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

    Friday, December 14, 2007
    Archeology in Reverse
    Archeology in Reverse: a revealing concept, the work of Stephen Gill who has published a book of 100 photographs - taken with a camera he bought at Hackney Wick market for 50p - of 'a place in a state of limbo prior to the rapid transformation that this area faces during the build-up to the Olympics in 2012.' It's the follow-up to his successful Hackney Wick series of pictures and Gill says that his book records the "traces and clues of things to come" in that contested liminal space.

    A Guardian review article by Robert Macfarlane says that '[Gill's] subject is the imminence of mass construction, rather than its realisation.' It's little surprise that Iain Sinclair was Macfarlane's companion for the walk which frames his article. It is a good read and also a good resource which points to other fascinating work being done on the changes being made to the Lower Lea Valley and related areas, by such creatives as Jason Orton, Patrick Keiller and Emily Cole, Ken Worpole, William Mann, and the band/filmmakers Saint Etienne.

    Emily Cole's work particularly catches my eye, paintings of 'urban and pastoral landscapes', brightly coloured impressionistic scenes of fast-moving carriageways, abandoned railway land, vast empty car parks. And Sinclair is onto her work too (a small world, evidently, East London) with a recent article on her website which perceptively illuminates the role of public art in places like the Lower Lea which have been deemed to be of "No value. Until, of course, in zones hysterical with self-consciousness, guerrilla art is puffed into cash art. Trashed buildings and disregarded walls are prepared for property speculation by the imprimatur of a Banksy stencil."

    What's happening behind the construction walls in East London right now is of course happening to us all (lottery funds being ripped from the hands of needy communities in other parts of Britain to line the pockets of Olympic regeneration developers and shareholders). As ever it's virtually only the artists who are left saying anything remotely critical about these processes. These seem to be the ones worth engaging.