Channel4 News’s estimable Jon Snow on the psychogeographic-significance of the G20 summit being held in the Excel centre in London’s Docklands.
“Even in the best of times, this is a dump, a warehouse in which absurdly large events are staged. Devoid of character, nestling the City airport, it is stuck in the middle of a place that appears never to have seen a shop, never to have seen a pint pulled, never to have seen a baby born, let alone a body buried.
It is the waste tip of east London. And presumably now that the Olympic site has been cleared, basks alone as a gateway to nowhere.
Travelling in here on the security-strewn media buses, I wondered how a Mexican or a Brazilian, or indeed a German or a Frenchman would view this taste of England. Imagine if your only glimpse of Europe was this ghastly pile of metal and concrete. You would think that development meant some voyage into outer Hades.”
The choice of the Excel is strangely emblematic of the current condition, isn’t it. A megashed, in an artificially-regenerated remote, unconnected area of a world capital of Capital, surrounded by a moat of effluvia from Canary Wharf… Jon Snow should get Iain Sinclair on the show tonight…
3 thoughts on “PsychogeoG20”
It’s Fortress Urbanism in action. The point of ExHell (sorry – I’ve had to attend trade events there too) is that it’s an easily-defended bastion on the edge of the city. Despite the centuries-long reconfiguration of the city to prevent civil discontent (the narrowing of Oxford Street following the Gordon Riots, the Ring of Steel around the City) the security forces are aware they remain vulnerable in Zone 1. Protected on one side by the DLR (staged fencing, clear field of fire, The Death Strip of London) and on the other by the Royal Victoria Dock, and offering escape via air (City Airport) or sea (downriver), Excel is the last castle built in Britain, and a pretty fair reflection of what our rulers think of us, and vice versa.
‘ExCeL’ is, allegedly, a contraction of “Exhibition Centre London” (necessitating the irritating tautology of ‘the ExCeL Centre London’), but, as any fule kno, “excel” comes from the Latin base, excellere, “to rise, surpass, be eminent,” from ex- “out from” and -cellere “rise high or tower.” ExCeL is a deliberate exercise in elitism and fortification.
I love psychogeography, but sometimes I don’t think it goes far enough. Parapsychogeography?
Where wouldn’t be “strangely emblematic of the current condition”?
Assuming it would have to be held in London and would have to be a large venue, almost everywhere could be labeled “strangely emblematic”. Some old historic venue in The City like Gibson Hall? Somewhere in Whitehall or off St James’?
Even somewhere like Wembley could be derided for it’s Public / Partnership financing.
I’m just saying.
The journey through and to there is through a bizarre and curious mix of industrial buildings from a different age (there’s still one, massive empty warehouse somewhere around there, that looks straight out of “Victorian Docklands History Vol.1”, then the ridiculous HUGEness of the post eighties developments – soulless, concrete erxtravaganzas of space and the pathetic spectacle of half built developments, with the spectre of the downturn and lack of interest hanging over them…
i find this area of London incredibly intriguing, with its ghosts of London’s vital past (for citizens of the UK, anyway) around every corner. It does seem emblematic, and the ExEl itself I’ve luckily never been in to – it doesn’t surprise me that there weren’t many protestors there. It’s such a remote and strange satellite part of London.
Anyway, the mystery of the Thames, the ingrained stink of sweat, sugar, spices, and slavery that will never be washed out of the silt… as locations go, it could have been alot worse.