Eric Block

Cultural Traffic interview:
Arts Fairs and Counter-culture

The roving global arts and publishing fair, Cultural Traffic, will hold its fourth London edition at Old Spitalfields Market on Saturday 5th of October 2019. It happens during Frieze, but it’s free of charge. Eric Block met its founder, punk historian Toby Mott, read the full interview below.

Toby Mott, why did you start Cultural Traffic?

I was working with my publishers in NY, PPP Editions and Dashwood Books, and they choose to launch our publication projects at the NY art book fair. I found this to be an exciting dynamic environment and totally different to the London book fairs I had visited. In 2016, I was offered the opportunity of a space in Shoreditch at the Truman Brewery and so, Cultural Traffic was born. Since then, it has spread to multiple cities in the states as well as London.

Have you always been interested in counter-culture? Tell me about the origins of that?

When I was young, I came of age during the punk era and growing up in Pimlico, central London, I was very close to the Kings Road (which was then the center of London Punk culture). I was totally immersed in punk from my spiky haircut to my bondage trousers. My bedroom was covered in posters of the bands I listened to on my record player. My school books were graffitied with “No Future”, “Anarchy In The UK” and other Punk slogans, and I read fanzines and the NME as a ritual. I was devoted to Punk.

Those posters fanzines, stickers, badges have formed what is now known as The Mott Collection. British Punk on paper. I lend this collection to institutions and have now developed other collections based on ephemera and published several books on counter-culture subjects, most recently, Kraftwerk, Dance Forever. Previous books include Skinhead an Archive, and Showboat, Punk Sex Bodies, which deals with Punk and sexuality. I’m presently working with Dashwood books on a project titled Violence Grows about four seminal women in the 1980s.

What are your ambitions for the fair?

I would like Cultural Traffic to grow and to be staged in more cities to have a greater reach with the material we exhibit. We are a true alternative to the standard art or book fair; we embrace artists from the sidelines and margins of society. Also, our offering could be termed as affordable. 
Will we always have the printed word?

I believe the desire for printed matter will always be with us. From ancient China and the development of paper, from to the Egyptians to the Romans, to the present day, communicating ideas and images through book form will always be relevant. The speed ease and freedom of the internet is desirable but it cannot replace the physicality of the printed page. You might have thought I said that before.


Interview by Eric Block.

Cultural Traffic Arts Fair held at Old Spitalfields Market on Saturday 5th of October 2019.

Free entry 11AM – 8PM, click here for more information and to book.
Central Mezzanine Terrace, Horner Square, London, E1 6EW


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