A Timeline of Ephemeral Spaces in Club Culture


In 1991, as a baby, I slept in the cloakroom of a nightclub with my sister, while my Mum worked the door and my Dad the bar. We spent our weekend mornings sliding down mirrored stair rails and climbing dance floor podiums. Everything was always sticky, and the air thick with the hangover of a decade's worth of cigarette smoke, sugary drinks, and dry ice fluid soaked into the carpet which would 'crunch' underfoot. The nightclub I grew up in was not special and certainly no subversive utopia, but today it stands out for its bizarre ordinariness - just another rural Superclub.

Today, you're lucky to find a legitimate nightclub in a capital city, let alone a small town. Over the last ten years, we have witnessed the steady disappearance of grassroots cultural spaces and collective social values (with over two-thirds of nightclubs shutting since 2008); and the rise of a culture defined by social media individualism, hyper-capitalism and widening divisions. The disappearance of club spaces is a global trend, but it's particularly evident in Ireland, where antiquated licensing laws, and a once(now twice)-in-a-generation economic crisis have squeezed any remaining viability out of an industry already on it's knees. In Dublin city centre (home to over a quarter of the country's population), the final three were demolished last year to make way for hotels and student accommodation developments funded by foreign investment funds, echoing the financialisation of city property markets globally that has converted ever-more venues to prime hotel, office and residential developments without replacement.

Have the crises merely accelerated the inevitable - as interest in nightclubs gives way to festivals, dating apps, and the wellness trend? Or do we simply need a rethink of what a nightclub is and what it can be for the society it exists in?

It's bitterly ironic that this extinction of club spaces has come at a time when interest and consumption of club "culture" is at an all time high (in contrast to the drink-driven 'clubbing' of the '00s). And when a culture defined by social media individualism, hyper-capitalism and widening division is compounded by a global pandemic, civil unrest, and a looming recession - forcing us to truly confront our sense of detachment with a complete social and economic rethink, and reminding us of the essential role of shared physical experiences and spaces for communal transcendence. It is in times like these that the unifying potential of the dance floor can truly be realised.

In an attempt to understand where we go from here, we examine the long history of ephemeral spaces and creative spirit in club culture: the movements, the spaces, and the grassroots scenes that forged them the face of the social and political challenges of the time.

What began as research for a temporary club we were planning to build this year, has acquired a special relevance over the last few months. As Coronavirus forces the closure of the entire nightlife industry (with clubs among the hardest hit, and many spaces which will never open again), and igniting a long-overdue rethink, we have an opportunity to create a new generation of purposeful clubs. Already, with projects like 'Save our Scene,' 'Club Quarantine,' and 'Support NYC Nightlife,' rallying around issues such as arts unemployment, queer mutual support, and racial justice, we are beginning to see early signs of these regenerative nightlife possibilities.

As life is allowed to return to space, and the need for collective human experience never greater, and as ever-more space will crave new life, the 'post-club' perspective takes on a heightened application.

And so we propose a new 'open-source' clubbing model that will enable club creatives to take us through the coronavirus and beyond.

In the coming weeks and months, our site will serve as an online community centre and free resource. It will host a unique digital archive based on over six months research, documenting, categorising, and dissecting club spaces in history alongside architectural plans and ephemera. Through online workshops, think-pieces, and interviews, we hope Temporary Pleasure can serve as not only historical reference, but a manual for post-Covid nightlife regeneration.

Not limited to the screen, Temporary Pleasure will shift as the situation evolves. From ‘download-and-make’ DIY projects, to IRL club-building workshops, and post-Covid temporary venues.

The first in this series, 'A Timeline of Ephemeral Spaces in Club Culture', (produced over the course of lockdown in collaboration with Other Office), is a free, downloadable art piece charting club culture and its various mutations through (mostly DIY, temporary) spaces associated with each movement from the emergence of the nightclub concept to today's post-club models. An introduction to the key spaces, scenes, and social and political challenges they arose in response to.

Donations are accepted with thanks, with 50% of the proceeds spilt evenly between MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland www.masi.ie) and organisations providing disaster relief in Lebanon (helplebanon.carrd.co). The remaining proceeds will go towards the construction costs associated with the digital archive.

Design: Other Office - otheroffice.net