Deptford once again

February 21, 2016 § 1 Comment

It seems that there hasn’t been much activity around the Elephant’s Journey. Actually, there hasn’t been much activity in the sense of posting and writing on the blog but perhaps the Journey has moved on, departed from its departure and moved on, moved on towards a transition, not in its meaning and purpose but in the way it is expressed and carried out. It certainly has for me. Hence the inactivity, the need for silence, and now, with having had time to think, the need to write again what it is about…for me.

The Elephant’s Journey has become a dialogue, at times internal, at times external, mostly shared with someone. It has become a continuous and continual dialogue that I have in myself and with myself, and many times shared with others, about what I see, what I experience, what I respond to – in urban spaces. The previous experience of shared walking, talking, reading and posting lingers in my head, as do two books: Geographies of the Absolute and Capitalist Realism. Barely a day goes by where I am not reminded of words, sentences, meanings expressed by their authors. How do we map Capital, how do others map Capital, can we map Capital and who is the message for. The big protective father figure no longer exists, no-one is responsible, no-one to answer for; Capital is visible yet invisible.

Deptford is at the forefront of my thoughts yet again. No surprise I suppose, I live here. And it’s going through some of the most rapacious regeneration schemes in London.  It’s Creekside next and all its art studios. If they could have the Crossfields Estate they’d have that too. I respond to others’ responses, wondering why and who, where and what, and what these imply, what they represent. People seem to be reacting to Deptford’s changes, some artistic, some angry, but all mapping the plutocratic capital that’s circulating. Public art is political, it’s social – many share these views. It’s given away by the repetitive nature of the works/scripts, the location, and the act of doing public art as a whole.

Mine is an individual yet social and political response too. Others create public art as members of TEJ have, but now I respond, in my head, by taking photos, by thinking and reading, by sharing with others my responses from others’ public installations. The artist/writer will never know but I respond. This makes me think how others might have responded to our public installations. Do we need to know? Ever since the Enlightenment people have sought for answers, definitive answers. But how can we ever know? How can we ever know how and how many people have responded, what thoughts/dialogues/actions they led to, what impact they’ve had on their lives. But again, do we need to know?

At the moment I prefer to respond to what I see / hear in other people’s responses to what they see and experience. I don’t particularly like what I see in Deptford, maybe because I think I understand the underlying reasons for what I see and experience. Perhaps this form of public art and its responses has succeeded in mapping Capital; maybe that is the reason why I feel uneasy about some of these responses. Many others feel uneasy too…about the reality they speak of…the reality of Deptford, London and the global world.

In the sense of thinking and having a dialogue, at times internal, at times external but mostly shared with someone, there has been a lot of activity…for me.

Anita Strasser


§ One Response to Deptford once again

  • John Levett says:

    I think it’s been a long winter. I can recall the last time that we walked as a group from Deptford to the O2: the sun helps.

    The other thing that hits me is that we’re all busy in our own ways: job, travel, commitments, study, teaching. Sometimes posting can feel like one more thing to do and maybe it can be done next week. I’m officially retired but still work full-time. It’s coming up to eleven am and I’ve been ‘working’ since eight.

    TEJ still works. You’re right in suggesting that it has morphed or, rather, that we have. You also point out that what we do is as important as when we began. We make public art and we document it. We collaborate and grow. Grow ideas. You mention Cartographies and Realism and acknowledge that they’re both game changers and both need deep study. Attempting to respond directly to Cartographies by incorporating the thinking into the practice isn’t easy and it isn’t permanent. We have a mode of working with urban space that involves constant revision because whatever we do moves us forward. Even keeping silent works. You arrive at documenting acts of resistance. Each of those acts and the act of publishing is an act of resistance and of education. Much of that education is that of ourselves. “I have an idea but …” How to represent an idea? Our idea was to make art derived from urban space and to give back our response for others to consider its meaning. Looking back at our documentation of what we have done suggests that we have a critical response to the trajectory of urban change and we gain in our own personal development by collaborative working. We also have an idea that the mode of resistance is collaborative. We are one small part of that as are the authors of the work that you document here. I’ll write shortly about the Seoul to London collaboration that has just arrived at completion. Przemyslaw Polakiewicz is currently in the process of titling a film of the London end of the project. It’s a medium that we haven’t used before. It is a fine illustration of the social aspect of our journey.

    Onward! In whichever way fits.

    John Levett

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