Spectres of Modernism at Raven Row, London, 2 February 2018


Join us at Raven Row on Friday evening 2 February for a live programme of performances, readings and screenings, and an exhibition and sale of work by the artists, writers, photographers and filmmakers involved in the Spectres of Modernism protest.

The event aims to draw attention to and raise funds for the legal campaign against Taylor Wimpey and the City of London council and to quash planning permission granted for the luxury development The Denizen. This would replace 110 homes for key workers with 99 investment flats but no on site social or affordable housing. It would also overshadow local homes, schools, businesses and Fortune Street Park.

Join us in making this a landmark case that transforms UK planning so that decisions are no longer skewed in favour of an elite.

Performances: Mark Aerial Waller, Iain Sinclair and Bill Parry-Davis, Nina Wakeford in collaboration with Lloyd Corporation.

Screenings: Zoe Brown, Katrina Palmer, Esther Planas, St Luke’s Community Collective & Friends (including Owen Oppenheimer and Bioni Samp), Maxim Gertler-Jaffe, Chloe Hur, Mai Omer Teplitzky (Goldsmiths Visual Sociology MA).

Readings: Tom McCarthy, Chris Petit.

Presentations: Stewart Home, Anna Minton.

Exhibition: Anthony Auerbach, Fiona Banner, Justin Coombes, Deborah Curtis, Adam Dant, Jeremy Deller, Arnaud Desjardin, Sarah Dobai, Chris Dorley-Brown, Katherine Fawssett, Margarita Gluzberg, Patrick Goddard, Pippa Henslowe, Siu Lan Ko, Immo Klink, Rut Blees Luxemburg, Fraser Muggeridge, Elizabeth Price, Anjalika Sagar – The Otolith Group, Eva Stenram, Eleanor Vonne Brown.

Funds raised from the sale of works (including the original protest banners) will be donated to the Save Golden Lane Crowd Justice campaign to cover the costs of a hearing in the Planning Court, to argue why permission for judicial review should be granted and, if successful, the further costs of the judicial review itself.

Friday 2 February 6.30 – 9.30 pm (Live programme from 6.45 pm).

Raven Row, 56 Artillery Lane, London E1 7 LS.

“A spectre is haunting the cynical overdevelopment that characterises London’s buy to leave property boom, the spectre of modernism!” #savegoldenlane


The show is over but the campaign goes on…

Spectres of Modernism was always intended as just one strand in a longer and broader campaign against Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen development. The show proved effective by generating press coverage of the many political and social issues flagged up by the City of London granting planning permission for Taylor Wimpey’s ghost flats – including potential conflicts of interest on the part of City of London councillors Chris Hayward, Michael Bear and James Thomson. As a result of our banner exhibition on the balconies of Bowater House these matters have now entered mainstream media discourse. The show and the issues it raised were covered by the national media in the UK, as well as the art press. Prior to Spectres of Modernism our concerns had only been aired in local papers and/or blogs. But far more important than press as regards Spectres was the way it brought our community even closer together as we fought Taylor Wimpey and the City of London council.

We’re still waiting to hear if the application for a judicial review of planning permission for The Denizen has been successful, which is one way we hope our campaign will move forward. But it is also important to keep raising awareness about social cleansing, a process explicit in the demolition of Bernard Morgan House – with its 110 key worker housing units – that Taylor Wimpey plan to replace with The Denizen’s 99 buy to leave luxury apartments; and with no social or affordable housing in complex whatsoever! Likewise we will continue to participate in the ongoing fight against the uniquely undemocratic political system in the City of London – with the council controlled by business votes – which denies residents a proper voice in local government. If the City of London was run by a democratically elected council like those found in the rest of the UK, The Denizen wouldn’t have stood much chance of winning planning approval in the first place!

While the Spectres of Modernism banners were up on Bowater House we blogged every day. That will stop now and we’ll only make occasional update posts from here on in. The 75 posts we’ve made so far aren’t just about us and the press coverage Spectres received, they were also intended to place our campaign in both a local London and global context; and to let people know about some other campaigns we support.

Please don’t forget our post show event. This is now rescheduled to take place on Friday 2 February at Raven Row, 56 Artillery Lane, London E1 7LS, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. There will be an exhibition, performances, screenings, talks and the sale of works from and related to Spectres of Modernism, to consolidate the protest at Bowater House against Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen Development.  With the participation of: Mark Aerial Waller, Stewart Home, Tom McCarthy, Anna Minton, Katrina Palmer, Chris Petit, Esther Planas, Bill Parry-Davies, Iain Sinclair, Claire Louise Staunton, Nina Wakeford and Lloyd Corporation in collaboration with students from Goldsmiths Visual Sociology MA. All proceeds from the sale will go towards the campaign.

Other sites supporting our campaign against The Denizen – including OPEN Golden Lane and Reclaim EC1 – will in future be more active than this one. So please check them out! And activism against Taylor Wimpey’s development still retains a live cultural component via the horror stories various novelists are producing set in The Denizen; the blog featuring some of them is here.

A spectre is haunting the cynical overdevelopment that characterises London’s buy to leave property boom, the spectre of modernism!” #savegoldenlane

London Review of Books on Spectres of Modernism


Free exorcism with every Taylor Wimpey ghost home by Anna Aslanyan, LRB Blog, 7 December 2017.

Colourful banners hang from the balconies of Bowater House: ‘Under London, heaven’s light, grow life, not loot,’ one of the 21 slogans says. Another: ‘One day will this shadow fall.’ The building is part of the Golden Lane Estate, a Grade II-listed social housing complex designed in the 1950s and built on a bomb site in the City of London. Bernard Morgan House opposite is shrouded in white sheets bearing the logo ‘Taylor Wimpey’. The developer is about to demolish the building, which housed key workers between 1960 and 2015, and replace it with a 10-storey luxury block called The Denizen.

The display on Bowater House was designed by Fraser Muggeridge Studio and curated by Clare Carolin. Artists and writers including Fiona Banner, Tom McCarthy and Iain Sinclair came up with the slogans. The installation, entitled Spectres of Modernism (‘A spectre is haunting the cynical overdevelopment that characterises London’s buy to leave property boom, the spectre of modernism!’), was created to support Save Golden Lane, a campaign against The Denizen.

Taylor Wimpey will sell all its 99 apartments privately, meeting its obligation to provide social housing by contributing £4.5 million towards 14 council flats to be built somewhere else. The most expensive properties in The Denizen – a ‘refined haven in the heart of the City’ – are going for over £2 million. The building as currently designed will overshadow Bowater House, Prior Weston School and Fortune Street Park, where local children often play after school. The park will lose afternoon sunshine between September and March.

The sun was still shining in the park when I met Stewart Home there. Concerned that the new apartments will be sold to investors and remain unoccupied, he came up with the slogan ‘Free exorcism with every Taylor Wimpey ghost home’. The developers’ marketing strategy relies on the artwashing of urban decay in an area branded as ‘Culture Mile’. ‘Fashion designers, Turner Prize winners … and you’, a slogan spotted at another development, was co-opted by Eleanor Vonne Brown for Spectres of Modernism (her fellow artists include two Turner Prize winners, Jeremy Deller and Elizabeth Price).

Across the road, another council block is emblazoned with banners reading ‘Save our sunlight’ and ‘Stop overdevelopment’. The residents of Burnhill House are objecting to plans to redevelop Finsbury Leisure Centre. Islington Council consulted them about the project, but the revised proposals ignore their suggestions. A short distance away, yet another scheme threatens Bunhill Fields, where William Blake and Daniel Defoe are buried. The public garden will be deprived of light by two tower blocks about to be built on its edge. Boris Johnson approved them in February 2016, using his power as mayor to overrule Islington Council. In May 2017, after taking back control, the council gave permission to extend the nearby Finsbury Tower from 16 to 28 storeys.

Permission to build The Denizen was granted by the City of London’s planners, several of whom are associated with consultancies acting for Taylor Wimpey. (The borough has one of the highest approval rates for planning applications in England.) The only way to stop the process is through a judicial review. The campaigners applied for it in October and are waiting to hear from the Planning Court.

Home and I walked around the neighbourhood, stopping by two new Banksy murals; rumour has it they were commissioned by the Barbican to promote its art exhibitions. We passed people sleeping in doorways opposite the offices of Shelter…

Read the full article here: https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2017/12/07/anna-aslanyan/free-exorcism-with-every-taylor-wimpey-ghost-home/

Buying A Denizen Luxury Apartment Will Haunt You Forever!

On 30 October 2017, Witches Against Real-Estate (WAR) organised an event they called Hex in the Park to protest against Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen AKA The Turd development, and the proposed redevelopment of the Finsbury Leisure Centre. The witches marched on a circular route between St Luke’s Gardens and Fortune Street Park, ending where they’d started and hexing the proposed developments in order to protect local trees, children and wildlife. The witches say they have contained the ‘evil forces’ occupying the site of Taylor Wimpey’s proposed development but it is not safe to enter it. And they are warning people not to buy luxury apartments in The Denizen because they are cursed.
For a more detailed account of Hex in the Park go here: https://reclaimec1.wordpress.com/2017/11/12/hex-in-the-park-cursing-out-ec1-ghost-homes/

Photos above by Mai Omer Teplitzky.

Moscow Art Rituals Against Overdevelopment


In his project, Maxim Afanasyev examines the problem of modern urbanism and gentrification, paying special attention to Moscow’s local and municipal context. In a broader sense his practice can be referred to as municipalism. This is a locally oriented cultural tactic of activists, artists and small institutions, focused on a specific community of people in the city. Such work allows us to convert particular cases, individual lives of people and cultural microhistory into a global context through modern art. There is no universal global history, but the art can be a meeting point for multiple important narratives of everyday life that are not covered by official media and certainly not included in textbooks and mainstream sources. But history is made not only from above – it permeates the everyday life of specific individuals and communities, turning them into contemporaries in repetitive routines, rituals and political gestures.

The conflict between local communities and the power of the capital making use of corrupt developers, greedy businessmen and dishonest municipal workers serve as the centre of Afanasyev’s artistic practice. His work “Russian monolith, Yachichna does not sleep,” is based on the struggle of the Kotenlnicheskaya Embankment residents against the construction of an elite club house. Maxim Afanasyev personally participated in protests and documented rallies, meetings and petitions around this case. The contours of the conflict are ideological: the local community of residents tries to defend their own cultural memory before the leveling gesture of the development company. However, the protests did not lead to a definitive result. What is the role of the artist in processes of this kind? Can art take a particular role in this story which will be absorbed by new shocks and information storms tomorrow?

In this situation, the artist draws attention to the conflict, bringing to life the image of the pagan spirit Yachichna. Yachichna – or “Pustodomka” – is a mythological creature settling in uninhabited houses. If all rational methods of legitimate protest fail, art can draw attention to this case by recreating a fiction, a local myth that does not preserve the status quo, but has a critical potential. As Benjamin Buchloh repeatedly noted, art should become the last myth, abolishing the mythological as such. That is, the myth of art, in contrast to the myth of power, should not lull, but politically awaken, revealing the potential of the community.

Afanasyev is using a method of artistic investigation of the processes surrounding the real estate development that refers to the practices of Hans Haacke. The artist complements the archive with a strange video essay, where a group of anonymous people conducts rituals that evoke the spirit of the ancient Yachichna. Science fiction author China Mieville’s books about London that represented the city as a meeting point of different beliefs, technologies and cults can be considered the inspiration for the video essay. Contemporary Moscow is a place where rational shrewdness and an almost sci-fi faith in one’s own petty beliefs intertwine. Usually these myths support the orthodox and regulatory distribution of power, but the role of art as a fictitious process is to use these myths in a critical manner. Maxim Afanasyev creates a single narrative, in which the real and possible are redistributed in the logic of modern local protest.

Text by Boris Klyushnikov.

Additional info: The ritual enacted drew on the fact it took place in a neighbourhood that in medieval times was a centre for the craft pottery neighborhood. In Slavic myths and legends the ceramists were associated with dark powers and the potter played the role of wizard living between the worlds of the living and the dead. The emblem of the neighborhood reflects this and contains a potter.

There is a video of this time based work here: https://youtu.be/3O9TThezi2A