On Nomadology

spain_backgroundWe dig tunnels.

 

There is no overarching plan for this superstructure known as The Unstitute, but we know there must be enough ways for us to get out quickly when the need for escape arises. Sure, this edifice takes on all the characteristics of a labyrinth, and it is uncertain who is trapped and who the trapper, but these concerns merely reinforce the idea that the plan must be going well, whatever it is. And though it might seem unlikely to go to such extreme effort to encounter the primordial fear of being trapped – a fear most underrated for its influence within the corridors and back-alleys of society – we are quite content to enmesh our efforts within such base fear. To be sure, we are never satisfied that the labyrinth has reached its state of perfection, inasmuch as each new improvement reveals at least a dozen new weaknesses which must be counteracted on the instant, strategic alterations are hastily drawn-up, construction begins afresh, new weaknesses and blind spots are revealed, plans are abandoned – and yet oftentimes it is these unfinished avenues that constitutes the greatest confusion for the intruder and thus the greatest pleasure for us. Indeed, there is no way to achieve a full satisfaction that the perfect escape should be at all possible, for one can only know such things when a situation of escape is needful, and even then one should hardly be content that the escape plan is perfect, for one cannot presume the intruder to act according to our script. And anyway, satisfaction is hardly our object. The escape itself is a by-product, an excuse for the architecture of escape.

 

Probably escape will never be needed – for who should attack us here? Who would be so egotistic to presume that we should become the object of the Other? But such questions are irrelevant, for we are building upon the possibility of fallible design, and this there is always much work to be done for the construction to be impregnable, or at least open to such a degree that there are manifold routes out to meet the occasion or the nature of the intruder. Every escape we should ever need, every escape out cunning can decide, must be on hand – which predicates that also we ourselves must be in readiness to put this supreme architecture to use without prior warning. Certainly this is not our home. Anxiety is built into the superstructure itself, and it is again uncertain that it’s corridors, chambers and exits constitute modes of escape or modes of capture. Who is trapped? Perhaps we ourselves are the invaders, and this confusing architecture is built around the presumption of occupation, or the arbitrary authority of Place?
We work therefore relentlessly, unceasingly, on our trap. Annexes, arcades, hatches, shafts: our Nomadology takes place within. This is no settlement, for not even the walls ensure our shifting purpose. The weaponisation of this architecture, which subjects our sense of place to such uncertainty as to our proper relationship to it, with such painstaking avoidance of comfort – for we should not wish the invader to be attracted by comfort or wish to stay – and such emphasis on the simulacra of there being no place here at all, elevated or plans to greater degrees of discontents. An escape cannot be perfected, and thus neither can it’s architecture. These discontents are our proper traps, and our further means to escape – not to freedom, for that is just a word – but to an exponential labour of movement through ourselves…

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Three posts down the end of the road, and their multipliers.

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“They stand there. And the shadows all point the same way. That’s something I’ve noticed. The shadows all point the same way, and they stand there. That is all. How I ever got mixed up in this darned business is far beyond me; whether it was all the fates all weighing heavily right here, down the end of the road, I don’t rightly know. All I know is that they stand there, and the shadows all point the same way.

I guess you must think I’m  a bit soft in the ‘ead, gettin’ all fixated on these darned concrete posts and everything. I mean, these three posts have got to be the most boring thing in the world, haven’t they? I mean, they’re so boring, they just disappear, don’t they? You kind of just block them out of your mind when you’re going down the shops, don’t you, maybe so you don’t have to see how utterly miserable these things are. You know they’re there, but you can’t see ’em. Funny.

Well, so long as I stand here, I make one of them. My shadow points the same way, doesn’t it? And, you know, your shadow points the same way too…”

Transcript of an interview with the old woman down the end of the street, from which nobody ever comes back.

CADE, 2013

 

The project “…drifting towards (x)” is an EIE – an Evolving Interactive Environment.

To enter into the full environment of these ideas as they grow and adapt, visit us here…

Tar Pit

The road engineers are at it again. For weeks they’ve stood at the junction across the way, resurfacing that same bit of road, over and over. We had a letter about it. It said they can’t keep up with the rate of decay around these parts, you see, so they’re trying to repair the repairs as fast as they can, but of course, it’s impossible for them to get anywhere doing a task like that. Well, its so futile, isn’t it? But still, they carry on. No sooner have they laid one bit of tarmac than it needs to be taken off, ground away by the little machine and then replaced with fresh, rich tar, and they work continually in this way to ensure the integrity of the road surface.
But I don’t believe they actually work for any of the agencies licensed to perform such repairs. That used to be taken care of by one of the big contractors before they all went into liquidation. They do look the part however – they have the right uniforms, the right PPE (personal protective equipment), the right materials for repairing roads, the right vehicles, the right mannerisms etc., but despite all that there’s just something about them that doesn’t sit right. Do you know what I mean?

Like for instance this morning, at about eleven o’clock, Gertrude from downstairs went out to the shop to see if she couldn’t bribe the owner to sell her some food. We’ve been running pretty much on empty you see, and we already ate everything we could find when we ransacked the other apartments in the building, so we drew lots to see who would go. Our last run to the shop was a disaster. Brian from downstairs never came back. God knows what happened to him out there. Anyway, Gertrude goes out and just saunters down the street just like normal, so as not to attract any attention, when she walks past those engineers, doesn’t she? Well, she’s walking along, right, and it all seems to be going alright, (she was already past the half-way mark to the shop,) when she suddenly veers off course, straight towards them engineers. Well, I thought maybe she was going to ask them a question or something, but she just marches straight past them, straight into that hot bitumen and gets stuck, doesn’t she? She tries to free her legs, pulling at the corduroy fabric but then she totally loses her balance and goes down on all fours into the black, sticky surface.

And I’m up here, watching through my binoculars, waiting for the engineers to help her get out, but they just stand there, watching. And that’s when I saw it. Right in the middle of the tarmac, right where all the vapours are thickest, there’s this crate. And inside this crate…well…you’ll never guess what was in the crate. A smoked ham. There’s this bloody hock of smoked ham in the crate, just a bit too far away to reach from the safety of the pavement.

And then I understood.

hole in the wall

Gang spend weeks digging tunnel under Tescos store to steal customers from cashpoint in daring raid

  • Gang dug beneath a Tescos in Bermondsey in carefully-planned heist
  • Dozens of people stolen from supermarket in raid
  • Police suspect the gang may have sold victims as meat
  • The raid has been linked to the so-called ‘mole-in-the-wall’ gang
  • Police Officers are appealing, says Superintendent

By TIPPI SKILLET
PUBLISHED: 20 March 2013


Out of order: The cashpoint, situated on an external wall of the shop, was not working today after thieves stole people from it

Thieves dug a 500ft tunnel under a building to steal dozens of shoppers from Tescos.
The gang spent weeks digging the ‘complex structure’ from nearby wasteland to get at the people at the Tescos store on Jamaica Road last Friday. The elaborate heist has been linked to the so-called ‘mole-in-the-wall’ gang notorious for bringing ‘meat’ to the black market in an illicit economy which is thriving due to city-wide food shortages which have sent the price of meat soaring.

A substantial amount of people were stolen from the supermarket after the gang tunnelled their way in from a nearby wasteland

The Metropolitan Polis Detective Superintendent Felicity Polygon said: ‘You may have seen people acting suspiciously on Friday night, possibly covered in soil, dragging people kicking and screaming down the tunnel. They may have transported victims in a police-style van and may even have been dressed like policemen and women.’
‘I would ask anyone with information about the robbery, or with any information of any kind, to keep it to themselves or they could find their mouths filled in with cement.’
A spokesman at the police barbeque later in the day confirmed that the amount of people taken was probably a new record.

People were taken from the Tesco Express store on Jamaica Road in the tunnel heist, which police are not investigating

It is thought to be the fourth time in the last few months the same ‘tunnel’ method has been used to steal people from cash machines across the Bermondsey area which police have failed to investigate. ATM machines are scarce in this area and draw poorer people from all over the borough, acting as a honey trap to hungry shoppers.
At the scene today, there was no police tape to mark the spot where the gang began their dig – only a sign to say that the cash machine was not in use.

The scene of the crime: Tescos which thieves TUNNELED into

The wasteland where the tunnel was started is an overgrown former coach and lorry park, left fallow for several years according to locals. Nobody ever goes there, and the place is known to local children as ‘the wilderness’. The six-foot entrance gate to the yard is locked – but there are numerous holes under the fence allowing easy access to the wilderness next to the supermarket.

A local councillor who arrived at the scene in a butcher’s van said: ‘Your local council is gravely concerned about this spate of subterranean abductions, and I assure you that I, as well as my fellow councillors, are doing everything in our power to get in on it.’

Anyone with information about the latest raid is asked to come to Bermondsey police station alone.

Golden Lane: a discontiguous topography

golden_lane2

Note to reader:

There is no ‘Golden Lane’. Yes, it’s marked in all the maps, wedged between the fortress of the Barbican Estate on the south side and Old Street along its northernmost perimeter. Likewise, it is marked on street signs and addresses, just as if it was really there – mail is delivered, taxes are paid. People go in and out of buildings as though they were really real. But that is during the day. During the day it is always easy enough to misconstrue everything and, to the casual onlooker, the conceit is successful enough; this place, this substitute, functions just as well as the real Golden Lane would have done – if not better in some respects. But all this is literally neither here nor there; ‘Golden Lane’ is now merely a subterfuge – an empty signifier of the thing itself.

[My decision to explore Golden Lane in detail was first prompted by a series of rumours I had heard around town, all of which were hostile, denigrating the area as ‘separatist’ – as though Golden Lane was in the process of being annexed by some form of rogue political movement unique to the estate. Rumour is an indispensable indicator of popular opinion and carries its own pragmatic importance during a crisis of this kind, and thus I have made every effort to accurately record the conjectures of people even when they are fantastical indeed.]

golden_lane1

Derive #1

I begin my first study in Paul Street at the northeast edge of the subject area in an attempt to access Golden Lane directly. This area does seem to be more heavily fortified in contrast to the south London locations I have been charting recently, and my approach was immediately hindered by a cordon – constructed in an amateurish fashion – from Herras fencing panels which block each of the four exits to the adjacent roads. It is inaccessible from any direction, save for climbing over the fences – which is easier said than done – and I am forced to re-think my strategy for getting to Golden Lane. Under normal circumstances you would assume that this is a sign that gentrification is about to take place here, some exclusive new enclave of gated apartments to be constructed and sold to the eager and upwardly mobile. But in this instance, no works are to be carried out; this area has been blocked-off just to keep it from being useful – as it is in its present state – its final state. There is no sequel to these building works. It is simply wasteland. I shall call it terrain vague; a waste of space, a disused space, an inaccessible space, an ignored space – and the corresponding mental absences produced by these spaces in the mind.

golden_lane9

More and more terrain vague is appearing in this area, linked as it is to the attitude of non-productivity which has become so prevalent in these neighbourhoods, (which is an uncanny fact, inasmuch as it spreads from under the shadow of the neighbouring towers of the Financial City just a stone’s throw away.) This territorial degradation, this terrain vague, has created what people are now referring to as ‘blisters’ or ‘buboes’ – eruptions on the surface areas of the City which are manifest sometimes as islands of uselessness, sometimes as blockages or impediments to movement, sometimes as pockets of resistance, sometimes as polarised states of inertia and nihilism. Golden Lane is one such island. People quickly become stranded on these islands; houses, parks, roads, even entire postcodes are swallowed up as the islands join together to create much larger flotillas of uselessness, a Wilderness developing right here in the heart if the metropolis

golden_lane10

Having walked about for several futile but beautiful hours without reaching Golden Lane, I can only conclude that I am entirely lost. As night begins to fall the landscape appears to spontaneously modify itself as though it were little more than a series of interchangeable slices arranged on a flat plane. All points of reference are gone. The fabric of the city has evidently decayed to a startling degree, the area having been subject to divisive politics for too long, and the sense of danger, of threat, is so strong I am compelled to find a blind spot in which to hide, an out of the way corner some where I can continue to observe developments.

There is not much to see, however. The area became completely desolate by seven o’clock just as if someone had raised the alarm and everybody had scurried indoors. It concerns me somewhat that I am the only person out of doors on this territory, and so I do my best to conceal myself as well as possible in a thicket at the edge of a small park which I do not recall seeing before. Upon closer inspection, I realise that this is not a park at all, but a barren piece of scrub of the kind which usually develops in the year after a building is demolished; a few withered yellow flowers, green dandelion spurs pushing up all around the edges, rubble and litter confetti. I have become caught in a patch of terrain vague – most likely due to having become so lost – and everything here is foreign to me.

I decide against remaining here much further into the night because of the strange noises, and resolve to continue my investigations tomorrow.

***

Derive #2

golden_lane4

If you were unsuspecting enough to imagine that by following the directions on a standard London A-Z map that you would be able to get to Golden Lane with relative ease, you might then very easily be caught-out and exposed in this place at no little hazard to yourself. Upon further examination of my A-Z, I discovered that the place names were all correct for London, but the picture itself was a map of Stalingrad – and thus navigating by it is worse than useless. I can’t imagine what kind of clerical error can lead to such a gross invasion of London by a former Soviet city, but you wonder if it hadn’t been done on purpose, maliciously. Discarding the A-Z by an overflowing bin I press onwards by using street signs to approximate the location of Golden Lane, but all approach is useless. It seems to have moved. Having been there only yesterday evening, I am perplexed that I cannot now remember where I left it. I wander about up and down roads to see if I haven’t simply missed the turning, but that only succeeds in getting me utterly lost. It still appears to be physically possible to get to Golden Lane, but somehow I am unable to reach it. This worries me to the point where, whilst walking backwards and forwards, I mull over the possibility of some psychological impediment as to why I can’t find Golden Lane; am I subconsciously denying its existence, as though perhaps something terrible happened there yesterday? I doubt it. More than likely I am caught in some kind of malicious loop of conflicting signs which has led me astray over and over again. I make an effort to adjoin Golden indirectly, avoiding all adjoining roads and pathways – but this proves to be no improvement to the situation. The pavements, the roads, the buildings – none of these things seem to have any integrity left, straight lines no longer seem to agree with each other and the boundaries which once seemed static enough now migrate and move about. Growing suddenly concerned at the prospect of becoming permanently lost in this bizarre labyrinth I quickly resolve to mark the street corners with urine, which will help me to remember my own smell, and thus, find my way back out again after exploring.

golden_lane3

This appears to work, inasmuch as I am once again able to govern my own direction, but I am however left with a horrendous nausea or sea-sickness – as though the ground were all still moving. I vomit all over the pavement causing several old ladies to tut at me in quite an intimidating way, and I fight my way to some out-of-the-way place where I can settle my wits for a few minutes, drink some tea from my flask and try again at walking down the street. But my second attempt is still worse than the first, attracting more ire from the locals. It feels as though I am lost not only here but in life in general, and it contents me to sit against the kerb where children drain the silence of the street and bleed the evening dry. Pressing my ear to the ground I hear the movement of concrete blocks as they shift and slide about, creating what amounts to an ingenious puzzle or trap, abolishing territories and, furthermore, disorienting people into adopting the nomadology so clearly displayed by the residents here.

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golden_lane5 golden_lane7 golden_lane6

I take photographs where I can, draw diagrams and jot a few notes, though the effort to be bothered to do so is overwhelming. I do not know if this place can even be accurately recorded, but I
comfort myself in staying semi-active. The sky is grey as concrete. We may as well just pretend that this is still Golden Lane, and spare anybody else the knowledge of what has happened here. I fall asleep in the park.

***

Derive #3

no-nothing

What happened here? Perhaps by writing it down, drawing diagrams of it, I can bring things back into line again, or at least shake the memory of this place back from the oblivion in which it lies. I can fix the fragments of Golden Lane in my records, provide coordinates, and once more be able to navigate this reef without running aground, without being taken in again by the fluid consistency of the shifting blocks all around. There are more people around on the street today and everything generally seems to be in better order than during my previous two studies. People are walking all over the place like termites, as though there were some connection between the topographical shifting of the location and the movements of the residents here – a co-dependency. I begin to research this behaviour by following one of the elderly women who cursed at me yesterday to try and find out how things work here.

golden_lane_woman

From a static position, her movements look normal enough. After following her on several circuits around the estate however, it soon becomes apparent that she is following a set path, as though she had explicit instructions how and where to move about – though whether she knows about these instructions is impossible to tell. Whatever it may be, she seems to be charting a stable route through this maze that I cannot see, inasmuch as I experience no further nausea or disorientation when I duplicate her movements. Everybody else seems to be shuffling along in their own way, perhaps following similar invisible paths learned by trial and error, and I am able to switch between paths where they cross one another, all of which form a large network of paths through this Wilderness. Each person has a path to follow over and over, playing on a loop if you will, until seven o’clock comes and everybody disappears inside. By ensuring the stability of their environment by repeating the same actions over and over again, day in, day out, the residents have established a very secure enclave here that only they know how to negotiate safely, like rats in a laboratory maze learn quickly where the traps are. I am of the opinion that this is some kind of a security measure – infinitely more subtle than the physical barricades constructed in other enclaves around the city – a form of architectural encryption applied over the area to keep non-residents out. But as to who has applied these measures or exactly how they were implemented is in no way comprehensible – at least, not to me anyway.

As I pass by an elderly couple I overhear fragments of a hushed conversation in which the word ‘separatists’ is mentioned several times. This strikes me as a trifle odd at first, but by paying careful attention to other fragments of information spoken by other people as they pass I am able to put together a sketch of the situation here in Golden Lane. There is clearly a great fear of ‘nomads’ moving in here, and some concerted effort is being made by the whole community to ensure that this does not happen. Their singular movements during the day and their sudden disappearance at night concurs with this hypothesis, and whether or not there is any real threat of an impending ‘nomad invasion’, or if perhaps a well-oiled machine is at work here churning out xenophobic propaganda for some political end remains to be seen. But whatever it is, ‘Golden Lane’ should be treated as a litmus test for what may soon break-out in other metropolitan areas in the future.

 


 

 

A woman distracted

crime-scene1

 

She did not return immediately home after work that day, even though that’s what she would have done any other day – indeed, that is what she had done every weekday for the previous twelve years. Of course, there had been the occasional social gathering after work, perhaps a leaving party for a member of staff, a few cocktails on her birthday, that sort of thing, but there was no ostensible reason for her hesitation that day. Instead of walking to the bus stop on Waterloo Road, (as was her routine,) she stumbled past the hordes of commuters waiting in the afternoon dust for the number 26 bus to Hackney Wick almost as though she were being sucked down the road towards Lower Marsh – that street behind the station – and, once there, began to pace backwards and forwards until it grew dark. Her to-ing and fro-ing must have appeared to any casual onlooker as the result of some deep distraction, perhaps a lost set of keys, or even some private matter into which her thoughts had been cast so deeply as to have made her all but oblivious to the way in which she now appeared. Or whether she was lured here by some rogue, circuitous thought which confined her into this aberration nobody rightly knows, but that to-ing and fro-ing of hers brought eyes with it. Hungry eyes. And what was left in the morning was a terrible sight to see.

Sometimes after work I too walk up and down this street, backwards and forwards, just to try and remember if I was responsible.

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