Micro-trauma #1: De Beauvoir Crash

On Monday morning I walked up towards Open School from Haggerston station. As I approached our building, which is on the corner of De Beauvoir Road and Downham Road, I realised that police tape was blocking the entrance to the building, and policemen were blocking off De Beauvoir Road.

At first I thought there had been a murder, but then as I passed the police tape, I could see a smashed up car in the middle of the road. I couldn't go through the front doors of the building as they were taped off so I went round to the back entrance.


E. arrived for rehearsals and I told her about what I'd seen and she told me what she had seen and we spoke about it for a bit and then stopped speaking about it. We were rehearsing and writing for this thing we're doing in Wales in November.


At about 3pm we weren't getting anywhere with writing the thing and E. suggested we go for a walk. We came out of the back doors and saw G. and M. the two guys who manage our building in the day. G. told us that the crash had happened late the previous night. The car had been travelling at 50mph in a 30mph zone, hit ten different cars, thrown the passenger through the front window and spun around into the middle of the road. The driver, realising that he had killed his friend, fled from the scene, and threw his jacket down the stairs to our building's basement, which was why the front of the building had been taped off. G. said that the forensics team had taken hours to do their work, much longer than they'd said they would.

We walked around to the front of the building. The policemen were gone, and the police tape had been taken down, with just a few remaining strands fluttering from a lamppost. We walked along De Beauvoir road. Down each side of the road, all the cars that had been hit were lined up nose to tail, very close to each other - wing mirrors hanging off, dents in the side, wheel arches crumpled. A big Turkish guy was talking to a small audience on the pavement, claiming to have seen the whole thing. He said that there had only been the driver, and that the driver had died, but that he hadn't come through the windscreen. A woman said that she'd heard different, but the guy was sure he'd seen it. A thin man complained and pointed at one of the cars that had been hit. It was his car. It didn't look too badly damaged, but I nodded and made appropriate noises. As we made to leave a young white guy with a nice camera turned up on a bike, he looked sheepishly at us and the group we were with. I kept expecting him to ask something, but he didn't and we walked on.

We stopped for a minute to look at the patterns made on the road by the forensics team: yellow chalk ovals surrounding vague skid marks. The ovals all sort of pointed up the road, towards where I'd seen the smashed car that morning. The car was gone now. Everyone and everything was gesturing to something that was no longer there.


Yesterday, while waiting to meet a friend outside school, I saw a roadside memorial to the guy who died in the crash: Anthony "Tony" Clarke. There were flowers and messages on bits of A4 paper in plastic wallets. The messages had that slightly impersonal feel of a public declaration and it was sad to think of his family and friends not knowing what else to do. A violent death.


Today I looked at the news stories written about the crash. It seems like the Turkish guy was right, the police believe Anthony had been driving the car alone. All the news stories were based on the same information from the police. No one had printed any interviews. Only the Hackney Gazette had bothered to get any photos, and the photographer must have arrived after the car had been taken away because the pictures were of nothing.

The Embeddedness of Being Robbed

Yesterday, Maria Lind, Director of the Tensta Konsthall gave a public talk at Open School East.

She spoke about the Konsthall's process of 'becoming an institution'. The Tensta Konsthall is already an institution in a few obvious ways: it's a contemporary art centre in a poor suburb of Stockholm that opened in 1998 and gets most of its funding from the Swedish Government. But Maria spoke about the need to become something more like a 'local player'- an institution more like a school, or a sports centre, or a local restaurant - that is woven into the social fabric of the area and has enough stability to make long term planning possible. She said the three things she wanted for the Konsthall were embeddedness, inhabitation (of the local area) and autonomy.

One part of the talk particularly interested me. Maria was speaking about the Tensta Konsthall's café which opened in 2011, when she took over as director. It provides coffee and food at reasonable prices and to enter the exhibition spaces you have to walk through the café . There is a market on the same square as the Konsthall and many of the market traders get their hot drinks from the café   It gives the Konsthall visibility and presence in an area where it might otherwise seem quite alien.

And then she mentioned that since the café had opened, the Konsthall had been robbed twice, and they'd had several attempted break ins. The way she spoke, it sounded like she was talking about the robberies as part of the same process of becoming a "local player". Like, they started the café and only when people started robbing them did they know that the café was doing its job.

This made total sense to me - if the café was well known enough for people to rob it, then it was doing its job of providing the gallery with local visibility. It was kind of an impressive commitment to the idea of being part of a local community: the idea that to be embedded is to be robbed.

The reason you can rob a café is because it has cash and to enter it you just walk in the door. Imagine a commercial gallery in West London. Opaque windows and a buzzer entry system with a single intern on the front desk. Who has cash there? Probably no one. Maybe just the intern actually, when they get sent for coffee.

To even have a café to be robbed is to define yourself in very different terms to the model of the private, commercial gallery.

I spoke to a friend about it and he said someone he knew in New York spoke about being mugged as a rite of passage. It's crass - being mugged is totally shit and traumatic - but it's true in a way. It's only tourists who "worry" about being mugged in New York. A bit like how in London its hard to find someone who worries about getting burgled. You live in a city, it will happen at some point.

Bad things are necessary, not because they are part of a process, or that experiencing them makes you stronger, but because bad things exist. For bad things not to happen to you, you have repress or ignore a certain section of reality. A public institution should be embedded in reality as much as it should be embedded in the community.

Two things

BELLYFLOP published my review of two Dance Umbrella FRINGE events: Road Postures by Roberta Jean, and the FRINGE Cabaret.

You can read it here.


And, tomorrow - Saturday 12th October - ACKROYD (Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau & Andrew Sunderland) are exhibiting a new installation called MEAT-PARTY, comprising new sound/sculptural/video works at Fly Me Through the Night, a one night show at Pilot in Primrose Hill.

Here is a sneak peek at a new ACKROYD video which will be part of the installation.