Tag Archives: city

TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND is now Officially Released

The street art documentary I made is now available to view online.

deadzone

TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND is now Officially Released online for free viewing. Go to http://film.kingslandmural.co.uk
Please share freely.

synopsis:

 “In a forgotten corner of East London, in the shadow of the Olympic site,  artist Nazir Tanbouli is battling weather, vandalism and lack of funds, to create a massive mural installation throughout a condemned housing estate.”

After doing the rounds of the festival circuit including Sheffield Docfest and Portobello Festival in London, as well as screenings all over the place as far afield as Hungary and Egypt, it’s time to make the film more widely available since the fact is not that many people actually go to film festivals 🙂

More info, including full crew list and lots of material about the film as well as my still photography,  is at http://kingslandmural.co.uk/

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dual-wall rain2 wetwall

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Filed under Art-Related, Film Making, Uncategorized

is it my imagination or …?

Every place that used to be something or offer something has turned into a place for swilling endlessly.
The bookshop now serves food. The library has a cafe; in fact the cafe is much busier than the library. The urban garden does coffee and sandwiches. So does the supermarket just in case while you are shopping for food you are overcome by hunger and need to eat.
Even the bicycle repair place is also a coffee shop.

WHY?

What is going on? Why is every second shop a restaurant or café? Some streets, such as Broadway Market, used to have actual shops, but now it is just one whole street of food (with 3 bookshops which, so far anyway, mercifully don’t serve food).
Why do people eat all day long, even in the street? Can nobody just live for a few hours without grub?

I mean, for sure sometimes you do have to grab a bite when you’re out all day long, but I can’t understand why and how, overnight a hardware store for instance shuts down, then in 24 hours it becomes a café and is immediately full of people all stuffing themselves like they have never had access to food before.
It’s not like people are using the cafés in the old-school way, to meet with friends and have, like Surrealist meetings like Andre Breton used to in the Café Cyrano, or Sartre and de Beauvoir in the Deux Magots. No they are just sitting there alone swilling very expensive coffee and chunks of cake bathed in the blue glow of their Macbook Pros.
It’s all a bit – well, not depressing exactly, but perhaps dispiriting.

Lame.

Swill swill swill, nothing else to do.

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you could just wait till you get home 🙂

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Filed under rants + outrages, the city

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH ARTISTS AND ‘REGENERATION’ ANYWAY?

Last Sunday I participated in a fascinating presentation and discussion around critical urbanism. Alongside film maker Andrea Luka Zimmerman and artist Cathy Ward, we discussed the position of art and the city, the role of social housing and how artists can avoid or minimise being instrumentalized particularly by developers.

These are all huge issues in today’s city. Today’s city, especially London,  is a place where social housing is being demolished to make way for luxury flats – often bought as investments and left untenanted.  Where workers such s paramedics, nurses, teachers and other professionals can never afford to buy a house or rent anything decent so they have to think twice about raising a family.

Iain Sinclair referred once to artists as the “shock troops of the developers” and he was right. In the past, it was simply about artists paving the way by making a place a bit trendy. This happened in my neighbourhood of Hoxton-Shoreditch. When I moved here as a student it was a wasteland. Aside from the Bricklayers’ and Charlie Wright’s there was nothing. You could not even get a cup of coffee. Now coffee is about all you can get, as many more functional businesses have shut up shop. In many ways I welcome that change since at least most of the social housing is intact (with some disgusting exceptions) and I like coffee (although we see to have gone from the sublime ot the ridiculous, in cups of coffee per head of population).

But now developers are actually actually instrumentalizing art and co-opting artists to make developments seem more attractive and to create a façade of a ‘give back’ to the ‘community.’ This is almost always less than it seems. Also I notice that, in an area such as East London which is so ethnically and culturally diverse, the artistic profiles championed are very white and middle class! Typified by the posh white boys doing Banksy-lite (lite as in, without political content) on a  developers hoarding. Or the other posh white boys doing a big ‘street art’ piece in Shoreditch High St – oops no wait it is actually an ad for Red Bull. (where do the developers find these guys anyway? Did they go to public school with them)

Is there another way? This is what we talked about and we offered our own experiences – and art works – and discussed the positives and negatives. What was great is that we found some like minded people at the event, and the conversation began. We did not go there with solutions, but with a desire to find solutions – and that is for the long haul not a 2 hour slot.

Coda – one of the most hilarious things has to be the naming of one development as Avant-Garde Tower.  It’s just off Brick Lane – traditionally an area of high-visibility immigrant culture – when I first visited London it still had a Jewish presence (a kosher café on Whitechapel High St was a haunt of mine), but was largely Bangladeshi except on the Sunday ‘Cockney’ market. Over the years it became a trendy go-to market and entertainment district, and it is definitely a lot of fun. Many of the houses there were incredibly run down. So it is good that new housing has been built – but I do object to it being all ‘luxury’ i.e..totally unaffordable to the average citizen, and the egregious use of the term avant-garde is just laughable.

On the other hand, the real meaning of avant-garde is ‘the foremost division or the front part of an army; advance guard; van.’ If the purpose is to cleanse the city of its working class population with military precision, then perhaps it is the vanguard, and it is aptly named.

(Jeez I remember studying Marxist theory at uni and it was just a theory … Pass the exam, move on.

Now it’s become a handbook for living, for negotiating the reality around us.)2013-11-10 12.40.03

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Filed under Art-Related, the city

Something beautiful and atmospheric

today i have just trawled my photo archive for something beautiful and atmospheric to counter-act they grey November day when I am stuck inside, writing.  And so, these images of Paris, romantic, a bit cliche but very much enjoyed in the moment they were taken. Beauty and atmosphere in one’s surroundings really does make a difference.

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LOUVRE

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Église Saint-Séverin

 

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paris

By the way I’ll just say one thing – people in Paris, yes even in “touristy” areas, are uniformly pleasant, polite and friendly.

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Filed under photography

New Orleans Thoughts

SHINING

I wasn’t in the city for long but I managed to take a few photos, see the post below.

What I didn’t photograph was more important: the destruction and damage of Katrina. Seven years alter some NEW ORLEANS is still in bits.
I got the impression people are still traumatized, pissed off – I felt that, for them,  the memory is an open wound unhealed and still sore.

I saw Spike Lee’s film When the Levees broke but i confess i assumed they fixed it all up by now but it’s not true. Plenty of it is fixed up but I saw public housing estates still broken and empty, and the 9th wards there was still much devastation., I met people who realised they will forever live outside of the city and have to come into the city to work or have fun, gradually ties are being loosened and broken…  by a hurricane.

I was only there for a short visit so I did not feel right going around photographing people’s misery. Still, as nice as this golden St Joan is, it’s the memory of the 9th ward that haunts me.

On another note it was the first time in a  long time I have visited the USA and I have to say I really loved it, and in my travels I enjoyed meeting Americans from all over the USA. Here living  in Europe when people ask me if I am American and I say ‘no, Canadian’ they usually say “Oh sorry you must hate that.” I have never hated being taken for an American, it’s no insult.

Canada has just as many jerks per capita as the US and England.


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Filed under the city, Uncategorized