Here’s a real treat. A poetic exploration of the relationship between cultural institutions, objects, and power by Oliver Froome-Lewis, one of the two speakers at InTRANSIT Festival’s Power and Wealth tour (one day only – Friday 19 at 10:30am and 2:30pm), with Kensington Palace and the Design Museum. Read this aloud to yourself for full impact.
London, Kensington Gardens, Holland Park, Kensington Palace, The Design Museum’s emerging home, antique shops, piggy-form port decanters, a leather Eeyore, startling new pink bedding plants, portraiture, huddling chandeliers prised from Notting Hill ceilings, Vogue, dresses belonging to Elizabeth and Diana, the firm structures of the 60s giving way to full-length Chantilly lace, single estate Darjeeling, orange-scented and currant scones, straw hatted gardeners, curators, plasterers, visitors, Lowchen, Tibetan Mastiff… We recall lightly rubbing the foil, the words Kit Kat taking shape, fingernail daggers, a ‘snap’.
The city, cityscape, architecture, groundworks, frame our day-to-day rituals and thoughts as we wander between places, being, drifting – oh for a jeweled turtle! – flânerie – Honoré de Balzac described “the gastronomy of the eye”. A sequence becoming a narrative, filling the blanks, the opportunities, with the imagination, consolidating finds with photography, a jotted note, a tweet, leaving a footprint. We mould the transient and edge past the permanent, the static, the brittle. The Living and the Dead. A Fringe of Leaves. Patrick White worked at clarification. To hesitate on the edge of life or to plunge in and risk change, or perhaps to be pushed, or tempted… Eat both cakes and order another.
This is the territory of the city walk. It is about using the space of the city to re-think what we relate to through chance encounters. To speculate and to prioritise, to frame our own questions, to bond with the transient, such as we are. Conversations along the way, other imaginations, other back-catalogues of experience; fire, focus, scramble, reform and re-form our thoughts. How does this data settle in the broad mudbank of the mind? How does it conform to models of the city that we hope to discover or create?
Physical presences between Kensington Palace and the new home for the Design Museum punctuate this walk: the winding path, gentle fountains, swaggering statue, ordered brickwork, a Mount Fuji of meringues, a peephole to Armageddon, blue plaques – the footprints of those who lived, who dared and won, the electric toaster – easier than a fire and telescopic fork, but not without its hazards, awaited the invention of the ‘pop-up’. The agility of thinking, speculation, words, ideas, face a severe test in assuming physical presence. Presence can be seen as a measure of the translation of these ideas – determination, perseverance and the support of others. And territory and presences combine in maps. A map, a partial record and a speculation, is a tool for testing our curatorship of place.
Robert Smithsons ‘site, non-site’ terminology, first deployed in 1967, released the artist’s eye from the gallery, the artist’s eye within us all, roams everywhere today. Nothing is quite as it seems, still. A constant challenge to close definition. If macro purposes block, privilege and augment our repositories of experience, which of our observations, our discoveries, perhaps made despite ourselves, will survive and percolate upwards to consciousness and action.
Oliver Froome-Lewis, Touching the City, UCA
Don’t miss Power and Wealth tomorrow (Friday 19 June) at either 10:30am or 2:30pm for a 2 hour walk. Tickets are £25 and must be booked in advance.