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'This unknown territory has become my biography': Iain Sinclair reviews Savage Messiah

Decca Muldowney22 January 2012

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.

However, whilst 'logging' this 'relogged' landscape might sometimes seem pointless, Sinclair admires Laura Oldfield Ford's "relentless Xeroxing of the entire genealogy of protest from Blast to Sniffin' Glue, by way of Situationism and psychogeography." He writes:

Oldfield Ford displays authentic gifts as a recorder and mapper of terrain. She is a necessary kind of writer, smart enough to bring document and poetry together in a scissors-and-paste, post-authorial form. Like so many before her, psychotic or inspired, she trudges far enough to dissolve ego and to identify with the non-spaces into which she is voyaging. "This unknown territory has become my biography."

Visit the Guardian to read the review in full.

Meanwhile, Oldfield Ford has been busy walking elsewhere. She has produced new work - inspired by 'drifts' around Walsall -  that forms part of a new exhibition entitled There Is A Place, opening on January 20 at The New Art Gallery Walsall. She will be giving a talk on her new work on 25 February, at 2pm, and discussing how she was  inspired by her walks in and around Walsall to present an alternative view of the town.

The exhibition aims to bring together a group of artists to explore our psychic connectivity to landscape;

 The drawings, paintings and prints within the exhibition reveal 'a sense of place' as seemingly generic urban and suburban views evoke personal and collective memories.  The reverie of teenage hideouts, suburban housing estates and motorway junctions, each depicted in painstaking detail, are at once familiar yet unnerving for all. 
The artists in this exhibition capture the most overlooked and peripheral spaces of our towns and cities, those unremarkable and unclaimed spaces that we each make our own.

You can find out more about the exhibition and talk  here, or visit The New Art Gallery Walsall website here.


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