Make Your Own Damn Art breaches the boundaries of London and heads north for a screening and Q&A at Manchester’s Cornerhouse on Monday 29th October 6.30pm
Last week I was invited to Housmans for the inaugural Christopher Gray Memorial Lecture given by Gray’s long-term friend and collaborator Charles Radcliffe.
It was fascinating to hear Radcliffe talk about heading off to Paris with Chris Gray to meet Guy Debord and join the Situationist International. He was disparaging about Debord, saying how square he was and didn’t understand the acid culture that was a significant force in 60’s London (Gray later authored The Acid Diaries). Debord’s intellectual achievements weren’t contested but more the manner of how he dealt with his allies and fellow travelers.
He then gave a pithy account of all the expulsions and exclusions from the SI instigated by Debord and how the Situationists never really seemed to do anything else. Radcliffe was in that select group of people who resigned.
It was a great evening and felt I learnt more about Debord and the SI than in the previous years of reading hagiographies of Debord and his cohorts.
On the way home I read Chris Gray’s introduction to his key book on the SI – Leaving the 20th Century. It seemed from the talk and from Gray’s text that the principle thinker on psychogeography wasn’t Debord by Ivan Chtcheglov. I imagine Debord couldn’t be bothered to walk around Paris all day from the sounds of it.
A passage from the book about the foundation of the SI also struck me:
‘On 28th July 1957, delegates from l’Internationale Lettriste, from the largely Scandinavian and German Movement pour un Bauhaus Imaginiste and from a dubious London Psychogeographical Committee, met at a formal congress at Coscio d’Arroscia in Italy and decided to amalgamate. L’Internationale Situationiste was born.’
Does this mean that this ‘dubious’ London Psychogeographical Committee was the first explicitly psychogeographical group?
If so makes it fitting that the practice and ideas of psychogeography were revived in London in the late 1980s/early 90’s by two men who were in the audience that night at Housmans – Fabian Tompsett and Stewart Home.
There is a video of the part of the event on the Housmans Youtube Channel
Muswell Hill’s Peter Sellers voiced this documentary travelogue exploring this wonderful South London settlement.
The man who created this ingenious nonsense
Also made one of the great London films – The Sandwich Man.
The brilliant half-Peruvian former Goon Michael Bentine.
There is a clear link between eccentricity and wandering around London.
First off I’m not entirely sure that ‘modernist’ is the correct term to describe these three buildings in Lewisham High Street that caught my eye when I was down there the other week. But it’s the word that pops into my befuddled brain when I look at them.
Nikolaus Pevsner was fairly dismissive of Lewisham, writing in 1952 that it was, ‘A large borough, but little to see’. Although he knew his modernism from his art-deco, I am compelled to disagree.
The building above however is the only one I’ve found any info on – it was a 1960s department store, but I haven’t yet found out its original name.
The past life and former glories of this branch of Currys eludes me though. It’s a magnficient building worthy of more than being shared between cheap electronics and nail varnish remover.
The detail on the facade was clearly the product of an age that took its retail architecture seriously. This building seems slightly embarrassed by what has become of it, skulking back behind its tacky plastic frontage.
I wonder if it’s a survivor of the V1 attack on Lewisham Market in July 1944 that devastated the town centre
Ok this Primark isn’t quite so grand but still recalls a Grace Brothers age of High Street glamour and civic dignity.
I didn’t glide down to Lewisham on the DLR to study retail behemoths but I can’t seem to get these buildings out of my head. Just need to find out the correct word to describe them now.