Sunday, 6 April 2008

A Rude Awakening

One afternoon, spelunking for sounds around Stratford, outside the current park perimeter on the other side of the A11, I come across a large warehouse. Not a single window remains intact on any floor, and the boards that barred entrance on ground level are hanging loose. I slip inside. The ground floor is dominated by a industrial duct, wrenched from its fixings on the ceiling, it dives across the space; empty gas bottles litter a small buddleja-crowded courtyard. On the upper floors, the light pours in, the edge of the space littered with large shards of glass - the sport of local listless kids, I imagine. The building has been reclaimed at some point, the second floor has piles of human faeces at regular intervals along two of its sides.

I spend some time collecting broken glass and laying it out in a square in the middle of the space, looking a little like an abandoned arte povera piece. Mic in hand, I pace slowly around it, gently shifting my weight and recording the resulting cracks, scrapes and pops. Suddenly I become aware that I am not alone, I glance up nervously and meet the blank, silent stare of the building's sole inhabitant. Worst case scenarios reel through my head. We look at each other for what seems like a minute, but neither of us say a word, then swiftly and calmly he turns back through the door from which he must have come.

I cannot continue recording, despite his lack of concern with my presence. Every sound I make is now amplified ten times in the knowledge I am not alone, his silence is emphatic and my invasion of his derelict privacy all too awkward. I head back for the stairwell and peep through his doorway. He has made the toilet his bedroom: the only domestically scaled space available. The top floor is surprisingly homely: empty food wrappers, beer cans, palette-furnishings and an improvised washing line slung with damp tops. I am shocked by my own continued voyeurism. I scarper, quietly.

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