I heard it from the valleys

Jason Orton’s latest photographs from the Olympic Park site, as things shift from the grubby earthworks of raw regeneration through to the banality of utopia-in-waiting. One person who won’t be at all impressed by Orton’s photographs is Iain Sinclair, who is beginning to encounter a sense of ennui amongst previously friendly reviewers. His latest, Ghost Milk is a sprawling trawl around the undeniably banal and venal regeneration surrounding the Olympics, haplessly mired in a stubborn nostalgia. The residual traces of a place so fast-moving as London are substantial and Sinclair has mined them extensively.


But whereas Ian Nairn’s London was a heady compilation of the city’s best bits, and the infuriating or endearing manner of their linkage, Sinclair is less obviously interested in celebration than in commiseration, pre-emptively mourning a dismal future. ‘What would Sinclair’s ideal [London] resemble? Railyards and pin-wheel poetry presses, certainly. Dockers and detectives rubbing shoulders in greasy-spoon cafes. Mystics, cranks and quiet pilgrims wandering together down towpaths. Urban planning would be handled by Andrei Tarkovsky, Allen Ginsberg would potter around handing out bennies and yodelling protest songs, the odd authenticating psychopath would occasionally commit discreet murders and, once a century, through would stride Alfred Watkins and Eric Gill, each man clutching his penis before him like a ley-liner’s staff as they dowse lines of heat and force.’


Happily, we’re not alone. A recent Fantastic Journal post takes Sinclair to task: ‘Like Marvin the Paranoid Android wandering Hackney Marshes, he suggests that all new building is pointless, all attempts at planning doomed and any development always the product of base venality.’ (via MeFi). What emerges from all this is more evidence of the steep valley that lies between history and nostalgia, wherein a penchant for the latter tends to shape one’s attitude and interpretation of the former.


The Internet exacerbates this condition, building up our perception of the past through the endless reproduction and celebration of past ephemera. The past is filtered through a lens of celebration, a perpetually art directed world, be it the gritty black and white world of life sold from a suitcase in these images of Brick Lane in the 80s, or Soviet ruins, or abandoned lunatic asylums, rusting machinery, filleted libraries, caches of Eastern European match box covers, esoteric ephemera from long-forgotten Olympic games, boring postcards, found photographs, passive aggressive notes left on refrigerator doors, weird LP records, shopping lists, ticket stubs, or even our own almost entirely context free Pelican Project.


Collectively, we’ve managed to make a fetish of the failed, forgotten and the marginal, mashing them together with the Utopian and the celebrated until the edges are blurred. Whether its the decline of manufacturing and urban centres (Chicago Urban Exploration) or nuclear catastrophe (Approaching Chernobyl) or the collapse of the housing market (Scenes from Surrendered Homes) is all rendered flat and equal by the vivid resonance of the image. This is where the overwhelming emotional content of a carefully filtered past meets our nostalgia for now (‘… a mourning for the transience of a moment when you are still in that moment‘), and the result is a state of being that appears to seek out the romantic past in every captured moment.


Other things. A collection of tumblrs. Muzze / Drawing Architecture / Because I Say So / little squares / Couleurs / Chauncey Zalkin / bits / Dutch Design News / The great teddy bear shipwreck mystery. Someone is sitting on a crate of Stieffs / the Dodge House in West Hollywood, 1914, ‘a horizontal box lacking roof overhangs, surface details or other ornaments… [that] was a revolutionary vision of what a modern Southern California house could, and would, be’ (via Archinect) / the Notting Hill Timeline, from Peter Rachman through to the Paparazzi. A psychogeographic tour / Brixton: Then and Now / The A to Z collector; the collections of Suhail Al Zarooni, from thousands of cars to Princess Diana Dolls / related, Architects design home made entirely of Hummers.


Learning from Doom, an essay at The Funambulist, a new architecture writing platform (via MeFi). This essay is concerned with the graphical glitch and its analogies with real-world architecture, from classical through to decon. ‘But it is in Doom’s optimized 2.5D engine in which an unprecedented illusion and immediate fallacy collide, creating a looping experience which remains both inviting and surreal.’ See also, Doom, Duke3D and More: A Guide To Some Early FPS and Source Ports.

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