Hello again, in this post our Writing PAD friend Harriet Edwards introduces a special issue of the Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, guested edited by Harriet, along with Jaspar Joseph-Lester, Norman M. Klein and Simon King:
Here, I would like to introduce the recent special issue of the Journal of Writing in Creative Practice: ‘Parallel Urbanisms: London – Los Angeles’ (10.02). Contributions come from a pool of artists and writers across countries, including fellow authors/editors, Jaspar Joseph-Lester, Simon King (RCA) and Norman Klein (CAL Arts, USA). The collection sees a broadening out of psychogeography to encompass psychic, spectral and physical realities of urban spaces and architecture. The parallelism of the two cities means perspective is enlarged, each throwing light on the other. The following examples provide a glimpse into these urban investigations.
First is ‘The Sound of Placards’ by Jesse Ash. He addresses noise in the city as a ‘collective hum’ or ‘vast fabric’ but focuses in on sound as political protest via demonstrations. He describes this sound as a kind of ‘territorial occupation’ by those for and against today’s globalised systems. He notes direct observations as a witness in London (G20 protest) and a decade later, indirectly via social media from Los Angeles (anti-Trump). These form the fulcrum around which he collects, researches (Attali, Nancy and Barthes; protests round the world) and writes. He reflects on the relationship between sound and objects, and sound and bodies. On one side, he points to ‘noise bombardment’ from the megaphone to more recent technological high-pitched deterrents; on the other side, he points to objects such as pans, whistles, as well as key jangling of demonstrators, symbolic of opening doors and escape. He records demonstrators’ shouts and the effects on the ears, vocal chords and stomach – visceral reverberations. The whole text is richly packed and worth mining a number of times.
The second example, Laura Grace Ford’s ‘Drift Report from Downtown LA’, is a poetic drift involving the author’s walks through LA. This forms a detailed, evocative picture of urban decay and neglect, seen as a result of deregulated capital with spaces altered and abandoned by it.
The walking and observing bring up both collective and individual memories. The centre of LA evokes the riots of 1992 caused by the verdict on the death of Rodney King; the homeless with their bundles take Laura Grace back to London streets and echoes there; signs of Saint Patrick’s take her back to family of the 1970s in Ireland. Through the drift, the memories of a past relationship also emerge, something between Whitechapel of the 90s, pre-gentrification, and the spaces the two inhabited and gradually, the call of that earlier Whitechapel grows stronger through the telling.
Each exploration is distinct. Simon King’s for example, ‘Elephant Memory’, is based on a repeated prowl around the Elephant and Castle, an area seeing dramatic new development. But the text is also centred on an old photo from 1941, discovered via Peter Watt’s blog on London and originating from the Imperial War Museum. As seen in the image below, it shows a bomb damaged building on Sayer Street (1941) and some figures being waited on and given bacon and eggs: what is that about? This becomes part of the mystery that Simon pursues, with a circuitous, serendipitous and sensitive uncovering of findings.