lauraxsynthesis (lauraxsynthesis) wrote,

Who will rescue the refugees?

Last year I wasn't able to get to Banksy's Dismaland in Weston-Super-Mare, at which one of the participating artists was Jimmy Cauty of the KLF. Cauty has taken his model village exhibition The Aftermath Dislocation Principle on tour to sites around the UK where riots have taken place. A few weeks ago it was in a railway arch gallery near London Bridge and I went along one afternoon. Since starting a new job, I've been taking off occasional afternoons to visit galleries and museums and do some local vegan tourism on a weekday when things are somewhat less fraught in this increasingly crowded city.

The gallery was close enough to London Bridge for one to feel particularly overlooked by The Shard, that malevolent presence Owen Hatherley has called "an expression of class war in glass". The gallery on the other hand misleads the visitor with a playful sign over the entrance advertising a "model village experience" with the sort of sign design one sees at a seafront attraction. Just inside the entrance though, one finds mock danger signs and an unwelcoming ticket booth. Inside the booth at that moment when I arrived was Cauty himself. This is a work in progress and he was overseeing the ongoing creation of tiny people both for the installation and for sale at art gallery prices. I was tempted, but didn't have a spare £250 for some tiny figures in a bell jar.

Then on to the work itself. The room was filled by the 'model village' - a dystopian version of Bedford in tiny miniature set up above waist level. It was all surrounded by a 6-foot fence and construction site black tarpaulin with view holes. There were also a couple of ladders and steps one could use to view from above. I suppose the placement of the entrance at a certain point of the scene was deliberate. It certainly meant I went through a particular journey. The first thing I saw was an Occupy campsite. Or a refugee/homeless camp. Or most likely it's a temporary camp for underpaid workers on the massive Tower of Babel that was also at this end of the piece. The camp was at the base of the construction site but also on the other side of a wall from it. I later came to realise that this was very much a barrier wall keeping people out, and also that the camp had been abandoned, possibly due to a chemical or plague - related disaster as the only people there were in all-body protective suits.

Moving on and away from the tower, we see we are in Bedfordshire in the near future. The scene includes countryside, a tower block estate and a raised motorway some of which has collapsed. near the end of the motorway a press conference is taking place - a government minister or similar is speaking. Here are the only civilians. One comes to realise that all the people, and there seem to be thousands of them across the whole piece, are police officers. Almost all are in the yellow waterproof coats of their outdoor winter duties. There are also their cars and vans - all with their blue lights flashing. So many, and yet almost no other vehicles or civilians. Why are only the police here? What has happened to other people? What are the doing to the civilians they find? Mini mysteries and strange tales are scattered through the scene - officers gazing down at a sinkhole, scores of officers packed into a burger bar and even painting anti-police grafitti. Rarely do the officers seem to be in relation to each other, they are largely self-contained even when standing next to each other. Even when they see another officer in mortal danger.

From early on, a choking-up feeling started coming over me. Mourning for the society we don't have and how alienated and structually violent British society has become, anxiety and hopelessness about a future that seems inevitable. It's done with comedy and hyperbole, but this work seems more satirical portrayal than metaphor. Coming back around for the second half of the journey, one is heading toward the tower under construction. One passes the industrial wastelands of the city - abandoned factories and even an abattoir next to the fast food police canteen. Things are getting so post-industrial they are distant pre-industrial. An abandoned church with a collapsed roof, human sacrifice/execution and a remote trailer in a field. Maybe it's still possible to rewild and find freedom after the collapse? Moving on, we are in the militarised commercial zone that we all should have seen would result from capital accummulation. The tower is, we are told, covered in gold. It is surrounded by a wall, a huge moat, and another wall. A new, huge bridge is being constructed across to it. In the mean time, the police are having comical mishaps. One officer is standing on a police van that has fallen in the water. A small boat is crammed full of officers - I suppose it's a reference to the most famous piece at Dismaland which was the remote control model refugee boat. Very large, cartoonish models of fast food are being carried up the tower, evidently to be displayed with pride at the top. This manages to be ridiculous and horrifying at once. The pharaoh this pyramid is being built for is the police force itself - and yet it is also a display for processed commodified food items - is it an advert or an indication of who has sponsored this fascist building? Maybe indeed who sponsored the whole junta if that's what happened? Did the police state emerge from the catastrophe, or was the cause of the motorway collapse somehow linked to the rise of whatever it was that destroyed society? Terrorism? An uprising? At this point, one has to realise it doesn't matter anymore what brought us here - this is an unbearable time and place. Nothing from the society portrayed should not be overthrown, abandoned, destroyed.

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