cracked urban – past the gapped apparitions of our conurbation

It was relatively easy to be taken by these boardings, that conceal the functional brutality of urban building and which is in this case, subterrenean in nature. Traditionally these things have paid no heed to any visual or aesthetic considerations, but in recent years – constructors have begun to modulate their barriers to reflect different modes of communication (read PR).

Hackney Wick – beset by a slew of redevelopments, commissioned a local artist to paint one – while others merely advertise the forthcoming shape of their investment. An investment typically that, as it is formed in speculation – brings with it a pressure to drive up the market. A defacto invasion tactic into poor neighbourhoods, which in the context of ‘redevelopment’ becomes an entire geography of opportunitist market enforcement that drives out the existing occupants and communities.

A kind of market driven process that re-orders along the lines of financial power, usually depriving lower and under-classes of access to geographical opportunity and splitting communities. We already know this in a way, that it is a pattern which has played throughout the expansionist history of violent western landed property based capitalism.


Northern Line Extension works, Kennington South London

Yet I couldn’t help being taken by what effect this kind of image has and what its use does to us. A thinking that was exacerbated by a second similar instance which I came across a few weeks later at a site in Walthamstow north east London. I couldn’t help feel the resonance.

a bluebell wood in Walthamstow

It is always good to see artist’s given work and this kind of work carries the resonance of the natural depictions. This for me was the nub of this kind of visual interposition. That those behind construction, planning and development are (like most people) aware that we are profoundly connected with the spaces of the open-ised land, be it a wood, or a landed plane or ridge, grasses and shrubland.

Human beings are brought to a different state of feeling and being in the presence of such landscapes and yet our self-management has resulted in our habitations being (in as much as these conurbations are urban, urbanised – through the transitional scales of the town, the village, the hamlet, the outpost) concrete outcroppings of blunt force and density.

a worthy display model at this undertakers in north london

We have a deep and abiding love for the spaces of the planet, which are consistently managed against by forces subservient to exploitation and control in all its facets. As well as being as active as possible in relation to efforts to fight these forces, it is necessary to spend time in these places as much as possible, to become them…

We are quite literally living within concrete shells of distance and hardness from the worlds of our real generation. I think we all know this, to a greater or lesser extent and I think if nothing else, it frequently finds expression in our productions that are dreamings out from the enclosures of our habituated being.

I particularly enjoyed coming across these renderings on an estate near Kennington park where I was walking.

But its also necessary to remember that nature’s forces are always waiting for a gap, as mysterious and unbelievable as such a gap might seem to ourselves – to re-enter the spaces from which it seems concretely excluded (to us) except in managed and manageable doses.

south wales village ashtray

Walking through the olympic park in Stratford on one occasion, with its re-composition as a tree strewn, grassy strip of riverside walks – I realised how in its landscaped and managed formation, it was like a cyborg – a green skin over a constructed topology, an image made replete one night at the early hours when walking through, I observed a small metal ‘robot’ going methodically over one of the constantly trimmed grass verges. I found myself reflexively asking ‘What the hell are you?’ but I didn’t stop walking.

This is how human beings, in their collective production manifestation are willed to interact with much of nature; managed, mollified, controlled and planned – qualities of human being which in the configurations of unbalanced excess which pre-dominate, end up reducing our contact with the wild presence of inspiration and its child of the out-timed unerring dance of life. This it seems apparent are things which we are fighting for, as much as that fight may be peaceful in appearance – it is also precisely the struggle within us each, as to our actions, motions and choices. In as much as we know of their condition and aspect, their depth connections and secret alliances of energetic dimension and possibility. The idea that even ideas are dynamic fields of connectedness which in their intensive motion are in contact with different strands of differential in space-time, characterisable and understandable outside the prevalence of normal modes of limitation in apprehending and perceiving, envisaging and knowing.


Sometimes we are inured to the reality of our environment and yet, to truly live, we must become one with it, leading such as it does, to the knowledge that some of these cliff faces with their grouped mounds of caves, are altogether too far away from spaces where humans tend to wholly thrive.

And yet this too is something we know. This is partly to do with human adaptive capacity, wherein the capacity to ‘tune out’ or specifically tune things out – becomes a weapon of self-blinding. When this occurs collectively, then we end up with the State mode of organisation, threaded through with Capitalist realism that consistently dreams our lives into pre-dead zombified shells of consumerist subjectivity.

Sometimes though it can be a simple spark that thinks you to an affair of difference. ‘No Tomorrow’ by Suede from their 2015 Night Thoughts album/film (directed by Robert Sargent) with its distinctly Byrds-ian glimmer, sets off a glinting, spark infused pop-refrain and for me gets to the track of thought that needs to be allied within an understading of the difficulties we face in the precise environment of our being and how we are habitated and how we (in)habit ourselves.

Fight the sorrow… Fight the sorrow… Fight the sorrow…. Like there’s no tomorrow…’

It might seem a million miles from the potential of the gravity infusions of Capitalised-State stricturings of environmental and ontological impoverishment and yet, with its simple, shining invokation it actually makes explicit an element of the dynamic of leaving behind a deadended aspect and connection of life. Fighting the sorrow is by pure implication an instigation of finding joy, finding affirming radiations of love that thread with and connects through joy (a much transported term) and yet also an unfettered singing of the body in ululations of dancing free. It is fundamentally the kind of joy one feels when one has found oneself encased in a prison of dead walls for a long time and then becomes engulfed in the empty, seething vastness of an embrace of the world in its natural, spatial vigour, welcoming and real and alive like an aspect of what Ballard once described as the million headed cobra of eternity.

Its also the case that the song understands and precisely bursts through from out of its verse lamentations of the dreary, harmful impactings of the sedated surface of modern subjectivity.

Too long have I sat outside and smoked
I know all the neighbors’ cars”


The idea of becoming one with one’s direct and lived-in environment, carries with it certain promises. On the one hand, there is the knowing of and touching upon the deliberately vandallous in outcome of officious rapaciousness – but there is also the openness to what is referred to as the ‘built environment’, as a space of its own generation of intensities, of human lives intersecting, expressing and communicating (partly the space of dreamings) with their own instances of the strange forces of existence and life. Or just the occurrence of such forces, as is. As is said in the Dao of what appears to be simply ‘occurrence occurring of itself…

Broken plaster on the wall of an undercroft in the Brandon Estate tower blocks near Kennington (and certianly not an improbable expressionist flamingo apparition)

We are part of that seething entity, as we are part of the seething entity that is the planet, an unthinkable dance of energetic coursings, transformations, waves and counter-waves, flows and mega-flows, flowerings, communications and becomings which Nietzsche (and then Jim Morrison) descibed ‘this world, a monster of energy…’

And this is partly what it is to enter into becoming when are led and lead ourselves to the wilder spaces of the planet (in their abstract as well as their physical form) as well as a simple dream of being in communication with the sky and having a chance to swim in a lake, cold, exhilirating and sweet with return…

A sea of mist on the Carneddau ridge, Snowdonia
One of the beautiful sheltered waterfall pools of the Beacons Way east of Pen Y Fan, South Wales.

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