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Tom Brown - Petition to the Earl of Dorset (Miscellanies Over Claret, 1697)
London offers many possibilities for inner city space exploration programmes. As a city composed of startling contrasts and diverse zones of experience, London inhabitants use urban space in a variety of ways, not all of which are sanctioned by the authorities. London continues to observe a multitude of everyday conflicts, including the Association of Autonomous Astronauts' own explorations into sex in zero gravity, raves in space and games of three-sided football. With this in mind, Inner City AAA have conducted an intense series of researches into the psychogeographical qualities of various London sites, and we are now able to announce that our first launch pad has been successfully located in Grub Street.
'Grub Street' entered the language in the 17th Century and became a household phrase in Hanoverian England, a metaphor for the seamier side of life. Grub Street was a place of filth, clutter, noise and squalor, home to crowds of sharpers, thieves, beggars and harlots. Then, following the lapse of the Press Licensing Act in 1695, scores of printing presses based themselves in the area, accompanied by the writers that could now hope to make a living from their newly established profession, no longer having to depend on the patronage of aristocrats.
Grub Street came to be associated with the literary hacks that lived and worked there throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries. The huge increase in publishing fed the growing appetite of a predominantly middle-class reading public. But this rise of a publishing industry also increased the availability of politically subversive texts, broadsheets and pamphlets that were largely self-published and that created a dynamic within society still present today. For example, the various conflicts over the idea of free expression on the Internet can be traced back to the antagonisms created by the culture of Grub Street.
The denizens of Grub Street created an atmosphere of sedition and revolt, of combat with the forces of law and order. Grub Sreet lay just outside of the old medieval city wall, and had always been a space beyond the control of city authorities. Milton had once lived in the area, and in 1830 Grub Street was replaced with its present-day designation as Milton Street, in an attempt to clean up its popular image as a place of non-existent morals, distinct street life and hang-outs for disreputable writers. These ghosts still remain, and Inner City AAA have reclaimed the cultural heritage of Grub Street in order to refuse the Victorians their sanctimonious cover-up.
We have located our launch pad at the northern end of Grub Street, in an empty and derelict square that lies several feet beneath road level, and forms part of an abandoned building that was a former college of higher education. Our seizure of this space demonstrates the AAA's tactic of taking whatever we can find and making our own use out of it. In addition, this specific site, a former educational establishment, is used to reflect the AAA's attitude towards the organisation of knowledge within western culture. The AAA has resisted intellectual specialisation by promoting transversal approaches that combine different and diverse ways of thinking.
Much of the original Grub Street has been swallowed up by the Barbican, a huge complex of luxury flats, art galleries, cinemas and a library. Our Grub Street launch pad is also near the financial centre of London, the square mile that forms a nerve centre for capitalism. By situating our launch pad here we have deliberately put ourselves in close proximity to the very culture that we intend to destroy by building and successfully launching our own spaceships. Despite the number of surveillance cameras in the area, our games of three-sided football have confirmed that the authorities are not equipped for preventing us from using this site as our chosen launch pad.
Grub is derived from the old English word 'grube' meaning a drain or ditch. Close to Grub Street a tributary stream had ran to the notorious Fleet Ditch near Holborn. These ditches were used for hundreds of years as sewers by local residents. Even dead bodies could be found dumped in these disgusting waters. Even though this water has long since been concreted over, our investigations have shown that it still flows beneath our launch site, and we have already began exploring ways of tapping into the psychic energies associated with underground rivers. These forces will assist our plans for independent space exploration, and help us as we continue to generate a huge underswell of activity that connects with our network of groups dedicated to developing strategies for escaping gravity.
Grub can also refer to a maggot or worm that is able to infest a larger body, and digest it from the inside out. Our Grub Street launch site is also then the ideal spot for plotting further media invasion campaigns. This element to our space exploration program aims at planting ideas within a variety of contexts, ideas that are able to resist the filtering techniques applied by commercial publishers and broadcasters. As these 'idea grubs' penetrate the thick flesh of the media, the concept of independent, community-based space travel is taken and used by people who may not even know of the AAA's existence.
The culture of Grub Street contributed to the development of satire as a weapon against the prevailing order. Inner City AAA has located its launch pad in Grub Street in order to continue these Grubbaen tendencies, and to make satire a tool for community-based space exploration. But whereas in the 17th and 18th Centuries Grub Street and its libertine persuasions existed as a physical location in the geography of London, the forces of social control have since then significantly developed their own strategies for coercion. Now Grub Street must be reclaimed, not only by locating our launch site here, but also as part of a geography of the imagination, as a Grub Street of the mind that combines semiotic terrorism, self-confessed propaganda, information warfare, comical devices, cultural sabotage and a wicked, twisted sense of the absurd.
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