Conversation piece


Postcode lottery

His work is informed by the capturing of somaesthetic experiences in a notebook; as well as the appropriation of ideas from literature & philosophy.

Conceived as a part of a live project, Edward Hadfield’s third year BA dissertation extensively interrogates, paraphrases and broadens the reach of his artists’ book WC1R (2014), an A5 landscape publication, soft covers divided into black and white panels, with the severity of chess ‘squares’, its pages conveying what at first glance appear to be extracts from a hand-written diary or manuscript, lipstick red and white writing on a black background antiphonally offset by red and black on a white one, the fluid cursive text by turns lucid then entangled, the discourse problematised by overwriting. What Hadfield characterises as associative/negative leaves are executed in a Sharpie permanent fine point, the integrative/positive on the other hand drawn with a Tombow ABT dual brush pen, setting up a dialectical conversation that raises questions about the motivation required to turn such personal stuff into an art object.

Hadfield has declared the indexical trace to be crucial to his practice, and these running words do hover between the iconic and symbolic, neither abstract marks nor monumental inscriptions. But what are we to make of the title WC1R? Not an incompletely addressed letter so much as direct bio-rhythmic ouput from a particular London postcode, an automatic sample of the author’s momentary physiological and intellectual trance state expressed as performance, then digitized by Photoshop and InDesign and circulated; the lushness of the fluid lettering serving too as a reminder that calligraphy is a dying art lest it be worked at, writing still a joyous activity when liberated from its merely administrative or journalistic function; for we are all typographers now.

So in WC1R the reader gets faced with the immediate evidence of Hadfield’s preoccupations, and the playing out of tension. In an apparent parody of DWP terminology Hadfield’s intervention at the Whitechapel Art Book fair, 2014, was entitled ‘Work Placement’, which he quickly re-conceived as a full-time multi-tasking job comprising author, editor, producer, curator and live performer. Featuring conscious destruction of the negative landscapes in the booklet as an act of clearance prior to transmission of the positive scenes, and their deployment in public forums as the basis for affable group chat, he has revealed -in a nod to Ed Ruscha- it had always been intended to scale the book back onto canvas, his ambition for the work extending beyond the genre specific.

The double landscape format also worked particularly well for scaling to canvas as a triptych. For me, my art practice operates using words in a field, whether that field is a page, a wall or a canvas. (Email 8 Oct, 2014)

He might well have added postcard too, as he has taken to distributing the positive pages as A5 cards with personal contact details on the back in his own hood, a performative bias which gives his expanded practice genuine social value and pzazz way beyond the mute selfishness that typifies so much of today’s hegemonic commodity fetishism, the submissive gallery showbiz of corporate capitalism. And therefore despite being a slim volume WC1R succeeds as a means and mode of transaction and exchange, an unconventional reading experience, and mediated platform rather than end in itself; seismographically charged with a painterly beauty, as a user-friendly token it puts you under its spell in a ‘kindly’ (a favourite Hadfield term) way whilst possessing the courage of its own cool unintelligibility, graphic traces pulsing beyond the limits of the normal printed page. Hadfield is on his way to re-energising the poet/painter/performer tradition as represented so well by the unbridled activities of art school stalwarts such as the late Jeff Nuttall, Bob Cobbing and Adrian Henri.

Sarah Jacobs’ data traps: a bibliography 1996-2017

  • 2017 An Accumulation of Fictions vols 1-288 ISBN 978-0-9568575-4-5
  • 2016 An Accumulation of Fictions vols 289-384 ISBN 978-0-9568575-3-8
  • 2014 After Nature: Highlights ISBN 978-0-9568575-2-1
  • 2013 Intersecting Words ISBN 978-0-9568575-1-4
  • 2011 Drawn from the Inventory: The Notebooks of Elisabeth Faulhaber ISBN 978-0-9568575-0-7 (Colebrooke Publications in association with the Prinzhorn Institute, Heidelberg)
  • 2011 Atrocious Books (with supplement by A. Singer) ISBN 978-0-9568575-0-5
  • 2005 Deciphering Human Chromosome 16: from Fugu to Human ISBN 978-0-9568575-8-0
  • 2003 Luxuriant Beauty Bears Witness: We are not Barbarians ISBN 978-0-9568575-5-9
  • 2002 The Unknown Masterpiece Drawing Book ISBN 978-0-9568575-4-2
  • 2001 After the Years of Misrule: Three variations on Nostromo ISBN 978-0-9568575-3-1
  • 1998 A WA[Y]FARER ISBN 978-0-9568575-1-1
  • 1996 Drawn from the Work in Progress ISBN 978-0-9568575-0-4

Metacognitive Artefacts

Both Christina Mitrenstse (Greece) and Emmanuel Dundic (Belgium), whose work forms the exhibition ‘Metacognitive Artefacts’ installed on two floors of Galerie Nadine Feront, Brussels, have opted inter alia to display book sculptures either shot by an air rifle, in the case of Mitrentse’s Wounded Book series, 2013, or perforated fastidiously as in Dundic’s pieces. To be confronted by the hard evidence of such unethical treatment serves as a reminder that the contemporary art gallery can be an unnerving post studio space closely related to the library, office and even department store, but one that allows a freer visualisation of ideas, functioning as an outpost of individual practice, sometimes generating a frisson of strange beauty. In short by granting Mitrentse and Dundic a kind of poetic licence in its smart town house interiors, Galerie Nadine Feront verifies its credentials as a risk taker, or promoter of “norm-defying artists”.

Spaced out flat on tables, the injured paperbacks in Wounded Books have the solemn air of bibliographic relics, ex-books laid to rest after their absolute removal from circulation, codexes whose yellowing pages support content that has become epistemologically outmoded and fossilised. Here a bullet hole is as telling as an ISBN or shelfmark. Their ‘deaths’ also indicate that the book be it fact or fiction, stitched or hot glued is a foot soldier in the never ending war of ideas by means of which humanity evolves. Such work certainly presents a challenge both in terms of content and scope. Indeed Wounded Books themselves have become the battleground for a critical skirmish between bloggers Anna McNay (art-corpus) who conceived the bullet holes as “stigmata”, and Stephen Alexander (Torpedo the Ark) who ridiculed this analysis, but likewise fell into the trap of anthropomorphising books, referring to them as “mortal things”, “as complicit with evil as any other assemblage of power-knowledge”. This is to grant too much influence to the printed page, for as discerning readers we can take or leave books, similarly choose when we do indulge to keep a distance from their intellectual content. So shooting holes in paperbacks under licensed conditions is just an off-hand way of registering this detachment, and freedom from any type of symbolic authority residing in books.

The other pieces in Mitrentse’s suite of works at Nadine Feront certainly provide any newcomer to her polymathic practice with a useful index as the installation features the building-blocks of her repertoire: drawing, screen print, book modification, skoob sculpture, and the trademark Googlespeak ‘Add To My Library’. Standing alone in a room all by itself Skoob Tower after John Latham, 2013, is a 200cm tall construction built entirely from books, dictionaries and maps that evokes British born artist John Latham’s guerilla towers from the mid 1960s. Mitrentse in effect is providing a variation on the theme of the original book hypocausts, perhaps lamenting our present day authoritarian culture of health & safety that would make Latham’s ceremonies at the Law Courts or Senate House, University of London hard to carry out, since there is little unregulated public space left in cities, or great appetite for literal re-enactments. Here her Skoob tower has an elegaic quality: a mobile, temporary structure.

Other elements in the subtly lit para library at Nadine Feront are the drawings on paper Palais de Tokyo, 2013, and Contemporary Brussels Museum, 2013, both of which employ pencil, graphite, and gold pastel. The former utilises the book cover strategically, in a way that only R. B. Kitaj in his In Our Time series has really done before now. The imagery derives from carefully selected jackets that add an interrogative gloss to the meaning of contemporary power house visitor attractions such as Palais de Tokyo, Stonehenge or Tate Modern (the latter being examples of from the same series). In Palais de Tokyo the Mona Lisa stares out from the cover of André Malraux’s Le Musée Imaginaire on one wing as if an anime witness to Bernini’s St Teresa off the front of Georges Bataille’s El Erotismo on the other, the former’s make-up free face slyly bemused by her baroque counterpart’s intense orgasmic state. Graphic quotation narrates a fresh enigma, suggesting that the art palace as a site is less a given than a subjectively constructed ziggurat of knowledge, and how here ‘Metacognitive Artefacts’ as the catalogue succinctly puts it achieves “a reflection on the forms of knowledge and the re-configuration of its modes of transmission”. This trope is continued in Contemporary Brussels Museum, 2013, a grimmer Le Corbusier type structure that acts as a reminder of the way museums are hubs of instrumental rationality, a state of affairs Mitrentse is trying hard to unsettle through esoteric research methods and a species of transgressive ‘librarianship’.

Bibliophile I & II, 2013, return us to the quieter waters of the scholar in their study, an emblem dating back to Jan van Eyck’s 15th century oil painting of St Jerome. With its gimmicky dog-eared corners the collage Bibliophile II references pre-Gutenberg manuscript culture, a historical epoch when there was still a premium attached to close reading, and the explosive impact of the printed word was yet to occur. This emblem has been adopted for the exhibition’s invite card, implying a parallel between the unstable logistics of both scriptorium and internet, where copying errors were and can be transmitted virally. For nearly 600 years in between though, the hallowed physical book has reigned supreme, monopolising academic and popular culture, only now assuming a different sort of role in response to digital literature. As if in response to the challenge of cyberspace, the history of the book has also emerged as a new discipline, the beginnings of a specialised and hugely fertile archival recapitulation of the phylum.

‘Metacognitive Artefacts’ as the catalogue asserts, is a visual arts platform by which “books suddenly appear in all their alterity”.

‘Metacognitive Artefacts’ was at Galerie Nadine Feront, Brussels, Belgium, 5 December 2013- 1 February 2014

Holocausts of the scroll/codex

In ‘Pinacographic Space’ his introductory essay to The Perverse Library (2010), Craig Dworkin makes the egregious claim that the fire of 48BC at Ptolemy’ XIII’s Alexandrian Library never took place, or at least was a minor incident rather than holocaust, one affecting infrastructure rather than contents. In taking this stance he treads in the footsteps of historian Edward Gibbon who was also sceptical of the story. Dworkin cites various authorities to make his case, ranging from Galen to Bertrand Hemmerdinger, which he proceeds to take in a startling new direction: actually reconceiving this fabled event as a generator of writing, the Musaeum site a huge house of post-structural text manufacture.

The accumulative imperative of the library, which put it in necessary competition with other libraries, encouraged hoaxes, fabrications, and plagiarisms. Entire bibliographies –pseudo-Platonic and pseudo-Aristotelian corpora –arise from the logic of the library.

Drawing mainly on Daniel Heller-Roazen’s article ‘Traditions of Destruction: On the Library of Alexandria’ (October #100, Spring 2002), the categorical tone of Dworkin’s claim must be treated with care as classical sources variously put the loss of scroll literature between 40,000 and 700,000, a landmark event according to Heller-Roazan:

Real or imagined, the conflagration remains the supreme emblem of the Alexandrian archive itself, which sheltered the works of the past in exposing them to disaster, constituting and conserving its history in threatening it with its own destruction. For the very life of the library, like that of the fire, was to nourish itself on what it consumed, to allow writing to live in outliving itself, bearing witness, in this way, to the catastrophe of the past in the present.

So ultimately the subject matter is fugitive. As Matthew Battles asks

What happened to the books of Alexandria? Many, many centuries happened to them — too many for their inevitable dispersal and disappearance to be staved off, no matter whose mobs rioted in the streets, no matter which emperors set fires.

Clearly bibliographic governance in paper-based libraries is both shaped and forever jeopardised by the possibility of irreparable damage, of failing to prevent the most virulent and unstoppable forces of nature in the form of fire or water, a real headache to librarians everywhere. So it is that every modern temperature-controlled library has foam filled fire extinguishers strategically placed in case of an electrical short circuit, their book wardens haunted by the knowledge that in a worst case scenario such as at the one at Herculaneum in 79AD, holdings can be carbonised by pyroclastic lava flows at a temperature of 300º, or destroyed by human agency as in the immoral act of vandalism perpetrated by invading German troops in 1914, one which gutted the great library of Louvain, Belgium. Writing in the TLS (Jan 30, 2008), Craig Gibson commented

At 11.30 pm, troops broke into the University Library, one of the most important collections in Europe. Using petrol and incendiary pastilles, they set fire to hundreds of thousands of volumes and manuscripts. Within hours, a priceless piece of European, indeed, world heritage had been reduced to smoking ashes.

A different kind of intentionality is at play in Bernard Aubertin’s Livre Brüler Et à Brüler (1962-1971), a book work valued at £6,000 by Sims Reed Rare Books, London, in 2009. Aubertin’s instructions contain a blend of lower and upper case letters inked in to accompany his overwriting of the host book’s title -a forlorn copy of Gaëtan Picon’s Panorama des Idées Contemporaines (1957)- redubbed as Livre Brüler Et à Brüler. This inscription is suggestive of a ham-fisted attempt by the Paris based Auto-Destructive artist and member of Group ZERO, to follow a self-imposed oulipean truc aimed to deceive the reader/co-conspirator that Aubertin himself might be semi-illiterate, at the very worst pigeonholable as a mad or outsider artist:

le spectateur est invitÉ À lire le livre, À continuer de BRÛLER les pages en enflammant les allumettes collÉes, À ajouter d’autres allumettes, À rÉduire le tout en cendres. IngrÉdients: allumettes ordinaires, allumettes dÉtonantes.

To follow the pyromaniac instructions would mean the incineration of the object too; an asset up in smoke. As with John Latham though, Aubertin’s attack is on the deep-seated symbolic power of ideas and superstructures of knowledge; a contemporary bonfire of the vanities highlighting the disposability of its matériel, for by his own admission throughout Brülé Aubertin attached “ordinary matches, detonating matches, snowy matches, sachets of fragrant smoke generating powder, sticks of fulminate and percussion caps” all of which gives any potential abuser the choice of either destroying the book piecemeal or in a violent blaze; a professional quandary for Bibliothèque Nationale de France Special Collections staff and a challenge to the universal bibliographic decorum which protects the bound page, for with its accession such a title is forever poised on the edge of its own cremation, a problematic brebis galeuse.

But when fire does breaks out as in the devastating holocaust that swept through The Mackintosh Library at the Glasgow School of Art in 2014, publisher Simon Cutts decided to make a virtue of a necessity by bringing out in 2015, a stapled booklet of digital photographs taken by librarian Duncan Chappell of aglio 6 olio (1983), a.k.a. ‘The Garlic Book’, a tribute to Elizabeth David, the only Coracle title to be affected amongst 81 books salvaged. Blackened and charred, the poignant images are a commemoration and ‘victory’ over the fickle and unpredictable nature of fire.

Rough treatment

Damaging books is a controversial type of activity, one that generally fails to amuse librarians, who are forever on the look out for signs of wanton behaviour and naturally its perpetrators. A No Pens Policy as it is termed means no quills or ball points in the reading rooms at the British Library for instance. Back in 2003 Cambridge University library service published a series of explicit images online of unacceptable damage to library books, so called Class Z, including a volume used as a dog chew, while more recently University College Dublin library set up a webpage dedicated to warning what it calls “culprits”, namely commentators, highlighters, doodlers, dreamers and of course the dreaded snipper not to abuse their library stock, particularly, as they claim, defacement interferes with the assistive software used by partially sighted students. In many respects this campaigning attitude is a hangover from the Victorian era when fouled pages from incunables were sometimes de-greased and bleached in hydrochloric acid or caustic potash baths to rid them of those irritating marginal annotations or adversaria made by early modern readers. In The Enemies of Books (1880), the inappropriately named William Blades listed some ever-present hazards: rainwater, fire, Greek worm, rats, house flies, bindery ploughs, bigotry, theft (ie the latterday rare book mutilator Farhad Hakimzadeh). Although Bill Sherman’s Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England (2007) has changed attitudes in some quarters, treating cosmetic reader’s marks as supplementary to the original printed text and opening up a whole new area of scholarship, librarians and conservators still remain fearful of vandals, which is why it’s refreshing that the staff at Westminster Reference Library in London have allowed ‘Bookend’, an installation of modified books by Nick Cash & Matt Hale into their building.

Housed in three reclaimed metal shelving units, Cash & Hales’s display of bibliographic aberrations trace the summary declension of reading matter into object matter, ie ink, cellulose, board, linen binding and so on. This breakdown is wilful, a series of violent physical assaults on de-accessioned reference books that “breach the usual terms and conditions” as Neal Brown puts it in his exhibition notes; a huge understatement! In fact these ‘bookmorphs’ belong to an emergent post 2nd World War branch of sculpture to be found on a spectrum of interventions ranging from the theatrical cut-out fantasies of Alexander Korzer-Robinson, to Michael Gibbs’s bloody limited edition Wounded Book (1979), and John Latham’s infamous burning ‘skoob’ towers. The nameless contents of ‘Bookend’ sit at the pulp end of this scale, a result of crushing, baking, sugar treatment, sawing in half, Dremelising©, drilling, mollusc damage, bathing in water, cremation, mildew flowers, unburial etc. Videos of the two maniacal artist/curators at work –their faces are never shown- can be watched through paper apertures cut into hardbacks that frame their screens. Clever stuff, as the films record key processual moments that went into the making of these ‘bookmorphs’: a hole bored by a hot steel rod, a conflagration in suburban woodland as a textbook gets reduced to ‘bio-char’ -to use Greville Worthington’s term- or the pages of a book posed on a demolition site, in this case the former brutalist icon Birmingham City Library, pages fluttering in the breeze; yet another reject title floating downriver Pooh sticks style. Hale points out “joining ideas, actions and objects on an equal level was something we were for and aware we were doing” (email 19 October 2016). Furthermore details of many exhibited pieces are also indexed as tipped-in images, replacing the coloured plates of quattrocento masterpieces in a ten volume set of Bernard Berenson’s Phaidon published Italian Painters of the Renaissance. In short, Matt Hale, a long standing member of staff at Art Monthly, might be said to have taken quite literally the magazine’s bold strapline ‘Taking art apart since 1976’.

‘Bookend’ gives off an ergotic whiff of damp, and if you are using the library itself for research, the feint whine of a power tool can be heard in the background, noise leaking from one of the embedded video devices. Cash & Hale have laid out their work as if jetsam stranded in a surreal dreamscape or nightmare, lumpen things beyond the pale, top shelf literature here consisting of a rotten tome grow bagging a holly bush, the individual pieces emitting a collective force backed by their self-reflexive documentation. Westminster Art Reference library itself is steadily developing a reputation as a risk taking space thanks to its recent bibliographically biased shows featuring Linda Toigo’s pop-up confections, and Elaine Robinson’s ‘Turning ‘ages’. Now Cash and Hale have rocked the book that bit harder, as if returning the crude gesture often employed by municipal librarians’ of tearing out the front papers of withdrawn stock (to prevent resale by dealers), but with compound interest.

‘Bookend’ was at Westminster Reference Library, LONDON WC2, 4 – 22 October 2016.

Tree houses in the sky

Stephen Willats’s new book Vision and Reality (Axminster: Uniformbooks, 2016) is a retrospective collection of transcribed interviews, and black & white images (all taken by the artist), which document the various public projects carried out by Willats from the late 1970s up until 2006, principally taking the post-war suburban tower block as his research site and ecological setting for intimate snapshots of its inhabitants, in locations ranging from suburban London (east and west) to Oxford, Milton Keynes and Leeds,

Although slightly outside the chronological remit of Vision and Reality, ‘West London Social Resource Project’ (1973), is a good place to start an evaluation of Willats’s work, as it was groundbreaking in many respects. Reprised at Chelsea Space in 2011, in Willats’s own words the project signalled “we were going in a completely new direction, well outside the existing framework and precedence for the existence of a work of art”. Cherry-picking a few key phrases from a list of broken taboos and novel precedences established by ‘WLSRP’, is enlightening. These included “dynamic model”, “sequence”, “context dependency”, “open system”, “floating base line”, “collective authorship”, “active feedback”, “suburban communities”, “voluntary participation”, “multichannel”, “access”, “task orientation” and “heuristic outcomes”; a repertoire of concepts that would go on to determine Willat’s modus operandi right up until the present day, an abrasively modern interactive practice with little or no time for Kantian aesthetic discourse.

What was once called ‘council housing’ in the post-war era has now come to be known by the more generalised and therefore anaemic term ‘social housing’, for whilst council new build has steadily declined, housing associations have grown in size and ambition, even in some instance taken over the running of sink estates from the local authority. However in Willats’s series of field studies dating from the 1970s his main focus was the daily routine of working-class council tenants, their gritty lives often enacted in architecturally overbearing Soviet style estates, still very much Beveridge Britain in fact, a nation attempting to claw its way back to life after the financial and physical gutting of the Second World War. At Skeffington Court, Hayes, after making contact with the caretaker, Willats initiated a six month project in 1978 called ‘Vertical Living’ that involved the residents and established his trademark notice boards. Interviews with them revealed a litany of concerns to do with the isolation, lack of balcony space, dark kitchens, fly-tipping, train noise and so on. Clearly a new intake of people used to the conviviality of back-to-back homes in narrow streets were finding it tough to adapt to high-rise existence, and misapplied zoning, the latter described by architectural critic Ian Nairn as “the biggest single cause of the sterility of our post-war estates”. In Vision and Reality, photographs of flat interiors are obliquely captioned with commentary about the lifestyle of these displaced nameless subjects, transcribed from a Uher 4000 Reporter IC tape machine and Electrovoice RE50 Microphone (equipment Willats has stubbornly continued to use up to the present day). Carpeted rooms are typified by mantelpieces dressed with family snaps and electric clocks, shelving units storing knick-knacks such as oriental dolls, ceramic beer steins, hi-fi decks and spider plants, with a cathode ray tube telly invariably situated in the corner.

On into the 1980s saw these selfsame communities reeling from the hammer blows of Thatcherite monetary policy, mass unemployment being the human cost of deregulation and free market dogma. In Ken Smith’s poem ‘Movies After Midnight’ from his 1985 collection The House of Numbers, the scene is chronically bleak: “From Canning Town to Woolwich | the tall cranes rust. | The pub’s shut | and the lift’s out in the towerblock, | everything you see is up for sale.” Amid this social environment Willats trained his attention on Sandridge Court, Finsbury Park, and in particular a character known only as John, whose flat resembled an art deco penthouse, and who became the subject of a print A Difficult Boy in a Concrete Block (1983), Dobson Point, Newham, which generated the diptych Every Day and Every Night (1984), with its nihilistic slogan YOU’VE GOT NOTHING. THERE IS NOTHING. YOU’VE GOT TO FIGHT TO GET OUT. YOU’VE GOT TO FIGHT TO SURVIVE YOU’VE GOT TO FIGHT TO LIVE, and Farrell House, Whitechapel, that centred on an encounter with Leigh Bowery, a heavily pierced, futurist tailor, with his own sewing machine and a large collection of vinyl. These studies explored alternative lifestyles, or ones deviating from the nuclear family: post-punk council tenants self-fashioned as Berlin cabaret performers, habitués of the Cha Cha Club, following bands such as Visage and Duran Duran.

Away from the capital, Willats was asked to make a work for the 1991 Bath festival, and chose Saffron Court, for ‘Living Mosaic’ that consisted of an outdoor public register, and display boards in the foyer and estate laundry on which residents could freely respond to a questionnaire by means of drawings, texts and diagrams. This format has proved to be a constant in Willats’s oeuvre, on one hand resembling a social audit not much different from the Mass-Observation project of the 1930s and 40s, on the other a totally novel way of inserting the contemporary artist into what were often pitifully austere domestic settings, arguably making Willats the inventor of the public residency. But his career has also seen the artist develop a critique of ruling class ideology, and this becomes apparent in Vision and Reality, where the vision is one imposed top-down by idealistic urban planners (largely in denial about Pruitt-Igoe, that notorious failed icon of international modernist housing in St Louis, USA), the reality one endured by human guinea pigs: rentiers entombed in confined spaces, spying on the world and each other with binoculars, coping with the sheer monstrosity of their battery units.

Inevitably the question ‘but is it art?’ will always arise when Willats’s work is put under the spotlight, and there are those cultural conservatives who do scoff at the pretentiousness of his documentation, the mixed media collages and homeostatic drawings, since this material composed from rigorous field work hardly qualifies as fine art, neither does he himself fit the template of a posturing yBa. In ‘Personal Islands’ (1993) Willats interviewed a couple in an Isle of Dogs tower block who had customised the interior of their flat, laying a terrazzo floor with ash skirting board, and functional book shelves without an ornament in sight, a striking Bauhaus-like move that counteracted the dull uniformity of the locale. Such gestures seem utopian in retrospect, and a far cry from the reality conveyed by the Brit horror film Tower-Block (2012), of a building awaiting demolition, its last residents subjected to random attacks by a sniper assassin. Ironically in 2013, Alex Morton a member of the Tory think tank Policy Exchange called for the flattening of such high rise buildings in favour of “streetscapes”, marking the end of an era begun in 1956, which had seen the subsidy of dwellings over 6 storeys high erected on slum clearance sites (the curatorial group Assembly won the 2015 Turner Prize for their regeneration of terraced housing in Toxteth, Liverpool 8), although the new architectural scene is of luxury high-rise owned by absentee oligarchs, or gated communities with Dickensian ‘poor doors’, asset managed real estate bought and sold years before its actual construction on the basis of 3D digital renderings.

Stephen Willats shows us that through communication there is always a way out of the box we find ourselves in, even if egress only leads to another similar box. Plus ça change plus ça reste la meme chose!

ISBN 978-1-910010-08-2