Monday, 16 April 2012

Casual Observations 1

Decided to start blogging again after someone contacted me on Twitter saying they'd read an old interview with John Calder (above, right) that I'd written in 2008.

The piece was an overview of John Calder's controversial career publishing books by Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, and William S Burroughs. Ironically, the article was commissioned by Vice. You can read it, here

Ryan Alexander Diduck has written a long review of Hype Williams/Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland's new album, Black is Beautiful, over at The Quietus. It opens with a rebuttal of an argument Blunt made in a recent Guardian interview about critics corrupting art by subjecting it to analysis, amongst other remarks that sound like Heideggerian epistomology/nihilism. (Perhaps he was just being typically insincere). It's a great album though. Lots of analogue hiss, crude r'n'b rhythms, and kosmichemusik melodies. The songs where Copeland sings are soulful. Track 1 also features the sample of Tony Iommi coughing from Black Sabbath's 'Sweet Leaf' (and track 2 sounds like a reworking of 'Planet Caravan').

My friend Tim Burrows has a piece in this month's Dazed & Confused discussing east London's demise as a contemporary bohemia. There's an interview with the psychogeographic artist Laura Oldfield Ford that he's published on his blog, explaining a fight that broke out at her book launch at Cafe Oto in Dalston.
TB: I heard that people have been starting fights at your talks?

LOF: We’ve had a few brawls so far. The people who are eager to ask questions tend to be the people who object to being called "yuppies". They’ll argue with me or ask me "Where is all this poverty you talk of?" And the room will be packed out with a load of people who have been evicted from the area, booted out, living in really precarious conditions – suddenly this huge groundswell of support for me erupts. At Cafe Oto [in Dalston] the yuppies started throwing punches. It all spilled outside, it got really heated. These blokes were absolutely furious. They’d seen it advertised in Time Out or something because it was described as East End psychogeography. They thought, "Oh yes I like Iain Sinclair. I’ll go along to Cafe Oto. I’m liberal and progressive and I bought a home here so this is my little patch of London." They all like living in little villages now. The room was packed out by people who were being evicted by these guys who were denying that there has been a shortage of social housing, but everyone in the room was living proof that that was the case.

It seems quite popular to have a swipe at Iain Sinclair, and I've seen people refer to him as the 'Dan Brown of Hackney'. Perhaps this is because of his appropriation by the above demographic. In The Modern Ruins of Great Britian, Owen Hatherley even questions Sinclair's use of mysticism, which I can understand, because I've read interviews with Sinclair where he claims that Margaret Thatcher is a witch. However, I've recently been reading Illuminations by Walter Benjamin, and I think it's perhaps of more use to view Sinclair's mystic obsessions within the framework of Benjman's non-linear, Messianic historicism. Discussing Benjamin as a flâneur in the introduction, Hannah Arendt observes:
It is to [Benjamin], aimlessly strolling through the crowds in the big cities in studied contrast to their hurried, purposful activity, that things reveal themselves in their secret by: 'The true picture of the past flits by' ('Philosophy of History)

And I think that's what Sinclair tries to emulate: this friction between the individual (autonomy) and society/history (ontology) projected through the prism of urban geography, politics, myths, and superstition. What nobody seems to be criticising, however, is the inherent phenomenological Romanticism of this philosophy, which would be an easier place to start.

Which brings me to a recent find. Walking around one afternoon I noticed that the square near where I live in Stepney is named in honour of the British futurist/vorticist sculptor, Frank Dobson. A few Internet trawls showed that the square was once the site of one of Dobson's statues, 'Woman with Fish' (above). Today, however, there is only an empty plinth. A little further research revealed this letter from Tower Hamlets:
Frank Dobson (1888 - 1963) is a prominent figure in modern British art and a pioneering sculptor, who in 1951 created a figurative piece entitled ‘Woman with Fish’. This was acquired by the London County Council in 1963, the year of Dobson’s death, for the newly created Cleveland Estate in Stepney. The square in which it resided for many years was also renamed ‘Frank Dobson Square’ in honour of the artist. As the title suggests, the work of art depicts a seated nude woman with a fish under her arm. Originally, this provided a dual function, being also a fountain with water emitted from the fish’s mouth.

However, over the next 30 years, a cycle of vandalism and repair sadly culminated in her irreparable destruction in 1985 during a particularly vicious attack. Now, thanks to a planning gain from Chatham Properties and some section 106 funding, the sculpture had been recreated as a replica and cast in bronze, a far more robust material than that of the original.

We have been liaising with Parks and with Development and Renewal to find a suitable location which will enhance the local environment and maximise access to the general public. We are confident that this site in Millwall Park will fulfil these criteria and are discussing the logistics of installation with the parks department. We are delighted to be restoring an important piece of artistic heritage and local history to the borough.
And this from the website of Antonio López Reche, the artist commissioned to create its replica:
The sculpture 'Woman with Fish' by Frank Dobson, placed originally in Cephas Street, junction with Cambridge Heath Road by the London County Council in 1963, provided drinking water until vandals smashed it in 1977. Later, in 1979, it was beheaded and removed for restoration in 1983 to be returned in 1985. Finally it was totally destroyed in 2002 and its remains went to the skip. In December 2006 I was approached with the reproduction project by Tower Hamlets Art Department.

Why did people hate it so much?

1 comment:

  1. it's a jebediah springfield ting innit