Barbaric Sport: A Global Plague — Marc Perelman
Perelman’s book takes a subversive look at sport and global sporting events such as the Olympics to reveal their darker side. He argues that sport has become an instrument of political control and a vehicle for capitalist monoculture. This timely polemic offers refreshing reading to those looking for an antidote to this summer’s Olympian frenzy.
Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism — Stephen Graham
This authoritative study examines the rapid and dangerous spread and normalization of surveillance and state policing in western cities and warzones alike under the guise of national security. As such it provides an unsettling and provocative insight into the global backdrop of the rising costs and militarization of London’s Olympic Games security operation.
A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys through Urban Britain— Owen Hatherley
Hatherley’s critical tour of Britain’s urban centres incorporates the latest and most high profile attempt at regeneration offering a carefully considered indictment of the architectural and social failures of Stratford’s Olympic sites.
Inspired by Patrick Keiller's The Robinson Institute, currently on show at the Tate Britain, we present Verso's guide to political walking. We also draw influence from Will Self's Guardian article in which he pronounces that "walking is political" and suggests that the "contemporary flâneur" can be one "who seeks equality of access, freedom of movement and the dissolution of corporate and state control."
1. Wanderlust - Rebecca Solnit
The first general history of walking, Rebecca Solnit's book finds a profound relationship between walking and thinking, walking and culture, and argues for the necessity of preserving the time and space in which to walk in an ever more automobile-dependent and accelerated world.
2. Savage Messiah - Laura Oldfield Ford
Savage Messiah collects Laura Oldfield Ford's black and white, cut 'n' paste, punk fanzines that document her drift through London's margins. Illustrated with haunting line drawings of forgotten people and places, Oldfield Ford records the beauty and anger at the city's edges.
In his stunning, controversial recent article for the New York Times, author China Mieville describes the London Docklands, the definitive Thatcherite regenerated playground of the rich as "a thuggish and hideous middle-finger-flipped glass-and-steel at the poor of the East End, every night a Moloch's urinal dripping sallow light on the Isle of Dogs". London is a city being overbuilt for the advantage of someone, but that someone doesn't appear to be the people who make London breathe. As Mieville writes, "Everyone knows there's a catastrophe unfolding, that few can afford to live in their own city."
Reading Savage Messiah, Roz Kaveney finds moments of “inchoate skinhead anarchism,” sitting alongside moments of mixed-media art that, “approach the condition of poetry.”
Kaveney admires Savage Messiah for its ability to, “see in the scruffy and semi-derelict a sort of beauty, a prophetic apocalyptic sublime,” but worries that Laura Oldfield Ford’s London is,
a city of white working-class resistance; it is an able-bodied, exclusively heterosexual world in which the only ideology is a sort of inchoate skinhead anarchism devoid of theory.
Kaveney, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, describes the content of Savage Messiah as a series of, “collages, fragments of text, dingy-looking photographs, sketches of buildings, deliberately stylized portraits. She interprets Oldfield Ford’s low-tech approach as, “in part a deliberate rejection of the sort of psychogeography she associates with Iain Sinclair and Stewart Home, and sees as a deliberate packaging of the bizarre for middle-class consumers.” She highlights the ways in which the apparently derelict and run-down areas of London that are depicted in Savage Messiah become symbols of struggle against urban and political hegemony, writing that
[Oldfield Ford] sees temporarily occupied drinking dens, factories where alienated workers sabotage the machines that fill cheap chocolates with nasty fondant, high streets full of kebab and pound shops, as sites of resistance to the squeaky clean consumerism of contemporary Britain.
Iain Sinclair has been out walking in the footsteps of Laura Oldfield Ford. Sinclair opens his review of Savage Messiah, Ford's cut-n-paste zine of psychogeographic drifts through London, with a description of his own walks through the city's changing landscape.
Writing for the Guardian, Sinclair documents his own experiences of journeying through an East London altered irrevocably by Olympic construction and the "fork-tongued instruments of global capitalism, hellbent on improving the image of destruction." Such dramatic change has, he claims, spawned a counter-reaction of 'Sentimentalists of every stripe' seeking to capture a landscape on the verge of disappearance: "raiding parties bearing cameras and notebooks, the tattered footsoldiers of anarchy: retro-geographers, punk Vorticists." Walking alongside these lone chroniclers of a lost London, Sinclair ponders the violent collision of new money and old city:
Old Stratford, transport hub, retail cathedral, birthplace of the Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, drew me back with its intimations of a new England, a city state outside time and beyond culture. Compulsory diversions have been arranged, systems of barricades and cones, to funnel random pedestrians through chasms of glass and steel towards the shimmering illusion of the Westfield oasis. It took something special to make me reach for my camera, all the evidence had already been logged and relogged. Just as my futile presence, in its turn, was captured on hours of security tape, scans from overhead drones.