Monday, 27 December 2010

Democracy of Filmmakers - Vimeo Video School

Anyone who's checked out Urban Orienteer before should know what a fan I am of Vimeo. Aside from the quality of both the site and its content, what really stands out for me is the supportive community it has fostered and the creative encouragement it provides for amateur filmmakers. In keeping with this ethos the site has just launched its own Vimeo Video School. Aside from helping users achieve great results, perhaps relatively modest gestures such as this really do help achieve the 'democratisation' of filmaking implied by one enthusiastic user's comment.

In addition to categorising over a thousand user created tutorials as part of the initiative, Vimeo have also provided updates to their Video 101 tutorials for beginners and, of particular interest to myself, a new series called DSLR Basics specifically for photographers using their Digital SLR cameras to capture video. The series is presented by Vimeo's Andrea Allen and filmmaker Philip Bloom who is best known in the Vimeo community for his stunning timelapse photography:

[Video - Sky by Philip Bloom on Vimeo]

The film above was shot over the course of five days and nights in Dubai. Considering the time and patience that goes in to something like this it is fair to say he has learnt a trick or two over the years.

A selection of the videos I found most useful are embedded below along with links to the others. Each of the films in the DSLR Basics series is around 4-5 minutes long, and accompanied by a set of notes for context on the corresponding page.

1. Introduction to DSLR Cameras - Deciding which camera to buy.

2. Setting up your DSLR - Preparing the camera to shoot:

3. DSLR Lenses - Choosing a lens.

4. DSLR Accessories - Choosing accessories to help you shoot with your DSLR.

5. Shooting video with a DSLR - Camera settings and shooting techniques:

6. Recording sound for DSLRs - Ways of recording sound with external devices.

7. Timelapse with a DSLR - Using your DSLR to condense time:

8. Night time Shooting with a DSLR - Shooting footage in low light:

With all this I suppose my New Year's resolution should be to go out more, practice more, and make better films. See you out there!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

London Education Cuts Protest - 24th November 2010

On the 24th November 2010 Urban Orienteer joined the student March from ULU to Whitehall to protest the proposed government spending cuts on education.

A bit late but I thought it might be worth showing a different side of the days events.

The best part for me was when the dash at Aldwych. The police ruined it for themselves by blocking the route along the Strand, so everyone diverted round King's to the river...much to the confusion of both the police and oncoming traffic. All good fun. My highlight of the day! 

After the police got everyone back on track they made their way via Trafalgar Square to the road block at Whitehall. I Slipped out of the kettle just before the clampdown. Note the kettle was in place well before anyone started using that knackered Police van as a climbing frame.

As the fun was over I did the off. Didn't have any sugar cubes for the horses.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Article 12: Waking up in a Surveillance Society

Back in April I posted the trailer for David Bond's film Erasing David in which he put the surveillance state to the test by attempting to disappear. Now Juan Manuel Biaiñ and Junco Films have released their own documentary entitled Article 12: Waking up in a Surveillance Society. Recently screened at the 24th Leeds International Film Festival this new film uses the twelfth article of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 as a benchmark to chart the global ascendancy of surveillance society. According to the film synopsis:
Article 12 presents an urgent and incisive deconstruction of the current state of privacy, the rights and desires of individuals and governments, and the increasing use of surveillance.
The film adopts the twelfth article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to chart privacy issues worldwide, arguing that without this right no other human right can truly be exercised. It assembles leading academics and cultural analysts including Noam Chomsky, AC Grayling and Amy Goodman to highlight the devastating potency of surveillance, the dangers of complicity, and the growing movement fighting for this crucial right.
Article 12 provides a powerful wake-up call as we sleepwalk into a worldwide surveillance society.
Article 12: Waking Up in a Surveillance Society

Despite our coalition government's pledges to 'implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties and roll back state intrusion' following the general election in May, and the suspension of s44 for the purposes of stop and search of individuals without the criterion of 'reasonable suspicion' back in July, recent proposals to revive the previous government's Intercept Modernisation Programme inspire little confidence in their resolve. 

Indeed, in his recent report to the House of Commons the UK Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham' called for 'government departments to build post-legislative scrutiny into their work as a key way of ensuring the successful delivery of the new transparency and privacy agenda'. This followed the recommendations of the Surveillance Studies Network's (SSN) recent update to their 2006 'Report on the Surveillance Society'. 

In this climate Biaiñ's film looks as though it may prove to be essential viewing. Keep your eyes peeled for further screenings, or simply follow the film on Facebook.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Utopia London?

In this new documentary Tom Cordell attempts to tell the story of the London he grew up in and the Architects who built it. As he explains:
I grew up in the London of the 80s and 90s and it's still my home. I've always been drawn to the excitement of its post-war landscape; concrete and brick textures, unadorned clean lines, neon glow and dark shadows. And most Londoners my age that I know feel the same - the modernist city is our landscape. Yet all our lives we have been told that the same urban spaces are ugly – symbols of a failed, arrogant technocracy. While we're comfortable celebrating 60s pop culture, many people still hate the buildings of that time.
Worryingly, while I had once thought that popular taste would catch up with the urban building of the 50s, 60s and 70s, it's now under attack. Major symbols of that time are being destroyed - often with gruesome delight on the part of the wreckers. We urgently need to defend what is left before it is all gone.
So this film is an attempt to understand both why I am so drawn to these cityscapes and also why some hate them so much.
What excites me about Cordell's project is the way the tensions he describes resonate with my own interests in the subject of urbanism, and my personal ambivalence toward the city to which I remain attached. Undoubtedly Cordell's attachments are different from my own. Growing up in the fringe of London's northern commuter belt I have always felt like an outsider or stranger in London. As Georg Simmel would have had it in his influential essay 'The Stranger': I am 'the man who comes today and stays tomorrow - the potential wanderer, so to speak, who although he has gone no further, has not quite got over the freedom of coming and going'. If we accept this supposition of a propensity toward wanderlust, the real riddle of the stranger then would be to find out what makes him stay? While I am yet to visit many of the the sites appearing in Cordell's film, I wonder if the draw they have for him bares any similarity to that which I've felt toward the Barbican Estate ever since I stumbled upon it on a walk through the City a couple of years ago. 

Situated near the heart of London's central business district, the Barbican appears as an anachronism on the City's changing skyline. Perhaps there is something quixotic in the image of this outmoded Brutalist fortress of concrete, squaring off against the City's new champions of commerce rising to the east; palaces of commerce armoured in glass and steel, more ethereal in appearance, or more wraith-like depending on your view.

At the same time the Barbican is an island of urban life in a sea of commuters. I've often imagined it declaring independence from the rest of the city, or else turning feral in the vein of Ballard's book High-Rise. In my imagination it is more a ship waiting to set sail than an island. Over the last couple of years several of the pedways that reached out from the estate have been severed as the surrounding area has been redeveloped: the gangplanks are going up, all we're waiting for is the hoisting of the mainsail and we're off down the Thames in search of booty off the Docklands main.

While it is extremely unlikely that architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon or the LCC ever entertained thoughts of the Barbican as a Pirate Utopia, it is interesting to consider the extent to which the buildings they created have preserved or compromised the Utopian Egalitarianism that informed the earlier work of planners and architects such as Patrick Abercrombie and John Foreshaw, embodied in the County of London and Greater London plans of the 1940s:

[Video - The Proud City: A Plan for London (Public Domain Video) hosted by Utopia London on Vimeo]

Despite the harsh modernism, the uncompromising functionalism, or even the brute concrete hostility of many of the sites that were intended to embody these ideals, I'd like to suggest that it is their enduring influence on London's urban imaginary that continues to draw us to them. As Cordell tells us:
I began to contact the people who tried to change the city, and my narrative thread continued to shift around as the filming went on. And what I found was that the power of the buildings came from the vision they were meant to serve - and that it's this vision that so polarises opinion. They symbolise an attempt to build a fair, open society, and their existence frightens people who have rejected these values.
The film will be screened by DoCoMoMo in London on the 14th of December and followed by Q and A with director and architects. The film is also available for purchase on DVD from the Utopia London website.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The most wonderful building you'll never explore...

Back in 2009 I began a project with my close friend Mark at Dancing Eye called 'In the Shadows of the Crystal Palace'. At the time I'd just gained an interest in street photography and naively started to take photographs around the City of London. It was only by virtue of the absurdities of s44 anti-terror legislation, and private securities regular attempts to disallow my taking pictures of their transparent buildings, all the time being watched by their cameras, that I became interested in the new glass architecture that suddenly seemed to be springing up across the city. From there on my curiosity took over and quickly led me to the most wonderful building I'll never explore.

In researching the project I visited the Sydenham Hill site several times hoping to capture something...I'm not sure what. While he Crystal Palace Park is wonderful in its own right, I can't help my disappointment that so little remains of the building that gave it its name.

From 1854 to 1936 the site was home to Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace. Originally intended as a temporary structure to house The Great Exhibition of 1851 in London's Hyde Park, the Palace was relocated to the Sydenham site as a result of popular demand, but no doubt assisted by the commercial interest that inspired. Following its destruction by fire in 1936 the site was used to host events like motor racing until the 70's, but was otherwise left to fall into disrepair.

Today the area is dominated by the Crystal Palace transmitter erected during the 1950's. All that remains of the original site is the upper terrace with its Sphinxes and broken statues, and the restored exhibit of antediluvian reptiles in the lower park. The park's past is commemorated by a pair of arches replicating the prefabricated iron frames Paxton designed to hold his magnificent building's spectacular glass panels.

If my trips yielded little else I at least managed to capture the stunning autumn sunrise seen in my short film above. How much more glorious would it have been though to have snuck into the still standing Palace before dawn; seen the sun rise from within the great Central Trancept; watched the morning light dance across the Alhambra, Egyptian, Greek and Roman courts; and observed the eager morning crowds enter from my hiding place up above.

We may well speculate that if the building did still stand it would be little more than a mall today, but to be fair this criticism seemed to plague the building from the beginning. And so what if it is only by virtue of its absence that it maintains its aura? Doesn't this allow it to serve us as a symbol all the more?

With that in mind I'd like to end with two wonderfully evocative passages from a guide to the Crystal Palace featured in an issue of the The Leisure Hour journal from 1856:
See! like a vision of magic, its striking foreground and magnificent park come into view; whilst, beyond them the Palace rises, wondrous in extent, yet so light and aerial in aspect, as almost to defy belief that it is a thing of solid substance. 

What an enchanting scene here meets the eye! A seemingly interminable vista opens, presenting innumerable gaily-dressed groups of visitors, promenading through lines of luxuriant foliage, intermingled with statuary, from behind which arise ranges of elaborately ornamented facades, and lofty, slender, parti-coloured columns, festooned and enwreathed with graceful climbing plants, springing from the ground, and shooting out from suspended baskets, lustrous with blossoms of every hue; while, high overarching all, is a crystal canopy, stained, as it were, with the mellow blue of the heavens, or sparkling with myriads of sunlight reflections. In the foreground, covered with white and purple and crimson water-lilies, is a sheet of water, from the midst of which springs the world- renowned crystal fountain, glittering with prismatic colours. 
This passage is quoted from the full article that featured in a recent post on Lee Jackson's excellent blog The Cat's Meat Shop. Those with a taste for further Victorian delights are strongly encouraged to try Lee's full online archive The Victorian Dictionary.

Ballardian Architecture: Inner and Outer Space

Back in May the Royal Academy of Arts held a symposium entitled Ballardian Architecture: Inner and Outer Space. I was incredibly disappointed not to be able to attend so I was particularly pleased when, in addition to the mp3s available above, videos of the event were posted by static tv on behalf of The London Consortium.

As indicated by the title of the symposium, each of the lectures are broadly structured around the distinction between the inner and outer operative in the fiction of the late British writer J.G. Ballard. What many of these discussions emphasise in their exploration of Ballard's work is the permeability of those barriers and thresholds ordinarily supposed to mark that distinction in each of its many guises.

By way of example we might consider the violent short circuiting of the libidinal economy of the individual and functioning of the capitalist market economy affected by the penetration of the skin by twisted metal staged by the auto 'accident' in Crash.

Below I offer a selection of the lectures that I found most interesting.

In the first discussion philosopher John Gray draws on Ballard's interest in celebrity culture and surveillance to pose the question as to whether we can expect there to be genuinely public spaces anymore. Gray explores the implications for political economy by way of a comparison with Guy Debord's theorisation of the spectacle in his 1967 book Society of the Spectacle.

In this second lecture the Bartlett's Nic Clear delivers his paper 'J.G. Ballard is an Enemy of the Architectural Profession'. Developing themes explored earlier in the issue of Architectural Design that he guest edited back in 2009, the lecture is offered as an exploration of new modes of architectural representation that are intended, in this case via the writings of Ballard, to stage an encounter between the architectural discipline and its outside.

An earlier interview outlining the development of this project, and featuring videos produced by his students in the course of his Ballard inspired 2007-08 programme for the Bartlett's Unit 15, can be found on the Ballardian website here.

In David Cunningham's presentation he compares Ballard's writing on space and place with those of his friend Iain Sinclair and the Anglo-German writer W. G. Sebald. In doing so he argues that, contrary to the "hunger for memory and place" of Sinclair and Sebald's writings, Ballard's provide a "profoundly urban, no-turning-back aesthetic of futurism and rawness", embodied in the architecture of Brutalism and the new forms of social interaction it might seem to promote.

The end of session panel discussion above features Gray, Clear and Cunningham answering questions from the floor on the subjects of time, the uncanny, sentimentality and social networking.

Chris Hall was one of the first online writers to discuss Ballard's work in his essay 'Extreme Metaphor: A Crash Course In The Fiction Of JG Ballard'. In this discussion Hall uses a reading of 'The Terminal Beach' to explore Ballard's use of particular types of architectural structures as metaphors for those aspects of ourselves that we try to repress. In doing so he develops the psychogeographic themes in Ballard's writings hinted at in Cunningham's discussion.

The lecture by British photographer Dan Holdsworth departs from the format of critical appreciation established by the speakers above. Having participated in the Crash: Homage to JG Ballard exhibition at the Gagosian gallery the previous month, Holdsworth reads passages from Ballard's works that resonate with the sparse and sometimes inhuman images suggested he captures through long exposure photography.

The closing speech of the symposium was made by Ballard's long term partner Claire Walsh. Naturally this offers a fascinating glimpse into the authors private life and the more guarded facets of his character.

The full set of videos can be found on the static tv while recordings of the sessions are available on the Royal Academy of Arts site here.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Urban Orienteer in the Anti Design Festival 2010

ADF Logo 7

Today sees the beginning of Neville Brody's Anti Design Festival which will include pieces from my ongoing collaboration with Mark at Dancing Eye. Entered as part of the festivals open submission programme these works should be found somewhere amongst the Front Space display in the gallery at 28 Redchurch Street in Shoreditch.

Intended as a response to "25 years of cultural deep freeze" the Anti Design Festival will run concurrently with the official city wide London Design Festival from the 18th to the 26th of September. Summing up in a brief interview on the Independent website Brody states:
The Government says if you're going to do anything – whether it's science or art – make sure you're making money from it.

What we're saying is that experimentation isn't there to make money; money is there to fund experimentation.
The Anti Design manifesto produced to accompany the event can be read here (with difficulty) or downloaded as a more palatable pdf.

As noted in the Creative Review, the event's self-professed 'outsider' status has been met with ambivalence by many commentators, and its 'anti-commercial', 'rebel' posturing has raised eyebrows in light of its sponsorship by the National Lottery. In order to make up your own mind I recommend checking out the debate hosted on the Guardian website between Brody and Ben Evans; director of the official festival.

A full programme for the Anti Design Festival can be found here (pdf).

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

RSA Animate - First as Tragedy, Then as Farce

Provocative as ever, in the most recent RSA Animate irrepressible Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek proposes that 'it is immoral to use private property in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result from the institution of private property'. The lesson he seeks to establish from this proposition is that the form of charity associated with corporate and social responsibility schemes such as Starbucks 'coffee ethics' is an essentially hypocritical and cynical gesture. What he terms 'capitalism with a human face' then remains complicit with the exploitation of the poor it is supposed to help, and all the more effective for the redemptive good conscience it leaves the consumer.

Personally I've always felt that there is something inherently wrong with the demonically perverse desire people harbour for a cup of Joe. I hate their smugness as they storm down the street brandishing their disposable cardboard and plastic cups, waving them aloft as if they were Prometheus bearing their torch for the people. FILTH! Basically makes me want to punch them in the face.

Spleen aside, the video above is an abridgement of the full lecture here, delivered on the release of his most recent book First as Tragedy, Then as Farce.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Urban Explorers: Quests for Myth, Mystery and Meaning

Those who attended our summer exhibition Transparency and the City: Public Spaces or Forgotten Places? will already have been introduced to the practice of urban exploration through the stunning photography of those participating the Urban Exploration // Behind the Scene installation. However, unless you attended the opening night you would not have seen the accompanying film Urban Explorers: Quests for Myth, Mystery and Meaning by Bradley at Place Hacking.

Including footage taken in the course of Bradley's own ethnographic research the film is comprised of a series of interviews with five scholars (Alastair Bonnett, Caitlin DeSilvey, Tim Edensor, Hayden Lorimer and David Pinder) whose work has engaged either with the practice of urban exploration directly, or with issues of urban decay, dereliction and exploration more generally.

It was my seeing an early edit of the film on Vimeo back in February that encouraged me to contact Bradley in the first place. Major props to Bradley for answering the email and agreeing to participate.

Update (05/10/2010) - A companion article for the above film has just been released in the journal Geography Compass (Volume 4, Issue 10, pages 1448–1461, October 2010). The article can now be read over on the Place Hacking website.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Transparency and the City Exhibition - Opening Night

The footage above is from the opening night of the recent exhibition Transparency and the City: Public Spaces or Forgotten Places? that I co-organised with Mark from Dancing Eye and the brilliant photographer Jon Spencer. This ran for two weeks from the 21st of June as part of the London Festival of Architecture 2010.

In the Shadows of the Crystal Palace

The image above is a photograph of the work Mark and I presented as part of our ongoing collaboration called In The Shadows of the Crystal Palace. Background information about the project can be found in an earlier post on this blog here.

Many thanks to Christina, Hwei Fan, Bradley and all of the Urban Exploration // Behind the Scene crew who accepted our invitations to participate.

Thanks also to all those who helped us organise the event or who attended. Finally, many thanks to Alan Baxter & Associates who hosted the event at their gallery in Farringdon.

Looking forward to seeing you all at the next one!

Friday, 2 July 2010

RSA Animate - Crises of Capitalism

In the video above Marxist geographer and urbanist David Harvey offers an overview of his recent research into the current economic crisis: The Enigma of Capital and the Crisis of Capital. Key for Harvey is the idea that 'capitalism never solves its crisis problems', rather 'it moves them around geographically'.

This excellent video is the most recent in a of a series produced by the RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce). Like the videos on TED these are designed to make new ideas and research accessible to the public. In the case of the RSA animations

Those interested in learning more about the Marxist ideas informing Harvey's analysis are encouraged to visit his website which includes a course of 13 video lectures on Marx's Capital: Volume 1.

The animation above is an abridged version of the full RSA hosted lecture which can be found here.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Cities of brought to life

In a previous post I suggested that the importance of narrative to our experience of the city demonstrates one of the very real ways in which the question of urbanism exceeds the planners concern over particular configurations of architectural and infrastructural elements, that might be assembled to form a cohesive whole. The good folks at Digital Urban are demonstrating this right now in the London Festival of Architecture with their project Tales of the City:
Via the project we have been capturing people’s memories of objects and playing them back via small readable and writeable QR codes and RFID tags. Tales of the City extends the concept into the urban realm with the architecture of the city able to replay memories and its history.

The project will enable participants to add their own tales to buildings and view stories that other people have left.
All you need to get started is the free Tales of Things app for your iPhone or Android, and a quick look at the tutorial below:

While several sites across the city have been tagged since the beginning of the project in April, I understand that a trail of tags, beginning at St Leonard's Church in Shoreditch, has been set up especially for the festival. By following the tags from there you can participate in a personalised tour of the area to which you can add your own memories.

If you enjoy the Tales of Things app you may also wish to try the Museum of London's Street Museum app. This enables the user to see historic images of London from the Museum's archive superimposed on the present day location when viewed via your iPhone camera.

Many thanks to Digital Urban for kindly posting details of Urban Orienteer's own contribution to the festival.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Transparency and the City: Public Spaces or Forgotten Places?

As a part of their program of events for the London Festival of Architecture 2010, the gallery at Alan Baxter is hosting a group exhibition which explores different conceptions of private and public space, and in particular the areas of city life where they overlap. Intended as a reflection on and engagement with contemporary discourse in Architecture & Urban Design, Transparency and the City: Public Spaces or Forgotten Places? seeks to provoke debate and to stimulate ideas amongst those interested in urbanism and the city.

Multiple exposure photographs are used to present a perspective on the city that brings to mind the liberating anonymity as well as the isolation that is unique to life in the city. This individual sense of privacy is extended into the political, as lost architectural icons such as Paxton's Crystal Palace are invoked to discuss the democratic ideal of transparency and it's effect on public life. Bandstands, fading sentinels of communal space, illustrate the presence of history and memory in the life of the city, while raising questions about the changes in what community means for contemporary urban society. The co-extensive boundaries of private and public space; of interior and exterior; of the personal and the political; and of the past, present and future, result in a multivalent territory that is charged with both tensions and possibilities.

The material on display derives from bodies of work that are continuing to develop, with In The Shadows of the Crystal Palace and Urban Exploration: Behind The Scene being collaborative projects in their own right.

The exhibition will run from Monday 21st of June to Friday 2nd of July. Following a private view on the opening evening we will also be open to the public on Saturday 26th June. Other viewings are to be arranged by appointment. Further details here.

- In The Shadows Of The Crystal Palace -

In The Shadows Of The Crystal Palace is a collaborative work in progress by Mark Oliver (Dancing Eye) and Oliver Dawkins (Urban Orienteer). The project emerged out of their research into the tensions between public and private space, and the ways that urban planning and contemporary security strategies affect the shifting territories of these spaces.

Adopting an ambivalent approach to Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace as an architectural ideal, questions are raised on the themes of democratic transparency and territorial expansion.

In developing these lines of thought, examples are drawn from the increased inclination toward the large scale use of glass in new London architectural projects such as 30 St Mary Axe (the Gherkin) opened in 2004, Broadgate Tower completed in 2009, and both Bishopsgate Tower (the Pinnacle) and the Shard of Glass which are to be completed in 2012. Each finds its precursor in Paxton’s Crystal Palace which was first erected in London’s Hyde Park to house the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Recently the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk has argued that this building can be considered paradigmatic of the project of European modernity as a whole. This, he suggests, is premised on the creation of a controlled environment which attempts to minimise the contingencies of life and subsume the outside through the creation of a commodified ‘hyper-interior’.

The collaboration will culminate in the production of 6 screen-printed posters, designed to promote discussion and critical reflection on these issues and their bearing on our everyday life in London. Selected artists and writers have been invited to contribute work for inclusion on the reverse of these prints. The display of these posters will be the first public appearance of the work, with further exhibitions, talks, walks and events to take place as the project continues to develop. Practical research for this project has also taken in the production of a series of small sculptures, and a short film featuring 300 paper aeroplanes in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern. Collectively these will constitute the second issue of Mark's self-published DANCING EYE.

- Bandstands, Noble Sentinels -

Jon Spencer’s work is concerned with ideas of the layering of history; physically, emotionally and in terms of memories. Responding to the work of current London authors and psychogeographers such as Sinclair and Ackroyd, he looks to tease out stories hidden in the fabric and collective memory of the city, retelling them and prompting the viewer to look at their surrounds anew.

Playing on the form of these structures, these ethereal images evoke a sense of their long lives and varied fortunes. The bandstands are recast as noble sentinels, bearing witness to the changing times around them. These are layered images, produced from a series of photographs of each bandstand - aside from the act of layering, the photographs are left unmanipulated. As with most of his work these images are produced in a systematic way - one set of rules being developed and adopted with rigorous consistency in the creation of each piece. The artist’s hope is that by adopting such a systematic approach, the city can be prompted to reveal its own stories.

Two other series are currently in development, information on which can be seen on Jon’s website; The Parade and Park Benches.

- Layers Of Time, Places, Spaces And People Of The City -

Christina Gestra is interested in super-imposing layers of images and playing with varying levels of transparencies. Much of her work is about enticing the viewer to take a closer look at the image in order to transform their understanding of it. The images are generally about cities - portraying the urban fabric in new and unexpected ways: taking a subject out of its usual context; playing with scales; highlighting the unnoticed; transforming a mundane scene into something potentially beautiful or quirky; cutting or fragmenting images; often incorporating text into the print and generally seeing things from a contemporary viewpoint.

Christina's work has often been described as being very ‘spatial’, and her parallel architectural background adds greater depth and understanding to the way she approaches her photography. Her ‘multiple exposure’ personal projects began in an attempt to portray a cities’ ability to be so vibrantly hectic and yet at the same time equally isolating and austere to its inhabitants. This was summed up in the accompanying text from her first multiple exposures solo exhibition: Layers of time, places, spaces and people of the city:
“By super-imposing image layers, I aim to visually recreate the frenetic complexity and confusion of London’s urban landscapes with its austere non-communicative silent population. On the underground the individual is packed in like a sardine, crammed to the extent that he can almost feel the next person’s breath on his neck, whilst the carriage is shrouded by a sinister curtain of passive silence. London is a great place to be in and to be part of, yet often in a crowded place we can feel very alone – my images seek to represent the fine line between the allure and diversity of the city and the solitude felt when lost amidst it.”
Much of her work uses traditional manual photography methods and experimentations with various darkroom techniques.

- Urban Exploration: Behind The Scene -

Urban Exploration, Behind the Scene is a collaborative work by Bradley L. Garrett, John Dodd, Laura Brown, Marc Explo, Alistair Sean William Costello, Chris Reinstadtler, Arron Fulker and Danny Pack, a group of urban explorers from London and Paris.

The exhibit will consist of a video installation and 14 photographs depicting infiltrated urban infrastructure, derelict places and artistic play in decaying buildings. The exhibit seeks to break apart city spectacle into the realm of the embodied by exposing the wiring behind urban façade, questioning our suppositions about the role of disused and underused urban space. The installation will showcase video footage and photographs from seemingly inaccessible places that will confront assumptions about what is and isn’t possible in the city and disrupt notions that urban life is necessarily utilitarian or impossibly overcontrolled.

Urban exploration is a modern movement which challenges boundaries to locate unconventional spaces for adventurous encounter where sensual tactile sensations and heightened bodily chemical reactions dwell. What is left behind from our transgressive mobilities are just traces, ghostly whispers in playful shadows. These intangible geographical imaginations will coalesce for just moments, long enough to haunt the London Festival of Architecture, and then blend back into the night.

- Pieces of a London Street -

Pieces of a London street is part of an ongoing project to document favourite spaces in the city. Taking Berwick Street in Soho as a subject, the work is not so much a survey as a documentation of personal geographies, present, remembered and historical. The drawing process allows the representation of ideas to become the means by which they are both investigated and revealed. Pinhole photos capture ephemeral human traces and the comfortable, familiar semi-public interior in relation to the territorialised and sometimes inhospitable, sometimes engaging, street.
Hwei Fan is interested in the occupation of built spaces, and how architecture can act as a manifestation and record of social use, structures and change.

- Contributors -

Mark Oliver 
Oliver Dawkins 

Mark Oliver and Oliver Dawkins met while studying Philosophy at the University of London. In the years since Oliver has completed a Masters in Critical Methodology at King’s College, begun blogging as Urban Orienteer, and started to develop the use of photography within his critical practice. Mark has also recently completed a Masters in Illustration at Camberwell College, and has established a small press project called Dancing Eye. Further details of their collaboration can be found here.

Jon Spencer

Jon Spencer is a photographer who originally studied Architecture at Sheffield before taking his MA at the London College of Communication. His work is centred on the idea of uncovering, unravelling and retelling the physically evident and emotionally imbued histories that lie hidden beneath the patina of the city.

Christina Gestra

Christina Gestra is both a freelance photographer and chartered landscape architect. She was born, brought-up and is now based in south London, but studied up at Edinburgh College of Art, and has lived, worked and studied in both The Netherlands and Italy. Christina is also currently teaching at the London College of Communications.

Bradley L. Garrett

Bradley L. Garrett is currently researching a PhD thesis at Royal Holloway, University of London, entitled Place Hacking: tales of urban exploration. Bradley is also a documentary filmmaker and blogs regularly. 

Hwei Fan Liang

Hwei Fan Liang is currently teaching on the Architecture BSc at the University of East London. Over the past four years the design unit, taught with Christian Groothuizen, has pursued interests in representation and analogue processes, and the relationships between photography, film and architecture. Hwei Fan studied at Cambridge, Kingston and UEL before going on to work in architectural practice in London.

The exhibition will run from Monday 21st of June to Friday 2nd of July in the Alan Baxter gallery. Following the private view on the opening evening we will also be open to the public on Saturday 26th June. Other viewings are to be arranged by appointment. For more information please contact:

Jon Spencer
07967 079 150

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Real Estate: From Antagonism to Utopia

Checking out the latest on Vimeo today I couldn't help chuckling when I saw Jonathan Weston's recent upload called Real Estate. Presented in the form of a standard architectural visualisation the film offers a caricature of the gentrification process in which the messy business of everyday life slowly degenerates into anarchy, leaving the area to be saved by the property developers who install their newly dubbed 'Utopia Apartments' behind gates and high walls protected by private security and CCTV. 

According to this caricature the turning point would be the riots that follow the police clampdown on growing crime. In reality the riots rarely come until after the gates have gone up. Rather the property developers play on the spectre of rising crime and the prospect of unrest to promote gentrification and justify the instillation of the gates. In doing so they foreclose the possibility that an agonistic street culture could flourish without degenerating into a Hobbesian state of nature. The challenge lies in imagining what that agonistic society would look like, despite our being conditioned to view life as a wager between two mutually exclusive states: anarchy or utopia.

Collectable Exhibition Flyers

Just a quick note to let you know that printed invitations are not required for either the Monday or Saturday viewing of Transparency and the City: Public Spaces or Forgotten Places? However, you may still wish to seek out our five collectable exhibition flyers, each featuring a different photograph or design by one of our exhibitors. If you are really lucky you may even come across one of the handsome packs of five created by Mark and our fellow exhibitor or Jon Spencer.

Flyer Pack (Front)
Flyer Pack (Reverse)
Flyer Pack (Spread Front)
Flyer Pack (Spread Reverse)
Places to find these include the London Review and Riba bookshops, or the London Building Centre which will be functioning as Festival HQ for the duration.

Invitation to join Urban Orienteer at Transparency and the City

Invitation - Transparency and the City
After some time away I'm very pleased to invite you all to join me at my group exhibition Transparency and the City: Public Spaces or Forgotten Places?

Alongside my own collaboration with Mark from Dancing Eye, we will also be displaying a considerable number of works by other artists and photographers. Works depicting the incompleteness and fragmentation of a city undergoing change are joined by pieces demonstrating the highly personal and complex attachments that inhabitants develop for specific sites within the city. Featured works include: Jon Spencer's excellent Bandstands and Polyptychs; Christina Gestra's disorienting yet beautiful multiple exposures; and a sample of Hwei Fan Liang's loving pinhole snapshots of Berwick Street accompanied by an axonometric survey of the same location. The viewer should find much of this work to have psychogeographical import.

We are also extremely pleased to be hosting a second collaborative exhibit entitled Urban Exploration // Behind the Scene. Given the fringe status of Urban Exploration as a liminal activity that regularly flirts with transgression, it is extremely rare to see these amazing images displayed in public. On the opening night we will also be screening an excellent documentary film on the subject created by blogger and academic Bradley L. Garrett.

Jointly the works presented here serve as a challenge to any planners and architectural practices who too quickly reduce the question urbanism to that of product. Unlike many of the other exhibitions in the London Festival of Architecture 2010, this exhibition does not shy away from engaging with issues relating to what the French urbanist and philosopher Henri Lefevre first referred to as 'Right to the City'. Neither a natural right nor a 'simple visiting right' this is a 'transformed and renewed right to urban life'. Secured through practice alone, the 'cry and demand' expressed through the exercise of that right can only be answered by a city in which use value predominates over exchange value; where the interests of the cities inhabitants predominate over those of the property market.

This exhibition forms part of the London Festival of Architecture 2010 and is being hosted by the gallery at Alan Baxter from Monday 21st June to Friday 2nd of July. Looking forward to seeing you there.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

London Festival of Architecture: 19 June - 4 July 2010

LFA 2010 Sponsor
The London Festival of Architecture had a bright and early start today with the opening procession for RIBA's Nash Ramblas event. This celebrates the architect John Nash's plan for the development of the area between St James' and Regent's parks commissioned by the Prince Regent in 1811.

The event began at 8:30am on the steps of the Duke of York monument where architect Will Alsop, dressed as Nash, launched the world’s first water and solar powered wheelchair lift. He was joined by the director of CABE, Paul Finch, and developer Roger Zogolovitch, each dressed as the Grand Old Duke of York and the Prince Regent respectively.

They then proceeded up Regent's Street in a horse-drawn carriage to lay a wreath at the bust of John Nash on the steps of All Souls Church. From there Finch was to go on alone to march up to the top of Primrose Hill, and apparently then march back down again.

While this struck me as an excellent jape, when I joined the procession at All Souls around 10am it seemed that the 8:30 start may have been a little too early for most. With my own exhibition to finish installing, it was with regret that I left the Duke of York yet another man down.

Urban Orienteer Festival Itinerary:

Obviously by far the most important event is my own: Transparency and the City: Public Spaces or Forgotten Places. The exhibition will run from Monday 21st of June to Friday 2nd of July, and will be hosted by the gallery at Alan Baxter.

Other events of interest include:
A full list of events can be found on the LFA website here. Throughout the festival I'll be posting any interesting links I find on my 'Top Links' list to the right of this page.

If you hear of any other exhibitions or events that I might be interested in, or if you would like further information about my own, please get in touch and let me know. Looking forward to seeing you there.