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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, September 04, 2005
    Validating Cities of Culture
     
    How generous of the London Review of Books to make accessible online the whole of Iain Sinclair's recent article describing his trawl around the memorials of King's Cross (a war memorial containing the name of a distant relative of his wife's, the slab remembering the dead of the 1987 tube fire), Museums of Melancholy.

    As usual with Sinclair there are some gems within, short paragraphs which effortlessly zing to the gist of the zeitgeist. Having been very lost there a few months ago I can relate to his troubled wanderings in the dusty precincts of the St Pancras redevelopment:

    ... we join a straggle of flustered passengers carrying bags down a ditch between building sites. Red and white plastic barriers are conceptual artworks moonlighting as blast-deflecting shields. Hurt buildings have been bandaged for elective cosmetic surgery. Wind puffs gauze like the last breath of a dying man, puffs red dust around our feet. There are no memorials in the temporary station. Present wars are unmentioned and old wars forgotten. A 'Security Policy Statement' promises full CCTV coverage of public areas and the 'physical security' of all plant and equipment.

    This was days before the four bombs of 7 July. Poignant. But I was equally impressed (and somewhat shaken) by his observation that it is in this area that Antony Gormley has his workshop:

    And somewhere, behind all this, Antony Gormley has a factory-ashram dedicated to processing naked Gormley off-cuts which are required everywhere to validate oil-rich Cities of Culture: deserts, airports, highways, retail parks, museums and malls. Gormley is not a sculptor of consoling monuments, a grief technician healing trauma. He is a hands-on mystic, a philosopher of otherwise unconsidered spaces: roadside mounds, riverbank platforms. He works ahead of the next development. Challenged about the obsessive reproduction of his own body shell, he replies: 'I want to confront existence.'

    Having just been down to Crosby Beach again to stand by one hundred silent cast-metal Gormleys looking out on the oil platforms of the Irish Sea I think Sinclair both affirms his work, here, and challenges it ... the bit about validating Cities of Culture especially ....