Digital Raven (digitalraven) wrote,
Digital Raven

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Addicted to Urban Decay

Television earlier, a rare occurrence apart from the morning news and the evening news and Top Gear when it's on. Eating while watching, so not really paying much attention. Some art-wank thing that was on after the western on C4 of a Saturday evening, nothing worth watching I thought.

That thought was bollocks, as it turns out. but not for the reason I first thought.

The program was all about the artistic value of 60's architecture over here, big fucking concrete buildings sprawling all over the place, leaky flats on stilts jutting out of the sides of concrete piles that sprouted like carbuncles across the cities. The particular focus was the Tricorne Centre in Portsmouth, a quintessential artifact of this design. Shops, department stores, a multi-storey car park, flats on stilts, a nightclub overlooking a concourse. It's the car park and restaurant in the proper (Michael Caine) Get Carter, and if you haven't seen that you won't get the attraction.

The thing is, this program was showcasing the virtue of such buildings at the point when they were built, when they were edgy and kinda weird and cool and when the nightclubs were open and they were trying to sell the flats and people liked the odd design. I can't see that. I'm a child of the 80's and 90's, when such constructions are the quintessential sign of urban decay. Town centres that are falling apart, corrupt councillors, privatisation, Thatcherism and it's descendants. Slabs of concrete reaching into the sky not as a sign of how futuristic and high-tech we were but as the high divide between where we were and where we should be. Vandalised and closed down shops. Run down flats that nobody's lived in for twenty years. A nightclub that lasts two years if its lucky before being bought out. That's my art. That's what I see in these buildings and I can't help but feel awed and inspired by it. New Order and the Clash fight in my brain, spiced with some Placebo and early Offspring as I regard the ugly concrete lumps, urban sprawl gone wrong. The architecture that symbolises loss and powerlessness and failed potential.

There was lots of it around Stafford and Stoke. Not just the run-down new architecture but the old buildings slumped against each other and built into one, nobody caring about them any more as long as they don't collapse completely. I have a roll of film I snapped of these things that I've never got around to getting developed. I was going to use them for something, plaster a working area there and burn on with this 80's setting I had in mind. I've not managed that so far, but I'm in the mood again. This urban decay is the purest form of inspiration I can find, more inspiring than anything short of drugs or coaldustcanary. it hits all of my keys, everything that makes the writer/artist/creator within me sit up and take notice and want to do things with it.

I close my eyes right now and I can see the bus station in Hanley, an area of Stoke. Four floors of old shops, all falling apart. Concrete walls and barriers and walkways going in random patterns. Stairs out to the other road that's a floor up because of the hill it's on. Second-poorest area of the country is Stoke, behind here. but Stoke is honest about it, doesn't try to dress it's nature up in glass and aluminium that makes it look like a chav[0] in Armani. Stoke was honest. You could stand in Hanley bus station, looking out over the city, and see slate roofs and old bricks stained black with soot and crumbling houses that are the hallmark of any city when the life has left it, and you can turn around 180 degrees and see a glowing icon, a hypersigil dedicated to urban decay. McDonalds burger wrappers discarded in the main walkways, the townies competing to see who can steal the most from the failing newsagent that's the only way the people running it can afford to survive...

I'm addicted to it. And the TV gave me a watered down methadone fix of something I've been going through withdrawl from for too long.

[0]: Townies, yahs, neds, trendis, the list of names goes on. Inner-city fuckheads proud of being racist white-trash drunken scum who have mostly reverted to subhuman levels of mental development.
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