Archive for the 'Projects' Category

Shape Two

April 18, 2010

Shape Two began at at Whitechapel Art Gallery on a Sunday. There is now a second entrance to the gallery: just next to a fast food restaurant – 20 metres west of the main entrance – is a tiny gap between the buildings called Angel Alley. In 1888 a prostitute disappeared up Angel Alley and never returned alive.

From here I moved west along the Whitechapel Road and across the opening artery of Commercial Street which leads up to Hawksmoor’s famous Christchurch. I crossed over the road that forms part of a zero around the Algate East station – the island which houses St. Boltoph’s church – and then onto and along Aldgate. I took a dip down off Aldgate and onto London Street, a quiet road, particularly on a Sunday when the the City Of London is calm and business is on hold.  Down here is Fenchurch Street Station. Its an odd sight: a grand building nestled among bland, 20th century offices of glass and steel.  I’d come here for a purpose: the site sits on a leyline.

Christopher Wren’s grand designs for a post-fire London in 1666 were buried in bureaucracy and never came into fruition. However, significant evidence does remain. Presumably through Cabbalist reasoning, Wren used the Jewish distance of 2000 cubits to place significant sites. For example, the eastern city boundary from ‘the centre-point’ of St Paul’s, at a distance of 2000 cubits, is St Dunstan In The East – a church for which Wren also designed the spire. Another 2000 cubits beyond that point lies Wellclose Square, a once exclusive estate and a site of pilgrimage for many London occultists and alchemists. The significance of the 2000 cubits is that it was the distance from the walls of Jerusalem to the Mount Of Olives (roughly two thirds of a mile) and is the farthest a Jew may travel on the Sabbath.

This suggests Wren had plans for a ‘New Jerusalem’ that he never had the chance to construct and that Wellclose square is the same distance from (Wren’s) City Of London as The Mount Of Olives was from Jerusalem. On the leyline running from St Paul’s directly out to Wellclose Square, roughly three quarters of the way along, is Fenchurch Street station. Hawksmoor’s St Mary Woolnoth church also sits directly on the ley line a quarter of the way out.

Drawn out on a map, Shape Two surprised me. I had unwittingly traced the shape of a horse head in my steps.


December 7, 2009

In the last 12 months I have spent a year away from the city of London whilst I traveled the world, and during that journey I was initially relieved to be gone. But after some time I began to experience a strange sensation. It wasn’t homesickness: I didn’t wish to return. But something about the place I had left seemed impossible to forget. As I explored other foreign cities London became the default comparison. Naturally, after nearly a decade of living in London, its street names and buildings, bus routes and tube lines, haunts and domains, had all forged a map in my mind forever.

I became aware that London emits a strange and captivating distress call: an ambient melancholic transmission. Not necessarily just to entice, but to hypnotise and draw in, like the Odyssean sirens. For thousands of years people have been compelled to London. Exactly why? Perhaps initially for the chase of riches, excitement, work and success. But, only then does the collusion begin: a process which takes years. I had felt this from far, far away. London is perhaps a dying star in its own cosmos: its gravitational pull luring passing objects into a tight orbit. It’s mantle formed from millenia of trodden grime and clay and the spectacular fires that have razed the city in the past now form its burning core.

Two months ago I returned, and I am immersed both physically and literally by London once more. As an introduction to a biographical quest, Merlin Coverley’s ‘Occult London’ served as an intriguing segue to the tome which is Peter Ackroyd’s ‘London: A Biography’, which I’m currently reading. I am also keenly following the developments of John Rogers and Nick Papadimitriou’s Ventures In Topography project on Resonance FM, and generally scrounging for appealing historical detail online. I am aware that this type of interest has become quite fashionable, but I don’t really care about that. I would argue its a cultural phenomenon of nostalgia created from the wealth of information online, but paradoxically, by a desire to reengage with our physical surroundings and explore them. Others can probably explain it better…

I’d like this particular blog entry to serve as an introduction to a series of posts which explore London’s gravity and depth by weaving a thread through (post)modernity, esoterica, history and occultism. I have no idea how this will work exactly, but as my travels have taught me, if you want to learn something, you must go on a journey.

Round And Round

November 27, 2008

For a long time I have been fascinated by the elegant simplicity, cultural history, and semiotic significance of the shape of the circle. In my graphic design work I will always try to use a circle if it makes sense to do so. And if it doesn’t then I get annoyed, but persevere. Some examples of using the circle in my own work are: the Highpoint Lowlife logo, artwork for vinyl centre labels, background patterns, and graphic shapes in illustrations.

After having recently travelled through TIbet, Nepal and now Thailand – all with deep Buddhist/Hindu cultures – I was introduced to the Mandala. I had seen these things before but wasn’t familiar with the name Mandala (literally: “circle” in Sanskrit) and had never seen so many in such a short space of time, and certainly not in as much detail. They are circular images (and sometimes model structures) which are drawn, painted or created in coloured sand, often meticulously and in great detail. A square is common inside the circle of most Mandalas. They are intended to depict a “wheel of life” and to encourage spiritual and religious focus and meditation.

So it was with surprise, interest, and some synchronicity, that whilst delving into some of Carl Jung’s writings on Alchemy and Synchronicty (which Thorsten and I have developed appetites for studying), I discovered Jung had at one time begun drawing his own rudimentary versions. He’d treated his Mandalas as a pictorial definition of the unconcious self, which he’d described as “my whole being – actively at work” and “the archetype of wholeness” – archetypes of course being one of the core principles of Jungian psychology.

In short, Jung arrived at the idea that the shape of the circle represents the self and to a greater extend, a person’s inner “God” (which he elaborates on significantly in further writing). And though Eastern mandalas have been used historically to encourage people to search their subconcious, Jung was using them to describe the subconscious.

All this talk of circles and religion led me to think of another famous circle: the numerical figure zero, and its many religious (and otherwise) connotations. I also wondered if this all fit into alchemy and chemistry somewhere? Apparently, zero is the atomic number for Neutronium which sits at the centre of the Chemical Galaxy, and led me back to a modern looking mandala.