My Body is Everywhere (i)

2020 
C-type prints,
Risograph printed spiral bound book with soft covers,
82 pages with insert
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Related:

"There is a condition in one’s appreciation of sculpture when for deeper understanding one must look at the lands, at mountains and valleys."

 

"They said come. Come from those trades that know building intimately. Scaffolders, housebreakers, hands employed in the construction of steel buildings."

 

"Intimate to the elementary forms of construction, it is thought we must likewise be sensitive to its general forms of collapse."

 

During the aerial bombardment of London in the years 1940 to 1945 116,483 buildings in the London area were ‘totally demolished’ or otherwise ‘damaged beyond repair’. It is recorded that 29,890 people were killed and 50,507 people were seriously injured as a direct result of the aerial bombing. Prior to the outbreak of war it had been established that rescue parties would operate in areas where it was expected there would be substantial injury and losses resulting from the anticipated bombing. These parties, in London referred to as the Heavy Rescue Service, were to be squads of men trained to work in damaged buildings to rescue injured or trapped persons and to recover the dead. This work force was drawn from the building trades, it being thought that the experience they possessed of both the construction and demolition of buildings would equip them with the expertise necessary to negotiate collapsed and dangerous structures. As the volume of debris grew this labour in the bombsites was extended to deal with its clearance and salvage. Much of these reclaimed building materials, components, fixtures and fittings were put to use in the first aid repair of bombed buildings whilst vast quantities of rubble and bricks were requisitioned for military operations or else dumped in an effort to level areas of land. Across London individual materials were stored in tips and closely guarded given the value that such debris possessed within an economy of scarcity.

 

The Sir John Cass Technical Institute was located on Jewry Street to the east of the City of London. The institute’s buildings stand on the eastern side of Jewry Street and remained largely undamaged throughout the war, whereas the western side of Jewry Street suffered bombing on 8th September and 29th December 1940 leading to the clearance of a number of buildings on this site and its use as a dump for salvaged stone. In the later years of the 1940s following the end of the war a series of photographs were taken on this area of cleared land. These photographs show students from the institute outside a makeshift studio carving stone salvaged from bombed buildings. This use of bombed stone at the Sir John Cass Technical Institute describes an intimacy and scale of treatment of this debris which seemingly stands apart from the purposes to which it was otherwise directed. 

 

In 1934, five years prior to the outbreak of war, the British art critic Adrian Stokes wrote Stones of Rimini, a lyrical meditation on 15th century stone sculpture in the Veneto region of Italy. In this and other writings Stokes developed an original aesthetic notion of carving in which the act of sculpting reveals in stone something of the nature of the landscape from which the material originates.

 

These relationships were explored in an exhibition at the Bartlett School of Architecture in February 2020. Photographs of a figure carved from debris found at the Sir John Cass Institute were shown along with a large format book containing reproduced archival photographs of the rescue and salvage operations and of people at work amongst and in manipulation of the debris. The text in these pages is both lyrical and verbatim and is drawn from a number of archival and literary sources. This text is arranged through three voices which each reflect the source of the original text. These voices belong to the discourse of sculpture, the men at work amongst the debris, and instructional manuals issued by government on the clearance and demolition of bombed buildings.

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