Tottenham flyover by river Lea

For the past 3 years, the iconic post-industrial subcultures river Lea, snaking in between East End and far East London, has been giving birth to a new underground movement called The Judgment Hall. Surrounded by the relics of the industrial revolution, vast and desolated wastelands, and notorious warehouse districts, River Lea is a living, liquid axis of the many independent art communities, some of them established already for several decades as renowned venues or studios.

In that surrounding, The Judgment Hall proposes a significantly more obscure platform for grassroots creativity, which rediscovers the potency of Lea anew by sourcing directly from the raw energy of the water stream itself. With the ceremonial intensity of carefully curated techno/doom/noise ritual sounds, The Judgment Hall lures a small group of ecstatic dancers into savage terrain of silent conspiracies, obsessions of rough concrete, secret schedules of watery passages, nighttimes of celtic marshes and suffocated, drony echoes of forbidden dungeons, feeding on deep cruelty of uncompromising aesthetical references a plethora of erudite escapisms into darkness.

The first three Judgment Hall events took place back in 2017 & 2018, germinating within the hollows of Tottenham concrete wastelands, nested under flyovers following or crossing River Lea. They established the cult following by offering a fine combination of decadent intellectual refinement married with the overall roughness of squat raves – the marriage of savagery and sophistication that somehow revived the energy of the first experimental decade of Kaos club nights (2003-2013) and cutting edge queer squat art parties Behind Bars (2007-2012).

Later, at the end of 2019 took Judgment Hall down the river to the ex-dungeon in Clapton (the original location of Murder Mile fetish studio since 2009, where also Klub Verboten initially emerged in 2016), with two Records Sessions of their very own label. Immersed in a haunting aura of phantom BDSM, at the same time, The Judgment Hall Records added a traumatically cinematographic dimension to the event. Soon after, at the beginning of 2020, the formula was extended into a multimedia monolith at the several immense floors of the monumental Silver Building in the Docklands, just by the mouth of the river Lea entering the Thames.

Then, the eighth and most recent event escaped back up the river and beyond the outskirts of London to the countryside of Hertfordshire, which county is crossed by the first part of the river Lea. Entering the national park of Cheshunt in order to circle one of the lakes in the Lee Valley with the electricity generator, the Judgment Hall invaded the wild marshy terrain that, even before the Viking or Anglo-Saxon ships invasions, was a place of obsessive Celtic rites of triplism – a multifaceted expression of the extreme potency of nature.

The river Lea is named after the Celtic deity Lugus who also animates the Judgement Hall under his variant name Lupus. Lugus is associated with triplism. Thus, some depictions give him three faces and some others three phalluses. Sometimes he is recognised as one of three triplet brothers, and sometimes he comes from three fathers.

He can also be the mother, the father and the child, which symbolizes the past, the present and the future of changing life. River Lea nourishes the territories of Celtic fertility while becoming a passage to the underworld, as Lupus often invites his stray dancers to “cross the Styx” to access the great marsh. Passing through the ruins of industrial society, the Judgment Hall forms a floating vehicle across the liquid bodies of sound, moving image and human movement, all mineralized via architectural deconstruction towards riverside openings.

(Media courtesy of the writer)
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