NEVER FORGET NEVER FORGIVE

My own most vivid memory of the 1984-85 miners strike is being fourteen and hanging around with a bunch of mates, the usual reprobates, outside Robin Rix’s corner shop, with its John Bull logo complete with Union Jack waistcoat emblazoned across the window. There were about ten or eleven of us varying in age from about 12 to 16, mainly boys, but with a few older girls. There was never much to do in Kilnhurst, so we would just hang about outside the shops hoping someone would come up with a Good Idea. Preferably that didn’t involve glue or Briwax. David’s older brother had just got taken to hospital with some sort of glue residue in his lungs. That night Alan, whose Dad was on strike, had been given some homemade Nunchucks for his birthday and this lifted the boredom. The yellow light emanating from the Shung Ying takeaway seemed to make a perfect exotic location with its red plastic lanterns and stylised oriental writing in yellow and gold. Every one was taking turns pretending to be Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. I was still waiting my turn when three police riot vans came at speed down the hill that leads past us and into the village, grills down and blue lights flashing. These were not local police, these were the MET and they did this sort of stuff just to intimidate the village, but tonight they came straight for us. Driving their vans up onto the pavement forming a semi-circle of blinding bright lights. Half the group legged it behind Robin Rix’s and down onto the railway banking to hide. I stayed, probably paralysed by fear, while Alan and some of the older kids started gobbing off.

PIG.

PIG.

PIG…SCUM.

The Police jumped out of their vans wearing helmets with visors covering their faces. It was the first time I had ever seen police look like this. They lined us up against the van, stole Alan’s Nunchucks and threatened us, ‘This village is now under a curfew. If we see any gatherings of more than six people after nine pm we are going to arrest them’. I have never found out if they actually had this power, I suspect they were lying, just another part of their psychological warfare against pit villages. Kilnhurst colliery was shutdown not long after the strike. The pit wheel is half buried in St Thomas’s church yard accompanied by a gravestone, but the epitaph most often recited in these villages is: NEVER FORGET NEVER FORGIVE.

Cinematic Return to the Point of Trauma

My first experiments with digital drifting were solitary, escapist, acts of revenge. Stealing back time I was begrudgingly in the process of selling. Recent digital drifts have become collective, a form of research for a future Communism. The solitary drift encourages flights of fantasy or the internal embellishment of personal memories, a pro active form of nostalgia that allows us to rewrite our own history in the manner that our present predicament would prefer. The collective drift is, as Guy Debord noted, more objective. It develops a dynamic of its own. Directions and points of interest emerge from the varied interests of the group. Aspects that would be missed in a solo drift are brought into relief.

As I drift the former Manvers Main complex, I’m situated in Hackney, Google Street View projected on a large screen. Friends drinking green bottles of Stella Artois and chatting, Robin Bale is rolling a cigarette, Laura Oldfield Ford is time travelling back to Denman Road circa 1993, Richard Barnbrook, the advocate of cybernetic communism, has brought his son Arty who is currently being indoctrinated into the cult of Minecraft, a cybernetic cresh has been established as deep rumbles from Alistair McClymont’s home made bass cabs provide a soundtrack of vibrating glass window panes. We are in search of the Manvers Main complex. A complex of mines, linked underground that played a key role in the start of the 1984-5 strike. It was in Manvers’s offices that George Hayes, the South Yorkshire NCB director informed NUM officials of the plan to close Cortonwood Colliery, triggering Yorkshire miners to walk out.

Manvers dominated the landscape. Its presence was insistent, with its huge spoil heaps fed by iron skips suspended from elevated cableways, fires burning in blackened coke ovens, overhead gantries and walkways, huge brick and steel buildings, railway sidings lined with full and empty coal trucks, its signature twin headgears that supported the hoists used to transport workers and materials in and out of the underground mine shafts. The weight and scale of the place dominated your vision but also stained the sky with a constant stream of noxious smoke from the towering chimneystacks.

Recently there’s been a cinematic return to the point of trauma. Two recent films about the miners strike are currently in the cinema, Pride and Still the Enemy Within. Our collective imagination cannot move beyond the strike. We repetitively return to this frozen moment, a psychological fissure that compels us to return in search of a path to the future. But this path cannot be found through a return it must be formed through a REPEAT. Not a flaccid recreation, this remains a copy, further entrenching the trauma. A REPEAT enacts the intensities of the event in its present form, breaking the cycle of return forever.

SUPPORT THE ORGREAVE TRUTH AND JUSTICE CAMPAIGN.

The Street View landscape being projected is at odds with the cinematic imagination. I do not know this place! It could be anywhere and nowhere. I track down the original location of one of Manvers twin headgears. One of the original pit wheels is half buried in manicured grass. The site of the mine itself has been drowned, flooded and rebranded as Manvers lake. Street View has its limitations, our view is restricted to the roads, I switch to satellite view and look down on the whole area. A tonsil like jetty of grass stretches into the deflated kidney shaped lake with a path leading to what on first appearances looks like a crop circle. On finer magnification this turns out to be some form of regeneration land art, a monument to the Town of Wath. From the surveilling eye of the satellite we can trace scars in the landscape. A spectral map of former Manvers buildings made visible through disturbance in the vegetation. We are tracing the oblong scares on the earth, but our conversation is tracing alternative possibilities, alter histories and future routes. Manvers lake includes a RSPB reserve and was originally intended to be developed into a country park but has since been sold off for development by TCN UK and is now branded as the Waterfront Development, a 285 acre private redevelopment that includes a boat club, Golf Course and is currently advertising plots for leisure, retail, residential and a range of office and industrial units. Conservation exploited as a method of increasing land values for private developers.

Denman Road

Concrete blocks mark out its absence. Oblong spaces of decaying tarmac surrounded by low crumbling red brick walls, car parking spaces stolen from the surrounding scrub grass, derelict concrete stairs that no longer lead anywhere, large stone boulders placed along the road to stop fly tippers, these are the only reminders of the Denman Road Estate. A fitting legacy to the FUCKED generation who inhabited the now totally demolished flats that used to line Denman Road in the 1990’s. The pits that made up the Manvers Main complex; Manvers Main, Wath Main, Kilnhurst Colliery, were all closed in 1988 only three years after the strike. By the end of the 80’s the generations leaving school, my generation, had nothing, no prospect of a job, no hope and no future. Punk created an aesthetic around No Future we had no choice! Stuck in the middle of nowhere, with all the anger of the miners strike, hatred of the police, no workplace, no union organisation and no way out. The pressure cooker of long term unemployment and boredom, combined with drug and alcohol abuse, fused into an angry collectivist counter culture and Denman Road was one of its centres. There were parallels between Denman Road and the large squatted streets in London such as Ellingfort Road and London Lane and there were influences from the traveller scene. Thatcher had used the same tactics against the convoys at the Battle of the Beanfield as she had against the miners, but there were also differences. The Denman Road scene was fiercely working class, no one could afford a converted bus to live in and why squat when you could still get a council flat? The hippy pacifism of the peace convoys was rejected in favour of a brand of uncompromising CLASS WAR, which manifested itself both locally in campaigns against a proposed toxic waste dump and keeping the far right violently in check, and nationally in the Poll Tax Riot. The street had a constant stench of weed. Rumour had it that skunk was being grown under sodium lights by ex miners in the old mine shafts. Walking down the street you were accompanied by a soundtrack that would shift from flat to flat, moving from hardcore techno, acid house, to anarcho punk and dub.

The Denman Estate became notorious for its drugs and lawlessness, but this is not enough to explain its complete disappearance. In many ways Denman was just a prelude to the sacrificed estates that can be found all over England. What marked Denman out was cultural. A creative autodidactic culture existed here, kids who had been thrown out of school learned about politics through a practical DIY scavenger culture of making do and making it yourself. Denman was an autonomous zone and a signal of a nascent politics coming into being. Denman was the edge of civilization, the final strip of housing before you entered the post apocalyptic poisoned waste lands that Manvers had become. In its 90’s dereliction Manvers was an overpowering site, reports at the time suggested that the site was the largest area of contaminated and derelict land in Western Europe. The Denman Estate housed the children of this poisoned wasteland and in this marginal outpost traditional social structures were being reconfigured. A tribalism was emerging, one that refused hierarchical structures but had its key figures, organisers, musicians, working class intellectuals, gurus and dealers. It rejected consumerist festivals in favour of a cyclic calendar of annual sacred festivals and nomadic meeting points. It ridiculed religion whilst developing a materialist worship of the Psilocybin mushroom, harvested annually from much guarded sites. Time became cyclic. Progress meant nothing; you have to have a belief in a future to believe in progress. A cult of environmentalism was emerging and who could argue with those who had been suckled on the poisoned breath of Manvers Main’s billowing smoke stacks and abandoned to inherit their ruins. This was a savage community, but one with a strict morality. Testing on animals would be vehemently condemned, but dropping an acid tab in someone’s drink would be a laugh. Informal communication structures emerged. Direct action to shut down the BNP’s Welling bookshop was organised by leaving flyers for distribution with the main dealers, key nodes in the communitie’s network. I felt for a while that capitalism might be undermined by an intensification of the counter structures of this emergent underclass. In retrospect Denman Road represented the start of a wider shift in far left politics, a retreat from economics and a turn towards culture. Readers of continental philosophy cite the defeat of the May 68 movement as a point of rupture, the shift from modernism to post-modernism, but this rupture was uneven and spatial. It takes a long time to dismantle a Nation’s industrial base, the huge swathes of plant and machine that forged our landscape and the communities that had grown up alongside them could not easily be destroyed. It was only in the defeat of the Miner’s Strike that the rupture finally fractures the industrial north. And it was those living in the edgelands who most intuitively felt this seismic quake that shattered both space and time.

Manvers does not exist!

We hit upon a massive structure, the sheer size of it could rival Manvers Main in its heyday. An enormous expanse of grey corrugated metal rises into the sky forming an acute angle as perspective sends our eyes hurtling forward along the immaculately straight Brookfields Way. This is an impressive blank, a minimalist vista of grey vertical lines broken by a perfectly angular green strip of manicured privet bushes and grass. Equally spaced floodlights only occasionally break the riveted lines that form its walls. There is no indication of what this immense place houses, why it is here, what its function is. Manvers Main was incapable of maintaining the separation between inside and outside, with its constant frenetic activity refusing to be bound and hidden, men and machines transported into and out of the earth, skips of slag and waste drawn from below and exposed in man made mountains, train carriages shifting materials to and fro, and that constant smoke. Manvers exposed its inner operations in a flamboyant display of exuberance, but this structure hides secrets. There are no traces of the workers, not even a fag packet dropped on the way to work. No one walks this pristine pavement. The inner operations, of this anonymous structure, are hidden from inquisitive eyes. Its huge expanse of zero visual stimuli is strangely enjoyable when contrasted with the usual constant bombardment of spectacular images. We continue down the street, mouse clicks and blurred renderings, until we arrive at a high, yet open, black gate. Ahead we can see a car park and another identical corrugated grey structure, but we cannot proceed further. A large sign at the gates warns, ‘Private Road Authorised Vehicles Only’, another less significant sign contains the NEXT logo, this is the only clue provided to the purpose and operation of this vast secretive area with its full car park and two imposing buildings.

Heading back along Brookfields Way we pass another large corrugated structure, but this one is less shy. Mid blue and grey, running its full length are two stores of glass windows looking proudly out onto the street and shouldering a pair of oversized Maplin logos at each end. The drift continues, faceless corrugated structure after faceless corrugated structure. There is a uniformity that starts to render these imposing buildings invisible. A repetitive colour scheme of greys, light and mid blues desensitise you from scale. LOGISTICS. This is the camouflaged STUFF of the falsely imagined immaterial economy. The hidden back end of so much consumer noise; billboards, radio and TV advertising, website banners, online shopping and the spectacular glass dome of the Medowhall out of town shopping centre.

The mysterious secrecy has a purpose, this blank concealment is important, here the goods hidden inside these oversized warehouses remain just STUFF, mountains of STUFF, that hasn’t yet been applied with the magic that will render them into admirable fetishes ready for consumption. There’s a danger. In this gap between production and consumption these large storages of goods can be seen for what they are. Simply STUFF. And questions may be asked as to why all this STUFF cannot just be taken and used.

Street View respects private property and drifting this territory exposes this as its blind spot. The distinction between public roads and private roads produces sudden unexpected invisible boundaries. We are repeatedly stranded at the entrance to a set of roads leading to buildings and structures we cannot reach. In map view we can see row after row of uniformly straight roads, each accessed via spokes radiating from a collection of central roundabouts, but our access to these zones are permanently barred. Sometimes there are visible boundaries, gates or barriers, but mostly just a simple road sign is all that is required to abruptly stop us in our tracks. This restricts our investigation of these sites but in doing so exposes the scale of privatisation of this former nationalised and publicly owned landscape.

White clad with an overhanging arched roof and two banks of green tinted windows separated by a central column, this building stands out against its neighbours. This is one of the few buildings within the restricted zones that we can still clearly see from the street. A tall mast rises above it like a watchtower. Banks of communication equipment, circular dishes and long oblong white masts are clustered together by a triangular scaffold and suspended in the sky. The security is overt. CCTV cameras stand guard on raised poles at the entrance. A high mesh fence toped with razor wire surrounds the site. Some form of double security system is used at the entrance and a yellow sign warns, YOU ARE ON CCTV. Cameras are visibly mounted on each corner of the building and these are reinforced by heavy duty round horn public address speakers. This building suffers from paranoia, but, unlike the secretive NEXT building, the workers here are visible. A bus shelter like structure has been provided at the rear of the building and it is rammed with smoking workers, litter collecting at the foot of the security fence behind them. As I zoom a strange glitch occurs. In a single movement we time shift. A white blossom tree, previously barely noticeable, suddenly expands to obscure our view, sensing our presence the blossom is summoned into action to cloak the shelter with at least twelve months extra growth. Resting above the buildings central column is a corporate logo. Two overlapping squares, one yellow, one blue, intersect to create a third smaller green square, an angular representation of set theory. The logo is accompanied by the letters tsc in some variation of the Times New Roman font. Tsc operates call centre services for corporate clients such as BT, Vodafone, sky, EE and Sainsbury’s. Tsc is owned by Webhelp and boasts that is has moved beyond the call centre and also offers internet based services such as social media monitoring and analysis. Tsc is one of a number of call centres, including Ventura and T-Mobile, who have set up operations at Manvers.

Another grey and mid blue corrugated structure, two stores of glass windows run its full length, identical to the Maplin building, except for a cheap printed vinyl sign, Garnett Dickinson Publishing. Parked at its entrance is a converted trailer. Glossy black paintwork with gold lettering that reads, ‘Lenny’s Hot Jacket Potatoes and Pasta’ and is accompanied by a gold cartoon of a potato with arms and legs wearing a chef’s hat. A serving window has been cut into the front and we can see a selection of bright sauce bottles on the counter. A man wearing a blue catering hat and tabard, probably Lenny, is leaning into a white van parked next to the trailer. There is something significant about Lenny’s trailer. It stands out in this carefully ordered landscape. He has found a temporary gap in this development. A small space of land awaiting development and he has occupied it with the only accessible place to buy a hot drink and something to eat we have witnessed on the drift. He is an opportunist, parasiting this territory, but this trailer adds some warmth to the cold anonymous greys and blues that surround him. We are also finding gaps, ways to occupy the cold, static images presented by Street View. We have no ability to alter these images, no opportunity to change or intervene in them, but we occupy these images with stories, memories, speculative theories and discussions. Spaces we have only viewed on Street View become locations we know, significant sites have emerged, inaccessible zones have become mysterious, vanished estates remembered and steps taken to move beyond the cinematic desire to return to the point of trauma.

MANVERS DOES NOT EXIST

Report from Jonathan Kemp’s : “Telluro-geo-psycho-modulator” workshop and field trip

Loughton Camp
Loughton Camp

The pulsating of blood through my left temple and the musky smell of newly disturbed soil. Five people desperately working to get a bunch of rocks, wrapped with copper wire, to stay attached to my head with two elasticated headbands. A self awareness of looking like a fucking hippy and the sound of three or four camera shutters photographing me. A really unlikely start to an experiment which offered the potential for a paranormal experience. With my brain fully wired to the earth’s electromagnetic fields, the clicking of cameras started to fade and unexpectedly my usually chaotic thoughts started to calm. In only two minutes a profound and intensely pleasant calm came over my mind and my body relaxed, my self consciousness about looking like a knob and any initial anxiety about having electronics mess with my brainwaves seeped away along with any concept of time. I sat peacefully for an unquantifiable period with my eyes shut.  There were no signs of the hallucinogenic dreams or bursts of lysergic colour I had secretly hoped for; just the uncharacteristic calm. I opened my eyes and looked around the clearing. Intense shards of light passing through the foliage, I could see other members of the experiment huddled together in small groups chatting, I momentarily caught someones eye, but felt distant and aloof, closing my eyes again. I sat enjoying the experience; 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, half an hour, who knows? Time seemed to stop until a nagging thought eventually entered my mind, I should let someone else try, 14 people at around 10 minutes each is going to take another couple of hours. I disconnected the headband and removed the rock solenoids from my skull.

The sense of calm and feeling of dislocation persisted. I had the desire to withdraw from the group and went for a walk, tracing the boundary of Loughton Camp. About half way around the perimeter I approached an abandoned bivouac and experienced a sudden overwhelming sense of loss, a welling of sadness forming deep inside. I battled to suppress the melancholic outpouring before it could fill my eyes with tears. Tulta disrupted my insular thoughts with a shout! My 13 year old son, had got himself stuck high up in the branches of one of the tall beech trees and everyone was concerned about him. Both the distant calm and the moment of melancholy were replaced by adrenaline and a sense of responsibility. I helped him down from the tree and returned to the group, helping out with the attachment of the rock solenoids to the heads of the remaining participants.

Telluro-geo-psycho-modulator
Telluro-geo-psycho-modulator

The Telluro-geo-psycho-modulator workshop and field trip was organised by Jonathan Kemp on the 2nd and 3rd May 2015 at furtherfield.

One medium in which all terrestrial beings are immersed is the electromagnetic. This workshop directly tests Persinger’s theory that spiritual and ghostly sensations (“anomalous experiences”) are triggered by the interference patterns constantly played across the brain by the weak magnetic fields that emanate from the earth.

The workshop aims to begin equipping participants with a method to explore such relations between the earth and our psyches through the construction of an experimental interface (developed with Martin Howse).

The brain is electro-chemical, and the existence of fundamental commonalities between all 7 billion human brains by which a similar physical stimulus can affect them is not a new concept – however, this workshop tests the idea that it is the induction from very low electromagnetic fields that disrupt a sense of self through the creation of anomalous experiences, and these experiences can be seen as the effects of such natural weak brain stimulation.

In the workshop particpants will build a simple circuit with which to test this thesis by connecting the earth’s telluric currents (naturally weak electromagnetic fields) directly to our brains. On the second day we will then test the circuits outdoors in Epping Forest.

connecting the earth's telluric currents
connecting the earth’s telluric currents

Documentation and more Impressionistic reports

‘the psychogeographical games’ – Limehouse

[Read as pdf]

This text explores psychogeography and the way artists and activists have used and developed this practice to imagine, represent, perform and contest, the geographies of cities. Charting all the practices, histories, and controversies associated with psychogeography would require a journey from contemporary psychogeographers such as Iain Sinclair, Stewart Home, Fabian Tompsett, Patrick Keiller, Chris Pettit and Laura Oldfield-Ford, back to the origins of the practice within post war avant-garde groups such as the Situationist International and the Letterist International and an investigation of the proto-psycogeographical practices that have informed and inspired its development, carried out by figures as diverse as Walter Benjamin, Louse Aragon, Baudelair, Rimbaud, De Quincy, Poe, Defoe and Blake[1]. This study will be restricted to the marginal historys and psychogeographical activities of a small area of East London. The junction of Commercial Road and Burdett Road, and three adjacent buildings which radiate a magnetic force throughout contemporary British Psychogeography; St Annes Limehouse, Limehouse Town Hall and the Sailors’ Mission.

Nazi Occultists Seize Omphalos

Limehouse Town Hall is situated between St Annes and the Sailors’ Mission and it seems appropriate to start this essay in a dusty office on the second floor of this decaying former Town Hall. The windows are partially obscured by incessant ivy, creating a constant threat of dissolution of the border that separates the inside from the outside as its tendrils bury under the Georgian sash windows bringing with them gusts of cold air from the graveyard below. The building itself is a crumbling former administrative centre and assembly rooms, the previous home to Kropotkin’s desk and the National Museum of Labour History, current headquarters of the Space Hijackers, MUTE magazine, ABJECT BLOC and an esoteric mix of artists, theorists, and cultural activists collectively known as The Boxing Club. Former tenants have included the West Essex Zapatistas, WE ARE BAD, the University of Openness and members of the London Psychogeographical Association.

St Annes Limehouse from Limehouse Town Hall
Figure 1 – St Annes Limehouse from Limehouse Town Hall

The window looks out onto the western elevation of St Annes Limehouse, an 18th century church designed and built by Nicholas Hawksmoor and believed by the London Psychogeographical Association to be on an important lay line connecting Queen Anne House and St. Annes Limehouse with a mysterious cobbled circle which was the subject of a 1994 LPA leaflet titled ‘Nazi Occultists Seize Omphalos’ (Sinclair, 1997:26).

LPA 1994 leaflet titled 'Nazi Occultists Seize Omphalos'
LPA 1994 leaflet titled ‘Nazi Occultists Seize Omphalos’

Iain Sinclair recalls, in Lud Heat, that he once worked as a gardener in this graveyard and that he and Brian Catlin traced the lines of influence connecting the eight great churches built by Hawksmoor (Sinclair, 1998). St Annes Limehouse is at the intersection of three of these lines of influence. Standing in the graveyard is the pyramid that was originally planned to top St.Annes’ tower, which featured on the cover of Sinclair’s 1998 Granta Books edition of Lud Heat and more recently has been the site of sex magick rituals organised by the West Essex Zapatistas, an organisation associated with Fabian Tompsett and Asim Butt. Fabian Tompsett is better known for translating some works by the Situationist Asger Jorn into English and under the pseudonym Richard Essex reconvening the London Psychogeographical Association (LPA) in the 1990’s. The original London Psychogeographical Association consisted of only one member, the British artist Ralph Rumney, effectively existing in name only (Bonnett, 2009: 45) and on the 28th July 1957 at a meeting in Cosio d’Arroscia Italy the London Psychogeographical Association merged with the Letterist International and the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus to form the Situationist International.

Tompsett is himself a former resident of the Town Hall and the top floor once housed the LPA collection of maps. Whilst the town hall has been home to many different strands of artist and anti-capitalist activists it has also had a strong current of technology based experimentation, particularly influenced by Saul Albert one of the founding members of the boxing club. Saul Albert brought the politics of the open source movement to the town hall through the organisation of the University of Openness (Uo). The Uo described itself as, ‘a framework in which individuals and organisations can pursue their shared interest in emerging forms of cultural production and critical reflection such as unix, cartography, physical and collaborative research’, and suggested that ‘Any member may start a faculty to socialise their research with the Uo’. One of the faculties listed in the Uo bulletin was the ‘East London Cybergeografical Underground Network’. Which described itself with a similar anachronistic playful style of the LPA.

East London Cybergeografical Underground Network
Description of the East London Cybergeografical Underground Network reprinted from the bulletin of the University of Openness

Whilst this organisation never existed beyond this statement, it significantly represents an interest in the growth of wireless networks and the relationship between psychogeography and digital space. Another example of a psychogeographical approach applied to digital space was the publication in 2002 of ‘A Collection of E-Mails around 11/9/01’(evol, 2002) by evol PsychogeogrAphix. On inspection evol PsychogeogrAphix is yet another pseudonym for Asim Butt. Closer examination of these emails, collated from various architecture emailing lists, provide a psychogeographical mapping of the spatial and psychological ambience that arose in the immediate atmosphere post 9/11. From a Cyberpsychogeographical viewpoint, physical space has been overlaid with digital space and whilst they have different material and spatial properties, psychogeography must make all contemporary spaces the subject of its investigations.

Jack the Ripper is probably psycho-geographical in love

Figure 4 - the Situationist International outside Limehouse Sailors' Mission 1960
the Situationist International outside Limehouse Sailors’ Mission 1960

Crossing the road from the Town Hall is the former Sailors’ Mission, built as a hostel for Sailors. The building subsequently became a notoriously rundown hostel for the homeless and a squat before being converted into luxury apartments. The Sailors’ Mission was the secret location of the 4th conference of the Situationist International (SI), held between 24-28 September 1960. The Psychogeographical Games were organised as a playful part of the conference and Guy Debord, who five years previously had attributed the term ‘Psychogeography’ to an ‘illiterate Kabyle’ (Debord, 1956:5), was in attendance. The meeting posed the key question ‘To what extent is the SI a political movement?’ (SI,1981a:66) The psychogeographical techniques developed by Debord and the Situationists went hand in hand with a radical revolutionary politics that aimed to transform the banality of the capitalist city and the every day life of its inhabitants. But the Situationist fascination with the psychogeographical potential of Limehouse can be trace back even earlier, to the proto Situationist group l’Internationale lettriste. As the site of the old China Town Limehouse had been the subject of an article, published in potlatch, and titled ‘Limehouse Nights in the 1930s’ within which an anonymous author recounts becoming a ‘safe guide’; ‘I gained a reputation as a safe guide (unpaid), who was always ready to conduct one, or at most two, persons through the mysterious precincts of Limehouse Causeway and Pennyfields’ (mcdonough, 2009). The article opens with a brooding sense of loss for the impending demolition of Pennyfields, the row of slum housing and shops that formed a ‘buffer’ between the shabby respectability of the High Street and the ‘rabit warrens’, labyrinthine alleyways and Oriental underworld of Limehouse Causeway. ‘London’s Chinatown is threatened with extinction. That labyrinth of squalid streets, mysterious passages, and shuttered hovels a mile or two east of Aldgate Pump is doomed. The planners have been told to go ahead. By the end of the year much of Pennyfield will have been demolished to make room for blocks of flats. After that, it is only a question of time before the rest of it will vanish like an opium smoker’s dream’. The article was printed alongside a letter to the Editor of the Times, dated 13 October 1955, signed by Michèle Bernstein, Guy-Ernest Debord and Gil J Wolman, which objected to the demolition of Limehouse’s China Town in the most tong in cheek aristocratic tone;

Dear sir,

The Times has just announced the projected demolition of the Chinese quarter in London.

We protest against such moral ideas in town-planning, ideas which must obviously make England more boring that it has in recent years already become.

The only pageants left are a coronation from time to time, an occasional royal marriage which seldom bears fruit; nothing else. The disappearance of pretty girls, of good family especially, will become rarer and rarer after the razing of Limehouse. Do you honestly believe that a gentleman can amuse himself in Soho?

We hold that the so-called modern town-planning which you recommend is fatuously idealistic and reactionary. The sole end of architecture is to serve the passions of men.

Anyway, it is inconvenient that this Chinese quarter of London should be destroyed before we have the opportunity to visit and carry out certain psychogeographical experiments we are at present undertaking.

Finally, if modernisation appears to you, as it does to us, to be historically necessary, we would counsel you to carry your enthusiasm into areas more urgently in need of it, that is to say, to you political and moral institutions.

Yours faithfully,

for l’Internationale lettriste

Michèle Bernstein, Guy-Ernest Debord, Gil J Wolman

Through out ‘The Bulletin of Information of the French Group of the Letterist International’ better known as Potlatch (Coverley, 2006:85), the term ‘Psychogeography’ appeared inconsistently as a playful provocation. However, as the Letterist International merged to form the Situationist International, Debord gave the term a more theoretical articulation. Defining it in International Situationniste #1 as, ‘The study of the specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.’(SI, 1981b:45) Psychogeography is the attempt to understand the effect that the built environment has on people’s emotions and behavior, and this is key to understanding the Situationists reimagination of the City. What emerges is an image of the city as a series of ambiences that can be studied. Debord defined two useful tools to carry out this study, the Derive and the psychogeographical map. The derive, translated as a drift in British psychogeography, was described as, ‘A mode of experimental behavior linked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of transient passage through varied ambiences.’ (SI, 1981b:45) In effect the drift is an aimless stroll or walk in which the walker breaks out of their usual routines and allows themself to be guided by the particular emotions and ambiences of the built environment. The results of such a drift could then be used to produce a new form of cartography, the psychogeographical map, which rejects traditional Cartesian mapping in favour of techniques that better reflect the emotional context of the drift. Guy Debord and Asger Jorn gave an indication of how this new cartography might be expressed when they produced the 1956 ‘Guide psychographique de Paris’ and the 1957 ‘Naked City’ (Sadler, 1999). These maps attempted to represent the disorientation and fractured experience of their Paris drifts by scattering pieces of the map and linking them with military style arrows. Fundamental to these practices was an analysis of alienation. Marx, in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, had highlighted the process of human alienation from the products of their own labour. In the post war economic boom and reorganisation of Paris the SI, together with other thinkers such at Henri Lefebvre, witnessed the expansion of alienation into everyday life. The sanitisation of city space was a form of alienation of the cities inhabitants from the city streets, as Debord himself noted, ‘The modern commodity had not yet shown what could be done to a street’ (Debord, 1991). The Situationists represented the city as a site of contestation. The militaristic overtones of ‘Naked City’ are not by chance. In the collective imagination of the Situationists, they were engaged in a battle against the alienating colonialisation of the city streets. This battle was particularly apparent in the clearances and gentrification of the working class districts of Paris [2]. The battle against the alienation of the streets is the origin of the two strategies employed by the SI during this period of glorifying the old working class parts of Paris , such as Les Halles, whilst constructing a ‘Formulary for a New Urbanism’ and drawing up designs for a revolutionary transformed Situationist city[3].

Invisible Rods of Force Active in this City 

The pyramid in the graveyard of St. Annes Limehouse
Figure 5 – The pyramid in the graveyard of St. Annes Limehouse

A map of St. Annes Limehouse appears in Iain Sinclair’s Lud Heat. The map dematerialises Limehouse Town Hall, the Town Hall rendered as a negative space between a row of memorial slabs and Limehouse cut. However, Lud Heat has played an important part in materialising the Town Hall as a Key site in London’s psychogeography. Iain Sinclair himself has become synonymous with London psychogeography and since the 1970’s his output has been prolific. His book Lud Heat has had a seminal and lasting impact on subsequent psycogeographers. The drift is a central element of Sinclairs practice and he has written that, ‘Walking is the best way to explore and exploit the city; the changes, shifts, breaks in the cloud helmet, movement of light on water. Drifting purposefully is the recommended mode, tramping asphalted earth in alert reverie, allowing the fiction of an underlying pattern to reveal itself’(Sinclair, 1997:4). Lud Heat also presents an alternative mapping, an alter-cartography of the City in the form of the

maps and diagrams produced by David McKean. The London that emerges out of this poetic literature and mapping is however very different to the outcome of the Situationist studies. Central to the book’s reimagination of the city is the map titled, ‘The 8 great churches: the lines of influence the Invisible Rods of Force Active in this City’(Sinclair, 1998:18). The Map charts a series of alignments linking all 8 churches built by Hawksmoor with other significant sites within the city, such as the Greenwich observatory and the British Museum. In this map the city itself is dematerialized leaving behind only key sites of power and the flows between them. The sites are linked through the text to ritualistic murder, both in the past and the present. Through this reimaged geography, London is presented as a city built upon a masonic energy grid of occult power through which the past maintains a hold over the present[4]. The redemptive possibility of a radical future transformation of the city suggested by the Situationists is missing in this brand of psychogeography. However, Sinclair does produce a radical transformation in his reader’s imagination of the City. The City itself is not transformed but our way of experiencing and relating to it is. The ordinary and everyday is imbued with magic that calls to the reader to re-engage with the city, exploring its mysteries and hidden histories. Notably, the map also includes both Iain Sinclair and Brian Catlin’s houses, either arrogantly elevating the writer and his artist friend to significant nodes of force in the city or anchoring the map to a personally subjective and poetic rendering of the city.

Figure 6 - Limehouse Town Hall
Limehouse Town Hall

Limehoue Town Hall occupies a central position between St Annes and the Sailor’s mission and the LPA ideologically feeds from both the language of the left Marxism of the Situationist and the imagination of occult London. The particular form of language used in the LPA’s leaflets and flyers raise the spectre of a proletarian black mass in opposition to the masonic power that inscribes itself as hidden forces within the landscape. The proletariat is cast in a class struggle in which the secret occult powers that flow through the city are the site of contestation. To be subverted and harnessed by the proletariat, for the proletariat, by ritualistic acts. The LPA’s texts read as a provocative and unsettling mixture of both the occult and the Marxist tendencies and have been dubbed Magico Marxism (Bin, 1996:120)[5].

The triangulation of three buildings, St Annes Limehouse, Limehouse Town hall and the Sailor’s Mission, sketches out the key tropes of contemporary British psychogeography. The radical left-Marxism of the Situationist International, the occult influence of Iain Sinclair’s Lud Heat, the unsettling mixture of both the occult and the Marxist tendencies of Magico Marxism (Bin, 1996:120), and the transmigration of psychogeography into cyberspace.

Death to the Gods of Mount Olympus

Laura Oldfield Ford has described Barry Squiggins as ‘a bit tasty on the pavement’[6]. A reference to his fighting capability. Squiggins was born and bred in Limehouse and had been a member of the Boxing Club at Limehouse Town Hall, when it had actually been a boxing club, prior to its take over by the current collective of artists and activists who continue to use its name. Fabian Tompsett met Barry Squiggins in The Star of the East, a Pub on the opposite side of Commercial road to St. Annes. ‘Initially interested in what had become of the Town Hall, Barry became a regular visitor to the space. Hanging out in the map room and attending the frequent parties that were held at the town hall. Through this liaison, Barry discovered psychogeography and being an autodidact educated himself in its history and traditions’[7]. Having no time for mysticism and the Occult Squiggins set up his own psychogeographical group, aligning it closer to the politics of CLASS WAR[8] and naming it WE ARE BAD. From 2005 Laura Oldfield Ford and John Wild organised a series of drifts under the name the Savage Messiah Collective that in late 2005 merging with WE ARE BAD and the poet Robin Bale, designer of the groups sinister hooded figure logo. When Fabien left the town hall he passed his workspace on to WE ARE BAD. From 2006 WE ARE BAD organised anti-gentrification drifts around Kings Cross and Hackney, carried out a psychogeographical study of the Olympic Zone, attacking its blue fence with posters and raising the slogan “Death to the Gods of Mount Olympus”. These activities brought Laura Oldfield Ford, one of the most significant contemporary female psychogeographers to a wider public through her Savage Messiah Zine[9].

WE ARE BAD poster by Robin Bale
WE ARE BAD poster by Robin Bale

With the announcement of the victory of the London 2012 Olympic bid, on the 6th July 2005, cleaning up and gentrifying working class areas became a governmental priority. Working class pubs were converted into gastro pubs, the Spurstow arms, the Cat and Mutton, the Pembury Tavern, Clapton White Hart. Shops that served the needs of the working class were closed down; Spirit’s Jamaican food store and Tony’s Café on Broadway Market. Rents were rising, squeezing out anyone on a low income not already in social housing, a process WE ARE BAD labelled Class Cleansing. New Labour had replaced the concept of class with the concept of community. The language of meritocracy was revived, a return to the deserving and undeserving poor. Robin Bale was particularly vocal on these issues and WE ARE BAD rejected community, arguing for a restatement of class. WE ARE BAD rejected meritocracy through a celebration of those labelled undeserving and antisocial, ASBO’s and Alcohol Control Zones were considered spatial weapons in the class cleansing of inner city London[10]. This was the climate and context of the development of WE ARE BAD’s brand of psychogeography.

WE ARE BAD posters on the Olympic perimeter fence
WE ARE BAD posters on the Olympic perimeter fence

In the early phase of activities the drift was reinterpreted as a form of direct action. Ambience is constructed and reconstructed through the actions and interactions of its inhabitants. As such a group of walkers can actively create and construct ambience. WE ARE BAD attempted to create an ambience that was explicitly hostile to the ‘yuppies’ and ‘hipster’ gentrifiers. Stickers, posters and graffiti were used to increase underlying tensions and oppose gentrification. ‘TODAYS GATED COMMUNITIES TOMORROW’S GULAGS!’ declared one wall outside a Gated Community in Wapping, Tower Hamlets. ‘DESTROY CARTESIAN RHETORIC’ in a labyrinthal brutalist estate at Elephant and Castle, whilst close to Broadway Market in Hackney was scrawled, ‘ YUPPIES!!! Hands off our houses! There’s plenty of space for you in the THAMES GATEWAY! GET OUT OF HACKNEY!!!. The posters and graffiti had a psychotic, schizophrenic style and tone and featured the sinister WE ARE BAD head. These tactics were considered by the group as a form of psychological class war in which the ambience of an area was the prime site of contestation in the battle against gentrification. Alongside these forms of direct action more artistic strategies were employed, the most enduring being the production by Laura Oldfield Ford of a Zine to accompany each drift. These were personal, subjective and inspired by the literary psychogeographical tradition whilst rejecting the Occult reading of space in favor of a vision of class contestation. Robin Bale would imbue the drifts with a poetic but no less provocative air through invocations and incantations at key sites. John Wild followed a line of enquiry suggested by the East London Cybergeografical Underground Network, exploring the invisible geographies of electro magnetic communications networks and data tracking. The Kings X drift organised on Saturday November 17th 2007 exemplifies how these strategies worked together. Squiggins had been a squatter in the Kings Cross area and was becoming increasingly frustrated with what he saw as the destruction of one of the cities most important liminal zones. Oldfield Ford produced a study of the area that later became Savage Messiah Issue 8. A launch for the Zine was organised at Hausman’s Bookshop on the Caledonian Road and invites to the event contained the following call:

SAVAGE MESSIAH CALLS FOR AN INVASION OF THE ST.PANCRAS EURO TERMINAL!!! MASS TRESPASS KINGS CROSS TO HACKNEY WICK!!!!!!! Bring balaclavas, jemmys, ladders and ropes. Take a look round the new euro terminal, great coffee shops and places to hang out! Why not relax in the new champagne bar or browse in some of the great new retail developments?”[11]

Sufficiently provoked, a police van was stationed outside the bookshop throughout the Launch. What actually took place was even more complex. Squiggins had photocopied old maps, stretching back to the 1800s, of the Kings Cross area. Circular routes were plotted onto each map, starting and ending at Hausmans bookshop and following old streets, paths, alleyways, and tramlines. Gathered participants were divided into four groups of 6 or seven people and each group given one of the maps. Bale began the drifts with an invocation[12], marking the four points of the compass on the pavement outside Hausmans with Special Brew; Libations to the good dead, the bad dead, Dionysius, and Us. The drifts began. Each group tried to stick as closely as possible to the routes on their maps, taking them over fences, into building sites, through buildings and ultimately into conflict with the sheer scale of construction and reorganisation of the area. During the drift John Wild transmitted a pirate radio signal constructed from the location data collected by tracking his own mobile phone. The data was read out by an anonymous computer generated voice and broadcast back into the streets of Kings Cross via speakers mounted outside the bookshop.

Ultimately these strategies failed to halt gentrification and may have inadvertently had a counter productive effect, as Laura had already pessimistically observed in Savage Messiah Issue 7.

Excerpt from Savage Messiah Issue 7
Excerpt from Savage Messiah Issue 7

Tensions within the group started to emerge around political and artistic strategies, culminating when WE ARE BAD were invited to participate in a Late at the Tate event at Tate Britain, Friday 2 January 2009, and Squiggins refused to take part. Laura Oldfield Ford brought the London Psychogeographical Association and WE ARE BAD together for a final joint drift around the Olympic Zone on Saturday 21st February 2009, under the title “A Drift through the Ruins”.

Returning to Limehouse Town Hall a new group, CODED GEOMETRY, is holding its inaugural meeting. This group believes that the global reorganisation of production has brought into being new forms of space and a contemporary psychogeography cannot ignore the emergence of digital and hybrid spaces. CODED GEOMETRY insists that, ‘a FUTURE COMMUNISM must demand the seizure of the means of production of physical and virtual space by the creation of a cybernetic dictatorship by the proletariat’.[13] I can’t help thinking that Limehouse’s game of psychogeography isn’t over yet.

 

WE ARE BAD poster montage
WE ARE BAD poster montage commissioned by MUTE magazine

 

Notes

1. For a more historical overview of psychogeography see, Coverley, M (2006), Psychogeography, Pocket Essentials, Herts, UK.

2. A more in depth study of the SI’s relation ship to old Paris can be found at D, Pinder, 2000, Old Paris is No More, Geographies of Spectacle and Anti-Spectacle’.

3. A wider discussion about the SI’s plans for a Situationist City can be found in, Simon Sadler, The Situationist City.

4. For a more comprehensive overview of the relationship between Paris and London Psycogeographical cartography see. Duncan Hay, Transforming Psychogeography: From Paris to London, Published: October 18, 2012.

5. For a more in depth discussion of Magico Marxism see. Bonnett, A, 2009, The Dilemmas of Radical Nostalgia in British Psychogeography, Theory, Culture & Society, Vol.26(1), pp.45-70

6. Laura Old-field Ford talking about the origins of the WE ARE BAD / Savage Messiah Collective at a Rough Trade East on February 15, 2012

7. Ibid

8. For a more comprehensive overview of CLASS WAR see, Home, S, 1991, The Assault on Culture, AK Press.

9. Laura Old-field Ford’s work deserves a more in depth discussion, particularly in relation to psycogeoraphy and gender. However this text is focused narrowly on the collective vision of WE ARE BAD.

10. For a more in-depth view of Robin Bales argument against Alcohol Control Zones See Bale, R, I Know thee not, old man: The Designated Public, Critical Cities v3. P 347

11. Savage Messiah Issue 8: Kings Cross to Hackney Wick Invite available online at:- http://rupture.co.uk/KingXdrift/savagemessiah8.htm

12. For documentation of a similar Invocation by Robin Bale see: – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocw0dYc-deg&feature=player_embedded#at=205

13. Statement of the inaugural meeting of CODED GEOMETRY, 1st May 2014, Limehouse Town Hall.

References

Bin, D. (1996). ‘ London Psychogeographical Association Newsletter and Manchester Area Psychogeographic ‘, Transgressions, 2/3, pp. 120-121.

Bonnett, A (2009) The Dilemmas of Radical Nostalgia in British Psychogeography,

Theory Culture Society 2009 26: 45

Coverley, M. (2006) Psychogeography, Pocket Essentials, Herts, UK.

Debord, D. (1956) Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography. In K. Knabb (Ed.) Situationist International Anthology, Berkeley: Bureau of Public Secrets.

Debord, G. (1991) from In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni. Quoted in Pinder, D. (2000) Old Paris is No More, Geographies of Spectacle and Anti-Spectacle. Antipode 32:4.

evol PsychogeogrAphix, (2002) A Collection of E-Mails around 11/9/01’, in Inventory Vol.4 No.3

Home, L (Ed.) (1997) Mind Invaders: A Reader in Psychic Warfare, Cultural Sabotage and Semiotic Terrorism, Serpent’s Tail, London.

Internationale Situationniste #5 (SI)(1981a) The Fourth SI Conference in London, Originaly published in 1960. In K. Knabb (Ed.) Situationist International Anthology, Berkeley: Bureau of Public Secrets.

International Situationniste #1 (SI)(1981b), in K. Knabb (Ed.) Situationist International Anthology, Berkeley: Bureau of Public Secrets.

K. Knabb (Ed.) Situationist International Anthology, Berkeley: Bureau of Public Secrets. P 5.

McDonough, T (2009) the situationists and the city, Verso, London

Sinclair, I (1997) Lights out For the Territory, Grant Publications, London.

Sinclair, I (1998) Lud Heat, Grant Publications, London

John Wild 2014

sensingsite 2014

Materialising Site

23 April 2014
Lethaby Gallery
Central Saint Martins

Humans are widely assumed not to have a magnetic sense…However, there is consistent evidence of an influence of geomagnetic fields on the light sensitivity of the human visual system. Moreover, it has been proposed recently that light-sensitive magnetic responses are not only used for directional information, but may also aid visual spatial perception in mammals, by providing a spherical coordinate system for integrating spatial position. (Foley, Gegear & Reppert: 21 June 2011)

The ability of humans to sense electromagnetic fields is a disputed territory at a period when a vast infrastructure of communications equipment has been constructed across urban and rural spaces to form the backbone of the im/material economy. These structures are as important as the iron bridges and railways were to the industrial revolution, forming an electro-magnetic architecture of transmission and reception.

Each site creates its own unique electromagnetic geography through its networked devices, WLAN, Cell phone signals, RFID readers, Bluetooth devices, DECT cordless phone base stations, and the internal processors of laptops. Making use of a GSM sniffer, electromagnetic induction coils, and a broad spectrum RF receiver to make this invisible geography audible, John Wild will employ the technique of electromagnetic audio drifting, allowing himself to be guided by the intensities, textures, and ambiances of the site’s electromagnetic transmissions, materializing the invisible architecture of the Lethaby Gallery.

[sensingsite 2014]

————————

Lauren E. Foley, Robert J. Gegear & Steven M. Reppert. (21 June 2011). Human cryptochrome exhibits light-dependent magnetosensitivity. Nature Communications, 2, 1-10.

Data\Money\Data

“…our ambition is to bring together the creativity and energy of Shoreditch and the incredible possibilities of the Olympic Park to help make East London one of the world’s great technology centres…in East London, we have the potential to create one of the most dynamic working environments in the world…we are today setting ourselves the ambition of making Britain the best place in the world for early stage and venture capital investment…Here’s our vision for East London tech city – a hub that stretches from Shoreditch and Old Street to the Olympic Park… [1].

David Cameron in East London, 4.11.2010

On 24 October 2010, two weeks before David Cameron gave his ‘vision of East London as a tech hub’ speech, the performance poet Robin Bale lead myself and three other participants on a walk around Shoreditch and Hoxton. He traced the invisible border that had been erected by the imposition of Hackney Council’s Alcohol Control Zones.

Screen Shot Robin

Alcohol Control Zones, also known as Designated Public Place Orders (DPPOs), give the police powers to stop people from drinking and to confiscate alcohol within a designated geographical area. In the words of the 2001 Criminal Justice and Police Act, a local authority can order the public; “(a) not to consume in that place anything which is, or which the constable reasonably believes to be, alcohol; (b) to surrender anything in his possession which is, or which the constable reasonably believes to be, alcohol or a container for alcohol …”[2]. The Act states that an offender will be “liable on summary conviction to a fine”. The fine can be a fixed penalty notice of £50 up to a maximum of £500.

The introduction of the Alcohol Control Zones immediately affected Hoxton’s street drinkers and rough sleepers, particularly around St-Anne’s church, Hoxton Community Gardens and Haggerston Park. In effect making the area a no-go zone for certain ‘undesirable’ members of the public. Robin’s original plan was to circumnavigate the Alcohol Control Zones, whilst drinking alcohol, in an attempt to observe what, in the environment, might have given rise to the measure [3].

I returned to this area again in March 2013 to witness another of Robin’s performances. This time Robin was performing a shamanic ‘cleansing’ of the area. He used chants of ‘Data, Money, Data’ and connected the rows of bottled water in Foxton’s faux-bar shop front with the river Walbrook which was believed to emerge from the sacred spring at the site of the former Holywell Priory. He berated the growth of local gyms, luxury flats and bars and exposed the ruins of the boroughs social housing. Since Robin’s original walk, the Alcohol Control zone had been extended to the whole of the borough of Hackney and the original Zone had now been re-branded as the Silicon Roundabout, not referring solely to the old street roundabout itself but to the digital cluster that, with the help of David Cameron, was now stretching in all directions from the roundabout.

The contrast this time was much more stark that in 2011. In 2011 it was clear that the desire of enacting the DPPO was to enhance the appeal of the area to young creative types by making the area ‘safer’ by eradicating the areas visible poor. Namely those who would meet to drink alcohol in the local parks or churchyards. This time the visible contrast produced by Robin’s performance was not between those members of the public who would sit outside bars drinking whilst those sitting and drinking in the parks were been harassed by the local constabulary. This time the contrast was between the large number of construction projects that were creating new luxury apartments whilst the area’s social housing was being under-invested, residents moved out, and whole working class housing estates demolished. Rows of derelict social housing lie side by side with new developments such as 145 city road, a 39 storey, 300 unit apartment block; 261 city road which will soon become a 36 storey residential tower; the 27 storey Eagle House and the 29 storey ‘Groveworld’ buildings.

Robins latest performance, ‘Data, Money Data’, highlights the direct relationship between the growth of Shoreditch as a Tech Hub and the Process of social cleansing that has been accelerated inline with government investment. His transformative and esoteric drift brought into sharp relief a sociospatial process that is having a massive impact on the land use of the inner city and has parallels in most post-industrial cities [4].

In many ways Shoreditch and Hoxton function as a metaphor for the wider industrial and economic shifts that have taken place since the end of the 1980’s. This area was a former industrial area that was hit hard by the decline and relocation of manufacturing and light industries. Leaving a proliferation of decaying former industrial properties and a high level of poverty and unemployment. The access to cheap industrial units attracted the 80’s artists associated with the YBA movement, reactivating these spaces initially into artist studios and galleries and eventually into bars, clubs and restaurants. However, the impoverished artists who created the Hoxton experience in the first place have also moved on because of the rise in property prices…’ [5]

What Robin’s performance suggests is that the area has taken a fundamental shift from “creative cluster” to what Saskia Sassen would recognise as a command and control node in the global network of economic exchange. Sassen has highlighted how the shift from industrial production to post-industrial knowledge and finance based production has lead to the dispersal of manufacturing, whilst creating new forms of centralisation which in turn producing new sociospatial configurations within the post industrial city.

Screen Shot skype face

In order to coordinate and manage the complexity of dispersed production, a vast expansion of the communications infrastructure is required. So we can see that the practices of knowledge based production develop in tandem with the development of the Internet and fuel its’ convergence with other communications infrastructures such as Mobile phone networks and locatative media. Contrary to many of the early predictions outlining how the rapid growth of networked communications would change the nature of work, freeing people from the office and out of the crowded cities, the converse has occurred. The major cities of the world have re-emerged as important centres in the global network of economic flows. We can visualise their emergent role as centralised control and management nodes within the global network of production and exchange, employing a growing workforce of immaterial knowledge workers. Sassen observed that, advances in electronics and telecommunications have transformed geographically distant cities into centres of global communication and long distance management [6]. I think that Sassen here correctly identifies the emergence of centralised control within the chaotic network of distributed production. Whilst the vast expansion of the communications infrastructure has enabled the production process to become deterritorialised, the need to control the activities of distributed production has coalesced into centralised control nodes within global cities and Silicon Roundabout is one such node. The reterritorialisation of global cities has also started to reverse the decline of the inner-city residential districts. The process of deindustrialisation left many inner city areas with high levels of unemployment, poor housing and a population socially excluded from more prosperous districts. As the City remerges the location of these districts, often close to the business and financial centres of cities are once again becoming desirable places to live for the young knowledge and culture workers whose immaterial labour is required by the new economy of information and control. Consequently properties in these areas have become attractive to property speculation and overseas investment. Because of the disproportionate concentration of very high and very low income in these areas they are characterised, as Robin’s performance exposes, by economic and spatial polarisation. The effect of the regeneration of Shoreditch and Hoxton has been to raise property value and increase rents. This, combined with the governments’ Housing benefit cap expected to be introduced in the area from September 2013, is producing the conditions for a literal class cleansing of the area, as poorer families are priced out and forced to move further and further to the outskirts of the city or displaced to cheaper areas altogether.

Screen Shot Housing

On Thursday 6 December 2012 the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London announced plans to transform Old Street Roundabout. The Government will put £50m towards creating a new civic space. The new space will house classrooms, auditoriums, shared office space, and 3D printing technology. Prime Minister David Cameron said, “We’re investing in creating the largest civic space in Europe – a place for start-up companies and the local community to come together and become the next generation of entrepreneurs’. It is clear that if Robins visionary divinations of the area are correct and the class cleansing continues the ‘local community’ referred to by Prime Minister Cameron will be a very different ‘community’ from the one that is currently residing in the area.

Robin Bale 2013 – ‘They knocked down the estates or decided that market rents, and who makes the market, was more appropriate. They put the occupants in tracksuits and taxed their booz. Theirs a fear of contagion. Gyms sprung up like mushrooms, where those who could – could reduce their flesh – to work of the burden of self hood. Where they could reduce their meat – to reduce the burden of selfhood. Running to stay still. – And the only flows round here – Underground – Will be Data and Money. That which comes to the same thing – Underground – Data and Money’.

 

Notes

[1] David Cameron in East London, 4.11.2010, Transcription of speech: Retrieved from: http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/east-end-tech-city-speech/
[2] Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, section 12, HM Government, 2001, http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2001/16/section/12#commentary-c1772955 (accessed 25/02/11).
[3] Stated aim of the walk in: Bale, R (2012) “I know thee not, old man”: The Designated Public, In D.Naik & T.Oldfield, (Eds.), CRITICAL CITIES Volume 3, London, Myrdle Court Press
[4] Saskia, S. (2001). the Global City, p256, United Kingdom: Prinston University Press
[5] G. Evans and P. Shaw (January 2004). The Contribution Of Culture To Regeneration In The Uk: A Review Of Evidence, A report to the Department for Culture Media and Sport
[6] S. Sassen (1997). The New Centrality – The Impact of Telematics and Globalization. In P. Droege, Intelligent Environments: Spatial Aspects of the Information Revolution, MIT Press