Archives for posts with tag: London art

The Independent Free State mobile billboard toured around London on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd July 2012. The following images are from Day 2: Westminster, Central London and selected iconic locations. The Olympic Stadium was also on my ‘hit list’ but we couldn’t get anywhere near it. Stopping on the roadside in Central London is a precarious business – however the Independent Free State and the photographer went unchallenged the entire day which was a surprise in this summer of high security.

I like how the context of The Independent Free State re-invents and re-presents itself in each location – whether it has two large cannon pointing at it outside the Imperial War Museum, peace flags waving in the background outside Westminster, three young women like classical statues lined up in front of it somehow echoing the female forms in the image, the reflected image in the previously ‘occupied’ territory of St Paul’s cathedral, a statue of Churchill looking down on it or the prestigious Lloyds, Shard and ‘Gherkin’ buildings looming up behind it…

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On Exclusion Zones and Routes…

Just as I was planning my mobile billboard’s routes around London for 3 days in July, I came across this in The Guardian:

Writer Iain Sinclair has said he fears freedom of movement will be restricted in Westminster because of military-style tactics to be  used in the build-up to the Olympic Games this summer. The Ministry of Defence is reportedly considering deploying surface-to-air missiles in parts of London.

 “My impression of central London is that it’s becoming a gradual no-go zone, or a very difficult zone to manoeuvre your way through. There is no longer permission to move through. There are all these suspended permissions and barriers and the whole operation of security.

All of which makes my having gained permission for my billboard to enter the ‘exclusion zone’ of Westminster even more of a ‘privilege’. A double-sided artwork titled Independent Free State. OS maps of London and the Thames Gateway. ‘Human replicants’. What kind of strange equation is all that?

Sinclair added: “I was walking around the Olympic site two days ago with an American writer for Harper’s magazine, and he revealed at this point that he was formerly a US marine. “He said, ‘I recognise this landscape totally. It’s a military exclusion zone. It’s been treated in exactly the same way as we would operate in Baghdad’.

“It’s true – you’ve got these people who have dug in and are securing perimeter fences and are putting up barbed wire and checkpoints and overhead drones. We have now invaded ourselves.”

The Westminster exclusion zone means the billboard will only be able to visit all the central London sites on one day, I’ll have a photographer  onboard and hope to get some dramatic shots ‘in situ’ though it’s unpredictable where and for how long the billboard will be able to ‘stop and linger’ – particularly a few weeks before the Olympics.

My 3 routes look like this:

Sunday 1st July: All the main Galleries and cultural hubs outside of Westminster. Stopping along the way for ‘unsuspecting’ audiences on the street: include the V and A, Saatchi Gallery, South London Gallery, The Drawing Room, South bank Centre, Hayward Gallery, Tate Modern, Barbican, Cubbitt, Victoria Miro, White Cube, Whitechapel Gallery, Maureen Paley, Cell Project Space, Matt’s gallery, Wapping Project, Clifford Chance…

Monday 2nd July: Westminster – all the main tourist sites plus Battersea Power Station and other iconic city buildings including the Gherkin, The Shard, Canary Wharf and of course The Olympic Park. (If we can get anywhere near).

Tuesday 3rd July: The billboard will tour all around the perimeter of the Westminster ‘Exclusion Zone’ – parking up at the perimeters of Hyde Park and Regents Park and other high-visibility locations wherever possible.

The GPS tracking’s going to be really interesting documentation…

One of my favourite books of recent years has been ‘Wanderlust – A History of Walking’ by Rebecca Solnit. She has some fascinating things to say about women and public space:

‘A woman who has violated sexual convention can be said to be strolling, roaming, wandering, straying – all terms that imply that women’s travel is inevitably sexual or that their sexuality is transgressive when it travels.’

I’ve made a lot of solo trips – I’ve walked alone in the Himilaya and the Alps. I’ve travelled alone in Turkey, India, Nepal, Dominica and Guatemala. I’ve been alone in Mexico City, Istanbul, Delhi, New York, Rome, Reykavik and Barcelona…The key to feeling confident alone as a woman traveller is to have a sense of entitlement. That you have the right to be there. Because few women in few places in this world do have that right. To freedom. And space. And movement.

I’m with Solnit when she says: ‘Exploring the world is one of the best ways of exploring the mind, and walking travels both terrains.’

The yearning to travel, the wanderlust, is a very particular freedom for a woman as it can never be for a man. Sylvia Plath said: ‘I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night.’ This is the spirit of endeavour, historically always denied to most women.

Most ‘On the Road’ type male odysseys are mapped by women who stay put, who remain immobile. And wait. I am not one of those. I have always wanted to be in the world and of the world. Whatever the risk.

To meander is to be unproductive. It is a luxury of sorts to travel aimlessly, at a slow pace, without the pressure of the shortest route from A to B. That is how these drawings came together really. By taking a meandering route. Where travel is more important than arrival. That is inherent in the creative act – and certainly in drawing.

I’m in an interim moment. Studio based artwork is made and scanned. Next, I’ll be working at ZenEssex design studio to create a layout for the billboard. The Independent Free State takes a pause for breath. It’s down to the other people I’ve enlisted in this project now to help make my vision a reality…

Stop Press: Westminster Council have now given permission for the billboard to enter their Exclusion Zone for one day, which is amazing, as a number of ‘public artworks’ have been denied this privilege. So I’m assuming they must like the visuals I sent. There are some conditions – the logos (Arts Council, National Lottery, Metal) must be discreet and there must be no other text apart from the title and no reference to any exhibition or event. That’s all fine by me. So now I’ll get my dramatic photographs of the billboard ‘in situ’ against a backdrop of central London’s iconic landmarks.

I have yet to direct the routes for the remaining 2 touring days. I’m considering: 1. a tour of all the main London galleries and gallery areas (outside of Westminster) and 2. All the main travel hubs of London. Both of these routes will yield really interesting GPS tracking documents which will fuel further work.

My 3rd and most complex route idea is to follow, as closely as is practically possible, one of the drawings I’ve mapped out – ie so the GPS tracking route will re-form the drawing itself. The female form will be realised though the route taken. This would take some working out and would be at the mercy of traffic and time to complete on the 8 hours hire per day. But it’s got to be worth a go…

I work in a communal studio space. I have my own ‘territory’ within this space but may spread out as necessary depending on what I’m working on.  It’s an unusual set-up which comes down to the economics of slicing up a large space to make it affordable but avoiding the ‘rabbit-hutch’ enclosures of many other studios. It’s an intense way to work. Cross-fertilization occurs. A black abstract mark on one wall re-appears in a graphite drawing of a disembodied dress that stares back across the divide. The studio is cluttered, stained and smeared with the detritus of 12 years of creative practice. It’s dirty and rich with the history of creative endeavour.  People have ‘spilled their guts’ here. It is a kind of psychic battleground. It is also emotive and intimate: all your ‘stuff’s up there on the wall for anyone to see. Your failures as well as your ‘breakthroughs’.

The work unfolds. I get my hands dirty. I breathe in noxious fumes of spray paint, adhesive, graphite powder…

After 2 weeks in the studio I’ve made a kind of break through: broken through my prescribed processes and something unexpected has happened. A kind of euphoria kicks in, a ‘revelry’ of the mind and spirit. You suddenly think you know exactly what you’re doing and why. It doesn’t last long, but while you’re in that zone it’s the best thing in the world, you’ve glimpsed a tiny universal truth all of your own. By the next day self-doubt returns but you’re on more solid ground from which to ‘take-off’. You’ve made progress

I’m working with Ordnance Survey maps now. They are exquisitely beautiful. The soft colour palette and contours are, for me, inherently female. They are on a human ‘walkable’ scale rather than the macro World Atlas maps I was previously working with. Now I have large scale ‘micro’ OS map images counterpoised with tiny ‘macro’ world map images.

The map and the female form have become one. They’ve synchronized and melded, each transforming the other. The figures have an exuberance in their ‘liberation’ from the map – just as a sculpture is ‘liberated’ from its stone. This seems a powerful statement: feminization of the map. Her territory. Occupied territory. It’s a strong image and I think I’ve found what I want to form the triptych on the billboard.

The map’s flesh tone urban sprawl become her. Defacement/reconfiguration. I’ve been morphing drawn images to incorporate the terrain of the map, seeking out existing lines of rivers, roads, railways and coast – ‘drawings’ that already exist. In so doing I’m imposing my own order on the world and creating new abstracted figures that have an immediacy and seem to spring out from the map with an energy. They’re striding across the face of the land and out of the enclosed confines of the map. I think of those ancient figures carved into physical landscapes. I’ve created whole new space and place with these map-figures. My creative vision starts spinning out – what if I could actually physically map these figures out on the land/cityscape? How would I go about doing that?

Justin Hopper, curator and writer sent me a great historical reference for map and female form – specifically Europe as Queen – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europa_regina

The maps are of: London and the Thames Estuary down to Southend-on-Sea. A ‘personal geography’ that incorporates where I’m based, where the project is launching from and the route it will travel up the river to London where it will tour. Beyond the personal narrative these locations have become intensely political. The Thames gateway is a hotly debated space with the impending new London ‘super-airport’ plans. Historically, it’s one of the busiest and most important waterways in the world. The East End of London is of course about to host the Olympic Games and has undergone radical transformation in the last 4 years.

The Olympic site has become a contentious one. Just the other evening I was being driven through London heading East back home to Southend when we noticed a massive glow in the sky which got brighter the further East we travelled. Suddenly we were upon the Olympic site which was drenched in the most powerful of flood lights as work continues round the clock to complete for next month. It was like Encounters of the Third Kind. Like a spaceship had landed in the grubby old East End. Shocking and exhilarating.