Round and Around: The M25 Spin

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For the last fifteen years, a man called Gimpo has been on a journey. It’s a journey that for most people would have little point, and less meaning. But for those who enjoy the idea of simply getting in a car and driving, Gimpo’s trip is the perfect distillation of the joys of travelling without a set destination, going for the hell of it. Driving just to see the road disappear beneath your wheels.

Since 1996, Gimpo has spent a day each year driving around the M25. In fact, a day and a bit, as he takes 25 hours. He plans to do it until 2021. That’s a 25 year circumlocution of one of Britain’s most hated roads. Gimpo calls it the M25 Spin, and it’s quietly becoming one of the most intriguing art projects out there.

He has form with esoteric art. As an honorary member  of The K Foundation, he was with Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond when they torched a million quid on the Isle of Jura in 1994. As manager of The Foundry, a bar and art venue in Shoreditch based in an old bank, he would set off army-issue thunderflashes in the vaults to feel the concussive thump in his chest, turning the thick concrete walls into a giant drum.

But the Spin is something else. It’s a mobile, participatory artwork. Anyone can join in, meeting up with Gimpo and his heavily decorated white van for a guest lap or two. Take a seat in the back, where there’s always a sofa, good music and something to drink. The Spin is part celebration of a mobile lifestyle, and the idea is to have fun.

Dom has been helping to document the work for three years now, and I tagged along for this year’s interview. We met Gimpo in his East London back garden on a glorious April afternoon. Over a couple of Red Stripes, some green ginger wine and a Lucozade shot, Gimpo took us through the history and future of the Spin.

When he was a boy, he told us, his dad would let him sit up front on long journeys. He would put his chin on the dashboard, and his entire field of vision would fill with the road unspooling beneath him. Soon, he would slip into a dream state, where he was the master of his own destiny.

Later, as a commercial driver, he would find that he was constantly pushed to meet deadlines, rushing and stressing to get deliveries to their final destination. The journey was no longer the point. He yearned to get back to the time when being behind the wheel of a car or van could become an excuse to simply be. The Spin was born out of those experiences.

Gimpo loves the M25. He believes that most people hate it because no-one travels for the hell of it anymore. We go out to get somewhere. We don’t go out just to go out. The Spin is about recapturing that feeling, the fugue state that long journeys can often induce. He records each Spin, upgrading his kit when the budget allows, moving ever closer to the dream of being able to gather a whole 25 hour session seamlessly, without changing tapes. For now, he captures one circuit at a time and bolts them together as best he can in post.

The Spin was featured at the Portobello Film Festival last year, and Gimpo insisted that anyone that wanted to look at the footage would have to sit through at least one circuit. He wants the road to hypnotise us in the same way that it does him, and that’s a process that takes a bit of time.

As commentary on modern travel, on the way we look at the London Orbital and as an inspired piece of performance art, the M25 Spin is fluid, wise and spiritual. It takes an experience that most of us find boring or repellent, and gives it a strange ungraspable beauty. The more I think about the Spin, the more I agree with psychogeographer Iain Sinclair, who has called Gimpo a visionary. He sees something in the London Orbital that we simply cannot.

 

For more info, your best first pitstop is Gimpo’s website. The Spin takes place on the weekend before Mother’s Day every year, mustering at Thurrock services.

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Rob

Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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