London Conference in Critical Thought 2017 – call for papers

I’m delighted to be co-convening a stream at the London Conference in Critical Thought to be held at London South Bank University on the 30th June and the 1st July. The strand is entitled the Vernacular Aesthetics of the Global City (no less) and I’ll be working with artist duo Lloyd Corporation.

The conference is geared towards early career researchers as well as postgraduate researchers and the conference “is an inter-institutional, non-hierarchal, and accessible event that makes a particular effort to embrace emergent thought and the participation of emerging academics, fostering new avenues for critically-oriented scholarship and collaboration.”

There will be some really interesting sounding streams at the conference, please do look at the call for papers if you are interested. The cfp for our strand is as follows (deadline 31st March):

This stream proposes to generate a critical debate around questions of ‘vernacular aesthetics’ in academic research on the global city and particularly invites contributions from those working on new propositions for interdisciplinary, inventive or artistic approaches to its study.
Recent research on the global city has sought to understand the contemporary state of rapid urbanisation, migration and development by focusing attention towards the ‘ordinary’ commercial street (Hall, 2015; Zukin, Kasinitz & Chen, 2016). A key part of this work has included visual investigations of the vernacular aesthetics of urban streets in ‘super-diverse’ cities like London, in an attempt to represent the informal economies and practices routinely ignored, deemed undesirable and/or dispensable to private and bureaucratic agendas of urban (re)development. Projects such as LSE’s ‘Ordinary Streets’ (2011-13) have produced ethnographic explorations of streets elaborating the need for: the production of new vocabularies of value; mapping of ‘creative’ practices of socio-economic adaption to urban space; reframing urban informality as social and civic platforms for economic and cultural life as opposed to ‘under-developed’ spaces of poverty.
For artist duo Lloyd Corporation and UEL researcher and artist Sophie Barr, the ‘ordinary street’ has been a key site of research and artistic production. This has led to a recently initiated dialogue sharing questions, curiosities, inspirations and anxieties in the explorations of vernacular aesthetics. By hosting a stream we aspire towards bringing other voices into a discussion that seeks to both build upon but also deepen and challenge questions of vernacular aesthetics in the study of spaces and cultures of ‘street’.
We ask what new kinds of sociological, ethnographic and artistic modes of practice are required to develop multi-sensory understandings of such phenomena if we are to produce rich new vocabularies of value and representation? Presently there seems to be an overreliance on the documentary image as the visual extent of ethnographic exploration and so we ask what does this miss? How might we capture the non-representational, the affective, the transient, temporal and mobile, the hidden, unseen, imaginary or background dimensions of the street? Further, we might ask whether the ‘street’ presents an adequate vantage point from which to observe the complex spatial and temporal  connections of hyper-globalised urban spaces, particularly in light of the ever pervasive effects of digital cultures and infrastructures?
What problematic power relationships arise in the research of vernacular aesthetics? Can we eliminate the risk of ‘othering’ informal cultures or exoticising notions of migrant adaptation and improvisation? How might we challenge or reflect on the class, gender and racial privileges that underpin the ‘study’
informal, precarious, cultures? And finally, given the increasing conflicts and volatility over the redevelopment of public space and processes of gentrification, how does this research agenda become active, politically mobilised and collaborative with the diverse communities it seeks to represent?
We are open to all manner of submissions including papers, performances, artworks and we welcome a range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary backgrounds.

http://londoncritical.org/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Anti-Fashion at Prada

prada

Tim Blanks on Business of Fashion yesterday:

“Miuccia was looking at a world where celebrity and money conspire to make ordinary people feel inadequate, and she wanted to mollify such feelings. It’s not people who are at fault, it’s the system. Exactly how you use fashion to express such thoughts was the challenge she set herself, and she chose to do it by elevating the ordinary, finding the hero in the everyday. “The opposite of important,” she called it.” Full article here.

This is not my conception of ‘ordinary fashion’! I would suggest any men desirous of “simple human normalcy” for A/W 2017 takes a trip to Gap and saves a few quid.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Brand Nobody Knows video – finally!

I finally presented the fruit of my summer’s research at the beginning of September at the 8th  Art of Management and Organisation Conference. Here it is:

The video is made up of dozens of still photographs taken over six months in north London’s Wood Green High Road. These stills are interspersed with moving footage of a glamorously dressed ‘migrant’ pulling a suitcase and sound-tracked with moving traffic, pockets of inaudible conversation, market traders’ calls and out of synch foot steps. These are the sounds of a busy urban environment. There are a number of interruptions into this land and soundscape comprising video footage of a still-life comprising a cheap mannequin bust, a jewel-encrusted denim baseball cap and a variety of colourful minerals.

The still images are loosely clustered into sections and themes; the first section presents shuttered shops, closing down sales and to let signs, the next shows the interiors and exteriors of (often temporary) independent stores that quickly occupy vacated retail spaces. A further theme presents, what I describe elsewhere, as the ‘vernacular aesthetics of the global city’ and demonstrates Wood Green as a place of superdiversity and one with a struggling economy. Here we see signs in Arabic, Greek, Polish and English – sometimes they are handwritten like the notices in the newsagent’s window, sometimes they are made on a PC and printed out on a domestic printer. We see adverts for low-cost, pay-as-you-go international communications and international money transfer; we see emblems of a struggling economy in signs for pawnbrokers and betting shops. Sometimes we see the Victorian fabric of the buildings in which these businesses are housed reminding us that these spaces have been occupied many times over. Next we are presented with interestingly laid-out shop windows and non-professional visual merchandising. These window displays communicate to the shopper a semiotics of ‘value’ at the same time as they resist the corporate aesthetics of large fashion chains. The displays rely upon the skills and creativity of those invested in the business directly communicating with their customer, rather than those of the ‘expert’ merchandiser shipped in to dress a window to strict brand guidelines. We see the names of these shops, ‘Aqua Affordable Luxury’, ‘Rumours’, ‘Swishy’, ‘Bardo’ and ‘WOW’ but don’t recognise the brands. They may not be there for very long and some have already gone since the video was made.

One might imagine that it is the experience of the migrant walker that we are party to in this video. And perhaps these images of businesses, cheap commodities, fragments of architecture and glimpses of people recreate something of the affect of the global city and the perplexity it engenders for newcomers and natives alike. Unlike the masculine flâneur of modernity with his privileged gaze the migrant walker is representative of a de-centred subjectivity. This is a zone of many gazes, and it doesn’t matter what or who one is here, but it is daytime and a busy commercial street where a woman may freely wander. The suitcase is the emblem of both her dislocation and her subjectivity. She is a person who frequently changes home, location, country, language, job, as well as outfit. In Haringey one is almost always in earshot of the sound of a suitcase dragging along the pavement or bumped up or down stairs.

The walking provides a kind of narrative (or rhythm at least) to the video, but it is interrupted a number of times by the still-life scenes as mentioned above. We move from stills to video, outside to inside, natural audio to silence and distortion. A blurry, difficult to read scene slowly comes into focus and we can see rhinestones on a baseball cap spelling out the word fashion. It is an ugly item, cheaply made in China and emblematic of the world of fast fashion. The fake jewels on the cap are a reference to real gemstones, items that could be formed hundreds of millions of years ago much like the colourful ‘real’ minerals they appear alongside. These minerals sometimes appear for a millisecond or quickly zoom across the screen during the street scenes. This odd juxtaposition draws attention to the illusionary space of the photograph/screen and is intended to collide the different time scales represented in the video: the frozen moment in time of the photograph; the ‘real time’ nature of the video excerpts, the pace of the world of contemporary globalised fashion and commerce; and deep geological time. It is also a reference to Holbein’s painting The Ambassadors with its anamorphic depiction of a skull drawing attention (as I see it) both to the pointlessness of the gathering of earthly things, and a different representational dimension.

The final ‘cluster’ of still images are ‘street style’ shots of Wood Green shoppers. These shoppers are emblematic of the diversity of Wood Green, white, black, muslim, young, old, British, European, African, Asian…local. Working with people and making portraits is a departure for me, and not sure if it’s a successful one. Their direct gazes change the video’s meaning and intention and draw attention to the relationship between photographer and photographed. This negates the anonymity and confusion one might experience in a global city to one where people and places are knowable. A future edit I think.

Navigating the relationship between practice and research was not always easy in this project. To publish a paper I would need different data, interviews, facts and so on. It might have been easier to have visualised my research by making a documentary or illustrated essay. But I’m an artist and the purpose of this piece was to investigate an aesthetic, but how to do this without setting up a problematic power relationship? How to eliminate the risk of ‘othering’ the retailers and shoppers of Wood Green? My decision to perform the role of migrant walker in the video was a way to site the work as a subjective auto-ethnographic study rather than an objective, distanced observation. I have lived in and around Wood Green for nearly twenty years and this video could also be seen as a way of dealing with and understanding rapid (and sometimes unwanted) change and my own relationship to this perplexing place.

Posted in Anthropocene, art work, Geology, High Streets, London, Photography, Uncategorized, Video, Wood Green | 1 Comment

Utopia Closing Down

I’m not sure I need to say anything about this! Taken in Southend in September.

IMG_4473.jpg

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The ‘Perfect’ High Street

I just found this film called ‘The Perfect High Street’ in Monocle “a magazine briefing on global affairs, business, culture, design and much more”. This vision for the global high street is unlike anything most would recognise, or have use for. This vision is overwhelmingly white and hipster catering only to a wealthy middle-class. The British street I recognised here was Primrose Hill, an area of extreme wealth. If this is a vision for the future of high streets recognised by those driving regeneration, those of us invested in super-diverse areas such as Wood Green should be worried.

Compare with this film ‘Ordinary Streets’ about Rye Lane in Peckham made by LSE Cities. This is a much more balanced and thoughtful piece that recognises and values the intersections of cultures and classes and the creative adaptations already being made to ordinary streets from those that are invested in them. In the words of the narrator of the film “diversity is crucial to urban vitality”.

 

List of works cited:

LSE Cities (2015) Ordinary Cities. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bKWr2IjylM (Accessed 19 July 2016)

Monocle (2015) The Perfect High Street. Available at https://monocle.com/film/business/the-perfect-high-street/ (Accessed 19 July 2016)

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Brands, Intangibility, Resistance

As an Associate Lecturer at the London College of Fashion I am developing my knowledge of and interest in academic fashion discourses. Fashion discourse is extremely varied and fashion theorists borrow from many other theoretical areas, many of which I am familiar with from my own work in cultural studies and visual theory. My great weakness is my engagement with the discourses of fashion business, perhaps because it often seems at great odds with the kinds of critical discourses and practices my own work is embedded in. I recognise this as a weakness, particularly when I am responsible for the learning of students who religiously follow the latest collections at the various fashion weeks, know about new designers and curate and commodify their fashion selves on Instagram. Helpfully the Business of Fashion Digest enables me to have a little knowledge about the machinations of the global fashion system as well as providing fuel for critical debate. In today’s digest alongside the usual information about the profitability of Burberry and Hermès and an interview with someone who says there are no more subcultures there is a section dedicated to the future of the fashion store.

According to B. Joseph Pine II (2016) in the experience economy stores need to deliver “memorable events that engage each individual in an inherently personal way”. He argues that in the digital economy consumers are driven by price, therefore only online and hypermarket style ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ retail can survive. If stores cannot compete on price then they must deliver experiences. Pine also writes about ‘omnichannel’ approaches to marketing and retail, 3D printing and augmented reality being the future of fashion retailing. Similarly, Kate Abnett (2016) writes, “Shopping in stores must either be as cheap and convenient as buying from Amazon, or entertaining — offering memorable experiences that can’t be replicated online.” Abnett and Pine explain how omnichannel marketing and retail are also a challenge to brands. Competing for attention and visibility in consumers’ crowded digital lives isn’t easy

Whilst this isn’t news (these discussions have been around for some time within and without academia) what is significant about this, and other mainstream fashion discourse in general is its focus on luxury and high-end brands and retailing when discussing the ‘store of the future’. Mainstream fashion discourses are obsessed with luxury brands that most cannot afford and therefore never buy. Similarly mainstream discourse around fashion cities, even new ones, also focuses on high-end retail (see for example Leach, 2015) that have very little to do with the ordinary streets of metropolitan areas, even if they fall within a ‘fashion capital’. The kind of fashion retail and consumption I am exploring in my project is ignored by mainstream, business-oriented fashion discourse. It is not ‘street’ fashion and it is unlikely to ‘bubble-up’ into the consciousness of designers and fashion image-makers or on to the runway. It is also not a marketed attempt at an authentic ‘real’ fashion. That is not to say it is non-fashion or anti-fashion. The garments sold in Wood Green independent fashion stores are subject to many of the same design, manufacturing and exporting processes as others (more on this in another post). The designers and/or manufacturers still respond to or speculate on consumer desire. Customers care about their appearances and carefully select garments using complex criteria.

My video project The Brand Nobody Knows will be shown at the 8th Art of Management and Organization Conference at the IEDC Bled School of Management in September this year. The theme of the conference is the Intangible and the strand in which I am presenting the film is called Fashion Futures. How are these themes expressed in the work and how have they informed it?

I posit that Wood Green High Road, as one of London’s super-diverse metropolitan centres, represents the last iteration of the British high street as we have known it. This has been marked by the recent closure of mid-level fashion brands (M&S, Dorothy Perkins, Wallis, Topshop) and the rise of the independent budget fashion store and multiple occupancy stores or ‘mutualisms’ (one store containing multiple independent retailers). Independent retailers struggle to survive but they do so by adaptation, reflexivity and cross-cultural cooperation. This is a high street that is serviced by and caters to a super-diverse population of a lower social economic class. Perhaps Wood Green High Road in the incarnation presented in my project is a pre-ruin, the end of days for an urban poor priced out by mega-rents and the high cost of living. Alternatively, perhaps it is a portent of a further stratified fashion and retail sector to come? Luxury brands will continue to inhabit our minds through ever more clever and personalized marketing, mid-level brands will continue to flee lower-end high streets, offer shopping ‘experiences’ and invest in flagship stores or stores that function as e-commerce showrooms. Wood Green and streets like it will become zones for un-hip pop-ups, quickly fitted out stores selling inexpensive products and garments where branding is an afterthought, experience something that just happens and where external communications are limited to external store signage. With no web-presence, brand story or advertising campaigns consumers must act on their own creativity, create their own stories and invest products with their own images.

Brands constitute the ultimate in intangibility whereby consumers buy into the stories, images and affects that have been carefully constructed by marketers rather than the products themselves. The symbolic and exchange values of a luxury branded product often outweigh its use value. Perhaps the kind of retail and consumption practices and environments presented by stores in Wood Green can repair the link between object and its use value. Perhaps they have the potential to resist dominant fashion ideologies, the commodification of self and the continuing intrusions of brands into one’s consciousness.

List of Works Cited

Abnett, K. (2016) ‘The store of the future’ in Business of Fashion, [online] Available at https://www.businessoffashion.com/community/voices/discussions/what-will-the-store-of-the-future-look-like/the-store-of-the-future (Accessed 14 July 2016)

Leach, A. (2015) ‘The 15 most important cities in fashion right now’ in Highsnobiety [online] available at http://www.highsnobiety.com/2015/08/24/fashion-capital-list/ (Accessed 14 July 2016)

Pine II, B.J. (2016) ‘Stage experiences or go extinct’ in Business of Fashion, [online] Available at https://www.businessoffashion.com/community/voices/discussions/what-will-the-store-of-the-future-look-like/op-ed-stage-experiences-or-go-extinct (Accessed 14 July 2016)

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

New Works

all-welcome-flat

All Welcome, 2016

Everythig-flat

Everythig, 2016

Future-is-a-lifeship-flat

Future is a Life-ship, 2016

Voodoo

Magic, Voodoo, Obey, 2016

Here are some new 2D works that are by-products of my Wood Green Project. I’m hoping to show them soon, please visit for news…

Posted in art work, Photography | Leave a comment

Wood Green High Road – an Ordinary Street between austerity and Brexit

We find ourselves in a strange limbo somewhere between ‘Austerity Britain’ and Brexit. How might one look upon and describe Wood Green High Road, its retail culture and its vernacular aesthetics at this particular moment? What does this mean for my project The Brand Nobody Knows?

In recent weeks my focus has been on looking at the buoyancy of Wood Green’s economy and the creativity and entrepreneurship of the street’s lower-end retail whilst charting the disappearance of traditional high street brands such as M&S, Dorothy Perkins, and soon BHS. It seems however, that the super-diversity of London – and specifically that of Wood Green (as opposed to the West End for example) is becoming increasingly central in this work. Super-diversity can be described as “a condition in cities where diversity may mean over one hundred nationalities, but also a diversity of legal statuses, of socioeconomic conditions and a greater diversity in how people choose to live and define themselves” (Cities of Migration, 2012). Last month Britain voted to leave the EU following a problematic Brexit campaign that played on citizens’ fears of immigration. If we value the part that migration plays in our lives (either as migrants ourselves or as beneficiaries of the richness migrants bring to society) then we must, of course, resist the notion of migration as problematic. In the light of Brexit it feels more important than ever to pursue my exploration of the vernacular aesthetics of Wood Green’s High Road that have been shaped by super-diversity.

The position I take in this research is akin to that which LSE researcher Suzanne Hall sets out in her paper Migrant Urbanisms: Ordinary Cities and Everyday Resistance. She writes that ‘[t]hinking about ordinary spaces and everyday life opens up ways of understanding complex global processes of urbanisation and migration” (2015, p. 854). She describes migration as a “participatory rather than an invasive process of change” and explains that it is “integral to ongoing processes of societal change and diversification, rather than as the exception to it.” (2015, p. 854). Hall writes about the ordinary city in opposition to the global city characterized by the corporate elites of the financial, creative and other industries. In this study I locate Wood Green as an ordinary city in part to refuse “the categories of economic hierarchy in a global order, and with it the relegation of seemingly less prominent or less valuable cities and citizens” (2015, p. 856).

How do migrants and non-migrants make and re-make Wood Green? Hall describes ordinary streets as places of overlapping urbanism and urban collage. Wood Green High Road is a place of “trade and exchange, where a diversity of proprietors and customers intersect. Individual allegiances and affinities locate, both through a coalescence of intercultural city-making and/or a side-by-side retention of cultural distinctions” (Hall, 2015, p. 858). Wood Green High Road is not an example of a ghetto or ethnic enclave, it is a commercial metropolitan centre of outer London that caters to a super-diverse clientèle and is serviced by a super-diverse work force.

As mentioned in a previous post Wood Green’s retail space vacancy rate is much lower than the national average, 5.92% compared with 12.3% in July 2014 (Haringey.gov.uk, 2016, p.32). Whilst shops close frequently, the sites are not empty for long. However this is not because is is an easy environment for retailers to operate in. Many shops have become multiple occupancy retailers such as the Factory Outlet recently opened in the former Marks and Spencer site (see images above). Here there are multiple till points for multiple businesses comprising low-cost fashion, furniture, toys, shoes, accessories, luggage and the ubiquitous mobile phone counter. The usual trappings of high street retail, such as branded shopping bags, receipts, signage and an online presence do not exist. Hall describes these “collage arrangements” as “closer in nature to a market or bazaar, but within the given street structure” (2015, p 859).

The much smaller single fronted shop at No. 87 (see image above from February 2016) is similarly divided into different retail sections. At the rear handbags and shoes, behind a glass counter on the left mobile phones and other electrical goods. Half of the exterior signage is given over to an advertisement for low cost, pay-as-you-go international mobile telecommunications company Lycamobile, the rest to the retailer ‘KMK Mobile Phones’ along with a list of services offered (mobile repairs, unlocking etc.) and photographs of products sold. In a super-diverse street such as this canny business owners understand that language barriers exist and pictorial messages mean more than carefully constructed brand images. The handbags and shoes retailer operating from inside the shop is not represented on the exterior signage. On revisiting this shop last week (July 2016) the handbag retailer was gone with a to let sign in its place. The proprietor told me about the difficulties of meeting the high rent and how he needs to sublet this space in order to be profitable. In her paper Super-diverse street: a ‘trans-ethnography’ across migrant localities, Hall describes these subdivided shops as ‘mutualism’ where “arrangements of economic and cultural coexistence have emerged” (2013, p. 32). She explains how these ‘mutualisms’ enable proprietors, such as Koram at KMK Mobile Phones, to respond swiftly to emerging market trends as well as to mitigate negative economic shifts. In addition Hall found that “the impulse to subdivide, mix and remake these shop interiors is not simply driven by mercantile interests; it is also driven by cultural ones,” that these shop interiors also provide a “home-away-from home” (2013, p. 33).

At no. 83, the exterior sign is for JK Mobile Phone & Computer Specialist but the shop now sells women’s clothing and jewellery. Advertising signage for Lebara can still be seen on the frontage although Lebara products can no longer be purchased in store. Fashion shop Rumours displays ‘closing down’ and ‘everything must go’ signs in its windows – from its opening day. In February 2016 this shop was called WOW. Permanence is not valued and cannot be sustained in this economy not unlike pop-up shops in London’s rather more hipster locations. In this ordinary, and resolutely ‘un-hip’ street, stores bear the names and traces of their previous incarnations inside and out. Multiple businesses in the street offer the same services but rarely differentiate themselves with developed branding strategies. In super-diverse streets in ordinary parts of this city, where migrant populations live, work and shop the nature of the high street is changing, diversifying and adapting to new conditions and challenges. My position documenting this urban retail vernacular is neither to mock or to celebrate, but to capture and make visible this particular moment, in all its overlapping messiness and complicated richness.

Works Cited

Hall, S. (2015) ‘Migrant urbanisms: ordinary cities and everyday resistance’ in Sociology, Vol. 49(5) 853-869

Hall, S (2013) ‘Super-diverse street: a ‘trans-ethnography’ across migrant localities’ in Ethic and Racial Studies, 38:1, 22-37

Haringey.gov.uk (2016) Wood Green area action plan: issues and options report, Available at http://www.haringey.gov.uk/sites/haringeygovuk/files/issues_and_options_part_1.pdf (Accessed 7 July 2016)

Cities of Migration (2012) ‘Conversations in Migration’ Cities of Migration, Available at http://citiesofmigration.ca/ezine_stories/sarah-spencer-super-diversity-and-the-city/ (Accessed 7 July 2016)

Posted in art work, High Streets, London, Photography, Wood Green | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t forget BHS!

And of course another high-street brand about to go from Wood Green…

IMG_4149.jpg

Posted in High Streets, London, Uncategorized, Wood Green | Leave a comment

The Brand Nobody Knows: London’s fashion ‘other’ and the vernacular aesthetic of the Anthropocene

On a recent visit to Covent Garden I noted a new proliferation of luxury brands trading from the Piazza. On approaching the Piazza from James Street one is confronted with stores by historic luxury brands Chanel, Dior and Burberry. These new stores make up part of Covent Garden’s ‘Beauty Quarter’. According to the Covent Garden website “In just two years, Covent Garden’s Beauty Quarter has become a mecca for luxury beauty, now housing the most stand-alone beauty boutiques within one square mile in London” (Covent.garden.london, 2015).

In 2010 the New West End Company and Heart of London Business Alliance established London’s Luxury Quarter. This newly branded and mapped area encompasses Mayfair, St James’s and Piccadilly. It,

…presents a unique and exclusive experience for fashion lovers, retail tourists and history buffs encompassing 53 iconic streets, arcades and lanes catering for discerning shoppers seeking out the best of British and international flagship stores as well as niche discovery brands (londonluxuryquarter.com, 2016).

London Luxury Quarter’s website (2016) states that it “is positioned as [a] global destination and is marketed worldwide with an estimated £3bn retail spend per year attracting visitors from a multitude of countries.”

According to King (2016) “London is home to more luxury retailers than any other European city, making the capital of the United Kingdom attractive for brands looking to cement a bricks-and-mortar presence in a strong market.” King (2016) reports that growth in the luxury sector “has been propelled by international tourists from China and the Middle East.”

The growth of this luxury market in central London appears at great odds with the current retail climate where I live in Wood Green, a north London suburb in the borough of Haringey. Wood Green is Haringey’s commercial centre and recently there has been a spate of closures of well-known high street brands. Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis have all stopped trading in the past year or so, but the closure most lamented by locals is Marks & Spencer. M&S had been trading on this high street site for over a hundred years, since 1913. In his Guardian article (2015) Ruddick explains, “M&S is attempting to adapt its collection of stores to cope with the rise in online sales and a slowdown in clothing sales.” Despite a petition and support from local councilors, Wood Green was no longer a financially viable location for Marks & Spencer.

 

Marks and Spencer Wood Green - 1958 (300dpi).jpg.gallery

Marks & Spencer, Wood Green 1958 (image from Tottenham Independent)

According to Haringey.gov,

Haringey is an exceptionally diverse and fast-changing borough. We have a population of 267,540 according to 2014 Office for National Statistics Mid Year Estimates. Almost two-thirds of our population, and over 70% of our young people, are from ethnic minority backgrounds, and over 100 languages are spoken in the borough. Our population is the fifth most ethnically diverse in the country. The borough ranks among the most deprived in the country with pockets of extreme deprivation in the east. Haringey is the 30th most deprived borough in England and the 6th most deprived in London. (2016)

Rashid (2011) describes Wood Green as “Haringey’s commercial centre, awash with mobile phone and sportswear shops, low-end chains and discount stores.” Wood Green is two miles away from Tottenham and in 2011 the High Road was subject to both protests sparked by the police shooting of Mark Duggan in addition to well- documented looting.

The rise of the luxury brand in central London alongside the demise of the high-street store described above suggests an ongoing stratification and separation of centre and periphery of the global city. Whilst the centre caters to wealthy tourists keen to consume high-end and ‘heritage’ brands, the retail environment of the periphery caters to an equally diverse population, albeit one of much lower social economic class.

According to figures published by Haringey.gov (2016) Wood Green retail has a 3.3% vacancy rate (the national average is 13.7%). This suggests that despite its problems Wood Green’s retail sector remains buoyant and that retail spaces are both desirable and profitable. It is still a ‘bricks and mortar’ retail location.

Wood Green is less than seven miles away from Mayfair but it is like another city or town, both visually as well as in its economy. It is Wood Green’s particular visuality that I am exploring in (work in progress) video ‘The Brand Nobody Knows’. Taking its title from (Writer) Geoffrey Fletcher and (Director) Norman Cohen’s 1969 film “the London Nobody Knows” – a 45 minute documentary capturing a ‘dying’ post-war and post-Victorian London – my video ‘The Brand Nobody Knows’ seeks to capture the remnants of a previous iteration of the local high street, one which is not prone to the machinery of the superbrand and transnational company. At once global and parochial, ‘exotic’ and quotidian, this ‘other’ London high street is a zone of conflicting ideologies, aesthetics and consumer practices. My video will trace and question the informal and asymmetric economies and vernacular aesthetic of such a high street and its products. It will consider the abuttal and resistance to the global brand identities and values of the Anthropocene.

This year there has been a big consultation on the future of Wood Green – there is money for ‘regeneration’. I intend my video to function as an elegy to a particular aesthetic moment in Wood Green’s history; a complicated and problematic celebration of this frustrating and interesting place.

I will be documenting the making of the video on this blog as well as the development of my paper. Feedback most welcome!

 

List of Works Cited

Coventgarden.london (2015) Available at https://www.coventgarden.london/beauty-quarter-covent-garden (accessed 25/05/16)

Haringey.gov (2016) ‘Local context for drivers and change’ PDF from The future of Wood Green, Available at http://www.haringey.gov.uk/regeneration/wood-green/future-wood-green (accessed 25/05/16)

Haringey.gov (2015) Figures about Haringey, Available at http://www.haringey.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health/joint-strategic-needs-assessment/figures-about-haringey (accessed 27/05/16)

King, J. (2016) ‘London Luxury Quarter boasts strongest retails sales in Western Europe:report’ in Luxury Daily: the news leaser in luxury marketing, 28 March [online] available at https://www.luxurydaily.com/london-luxury-quarter-boasts-strongest-retail-sales-in-western-europe-report/(accessed 27/05/16)

Londonluxuryquarter.com (2016) Available at http://www.londonluxuryquarter.com/about/ (accessed 27/05/16)

LSECities (nd) Super-diverse streets: economies and spaces of urban migration in UK cities, Available at https://lsecities.net/objects/research-projects/super-diverse-streets (accessed 27/05/16)

Rashid, N. (2011) ‘Behind the wood green riots: a chance to stick two fingers up at the police, in The Guardian, 5 September [online] Available at http://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/sep/05/behind-the-riots-wood-green (accessed 27/05/16)

Ruddick, G. (2015) ‘Marks & Spencer triggers local anger after confirming store closures’ 29 July 2015 in The Guardian [online] Available at https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jul/29/marks-spencer-local-anger-confirming-store-closures-nine-shops (accessed 25/05/16)

Tungate, M. (2008) Fashion Brands: branding style from Armani to Zara, 3rd Edition. Reprint, London, Philadelphia, New Delhi: Kogan Page Ltd., 2015

Posted in Anthropocene, art work, Conferences, London, Tottenham, Video, Wood Green | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment