Monday, June 25, 2012

Witnesses in Stone

'Every structure left to us by history expresses the spirit of it's builder.

Brutaliat in Stein: Die Ewigkeit von Gestern (1960) [Brutality in Stone: Yesterday Goes on for Ever] is an experimental film by Alexander Kluge (b.1932).  It depicts the abandoned Nazi architecture, strikingly void of human life and disturbingly illustrates the utilization of inhuman and super-human scale that attempted to bolster the political regime of the same. Shots of huge neo-classical architectural structures from the Nazi period are confronted with equally anti-human national-socialist language as a voice-over. Kluge intersperses the film footage from the early 1960s with various images dating from 1933 to 1945, including photographs of Adolf Hitler drawing building plans, his personal sketches, and drawings of reconceived German cities.' 

Alexander Kluge is a German filmmaker and author, published in English by Seagull Books.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My Body Lying in the Heather

One night when I had tasted bitterness in my mouth I went out on to the hill. Dark heather checked my feet…Two lights for guidance. First our little glowing atom of community, with all that it signifies. The second, the cold light of the stars, symbol of the hypercosmical reality, with its crystal ecstasy.

Duncan Marquiss, Midday, 2011. Courtesy of the artist.

Olaf Stapledon’s science fiction novel Star Maker (1937) begins with the mysterious freeing of the unnamed protagonist’s consciousness from the confines of his body. Newly unencumbered, our narrator departs suburbia for distant solar systems, sprawling galaxies and alien civilisations. As he journeys the narrator’s psyche is revealed as an endlessly malleable entity, dividing and expanding, merging with individual and group minds to eventually play its minute role in forming a vast cosmical consciousness. In this remarkable work Stapleton recounts the history of the universe as seen through the prism of an individual mind.

In the year 2000 a stone circle was erected in Milton Keynes. Titled ‘The Circle of Hearts Medicine Wheel’, it consists of two concentric circles of stones with longer stones positioned at each compass point. Situated on the energy line said to run through Midsummer Boulevard in the centre of Milton Keynes, this modern Neolithic structure accesses Pagan traditions and pre-Christian resonances. It is during the short period of Midsummer that this ancient ley line becomes visible, as the sun rises in precise alignment with Midsummer Boulevard, Avebury Boulevard and Silbury Boulevard. Built to mark the millennium and intended as a meeting place for the city’s residents, the monument brings the presence of deep time to an urban environment seemingly lacking an extended history of its own.

The summer solstice marks the day on which the axial tilt of the Earth, in a given hemisphere, is most inclined towards the Sun: an astronomical happening that signifies an extremity of light, a marker of time and movement through the seasons. These films have been bought together to coincide with this event. Each work has a complexity linked through the interplay of light and the self against, before and within the film/video medium. In Lucy Reynolds’s Lake (Nocturne) artificial light plays eerily across a landscape we cannot situate, the uncanny effect directing us to a world played for film and the world outside of it. Duncan Marquiss’s two videos, Midday and Late Cinema, flicker across the screen, drawing our bodies in as the oscillation of images strikes our nervous systems. Sarah Pucill’s Blind Light is rendered with great economoy, as the substance of film is so exceeded by light, touch and feeling. The work provokes the suspension of the everyday world, as image, as the body and psyche ceaselessly coalesce and break away.  In Kim Coleman & Jenny Hogarth’s If You Can’t See My Mirrors I Can’t See You we are in turns suspended, as real and virtual spaces enmesh, encircling objects and subjectivities, in a feedback loop of the artists making.

We have a desire to begin to unpack the relations between imagined psychical space and our bodies in this place. On the lightest day we arrive weighed down with a projector, discs and neat spirals of film. Our lived experience is of body and image enfolded into the world. Film produces, through a unique combination of dichotomies (light/dark, visual/sound, past/present), a disjuncture between the two. As once began a lecture on film given by the ineffable Hollis Frampton, ‘we are, shall we say, comfortably seated. We may remove our shoes, if that will help us to remove our bodies’1.

1 Hollis Frampton, A Lecture. New York, 1968.

Laura Guy & Elsa Richardson, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

ABIDJAN a thought on the naming of new towns...

Abidjan is the colonial capital of Côte d'Ivoire and the country's largest city. In 1933 a port was built and the new city grew.

According to oral tradition of the Ebrie as reported in the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Côte d'Ivoire, the name "Abidjan" results from a misunderstanding. Legend states that an old man carrying branches to repair the roof of his house met a European explorer who asked him the name of the nearest village. The old man did not speak the language of the explorer, and thought that he was being asked to justify his presence in that place. Terrified by this unexpected meeting, he fled shouting "min-chan m'bidjan", which means in the Ébrié language: "I just cut the leaves." The explorer, thinking that his question had been answered, recorded the name of the locale asAbidjan. Wikipedia of course. 

Is this true, and what is involved in the process of naming a New Town? In Milton Keynes, the name was that of the smallest village surrounding the new town centre in order to avoid competition between the largest dwellings in the region. Shenzhen means "deep drains", a descriptive title of the cities geography which used to be a delta with streams and rivers throughout - that was before the bulldozers arrived and reclamation began. Thamesmead launched a competition in the Sunday Times to suggest names for the new town. One of the suggestions, New Wooabbeleri became the title of artist Stuart Whipp's project of 2011.

What does a name designate? How does a population relate to the name of town in which they live? Does choosing the name of the small hamlet that once stood in the new town's place offer some kind of panacea to the lack of material heritage in a new city?