Panel 5 – Aesthetic/methodological responses to multiculture – PSH LG02

It all comes together in Croydon – re-imagining the future pasts of (sub)urban multiculture – Dr Ashwani Sharma, University of East London

‘Our future, with all its complications, will be caught within what I referred to as a metropolitan paradox, where momentary escapes from racism are contiguous with ever more complex forms of racial power and domination.’ Les Back, New Ethnicities and Urban Culture

‘For trendy cosmopolites Croydon is a place to expel from the ‘body politic of urban chic’.  It is essentially a doom suburb, a site of cultural suffocation from which the only redemption is escape.’ Les Back, So… fucking Croydon

This paper presents the beginnings of an online project: Must We Burn Croydon? The archival site by drawing together a disparate range of texts, images and sounds attempts to re-imagine the south London borough of Croydon as the past and future of the complexities of London multiculture. The contention is that an ‘outer-city’ suburban space such as Croydon is where the contradictions of neoliberalism, racism and everyday urban life are now most intensely experienced. Globalisation, multiple migrations, digital communications, and (post)modernist gentrification are radically re-configuring the relationship between place, identity, community and social relations. The abstractions of capital, consumerism and digital culture, as evidenced in the future visions of corporate Croydon, and in the viral video of racist rantings on the local tram, continue to repress and erase the memories and histories of lived spaces and subjectivities that have imaginatively negotiated the tensions and antagonisms of race and class in the suburb.

Must we Burn Croydon? is an experiment in producing a creative research network node for the discrepant histories of everyday life, syncretic cultures and media to be re-configured for a ‘future-yet-to-come’. The juxtaposition of the situationalist punk artist Jamie Reid’s images for the zine Suburban Press, Croydonite Les Back’s musings on the ‘festive magic’ of working class Christmas lights, and the haunting soundscapes of dubstep exemplify the putative elements in a ‘speculative ethnography’ and ‘vernacular psychogeography’ that attempts to ethically engage with the banalities of ordinary spatial cultures – real and imagined – as an ‘uncanny mirror’ of an austerity driven, ahistoricised cosmopolitan London.

HoodFort-Chicken – Dr Alex Rhys-Taylor in discussion with Mile End Community Project

In this presentation Dr Rhys-Taylor will be speaking to the people behind the HoodForts Chicken – a short film that explores the fried chicken phenomenon in Tower Hamlets. The film provides an insight into what fried Chicken means to different communities.

Face Up (2015): decolonising imaginations, memory narratives and screen media – Dr Roshini Kempadoo, University of Westminster

Roshini Kempadoo will present an illustrated paper based on the photographic/video artwork on selfies, urban travel and media savviness entitled: Face Up (2015).

As Mirzoeff notes, ‘it is both online and in our real-world interactions with technology that we experience today’s new visual culture. Our bodies are now in the network and in the world at the same time’ (Mirzoeff, 2015). Contemporary screen- based imagery, accessed 24/7 on tablets and other mobile/screen ‘gismos,’ have radically affected how we make sense of ‘me’ or ‘her’, how she makes and connects with others and how she comprehends world events beyond the purview of the city. Using the mobile is inextricably linked to the everyday staging of the self, creating, responding to, thinking and simply ‘doing’ life in a city. Imagery in this sense is an intense and extended form of self-validation and visual confirmation, a productive space of the social self as media, and revising a kind of image that elucidates or counterbalances dystopian viewpoints. In Face Up, The Londoner – often of colour, diasporic, who knows about at least two places called ‘home’, keeps track of and maintains tenuous and multiple ‘identities’ as a precarious life experience – hers in relation to others. The audiovisual language of the mobile phone screen is seen here as ‘profoundly mythic… a theatre of popular desires, a theatre of popular fantasies. It is where we discover and play with the identifications of ourselves, where we are imagined, where we are represented… ‘(Hall, 1993). The time spent journeying across urban spaces whether London or Port-of-Spain increasingly expands and intrudes. These transcient non-spaces (Augé,1995) of transport hubs, cars, buses or trains as contact zones (Pratt 1992, Petty 2008), are where she/we become the eavesdropper of other peoples’ stories, where earwigging is a sport, or peering at another persons screen is part of the daily routine. It is about overhearing and overseeing on the move.

I explore the itinerant imagery of Face Up for its ‘appropriateness’ and response to current neoliberal politics, popular media, as a contribution to feminist practices, questions of difference and apparent racism towards the physical and symbolic black woman’s body. Face Up will be contextualised by other artists work including those by Sheena Rose, Nicole Awai, Chris Cozier and Stacey Tyrell as critical visual sites to hegemonic historical and political narratives.