Architectural Irregularities Display Crisis Mind-Set, Despite No Apparent Threat

1) This house has blocked up all its doors and windows.weaponised_6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) These tunnel openings probably serve the housing estate in times of siege.

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3) This house has been poorly camouflaged at street level, but from above it is practically invisible.

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4) The domino theory of social collapse gains currency.

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5) An old house serves as façade for a massive burrow entrance, leading to London’s largest network of tunnels spanning 17 hectares.

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6) The occupants here forged legal documents and signage to make it look like their home was condemned. There are weird noises on the other side.

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7) The high wall of an old building serves to make these apartments into an armoured citadel.

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8) This house is under siege from the inside. Practically erupting garbage of all kinds, the occupants are being evicted by their own filth.

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9) Another Chelsea penthouse to have been ‘weaponised’, so to speak – this time with Javelin Surface to Air Missiles. Source of weapon unknown.

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10) Barricaded in or out? With some buildings it’s impossible to be certain.

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11) Preparations for the night-time in Chelsea harbour. No damage is expected, but residents don’t want to see what goes on in the street after dark.

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12) A show of support for a local Residents Association. Note the total absence of rubbish or disorder.

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13) Walls are springing up everywhere across newly-disclosed strategic lines across the city, creating annexes, strongholds and checkpoints.

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View entire project: NEO-LONDON

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Fire Brigade “couldn’t care less” about London’s Shadow Homes

Thousands of people in London are living in ‘homes-within-homes’ – often in dangerous conditions – just because they feel like it.

Our reporters found people paying to live almost anywhere; on abandoned industrial estates, underneath piles of garbage and dead dogs – even inside other peoples’ bodies.

This ‘shadow’ housing market – as it is now being called – is causing the London Fire Brigade to “pull their own heads off”.

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‘Shit’

Carlos moved to London from somewhere else four years ago in search of a better life for his two teenage daughters. But he was wrong.

Now all three share a cramped room with innumerable packs of nomads above a car repair shop on some industrial estate in north-west London.

The transient residents, who are impossible to count because of their continual migration, share three tiny rooms and a kitchenette, while mechanics work on customers down below with picks and shovels. The owner of the building, Jonathan Profits, said he needed to keep the nomads in a constant supply of raw meat, otherwise who knows what they would do.

Carlos’ daughters, now aged 18 and 21, never sleep but instead just watch their father all day long with impassive expressions. He worries about them sometimes. He thinks they might be going mouldy.

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‘Fun’

Tim Awful, enforcement manager for Hackney Council, told us that homes hidden away inside other homes were his favourite part of the job. When he can be bothered, he and his team of volunteer ‘Enforcement Officers’ crack-down on these “beds in sheds” as they are affectionately called, just because they can.

“The uniforms get us in anywhere” he said.

Information almost always comes in the form of tip-offs from civic-minded neighbours living in real houses nearby, but sometimes, he admits, it is purely fabricated.

“Anonymous notes don’t need to be forged” he said.

Thousands of letters are either received, recycled or produced at the enforcement office every day – too many to ever read or organise – and ‘enforcement officers’ are constantly tunnelling underneath mountains of paperwork just to get out of the office to do some enforcing.

“The best part about investigating this type of accommodation is that none of it really exists. The people living in these places – if you can even call them people – are usually vulnerable and most of them don’t even speak proper. But that only makes it easier and more amusing to throw them out.”

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‘Escape

But it is not just nomads and émigrés who find themselves in squalid living conditions. Anyone can do it if they really try.

For almost a year Babs, 24, lived in the Thames – paying £250 a month for nothing whatsoever.

She came to London looking for work in the television industry just like everyone else, but the friend who offered her a couch to sleep on suddenly capsized, leaving nothing but a big hole in the ground where her house used to be.

“It was as if she just tunneled her way out” she said.

Her landlord said he was working to improve living conditions in the Thames, even though it wasn’t true. He was delighted that the river could offer people “nothing whatsoever when they could afford little else”.

 

‘Beyond good and evil’

Isobel, 28, doesn’t care about anything.

In Hackney Wick, under the malevolent shadow of the Olympic Stadium, dozens of former factories and warehouses now house what is said to be the biggest nomad swarm in Europe.

Like Isobel, the residents are attracted by small things, like the way a woman walks along the street with a blue plastic bag, trying to get home to her child.

“I do feel something, but I don’t know what. Does it matter?” she said.

Isobel says she has no permission to live where she does because it doesn’t mean anything. But our reporters spoke to people who lived in buildings where landlords had ruthlessly created ‘hidden homes’ – right inside other people’s houses.

“The building was so badly maintained because it was all made out of newspaper” said Alexis, 32.

“The apartment I was renting was inside someone else’s living room – and they didn’t know about it. But it wasn’t just me. There were twelve other apartments nested right inside the main house. We had to dig tunnels to get around because nobody had a key to the front door.”

The owner of the building told us he would eat anyone he found living there.

 

‘Council’

The Minister for Housing Christopher McInterest said he had a lovely house with walls and everything.

“I’m giving myself a bonus.” he said.

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But Brigitte Assets, the deputy commissioner of something or other, believes the problem will go away by itself if she stops thinking about it.

“Fundamentally there are many, many people looking for places to live in London, but that’s not my fault.”

 

Some names in this article have been changed, as well as all of the facts.

 

View full project: NEO-LONDON

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Fairfax Mansions, Revisted

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Journal entry #317

November 2012

Looking back on the transformation of that quite ordinary Council housing block – the one that used to be known as Evelina Mansions – into that prime example of what people are now calling ‘weaponised architecture’, I can’t help but suspect that the perceived threat collectively beheld by the residents of this building is so exaggerated and disproportionate that only the most radical member of the group could have possibly maintained authority before it was too late. That somebody was Mrs Fairfax.

Mrs Fairfax, (after whom this improvised fortress was aptly re-named,) is herself something of a mystery; she is never to be seen and one wonders if she exists at all. There certainly was a Mrs Fairfax living in apartment 14b only recently; a well-known woman who was the Councillor for the local area, as well as being the head of several community action-groups in Camberwell and patron of the under-fourteens kickboxing academy around the corner. As I understand it, this woman seized control of the Residents’ Association about a month ago – a group which consisted of about four or five people who used to meet up every now and again to complain about off-street parking restrictions. Within a week of Mrs Fairfax’s election however, the meetings were on a twice-daily basis and mandatory for all residents. People were suddenly being drafted into work details and militia groups, and approaching the building was suddenly impossible due to the barricaded forecourt and the children standing on the balconies, hurling objects on people as they pass.

And even though you would always see Mrs Fairfax standing at her balcony in the afternoons, surveying the park, (in the room she commandeered from Mr Johnston after he was apparently exposed as a traitor,) she has been conspicuously absent the past fortnight – ever since the building was renamed after her, in fact. I have looked into her room with a long-focus lens from my hideout in the park, but I couldn’t see nothing in there. Nobody goes in or out of her room, and there is always a guard stationed outside. I can’t understand what happened to her. But all the same, they all go on as if she was still in charge.

CADE

View project: NEO LONDON

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Underneath the arches.

This is a random fragment of journal taken from the archive of NEO-LONDON. It doesn’t really seem to make much sense, but that’s no reason not to post it.

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Untitled journal entry #414

sometime in late November 2012

05:32am

I woke up inside a pile of rubbish under the railway arches on (x) street this morning, with only a dim recollection of the events which led me to wake up here alone, sprawled beneath Styrofoam cups, pulped cardboard boxes and pigeon droppings. I remember that when I got here yesterday in the early evening, the arch had been populated by all sorts of utterly random people who seemed to have congregated together entirely by fluke. The only thing uniting us was the fact there was no reason whatsoever for any of us to be there at all. I myself do not recall how or why I got there and neither did I know when I would leave, but at the time it seemed as good a place as any to sit about and wait until something came along.

Sitting in the damp, filthy air – a greyish admixture of fog and car exhaust particles –we whiled-away the hours by watching the traffic jam. It was an especially good one; the lights at the pedestrian crossing must have gone out of synch or something because a long line of cars were idling impatiently at the crossing, waiting for the lights to change and, despite the aggression as people sounded their horns, yelled and spat at each other, nobody was bold enough to jump the lights and drive on – even though there was clearly no reason for them to continue waiting. Likewise, a large group of pedestrians had assembled on either side of the crossing and were doing the same thing; even though the cars were stopped, nobody took the initiative to cross the road but instead preferred to wait for the little green man, who did not seem to be coming. A group of boys heckled each other to go first, but then owing to something which frightened them they hid behind their mothers’ skirts and shyly refused to come out again.

The people under the bridge, (I counted twenty-seven at one point,) each concurred that somehow they had just got under the bridge and that it didn’t matter much why it had happened. In retrospect it seems odd that a group of reasonably well-educated people would not have had the least inclination to try and understand why they were sitting about like dogs in such a place as opposed to sitting at home with their families in warmth and comfort. But the fact remained that they were here; nobody was interested in leaving just yet and anyway, there was no sense in changing the status quo. One of the women – a tall woman with reddish hair and a polyester suit – said that chance, having got them in there in the first place, was probably the only thing that was going to get them out again, so there was no sense in making the effort to try and leave on purpose; that would only upset everything. And everyone just sort of nodded, but not really to any purpose. It was obvious they weren’t listening, and anyway, it seemed to me the woman just wanted to hear herself say something like that, or perhaps it was just so she could check she still existed.

At around 3 o’clock in the morning a new bloke rolled into the pile. After watching the traffic for a bit, he said in a non-committal sort of a way that he thought he was the sales manager of a company that manufactured cheap geometry sets for children. When nobody showed the slightest interest he continued, explaining that he’d been drifting like this since Tuesday morning after having failed to remember where he worked, and that he had already been deposited into three other large piles of garbage like this one, somewhere further East. But he could not be specific, he added, because he wasn’t sure if it mattered any more anyway, because one pile of garbage is much like any other, and moreover he was beginning to get used to it.

I sort of fell asleep after that because nothing was happening, and I wasn’t really interested anyway. The incessant discord of the car-horns had somehow lost their malevolent aura and just soaked into the rest of the picture, inoffensive and meaningless. I nestled myself under an abandoned mattress, stained by damp and cold, and stuffed broken pieces of cardboard deep into my trouser legs to keep out the frost. Then I must have nodded off because I awoke again, perhaps only 45 minutes later, to find that everyone wasn’t there.

 

Jim Broadband @ The Unstitute

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The right angle: a short experimental video

Despite a brief hiatus due to having a dose of flu, this short narrative came about through my inexplicable fixation with the dirty corners in which things collect. Integrated into one of the later episodes in the archive “NEO-LONDON” (which deals with ‘The Secret Life of Rubbish’,) I decided to spend all day and all night in a corner like all the other bits of garbage that collect there in a vague effort to heighten the realism of my research. The particular corner I ended up occupying was nestled between a row of apartment building and an abandoned office, close to the Tate Modern art gallery. Hardly noticing him at first, (and mistaking him for just another piece of rubbish,) an appealingly dull fellow was also nestled in the corner and, after exchanging pleasantries, he began to explicate at length the virtues of having ‘the right angle’. The following interview is the result of this fieldwork.

Link to full project: NEO-LONDON

“NEO-LONDON” – The London War

man-in-holeOver two years into production may seem a little late for beginning a blog on The Unstitute’s project “Neo-London”, but it seemed a fair time to move some ideas out of the agglomerated notebooks and fragments of paper currently littering up the workshops, seminar rooms and lesser outhouses around here. Truth be told, there is no limit to space at The Unstitute, (unlike many other large buildings,) so the drive to publish what was until only recently a chaos of insensible materials was motivated less from practical reasons than it was from the need to disseminate ideas which, left to their own devices, would soon grow musty and useless or else escape.

The project began from a late night discussion about the possibility of a war breaking out in London that nobody was able to notice. Although fanciful, this idea itself had a long incubation period, albeit a semi-conscious one illuminated by half light and speculation. It seemed perfectly tenable, in those days, to imagine such an occurrence if only on the strata of sensibilities – harsh affects dominating the cowing drives to submission on the level of everyday life. So, committed to this idea as we were, off we set to document the tiniest inflections of violence registering on the surface of London’s streets, it’s lesser enclaves, it’s people, animals, garbage and, critically, the speech of its residents. Such seemingly useless recordings of wheelie bins, the call of street hawkers at the market, semi-private telephone conversations in the financial city, tiresome studies of rubbish and decay all pointed us towards the semi-conscious idea from the beginning, confirming the long held belief that people often find what they want to find during research, and rarely capture contradictions to their original prejudice.

This was of no bother to us, however. The Unstitute hardly prizes the evidential over the unconscious at the best of times and what seemed irresistible was the original impulse that had driven such research along; what was it’s object and to what lengths would it go in order to solidify such phantasy representations, group mythologies or mass hysteria in the locales of Southwark and beyond?

Soon it became apparent that there was no war happening after all. That dream of violence in which one’s drives, reasons and actions all seem to make sense according to the logic of survival – as some half-baked radical alternative to advanced capitalist urban living. We began to give consideration to such ‘survivalist’ planning, to the mindset of the siege, the channelled thinking of the pack animal. Although there was no war scheduled for London in 2012, we went about as if one was really in progress.

Truth be told, if we journey back to the so called London Riots of 2011, the seeds for such an effort were already gestating. Having experienced the whole fiasco only through Twitter – through language and the rumour mill which such small talk demands, it seemed there was a desire for large scale sedition to break-out and wake things up, and half the time we expected the rioters to do what everybody was expecting them to do, just so as not to let anybody down. We wondered also whether a vast, subconscious reservoir of raw violence, fascism and the enforced suppression of all leisured affects was building like a magma chamber somewhere, an unparalleled need for harsh speech, tough decisions – a crisis, so to speak, was being generated in the generally sedentary metropolitan lifestyle.

We could only hope.

But a new consideration rapidly emerged. What if people really had this strong desire to engage with some form of tough reality, (the kind we see in films or in the news and which inform our imaginary speculations,) but that the impulse to do so, the desire had simply grown too atrophied and weak to ever break out onto the surface? This was a concern we had not glimpsed before, and that was when the themes of inertia, entropy and heat-death began to seep into the moral universe of our research.

The work in progress may be seen here: “NEO LONDON”

Barry Cade @ The Unstitute

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Where do the words go?

This blog has been dormant a long while – not through outright neglect, but rather because the balance was swung to a rather more visual orientation – which can be seen most clearly through the developments of The Unstitute’s evolving project “… drifting towards (x)” enter
This project, however much it is stranded in the visual, still rests on a fundamentally linguistic basis, combining a preference for the colloquial over the standard, the gutteral over the mainstream, the inexpressive or unverbalisable; retreating from sense towards an undefined (x).
London is the subject looking for mythologies, new or neglected narratives, disquieting voices and animal retreats; a great burrow into which one can escape when chaos is the only desirable outcome.

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