Books: Marks of woe in the East End
Liquid City by Marc Atkins and Iain Sinclair Reaktion pounds 14.95
Sunday 30 May 1999
This type of enterprise (the book) tends to begin on an epistemic, practical basis (what do we know of ourselves in relation to our environment?) which then segues effortlessly, if the correct technique/approach has been implemented, into the metaphysical domain. This requires that the walker understands that there is, ultimately, no such thing as the relative world. All is absolute. Therefore any road taken, however arbitrary, will suffice as long as the motivation is sincere. This process was probably best portrayed by the Russian film director Tarkovsky in Stalker.
The title of the book refers to the Thames. In this context we should consider the river as a metaphor, the particular running into the general. The rhythm of the river is also apparent via the ebb and flow in Sinclair's text between real and unreal, past and present. His idiosyncratic approach ignores the subjects other "walk writers" tend to get side-tracked by, while he takes an obsessive joy in the things they totally overlook. He revels in misinformation, both the basking in, and the broadcasting of. Many of his walks are along canal towpaths. These are a godsend to London long-distance pedestrians, because they provide a steady supply of ghosts as well as allowing you to set your own rhythm free of cars and crowds. Another benefit they afford is the ability to sneak up on London from behind, to see the backs of houses, skylines from forbidden angles.
Compared to Lights Out For The Territory, Atkins's photo count has been dramatically increased. In Liquid City he has been allowed to demonstrate his considerable range, from strange, scratchy expressionistic nudes through to awesome, light-diffused London landscapes. As the page is turned the focus shifts from soft to hard; suddenly we are faced by an overwhelming ocean of differing London rooftops, all set in stark relief, the clarity of the (particular) print somehow repulsive. However it's when in impressionistic mode that he's at his best. There's even a foggy homage to Monet taken from Waterloo bridge. Atkins's use of eye, paper and chemicals is an alchemical homage to the mystery of light and dark. Atkins considers London to be the darkest of all cities, hence when he introduces a hint of light its as if the soul has been illuminated. I am reminded of the "dark luminosity" so typical of William Blake's paintings. Sinclair states in the book, typically and perversely, that he considers the photos "more fictional - richer and stranger - than the stories they never purported to illustrate". Indeed many observers consider Atkins's work as essentially dreamlike in effect and approach, whereas the man himself phlegmatically considers he is simply capturing what is really there.
Sinclair feels that his words and Atkins's photos do compliment one another. However, he doesn't believe they need each other in order to work. Sinclair seems to view his world and that of Atkins as (for the most part) running in parallel "I look back on it, despite all the evidence to the contrary, as a collaboration that never happened. A series of accidents that occasionally fused discrete worlds." I must say one gets the impression that they see life in very different terms, which is probably the very reason that their friendship and collaboration works so well. In short, it's a funny old book, neither fish nor fowl, but it does taste good.
Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 National Orgasm Day: Six reasons (plus one bogus one) why they're good for us
- 2 The 'world's most beautiful vagina' has been debunked by science
- 3 Whoopi Goldberg tells Cara Delevingne to suck it up: 'She's not famous. I'M famous'
- 4 John Green schools morning show hosts after awkward interview with Cara Delevingne
- 5 Doctor Who: Christopher Eccleston says why he left the BBC series after just one series
Why Harry Potter's aged 35, not 26
Frank Ocean, where's that new album at?
'Some bloke raps': Read Graham Coxon's woefully out of touch description of Kanye West's music
Jon Snow: Kit Harington spotted in Belfast where Game of Thrones season 6 is filming
Drake responds to Meek Mill's 'diss' track 'Wanna Know' by laughing at the rapper on Instagram
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'