Over 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