Did the intrepid journey that is the audio tour of Graeme Miller's archive of stories surrounding the construction of the M11 in East London and subsequent displacement of locals and protest culture that arose from the development.
Alas technology has erased all my notes, but I'll try to give an impression. Linked is a tour of East London given through a series of sound installations that are broadcast from transmitters attached to light poles across a 4 mile stretch. You have to pick up your own receiving devise and headphones in order to listen to the work, but these are hard to come by. Luckily Redbridge Museum had a few, adding a good amount of miles to our journey but somehow part of the adventure (if you plan on actually doing this walk plan ahead). Though there is a map, finding each transmitter is still a challenge, though a group of us were lucky to be guided by Oliver James Hymans, who wrote a dissertation on psychogeography with this piece as a case study.
As you approach each transmitter the sound slowly starts feeding into the headphones. Its slightly eery and ghostly, as if you are overhearing a conversation through an open window somewhere nearby. It becomes clear the recordings are testimonials of people affected by the construction of the M11 motorway and destruction of well anything in its path. The recordings are sampled and remixed with music giving it the impression of an early negativland track. The testimonials range from residents, to squatters, to elderly focusing mostly on the energy of protest and the destruction of sites of memory and places of local identity and history. I particularly like the transmission coming from a light pole in between two chestnut trees that referenced The Battle of George Green and the feeling that the takeover of the park by protesters was like a return the common land before the Acts of Enclosures privatised areas across England, a fantastic analogy and still powerful today.
I was interested in the people who lived in the houses near these transmitters and I wondered if they had any idea about it. Though I loved the experience, even for me who loves to explore and is interested in site, history, memory and place this was not an easy task to fulfill. This was mostly due to such poor maintenance of the artwork itself by Museum of London and Arts Admin. I couldn't help to wonder about those transmitters powered 24/7 and broadcasting empty messages to deaf ears. Perhaps this is the route history eventually takes, most people forgetting the struggles of the past for the comforts of the future. After the work I felt happy to have learned a piece of history and a new respect for a locale and yet somewhat melancholic in thinking about our constant move towards greater privitisation and development. As a radicant myself I wonder about how to save and respect roots while helping us move across borders freely.
The M11 felt both like a massive border and yet somehow an escape route...
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