Waste of Space at the 491 Gallery

The 491 Gallery in Leytonstone is far from being a waste of space in its current incarnation as a squatted artist run space offering workshops and organising exhibitions.
Ownership of the building has passed from London Transport to a private developer who plans to knock the place down and build a block of flats (with wonderful views of the M11 Link Road). The residents of the 491 have been given notice to vacate the premises on 13th January, so today’s exhibition marked one of the last opportunities to drop by.

The fire-pit was blazing in the ad-hoc landscaped garden with its furniture and sculptures made from recycled junk. I bought a beautiful hand-made bird-box for £6 at the Jumblegeddon on the ground flair.
Upstairs was a fascinating photographic exhibition/installation exploring ‘the use and misuse of space in the modern world, peering into hidden worlds and darkened corners to reveal the secret stories of forgotten buildings and of the people who try to bring life back to them’ (as their hand-out tells us).

Of course Leytonstone has form in this area with the squatted houses that became the focus of the protests against the building of the Link Road in the heyday of ‘Leytonstonia’.

The photographs range from nicely interior designed houses in Spain inhabited by musicians to the old Courage Brewery in Bristol where a forest of weeds have filled the void. The photos of rooms in houses are linked via coloured woolen threads creating a new para-space within the gallery.

The exhibition runs till Saturday 22nd December – go along not just to have a look at this great installation but also catch a glimpse of Leytonstone’s last occupied space before it’s gone.

Birdsong at Leytonstone Station

Recorded this on my Blackberry whilst waiting for the train this morning on the frosty platform at Leytonstone Overground Station. The singing bird was sat in a bare tree looking over the rooftops of E11.

Wish I could learn to identify birdsong and/or find my glasses and get them fixed. This was a small bird but at a distance of 20 yards just a blur so I couldn’t see if it was the Robin I guessed it to be.


Counter-Tourism and The Art of Wandering

The works of two fellow travelers deserve a shout-out here.

Firstly ‘Counter-Tourismby Crab Man aka Phil Smith. I haven’t read the book yet,  because it’s probably brilliant and I’m writing my own book at the moment and I don’t want to be unduly influenced by Smith’s usually creative slant on the re-imagining of ‘traditional’ heritage locations and the standard notion of sight-seeing.

When I was working on the Remapping High Wycombe project I read his brilliant essay ‘Dread, Route and Time: An Autobiographical Walking of Everything Else’, and ended up somehow mangling and misremembering his cogent notions as ‘autotopobiography’ (follow the tag at the bottom).

But an alternative to the often useless Rough Guides and Lonely Planets is long overdue – why buy a guide to each country and city when you could just buy the Counter-Tourism Handbook and use it everywhere you go.

If you want to read deeper into the broader culture that Smith and other cultural walkers inhabit then Merlin Coverley’s The Art of Wandering – the writer as walker’ is a must read. This is another long overdue book, Coverley having written two other key publications on a similar theme with his Pocket Essentials on ‘Psychogeography’ and ‘Occult London’.

The book takes us on a ramble from the Walker as Philosopher through to the Experimental Walking practised by Smith and his cohorts in Wrights and Sights, charting the excursions of the Dadaists, Surrealists and Situationists.
It not only covers the visionary walking of William Blake and Werner Herzog, the Walker as Philosopher, Pilgrim and Vagrant; but also links James Bone’s The London Perambulator (1925) to my old walking companion Nick Papadimitriou through the title of the film about him that I borrowed from the book (we’re going out for a walk on Saturday – you can read about it next year).

There’s an interesting section on a book by Jeff Nicholson, ‘Bleeding London’  from 1997 where the central character secretly carries out one of my fantasies – to walk every street in London, chalking each one off in the index of an A-Z as he goes.


Profile of a city – experiment

City Experiment from fugueur on Vimeo.

At the end of a project comes the sorting through some hard-drives – clearing the decks. The mind starts to think about the next film, without any pressure at this stage.

I found some fragments on a sequence in the London Perambulator folder – bits of archive footage from the Prelinger Archives, some ephemeral shoots of pre-Xmas crowds in central London and a tracking shot through Leytonstone station with my son holding the camera on his lap in a pram and was passed through (you can hear him campaign when go we back for another pass).

I’m wondering whether there is a germ of an idea in here that could be expanded into my next film – I’ve made two portraits of people, maybe the next one could be of a place. I’m shooting footage on walks I’m doing for a book (published in September 2013) – could that merge with some of the footage above. Who knows – it’s all up for grabs at the moment – this is the fun part.