Friday, 9 May 2008

Trespassing Bristol

I have, as usual, rushed into things and need to take a quick achronological detour before returning to the Olympic Site. The first stop on this quick backtrack is Bristol.

Bristol, Horfield to be precise, was the second stop in developing the trespassing practice. I was spending a weekend with old friends and thought I would take advantage of the city-break to test my trespassing mettle against a less hostile metropolis. I had researched (google earth again) two convenient locations: the substation and water plant local to my friends' house (I was at the time a little obsessed with energy politics) and even 'drawn' a little map of my intentions. Walking through Bristol, however, I passed the site of a recent demolition, nothing epic, probably a housing development. The benefits of doing research on foot rather than from a virtual bird's eye became immediately apparent (and I have stuck to this strategy since).

I returned after dark, and getting in was easy, squeezing between the ill-conceived corner fencing and hopping over a stone wall. Mud and rubble everywhere churned and piled by the ubiquitous yellow diggers that punctuated the landscape. This trip was instrumental in setting a couple of standards for many of the later trespasses. Firstly some aesthetics: desolation, street lighting (and the myriad of unreal colours that it conjures in what is grey-dull-brown by daylight) and the sense of vast landscape (peaks, valleys, lakes) in a small area. Secondly an action which recurs frequently in the following months: the HUG. Cuddling JCBs, snuggling up to rubble, a few industrial leg-overs. I guess on hindsight this oddity was initially a compositional choice, I wanted to put the digger in central frame and had, therefore, to place myself in relation to it.

There's a bit of an ideological duality which, in the adrenalin of the illegal moment I am sure did not occur to me but which, in hindsight seems fairly apt. The images are reminiscent of Swampy era anti-road protests (ironically I was nicknamed Swampy on one job a couple of years earlier) all that's missing are the slogans and the chain. But where the 'hugness' of the action comes across I am seen embracing the vehicle of change. It is this lack of a single clear ideological position which, for me, makes the action interesting in itself. Even if my ideological position in the eventual Olympic project is all too apparent, I am trying to actively and critically engage with this process of development which is so universally heralded as a benefit by our politicians, rather than simply damning it from the sidelines.

The Bristol trespass was a success, not least in the quality of the images that I captured on my first night-outing, time for the capital.

No comments: