(HERE IS AN ESSAY I WROTE FOR SUBJECT, CHECK OUT THEIR WEBSITE AT www.subjectyourself.co.uk)
(photography by Jon Baker)
They have started installing vending machines on the East London Line. The first one I spotted early one bleak January rush hour morning at Dalston Junction Station hit me with an anxious pang running through my body. As soon as I had clocked this giant snack serving device for the first time I instantly realised what had set apart the newly developed line and seemed suitably apt with its East London title from the other lines. It was just a big empty space. A ticket machine and a gate to get through, and that was all, the bare essentials you needed to successfully complete the getting on a train operation, and let’s face it that’s all you needed. You didn’t need to add five minutes on your journey time thinking about whether or not you needed a Yorkie to accompany you on your trip. The Next thing you know you blink and bam, there’s a Tie Rack, then you blink again and bam there’s Accessorize and before you know it we are all going to work dressed like Sue Pollard. (I wrote that to be funny and over dramatic, I’m sure I don’t need to explain myself, but I don’t want to offend you and suggest you are so weak willed. The sentence should have read, “…Before you know it I will be going to work dressed like Sue Pollard.
Now I don’t want to sound like some kind of snack Nazi, I’m not, my fear of these recent developments is all down to my own lack of self-control. You see that empty line that splits these two paragraphs apart? It’s not including this one the fourth line up. Ok, good, I ate a packet of Fruit Pastilles in that line. I was only meant to eat one. Also while I have totally digressed I don’t want you to think you are wasting your time reading the musings of a man whose cultural knowledge only goes as far as the till end of a newsagents. I own a Sartre book (over 1,000 pages!) and a Paul Auster one too (I forget the name of that), and ok so maybe I haven’t read them but I feel like some of it has soaked in over the years of flicking through while on a Yorkie break. I’m not going to insult you with quotes from books I haven’t read just to make me look smarter. It would look totally fake and not sound like a real person communicating with you. Though if you are ever going to do that never quote from the first page, that is too obvious, or the last page. No one will believe you actually got there. Just pick a page in the middle and hope for the best. Ok where was I…
When I moved to East London fourteen years ago there wasn’t very much here, there were artists and warehouses and studios, rundown estates and big empty spaces ripe for redevelopment. It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but then that’s what makes a place ripe for redevelopment. At the time you had the basic things you needed to get on, and no more. For creatives there is nothing better than space, it brings with it a freedom to think and be poor simultaneously, and the freedom to be poor can be regarded an artists greatest asset. I may be talking specifically of my experiences in East London but there is a natural cycle which follows an arts community which the plonking of that vending machine highlighted for me, and it’s a cycle which will prove relevant to the next neighbourhood the next batch of artists decide to call home. It’s quite simple and you probably already know it.
- Poor creative type moves to a run down scary neighbourhood so they can work on their “art”.
- Area begins to generate attention as a scene begins to develop
- Outsiders stop being scared to visit…bars and restaurants start to appear.
- The Artists start to make money, and get architects to design them fancy homes in the middle of the once poverty stricken neighbourhood.
- Coach loads of people from Essex get dropped off to get drunk and scare the neighbourhood on Saturday nights
- Rich kids stop being scared to live in the area, as it’s now easier to get a Monmouth coffee, quadrupling the rent prices in the process.
- Buildings where once people lived turn into Aubin and Wills store.
- 50 Tesco metro’s open in a two-mile radius.
Now I don’t want to sound self-righteous here, I don’t call myself an artist and I don’t trust anybody who in this day and age does, unless their teeth are literally falling out and they are turning down corporate sponsors. I can be found in the local Tesco coffee in hand, and when that multi million pound publishing deal comes through (they tell me it’s any day now) of course I will be straight on the phone to David Adjaye to ask about the feasibility of him designing me a house made from Wholegrain rice. Yes I’m as guilty as the rest of them. Which makes it difficult to really get angry and say something profound, although nothing particularly profound is said in anger. Though thinking about nothing at all really gets said with rational thought, just a going round in circles. Damn you rational thought! Anyway I think what I’m saying is this…I don’t think, in fact I know that when Picasso was painting Guernica, he wasn’t scoffing his face with Walkers Sensations Chicken and Thyme crisps. When Munch painted The Scream he didn’t have a six-pack of Pepperami’s in the fridge, and neither of them cared or needed such things. If they had them obviously they would have eaten them, felt satisfied, and taken a nap. Don’t get distracted, stay hungry and get the work done. Whatever it is, whomever it is for, and however pointless it might be.
In the words of Sartre
“…Every external relation in as much as it is not constituted by its very terms, requires a witness to posit it.” (p231)