Sunday, 16 January 2011

Field Study's man is a field student of missing art



Nearly 2 years ago I cycled around Waltham Forest photographing public art works as the initial stage of an idea to make a map of public art - showing locations which would form the basis of a contribution to the E17 Art Trail.



I discovered Lawrence Rigal's 'Exploring East London' website (click on, Links: London Free Art). The site encompassed many aspects of what I intended to do at the time. Because of this, I focused solely on research into a specific public art work/site - the sculptures on the back of Walthamstow Town Hall. I prepared a talk/guided tour about those sculptures for the art trail.



One of the discoveries or issues which came out of my research was the lack of accessible and moderately detailed information about public art in the borough. The lack may be due to the inadequacy of my research. I tried a variety of means intended to garner 'basic details' e.g. the name of the art work and the artist(s) who made it - i.e. the conventional what, when, who, where, how - and more adventurously, why? I emailed some of the names and addresses on the council website, and visited the local studies archive at Vestry House Museum. I have not yet received a reply to the enquiries sent to the council.



Perhaps it does not matter if there is a lack of art historical information (basic curatorial material?) about this borough's public art. Some might say (paradoxically?) the art speaks for itself, existing in a fluid relationship with the community; a state of flux which defies the constrictions of art history or belligerent chronology. The art work, e.g. a sculpture, could be a thing/place which is a site for an imaginative and emotional encounter with an area as a way of being connected. This ethos is perhaps a rejection of art appreciation as a process of retrieval, favouring more narrative and reflexive interpretation. The latter might also be unspoken and unwritten; a 'floetics' of social space.
'Retrieval' and 'interpretation' need not be exclusive or oppositional. There can be complementary contexts which make for creative experiences.

I fear I may be writing out of my...


....annus of 2009, (28th February 09) where this 'Field Student of E17' recorded the presence of some peculiar wayside creations. Field Study's man in E17 regrets to inform you some public art is missing. Is this old news? Have more of the bronze sculptures been removed - I fear stolen from Coppermill Lane, E17. It was yesterday (15th Jan' 11) I noticed a sculpture was missing. I admired the cracked bolt holes, the (failed) mechanisms of artful installation and the visible traces of the absent bronze.


28th Feb 2009
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I copied the inscription on the metal plate screwed to the plinth as I feared the screws were not much of a deterrent to yet more pilferage.

It reads:

W M Hudson and Andrea Sinclair of Art in the Park worked with the Asian Family Group, Bancroft Primary School, Coppermill Primary School and Elmtree Woodcraft Folk to create this set of 4 bronzes sited along Coppermill Lane. The themes of the bronzes are: the marshes and their wildlife, the coppermill, the River Lee and it's boats, the reservoirs and bird life. the project was commissioned by Waltham Forest as part of The Waterways Festival programme, being supported by a Millenium Festival Fund grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, British Waterways, Londons Waterway Partnership and 15 London Boroughs.

A more sceptical 'interpretation' may consider the administration to have been more substantial than the hollow metallic cast once present on the plinth - could these be totems of a 'quangoliath'.

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15th January 2011


The sculpture, or part of it (let's not forget the plinth), may not have been forcibly removed and stolen though I suspect it has. May I draw your attention to the first of the photographs in this dispatch - taken the same day (15th January 2011) and a few minutes walk from the vacant plinth?

I came across the remnants of what may have been a failed attempt to remove another of the bronzes. There in relative miniature, the hardened soft, scratched, moulded cast - a refashioning; a reinvention of the old waterworks, it's mills and pump houses; a way marker to an imagined past; a collection of impressions fashioned in clay, pressed and engraved; a communal attempt to create meaning about it's surrounds, reinventing the space; an assemblage of the architecture and machinery of water.

Bound around, entwined by the devils rope - a barbed wire vestige of a failed yank and heave. What an anti art art performance it could have been! I spuriously point a finger at the ghosts of some anti artists of yore. I believe a gang of DaDa bad boys and girls did set about the bronze with joyous contempt for the way marking of marshy fields. I accuse the ghosts of Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Richard Huelsenbeck and Emmy Hennings - pugnacious Bruitists - who strayed from the primeval forest of the anti artistic imagination to stage a Cabaret Voltaire retrospective. The text(v)ile happening happened there and then around the waterworks. They screamed out like foxes,

"Voila, the rivers of lost wax, how they fall from the edges of the moon"

Unscrew you they howled, inspired by the ghost of Guy de Borde, who salutes the demeanor's of urban anti socialites; those among us, artfully anti artful dodgers, 'lexical prestidigitators' who aspire to 'a floetry of illegal form and content'.

What has happened to the sculptures? Was a sculpture taken for scrap material value or for it's ornamental merit - Bronze for sale, 240,000 previous owners?

My thanks to Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces on a Cigarette/ Hans Richter, DaDa Art and Anti Art/ Sukhdev Sandhu, Night Haunts - A Journey Through The London Night.

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