Cyclus: Research on Club Culture

In a volatile field like the club landscape, maintaining a conscious and critical posture is key in staying involved and relevant. That’s why OOST has instituted Cyclus, a recurring research cycle in which an artist and a scholar are invited to investigate different aspects of night culture. Tom Polleau profiles the project and the participants, themes and methods for the inaugural edition.

Words by Tom Polleau / Pictures by Nadiya Vasylyeva & Sjoerd Knol

What is going on inside of OOST outside of the nights we spend there together? 

Ghosts of dancers roam the dancefloor, as well as ghosts of melodies we heard last Saturday. The CDJs are still fuming on Tuesday – they take five working days to cool down usually. And among the remnants of the nights, sometimes come profound reflections. The club is a complex environment, for many it entails a mixture of mystery and liberation, tip-toeing into freedom or letting everything go because the dancefloor feels like home. 

After spending a night there we sometimes wonder – with various degrees of clarity – about everything we experienced in such a space. Those wonderings have to do with crucial questions of our times and how we deal with those together; dancing in the same place for a few hours goes way beyond hedonism. This can only mean that maintaining a conscious and critical posture towards the dynamics of the club is a priority. From such a posture, a new project came to life: Cyclus.



''A few minutes taken amid their research'' / Picture by Sjoerd Knol

Cyclus is a continuous artistic research project that centres around a theme relevant to the life of OOST, nightlife and its audiences. Split into separate projects of half a year, Cyclus brings together an artist and a researcher to investigate a chosen theme. 

The first theme brought to the table is more important than ever: Club Safety. The recent growth of awareness for inclusivity and well-being inside the club has fostered an environment in which more of us are now urged to look closer into the reasons for unsafety. We are currently experiencing momentum for the deconstruction of the dynamics that have caused suffering in and outside of the dancefloor forever: namely racism, sexism, queer-transphobia, classism, ableism, spiking, sexual harassment and more. 

However, this momentum has to coexist with the perpetual process of gentrification and commodification of the underground and its values. The deconstruction of the socio-political dynamics of nightlife entails the maintenance of sometimes difficult conversations in fragile and volatile contexts. Such a process needs a deeply rooted engagement for the scene and its actors to avoid the superficiality of commercial facades and the empty promises of the token political gesture. 

That is why we shall bring the best of both worlds, academia and art, to work on such questions together. And this for a longer period of six months, to properly take the space that such reflection needs, to communally take some notes and eventually leave some nice works on the path for more clarity. 

The first guests for this project are Ruby Schofield and Enrica Arbia. For this announcement, I bring to you the traces of conversations we’ve had, a few minutes taken amid their research.

Ruby Schofield 

Ruby Schofield is a PhD student currently working in the Faculty of Philosophy at the RUG. She is from the north of England and moved to Groningen to start her PhD research on feminist philosophy nearly three years ago. She likes reading, watching TV, animals, boxing, DJing and producing, amongst other things.



Ruby Schofield / Picture by Nadiya Vasylyeva

T: ”What is your relationship with the club? Is it an environment you care about, and why?”

R: ”Clubbing has been an important part of my life since I was a teenager. I had a friend who became a successful DJ when we were 16. We used to go backstage at clubs and festivals with him and the promoters would give us grapes and fizzy drinks instead of alcohol because we were underage. It was a pretty formative experience. When I’m in the club now, I often feel how I remember feeling (perhaps for the first time) then: like myself. I love loud, heavy music, dancing with my friends and being together with other people who are all experiencing the same thing. I care about the club environment because there are not many other spaces where you can have experiences like that.”

T: ”How does your personal research relate to the club?” 

R: ”My PhD research looks at empowerment narratives in popular feminist discourse. I’m interested in how concepts and ideas that were once radical in nature, like empowerment, have become depoliticised, watered-down, and co-opted. I’m curious about whether something similar is happening in club culture. Underground house and techno clubs are often characterised as spaces where everyone is welcome and social divisions can be set aside. But problems like racism, sexism, queer/transphobia, and sexual harassment have become harder to ignore. In the face of this reality, we have seen an increasing ‘awareness’ around the problems in the dance music industry, but some of the solutions can work to obscure the structural and political changes actually required for genuine club safety. My research aims to go beyond the utopian narrative and propose genuinely empowering alternatives to those currently presented in the standard discourse.”

T: ”Have you been tempted to do academic research in the club before this project?”

R: ”No! Which is weird, because now I’m doing it, it seems to align perfectly with so many of my research and personal interests. Maybe I didn’t want to mix ‘business and pleasure’, but I’m learning to let go of that now.”

T: ”What is a song that fits with the process of researching for you?” 

R: ”I don’t have one song but my answer is the Succession soundtrack. I listen to seasons 1-4 every single day whilst I work, and I think last year I was in the top 0.001% of Nicholas Britell’s listeners. Each album is about 45 minutes long so when it finishes I know it’s time to take a break.”

T: ”What are you hoping to get from this project?”

R: ”I’m very excited to meet people who are trying to make their bit of the world a better place.”

T: ”How does collaborating with an artist feel to you? Can it be challenging?”

R: ”Perhaps one of the most exciting things about this project was the opportunity to collaborate with an artist. Academics are criticised for only talking to our peers – the average journal article is read completely by no more than ten people. Thinking and working alongside an artist presents an important opportunity to share our research with a whole new world of people who might not have otherwise engaged in it. We do have different styles, but Enrica and I challenge each other in a positive way. Collaborating with someone who comes from a very different theoretical tradition has reminded me that there is no ‘right way’ to understand the world – we have different ways of making meaning, but each has intellectual merit, and I’m excited to see what we create together.”

Enrica Arbia

Enrica Arbia is a multidisciplinary artist, performer and event organizer. She relocated from Rome to Groningen to pursue her master’s degree at the Frank Mohr Institute in Interrelational Art Practice, from which she recently graduated. She likes plays, weird shapes, boxing and intense talks about death.



Enrica Arbia / Picture by Nadiya Vasylyeva

T: ”What is your relationship with the club?” 

E: ”I consider Clubs a hybrid space. Could be both the death of the art or the mirror of our cultural society.  It all depends on the way the space is managed. I did find myself in a lot of great and inspiring events as well as I did find myself in horrible nights and situations. In this regard, safety plays a big role. Most people go to a club because of the music or social interaction, and to enjoy both of them you need a safe space and environment, to feel free and express yourself through the movement of your body. Having had different unsafe experiences in the club, I do feel the responsibility and need to create or picture a safe environment for everybody, as well as try to imagine practical solutions to different situations.”

T: ”How does your practice relate to the club?”

E: ”My artistic practice circles around the concept of safety, showing, through a cynical and ironic lens, scary aspects of our reality. As mentioned before I do perceive clubs as a potential cultural space, but this aspect is in contrast to my direct experience with it. I hope I will delve even more into the concept of safety through the dialogues and the dynamics of the Pillow Fight event – more about that later.”

T: ”Have you been tempted to do artistic research in the club before this project?”

E: ”I did. Since my last artwork was an installation and at the same time a tool to make people dance, I did think of going deeper into the details of making an art project where people feel safe enough to allow them to dance.”

T: ”What is a song that fits with the process of researching for you?”

E: ”Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield is the first one I can think of.”

T: ”What are you hoping to get from this project?”

E: ”I hope to get a broader overview of what I am doing and what I want to do next. I hope I can get back to memories of unsafe situations in the club to rewrite them with a different perspective and use this one to build functioning methods that make everybody feel safe. Furthermore, I am curious to see an artistic artefact that could include this content and might also fit aesthetically in a club space.”

T: ”How does collaborating with an academic feel to you? Can it be challenging?”

E: ”I love it! I grew up in an academic family and I always (and still) considered going in the academic direction at some point. Having someone close to me like Ruby who is able to follow my thoughts and my research with a practical perspective, is amazing. I also believe that me and Ruby work very well together, not only research-wise but also as humans. I hope I will keep collaborating with her after this residency.”

Picture by Nadiya Vasylyeva

The first cycle started in January 2024 and will run until August 2024. Later this May we are presenting the first results and part of the process through a dynamic midway point event. More news on that will follow soon.

Cyclus is made possible by contributions of the Kunstraad.

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