Thursday, 23 October 2014

Seroxat, Smirnoff, THC---Stanley Picker Gallery 9 October - 29 November 2014













Laura Oldfield Ford: Pray for Love
Stanley Picker Gallery Commission
2014
Pray for Love features in Laura Oldfield Ford’s exhibition Seroxat, Smirnoff, THC currently showing at the Stanley Picker Gallery. Oldfield Ford has spent the last year walking through the suburban edges of South West London as part of her Stanley Picker Fellowship research. Her work is concerned with issues surrounding contested space, landscape, architecture and memory, reworking the ‘drift’ as a subjective process of mapping territory along the lines of social antagonism.
Pray for Love is an autobiographical audio travelogue in which Laura Oldfield Ford delivers an elegiac personal and socio-political commentary on what she sees around her as she wanders through London and beyond into the suburbs. For her, a reversal has taken place; the suburb is the new inner city. In 2011 it was the suburbs that saw the most dramatic displays of collective violence. In Croydon, Edmonton, Catford and Streatham the barriers broke down and suddenly the suburbs became porous.





Saturday, 18 October 2014

Pray for Love transcript

Waterloo redundant Eurostar -
there is something uncanny and desolate about the sight of the eurostar terminal with its promise of glamourous international travel long departed. Now it seems tawdry, stained, mossy.. a testament to a more bouyant moment in the life of the south London terminal, always a dark and menacing place.

I want to walk round Waterloo, I want to remember those flats, 1930s, 1940s blocks I used to walk through them when I lived in the Elephant.   I liked that you could walk from the Elephant into the West End, away from there..it always seemed strange that the weirdness of the Elephant, the mosaic labyrinth beneath the roads, the 70s shopping centre, the subterranean market , the sprawling brutalist estates should be so close to central London.  It seemed so anachronistic, stranded in another epoch.

Waiting for the feeling of Autumn to come, now feels like a strange transitional zone, it feels suspended, as if we are trapped between times. Gone is the hedonism and euphoria of the heatwave, but the chill and glamour of a sharp, frosty autumn is yet to come.. we are suspended in a cloudy, almost humid malaise.. everyone is coughing and sneezing, it is grey and cloudy but about 20 degrees.


I remember those melancholy Sunday afternoons, must have been 1996,  my first term on foundation, drivng through Nine Elms . He was closed to the beauty and horror of the landscpae ..he would just say he didn't like it, hadn't really thought about it.. I was horrified by Nine Elms, that menacing silo,  the motorways and huge billboards designed to be seen from the train, and those lines, 12 running concurrently, the shifting and scithing..
I remember feeling that the place was forlorn, motorways, roundabouts and dead zones between. I later learned that the brutal tramp scene in clockwork orange was filmed in a subway beneath the motorway intersection here.

New Covent Garden market-- the skips outside,
the perpetual shift to the periphery..from West end to Nine Elms, from Covent garden, a wild semi derlict area in the 70s to a heritage theme park, tourist leisre zone..
now Nine Elms and Vauxhall subject to intense development...

What kind of city will it be if it is just housing for the wealthy?
I often wonder what London will be like if they close all the places like New Covent Garden market, the industrial areas, when they manage to decant the last social housing tenants out of the South East and into the sacrificed zones like Bradford. what will it be like when we're all shunted out beyond the North Circular and all that's left are the dreamscapes of the terminally dull, when it's all subsumed into a bland neoliberal gloss..what then? When our whole city becomes a heritage trail, a site of history walks, pop up shops and exorbitant 'street food' markets/


'40s flats , dark brick , ravine next to railway
Battersea
I wonder about him, I wonder where he ended up, I know he was living down here. I want to walk around those big estates, I wonder what the view is like from the bedrooms at the top.. big 1940s estates, I imagine boxy square bedrooms, with views out across a gouged landscape of railway ravines and isolated blocks..
I remember that train ride from Streatham to Robey, on the Thameslink..

Queenstown road
Clapham junction, Winstanley


Wandsworth town

Railway arch

Ivy

Roof terraces and palm trees

Putney,
Barnes
Roehampton

Alton estate

Modernist flats dusty forgotten interiors


Twickenham,
earthy autumn smell


Substantial town with architecture of stern disposition


Meringues, waxy cakes in windows..these little caverns, softly lit and unthreatening create the illusion we are getting closr to something we want..Costa, Starbucks, Patisserie Valerie..they've identified a yearning for a sense of belonging, of inclusivity--
Capitalism makes us feel bad, inadequacy and dissatisfaction reside at its locus, but it makes us feel temporarily better by giving us comfy chairs, .milky drinks, sugar and fat,
the idea of wanting a collective space is there//
but surely we could do it better.....


.. a whole industry built around this lifestyle, meeting for coffee, meeting for lunch, birthday presents, gifts for babies..

Twickenham

Was called underground scene
Attitudes crosed over, Gay lib , Black power ,Women's movement ,
a lot of stuff was free, squatting houses, looking for alternatives

Prominent figures, Editors of Oz
See them everywhere pubs and cafs
Electric cinema portobello finches epicentre

Finches pub, there were people on the street , characters, groups of kids who must have been about 10 in 1966, might have become punks, you start to see where it came from, the momentum, the energy, where it was being fired from,
the street.
Finches, used to be Duke of Wellington.
People on the street, dozens and dozens..the absence of shoppers, carrier bags..everyone out, drinking, entertainment, buskers.. blind accordianist, boozed up black geezers, saturday luunchtimes.. you don't see the shopping as leisure thing..this is what strikes you.

There is a smartness, no sportswear anywhere or casual attire.. jumpers and shirts..jackets, proper leather shoes.. the younger ones not wearing hats and long hair yeah but still better dressed--
the pub doors open, the atmosphere was  kind of licentiousness, the street as theatre.. a site of entertainment, .. encounters and collisions,, noise and shouting..
kids about , groups of hippies..
it looked really good then. 
Also the anti vietnam stuff going on. 
A flight from boring places like Upper Norwood and Heston to Portobello where the street dynamic was intense... disordered.. porous..not like the regimented stiffness of the houses in Heston or the starched curtains and matronly influence of sunday lunch in Upper Norwood..for the kids in Heston the sound of the ice cream van was an exciting event.. you can see why they flocked to Portobello when they became teenagers seeking adventures.


It became magnetic like Haight Ashbury, people drifted there from all over London, all over Britain..from everywhere..

There are scenes from Brentford market in late 1960s, they are ramshackle, sheds and wagons and old blokes with hats and coats trading.

Sunday speakers Hyde park meet up there
free gigs/
Twickenham


Artisan cottages, thought Twikenham would be more rustic and hippyish, it still is a bit along the Thames from here where the squatters have their barge encampments .. but the town has big stern buildings ..
Reminds me of how places of social and historical significance where there has been conflict and social unrest are always perceived as somehow other.. Like South central ,Compton and Watts, or Brixton , Tottenham and St Paul's
But they're are not monstrous, alien, brutal or weird but extensions of the cosy, the domestic ---

It is the homely that strikes fear..the recognition, the familarity,,when it erupts..opens, a chasm appears, a chasm opens in time..
the sacred has been blasphemed against.. property, that ultimate law..has been transgressed.

In Twickenham..the squats on Eel Pie island are evicted and the squatters cross the bridge and come over to the town finding rows of empty houses on Grosvenor Road.



Grosvenor road squats.. I thought of the images I had seen of the squats in the 70s, I recognised the road but unlike Eel pie there are no traces at all of any kind of countercultural occupation. I saw a checkerboard paving pattern in a front yard..i thought of freemasonry and the occult. There were gaps in the housing where I imagined the squats must have been.
The only people I saw were those types with white shirts and Next suits and plastic id badges on a ribbon around their necks..i don't like this new phenomenon, you see people moving purposefully through spaces with a territorial air, implying your presence there is somehow open to suspicion. ID cards by stealth.
It was difficult to imagine it being magical here because it seemed so cold and corporate somehow even though there were trees behind the houses and hollyhocks rampaging in small front gardens..

When I was standing by the Thames I was imagining it without the tourist and heritage aspect, without the yummy mummy boutiques, the kath kidston influence leeching along those narrow streets.. without the cars and the new, super expensive housing developments on the island itself.. I could sense how magical it must have been because the imprint was still there, the church, the street patterns, the old pubs, the trees and the river..i imagined the mists, the amber days of Autumn, the intoxication--..
Autumn 1992..travelling around the country,
paths leading then not to Ladbroke grove which by then had become subsumed by a coke fulled media scene..
In 1992 the muddy paths of the Thames were leading not to the simmering underground pads and boozers of Ladbroke grove but the squatted dole offices and empty factories of Peckham. The Archduke Charles, the squatted North Peckham estaes.. Sensor, RDF, the mob of itinerants, the militant reconfiguartion of the 80s convoy traveller scene. military surplus, special brew, super strength lager, dreadlocks, animal rights activism, acid and speed..


Once you start to wake up , they are everywhere..the signs..
you begin to hear the quiet buzzing of power , you notice where it lies, where it is held//
where it resides..encoded, encrypted..
it is distributed, power is dispersed..
not concentrated in one bombastic location like the City of London or the towers at Canary Wharf,
here it pulsates though Italianate gardens, the checkerboard patterns in extensive grounds.. the columns and neoclassicalfacades..
here one is transported to a rural idyll, a labyrinth by the river..a perfectly ordered and managed encounter with nature.
Inner city areas and the wilds of the Brisith Countruside have both been locked down and bought up by the wealhty.
This stretch of the Thames, 
Kingston, Teddington, Eel Pie, Twickenham , Richmond
 is a sequence of controlled landscapes , each square inch pulsates with symbolism and intent. In the sacrificed zones, the contemporary London suburbslike Croydon, Catford and Hounslow places become contingent, they unravel under a confusion of ownership, the interstices between boundaries become sites of conlfict,entropy and confusion. there are conflicts, encoutners, the slamming together and splintering of ideologies, beliefs and desires. There are mutations, the sliding and morphing of images and projections
..here there are blocks of power, landscapes buzzing with control,, money sitting contentedly in moats, ornamental lakes, crenellated walls and the curlicues and twisting vines of wrought iron gates..

but this is a war isn't it..CLASS WAR—they wage it on us.
their entire existence is based on powerful cliques, landownership, power mongering architecture--
the age old tactics of the ruling class,, inversion, sleight of hand, projection....‬



the suburbs are self medicating..
It used to be the inner cities where you could experience breaks in a landscpae of bland conformity..

The suburb is the new inner city, a reversal has taken place. Once maligned areas like Brixton, Hackney and Clapham have become the chic residences of a new bouregoisie; spaces once open for experimentaion and drifting have been locked down and sealed off; squatting has become illegal, being on the dole means attending endless time wasting courses constructed only to please Mr and Mrs Ukip in Middle England...time has been co opted, we no longer have time to wander and dream in a city where exorbitant rents take all your wages.
The desirability of investing in a brand, London World City , of having a santised hertiage industry and cultrual emblems ( the last remnants of an appropriated psychogeogreaphy) means that the working class of inner city London have been pogrammed out, subjected to an intense campagin of social cleansing.
Where do we end up? Is London becoming more like Paris, with a wealthy centre and an outer circle of ravaged banlieu? In London it feels as though the inner city has shifted to the periphery.
The suburbs emerge as two distinct catergories, zones of refuge and zones of sacrifice. The zones of refuge are the sites where bankers frazzled with siphoning public money go to relax and dream of heritage England, of Tolkein, of homes and gardens. These zones are places like Thames Ditton and Teddington, the constructed idylls where a banker can base the wife and kids while he blows his bonus in the strip clubs and drinking dens of the City.
The zones of sacrifice are the areas that have been allowed to decay amidst sites of gentrification, one such example is Streatham which is held captive on all sides by gentrification as Balham, Brixton and Tooting are swept up in the ghoulish horror of Cath Kidston and cup cake baking.
Often these areas sit side by side, Twickenham and Hounslow for example, or Windsor and Slough.

These zones of sacrifice are areas seemingly starved of investment and set aside for those who are deemed necessary to the economy but regarded as undesirable, the workforce who subsist on zero hours contracts in the service sector, in precarious work, the jobseekers, call cente workers, those driven to the brink of madness by payday lenders and ATOS. There are few places left to rent in London that don't exeed the housing benefit cap. The overheated south east property market, the welcoming of non domiciles, the auctioning of new developments in Singapore and Hong Kong and local authority housing policy is driving working class people out, into the zones of sacrifice, into the suburbs. Those ending up in the fraying edges of Croydon, Hounslow, and Streatham are the lucky ones, others get decanted to the north, to the vast zones of sacrifice up there, like Bradford.
These suburbs are the new transient zones, where architecture is provisional and lanes behind rows of semi detached housing reveal gardens sprawling with camps and dormitories. The inner city has become about ownership, about property investment, even decrepit flats in once notorious housing estates have been sold off and are rented out at ludicrous rents. The suburbs have become the temporary homes of migrant workers, of the low paid, of the work force in the service and construction sectors who, in their high visibilty vests have becomne largely invisible.

What happens when you're forced to spend hours immersed in stultifying work? What happens when you're working split shifts at a Mcdonalds in the middle of a traffic island near Heathrow airport, when you're living in a travelodge in Sunbury working on the construction of some luxury development, or stuck in a call cetre in Croydon hassling people all day about loan repayments. Some seek solace in marginal political ideologies, the EDL, Al Muhajiroun, the comfort and camaraderie of faith with the thrill of violence to puncture the boredom.
But mostly you self medicate. The suburbs are hallucinating, England is hallucinating. Monster Ripper and Smirnoff, Brandy Boost, oversized glasses of chardonnay at Weterspoons monday club, valium scored for a few quid in the pub , the stink of weed drifting from portakabins , red eyes and yellow bibs.. The pharmecuticals indiustry is one of UK Plc's biggest success stories ( along with arms dealing and loans companies) as prescriptions for anti depressants are kept on repeat.
We're all hallucinating, in a landscape that has become more surreal and more authoritaruan in equal measure. The physical landscape has become infantilised, we are spoken to in baby voices by cereal packets and drinks cartons and are subjected to the ubiquitous sight of cartoon characters looming down from billboards offering us payday loans. And yet life in this country has never seened more coercive. More consumer choices than ever before, 'have it your way', but always within the narrowest set of parameters,,the moment you step out of line and express your anger the weight of the law comes crashing down, four years for nicking a bottle of water, the 2011 riots loom large in the suburban pysche.

In 2011 it was the suburbs that saw the most dramatic dispalys of collective violence. Croydon, Edmonton, Catford, Streatham, these towns, these suburban sites have become thr repositories of a class anger that for most of the time stays pent up in the cellular strucutres of housing estates. In rooms where you sit drinking supermarket lager in front of flat screen tvs, smoking weed playing x box, anger and frustration is sucked inwards..it is sublimated in a cascade of pahamecuticals and self help platitudes. Fluoxetine, citraloporan, CBT, it's all about fixing the individual. To be happy in the face of this disaster neoliberalism has wrought would surely be the pathological response?
In 2011 the barriers broke down, the estates and streets of the suburbs, instead of being selaed corridors suddenly becmae porous, terrirtorial markers melted, the streets became the site of collective engagement with the spectacle of consumerism. The anger was directed twoards pawnbrokers, retail parks and high street stores , places taunting us every day.
In the new suburban enclaves, in the zones of sacrifice, there resides a surplus work force moving in a precarious fashion between flats in condemned buildings and camps under mortoway flyovers and patches of wasteground. There are buried channels, plots and cells.
The suburbs, once the site of order and domesticity are unravelling.