+27,179 (Erratic) is a performative lecture which traces the particulate debris of bombed buildings during WWII to this material’s re-use in the building of military structures. +27,179 (Erratic) narrates two modes of searching and quantifying this bombsite material: the personal search for materials in the bombsites and the value put on those traced through the pacifist writer Rose Macaulay’s semi-autobiographical story, Miss Anstruther’s Letters (1942) and; the quantifying and valuing of bombsite debris through central government control of materials and local government operations of salvage.
Something particulate such as debris has an intrinsic relationship to bureaucratic operations which seek to measure, control, and account - operations which are shared by the archive. +27,179 (Erratic) responds to the problematic presented by W.G. Sebald in his text Air War and Literature of how an ‘adequate’ account of landscapes destroyed by aerial bombing can be given. The debris of London’s bombsites was used in the construction of various military infrastructure during the war including the runways from which RAF bombers launched the raids on German cities which are the subject of Sebald’s text. By tracing these two modes of accounting - the personal and the bureaucratic - +27,179 (Erratic) explores the tension present in the archive: between the ability to account for something that is lost, whilst that something remains irrecoverable. As Rose Macaulay wrote in 1937 in anticipation of war,
“The situation seems urgent. For, if civilisation such as it is, is to go under in hatred and lies, blown to bits by crumbling hordes of bombing planes […] it is going to be pretty difficult to put the pieces back together again.”