Monday, 16 April 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 sticks his head in a hole and finds his selves

It’s all a happening on Wood Street. It is a veritable Arcadian delight of locational, site specific artfulness. Where is all the cultural and infrastructural improvement coming from? Would it be a ‘poo poo’ mind to think of the area’s re-energising as a cargo cult improvement scheme if, that is, ‘cargo cult’ is being used as a derogatory term? I like to think many but not all things can be explained, justified and valued in accessible and straightforward ways and outcomes can be tested or assessed via an array (a smorgasbord) of rational and logical benefit analyses and peer review processes.
So far I have been overwhelmed by the complexity of the social fabric  (or ‘fabrication’ to borrow Vic Lee’s impressively elaborate allusion/metaphor) of Wood Street when trying to get a clear and in focus mental picture of the facilitation of the Improvement Scheme.

Vic Lee, Tall Tales & Dubious Stories (photos: Julian Beere)
William Morris was able to employ the deft fingers of Jane to unpick elaborate tapestries in order to figure out the means of their construction. I am not so fortunate.  When I visited the web site for EastArchitecture I did not find any pages about their role in bringing new life to Wood Street. Explanations are available elsewhere in a variety of realities and virtual constructs.
A cool architectural rendering of Wood St in progress resides in the gloomy recess of Wood St Indoor Market’s wheely bin station.

Gort Scott Architects - Wood Street Improvement Scheme (photos: Julian Beere)
I don’t know the technical term for this sort of design of map or diagram. I assume it is a specific type of projection.  My first response was amusement at the simplification. It looks like a plan or a model for a film set. The buildings which appear to be staying in three dimensional forms are the tower blocks along with a few others.  A closer look at some of the street side buildings revealed they are (going to be) facades – which you might find on a film set. Given that I am working on the possibility of a cargo cult emanation here, the notion of creating mock ups of the sort of improvements you wish to attract seemed quite a logical or fitting plan. It was Buster Keaton who interrupted my acceptance of the clarity of the architectural vision. I assured Buster; Gort Scott wouldn’t indulge in such architectural stunts and follies. Then my attention was drawn to the trees. They will be so uniform and neat. According to that projection Wood Streets’ trees obviously need radical improvement. Indeed any Wood Street perambulator does not have to go far before discovering deviant arboreal ways and means of achieving upwards mobility. Surely though the bill for the topiary would be a huge drain on the project budget.

Clearly I was lost somewhere between the conventions of architectural modelling, slapstick association and Wood Street real and I had to re-establish my retail cargo cult action research focus and get out there and get on with the proper job of being Field Study’s Man in E17 (who eats shoots and leaves).
If I intend to create a cargo cult emanation on, in, around and about Wood Street, partly motivated by a belief it will contribute to a new commercial and cultural life, then I need to investigate the possibility there are all ready cargo cults in residence addressing the needs of the locality. I imagine cargo cult congestion on Wood Street would be most unwelcome.

The Archipelago of Truth drew my attention to the presence of satellite dishes on Wood St. Are the satellite dishes along Wood Street real? What are people receiving and searching for? The sight of dishes there took me back to my early childhood days when I roamed the Cornish moors, bathing in the parabolic streams of Goonhillys' signals and receptions. Was this an early encounter with a cargo cult? Could some of the dishes along Wood St be replicas or models, perhaps fetishist devices of a new cargo cult improvement scheme? I hope the Archipelago of Truth will find his lost notebook and illuminate me on the truth of long distance communication in E17.

Wood St Satellite Dish? (photo: Julian Beere)
Wood Street shoppers brandished full to near over-spilling fabric carrier bags. The shoppers seemed to carry loads as if there were no weight to them at all. Then something twigged; all the packets, tins and jars and other merchandise might be empty. Could the carrying around of carrier bags full of (empty) shopping attract genuine shoppers? As if the possibility or likelihood of this were not enough I saw the logo, ‘The Sky’s the Limit’ branded on the bags. Something is going on here. I consulted a case study of Frank Cumley courtesy of The Marshman Chronicles. It is a cautionary tale for all field operatives concerning extra terrestrial communication and the hazards of expressing what you believe to be true. Perhaps I was going beyond the sky into outer space and losing touch with the earthy realities of Wood Street. I blame Marshman and his out there mixes of Can (Mother Sky), Norah Dean, Klaus Weiss et al, for warping my sense of arboreality.

Earthworks Valentin Rd/Wood St (Photos: Julian Beere)
So I looked down and walked amongst the ghosts of cinema audiences past peering into holes in the grounds of improvement works in progress. I found a hole on the corner of Wood St and Valentin Rd. It is a portal to a cult of being whoever you are. If you are eccentric or silly enough to stick your head into this hole as any ‘psychogeographer’ worth his (usually ‘his’) salt would do, you might find yourself in a place like, ‘Being John Malcovich’, where you are everyone you meet. Coincidently (?) a ‘Being John Malcovich’ dvd was going for a snip of price at £3 in Wood St Indoor Market on Saturday. It might still be there but if it isn’t there is sure to be something else for you.

Port Hole/Pot Hole/Post Hole towards a cult of 'Being Julian Beere'.
Once I managed to dislodge my head from my ‘being-hole’ I proceeded to survey some of the arboreality of Wood St; to see, as it might be, Wood St for some of its trees. Space is limited on Wood Street. We can see how different intelligences respond to spatial limitations of the eternal or infinite. As a bio-philiac I was impressed by this trees’ splitting of the infinite process (or splitting of the infinitive) as it appeared to be boldly going where no tree had gone before.

Tree Studies Wood St (photos: Julian Beere)
(Again) I was attracted by the songs of stucco enchantment and the lure of the copse at the front of Clock House (again). When I got to Clock House I decided to study the bench as an object in transition. I stuck the jack plug of my headphones into one of the softer more decayed areas of the seat and dubiously listened to some dubious stories.

Clock House Wood St Bench Situation (Photo: Julian Beere)
How far had I progressed in figuring out who and what is involved in improving a sense of this place, Wood Street? That waiting space could be a place for a cargo cult performance. I looked at the similar recesses either side of the neighbouring bus stop and saw the absence of benches and then the possibility of some more ethereal seating fabrications. It was then I realised I had strayed from the zone of improvement as defined by the projection in the market, on the wall, above the bins, next to Craft Guerilla, opposite Turnaround...... What good is a situationist field student who can't read a map?
lost cultural space? (Photo: Julian Beere)
Some might think this situationist incompetence does not bode well for a siting of a 'retail cargo cult' and more so the mediation of 'the spatio-political problematic'*, that is 'the broader social, economic and political processes that organise urban life and urban space'.*
In, One Place After Another - Site Specific Art and Locational Identity, Miwon Kwon, comments on the reoccupation of 'lost cultural spaces' (such as the improvement of Wood Street might be understood). Kwon does this in Chapter 5, The (un)Sitings of Community which begins with a reference to Hal Fosters essay, 'The Artist as Ethnographer'.
'The key concern for Foster is not only the easy conversion of materials and experiences of local everyday life into an anthropological exhibit (as "cultural proxies," as he puts it), but the ways in which the authority of the artist goes unquestioned, often unacknowledged. While noting the aesthetic and political importance of innovative artist-community collaborations that have the potential to "reoccupy lost cultural spaces and propose historical counter memories," Foster warns that "the quasi-anthropological role set up for the artist can promote a presuming as much as a questioning of ethnographic authority, an evasion as often as an extension of institutional critique."  (p. 138)
The book is available to borrow in Walthamstow Central Library.
The solution to such sensitive and complex problematics for this field student was to return to his 'being-hole' and stick his head back into that place where he is everyone he meets, however such a horrendous experience left Field Study's Man in E17 feeling rather quasi- and temporarily unable to continue his field work.
* Miwon Kwon, One Place After Another - Site Specific Art and Locational Identity, MIT Press, 2004. 

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