Urban Myths no.3: The Discarded Artist’s Statement.

HackneyWaste© Anonymous.

* The above photo and the following text were found on the top deck of a 243 bus travelling through Dalston. The top of the A4 sheet was torn and the artist’s name was missing.

I make images because I am driven to commit a feeling to something visual. My work is endowed with a narrative quality. Through a personally charged perception I explore a range of issues relating to the formlessness of both individual and social reality. This evolves from a close reading of discourse and neuroses surrounding the condition of human existence. I translate the incoherence of lived experience into elements accomplished by a distortion of what is known. The real thus becomes charged with imagined specificity. By describing the world as I imagine, perceive and exist within it, this element of personal mirroring may also act as a reflective process for the viewer.

Solo exhibitions:

Precious Fragments, Café Oto 2011

The Interrupted Onanist, Camberwell Space 2012

This, Again, Is What I Saw, The Agency 2013

Awards:

The Solomon Grouper Foundation Tablet (nominee)

Dilys Trend Memorial Beaker (runner-up)

Hackney Gazette Pop-Up Of The Week (finalist)

* A mash-up of genuine and imagined texts from London’s art community. See also: Supermarket Spider, Urban Caterpillars, Sugary Fun.


The Death of Dalston Lane.

Dalston-Lane-1Dalston Lane, May 2010. © David Secombe.

From Open Dalston, 20 December & 11 February 2014:

Hackney to demolish sixteen Georgian houses in Dalston Lane

Hackney has entered a development agreement with private contractor, Murphy, which now proposes the complete demolition, rather than restoration, of the Georgian houses at Nos 48-78 Dalston Lane. In 2005 English Heritage had declared the houses to be “remarkable survivors of Georgian architecture”, and a “conservation led” project was to be the centrepiece of the newly designated Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area. Now, due to years of neglect and vandalism, Hackney’s plan is to demolish the houses and redevelop with front facades in “heritage likeness“.
 An independent engineer’s report by Alan Baxter, which assessed the conservation potential of Dalston Terrace’s sixteen Georgian houses, has just now been revealed. It makes grim reading - in summary, there is some potential for repairing some of the houses, but Hackney’s “conservation led” redevelopment scheme would probably require their complete demolition and rebuilding.
English Heritage once reported that the 200 year old Dalston Terrace houses were “remarkable survivors of Georgian architecture“. Sadly, since the Council acquired them in 1984, their chances of survival diminished year on year. Hackney did nothing to preserve them despite its vacuous platitudes about “championing the historic environment” and wanting a “conservation-led scheme“.

Dalston-Lane-4Dalston Lane, May 2010. © David Secombe.

From Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire* by Iain Sinclair:

Dalston Lane

Once a street is noticed it’s doomed. Endgame squatters, slogans. DALSTON! WHO ASKED U? PROTECTED BY OCCUPATION. Torched terraces. Overlapping, many-coloured tags. Aerosol signatures on silver roll-down shutters. Scrofulous rubble held up by flyers for weekend noise events. THIS WORLD IS RULED BY THOSE WHO LIE. They said, the ones who make it their business to investigate such things, that there was a direct relationship between properties that applied for conservation status and arson attacks, petrol bombs. Unexplained fires. Moscow methods arrived in town with the first sniff of post-Soviet money. Russian clubs were opening in the unlikeliest places. We no longer had much to offer in the way of oil and utilities, energy resources, but we had heritage to asset-strip: Georgian wrecks proud of their status.

* Hamish Hamilton, 2009.

Dalston-Lane-3Dalston Lane, May 2010. © David Secombe.

D.S.: The shameful saga of Dalston Lane is a microcosm of the fate of the East End as a whole: a sorry mash-up of corporate and council greed flying under the discredited banner of ‘regeneration’.  The cynical, Blairite language of contemporary urban development expressed by developers and local authorities deserves a study in itself: ‘affordable housing’ (i.e. ‘unaffordable affordable housing’);  councils ‘competing’ with other boroughs for resources (food? water? air?); ‘conservation-led schemes’ (wherein conservation is a synonym for demolition – along the lines of, ‘We had to demolish the terrace in order to conserve it.’). It is language that might have been invented by Orwell. The fact that a Labour council is responsible for such wanton cynicism towards its own residents is deeply depressing and makes one despair for the fate of the city. The death of Dalston Lane is the death of London.

For further reading on this long-festering matter, see Bill Parry-Davies’ site Open Dalston.

Dalston Lane 2Dalston Lane, May 2010. © David Secombe.

 


Two Men And A Dog.

BridgeSmoke-LC

© Bill Pearson 1982/85

Late August ’87 by Stephen Watts:

Saturday. Afternoon.
Thunder on the Greenland Dock.
A few kids. Wet sand. Fishing.
All of us feel the vatic lack.

Girders. Cranes. New roads.
Bright sciatic colours. Cans.
Concrete. Cables. Coiled wire.
Flesh still curt to our bone.

Autumn thunder on the Greenland
Dock. Suddenly – houses rearing up.
That pall of human indifference.
Heart of the heart ripped out.

Yellow air. Pipes of cloud.
A sky that’s been lifted from Bihar.
Houses with archways of walled wood.
Our lives. A crushed heat of air.

Cranes. Wet sand. Girders.
The kids laugh. And then scatter.
Dear body. The poor in their lack.
The rich in their whorl of languor.

© Stephen Watts

Bill Pearson writes:

I moved to New Cross Gate over the Easter weekend, 1981. My only previous experience of living in the big city had been a few years at Kingston upon Thames, very different in all respects to inner city south-east London. Exploring the new area I discovered empty, desolate docks and rundown industrial areas that reminded me of my homeland in the North of England. It was the early days of Thatcherism, before the Falklands War, before the inner city riots, and before the Miners’ Strike, when Thatcher was still the most unpopular Prime Minister there had ever been.

emptyDock-LC

© Bill Pearson 1982/85

My local Desolation Row was Surrey Docks – re-generated as Surrey Quays – but on walking and cycling trips I discovered the run down warehouses of Shad Thames (which still smelled of the spices they had once stored), Limehouse Basin, Wapping and the Isle of Dogs, which looked like a war zone. I remember rummaging around a warehouse in Wapping one day and hearing a roaring noise on the floor below. I rushed along to see what it was and discovered that the place had been set on fire by some local kids.

Swimmers-LC

© Bill Pearson 1982/85

The absent other in all of these photographs was Mr. Charles Fox. A Battersea Dogs Home graduate, selected for his fetching smile, his hairy ears and his endearing determination to escape from the Home by digging through the concrete floor. His name was chosen because nobody in our shared house was prepared to have the utility bills under their names, so Charlie the dog ended up taking responsibility for everything. He never seemed to mind. At the Post Office I would occasionally be asked, “are you Mr Fox?” – and when people from the utilities phoned up wanting to speak to Mr Fox and we would invariably say “He’s unable to speak at the moment”.

CharlesFox1-LC

© Bill Pearson 1982/85

Charlie and myself covered a lot of miles on our walks. Sometimes I would carry my Canon AE1 and sometimes I would take my Bolex movie camera and sometimes I wouldn’t take either because I couldn’t afford any film. On these urban forays, I often encountered a fellow rambler who turned out to be another newcomer to south-east London, a political exile from Soweto who had wound up living on the Pepys Estate in Deptford. Not that I knew this at the time: I only learned the identity of Chief Dawethi a quarter-century later, when Chief and I found ourselves sharing an office. Sharing our reminiscences of living in south-east London in the early 1980s, we discovered that we were the ghosts on each other’s travels. I mentioned that I took a lot of photographs back then, and it was Chief’s suggestion that people might be interested in those images, as the area had since changed beyond recognition. Chief’s insight encouraged me to dig out the negatives and study them with fresh eyes.

DocksideTowers-LC

© Bill Pearson 1982/85

Looking at them now, they appear as remnants of a lost world. ‘There is nothing more recent than the distant past’. It seemed unthinkable in the early 1980s that the purlieus of east London could ever become desirable, let alone exclusive. Yet the areas seen in these pictures is today the playground of those who profited from the sale of England; those inhabitants of the soulless apartments that are ruining the London skyline. Even Chief’s old stamping ground, the Pepys Estate, is home to Aragon Tower, one of the most up-scale of all gentrification projects, a block of high-rise council flats sold off and transformed into luxury riverside dwellings for the few that can afford them.

BigMoney-LC

© Bill Pearson 1982/85

What of Mr Charles Fox? He moved away to York with one of my housemates. We reasoned that he would have a much better life there than on the mean streets of south-east London. I saw him a few times after he moved and he seemed far happier in the North.

Text © Bill Pearson 2013.

ArchWrecks-LC

© Bill Pearson 1982/85

 Heart Of The City by Stephen Watts:

Grey sky. Fifteen cranes swing
between the road and the river.
A darkened ribcage of girders is
Fleshed out with granite slivers.

Slow bursts of cars stream past
and lead rises up to our rooftops.
It eats the aortas of our babies.
Wee kids who spiral at hopscotch.

We have savage material hearts.
Mine hangs just under my shoulder.
There are reds, yellows and ochres
if I think of colour in some order.

It hangs and pumps at my ribcage
as if a blue bag were slung there.
Full with wet fish & blae-berries.
Words – jump off my tongue here.

It is good to dream as dreaming
makes lucid our human potential …
The spiral of blood in our bodies.
Just where it pumps by my nipple.

Sunflowers. Asters. Fuchsia.
Whatever their colours they seem
held by tight and straitened stalks.
The sun will crash from its beam.

Too close to the savaged heart.
We live in the heart of this city.
Cranes that swing out on the dark
measure our hearts without pity.

© Stephen Watts.

 


After the Gasometers.

Gasholder(c)DavidSecombe

Gasometer, Regents Canal, Haggerston. © David Secombe 2010.

After the Gasometers by Katy Evans-Bush

If those were crowns, the kings
must have stretched out underground
from Regents Canal to Stepney Green.
At that size, they were gods. But no,
the earth was level: a thick eiderdown
of chemicals and dirt, beneath the play
of air on iron filigree, the orange light
that danced at sunset through the rings.

… from Egg Printing Explained, Salt Publishing, 2011.


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