This article considers the theme of memory in (post-)Thatcherite London through the analysis of Moorcock’s Mother London (1988) and Sinclair’s Liquid City (1999) and Lights Out for the Territory (published in 1997 but arranging materials gathered at the end of the previous decade). The aim is to understand how their large canvasses of London — its architecture and inhabitants — are motivated by the attempt to retrieve cultural memory and a sense of commonality which the political ideology of the time was sweeping away as rapidly as it was razing broad areas of historical London buildings to the ground. The capital is represented by these authors as physically or metaphorically in ruins (Patrick Wright). These are interrogated in relation to the new concept of the ruin – as associated with physical and psychological traumas – which the Second World War inaugurated. Though differently, in Sinclair and Moorcock, the subject is ‘martyred by the agony’ (Sinclair) of a titanic task: sawing together, down to the tiniest fragment, everything belonging to London’s human and architectural scene, so as to produce canvasses both unimaginably comprehensive (Sinclair) and choral (Moorcock). Traversed by trajectories of different spaces, times, and consciousnesses, these minds and bodies, strained or even in pain, are the unacknowledged sages of their time: ‘like powerful wireless receivers (Moorcock) and shamans practising an ‘elective trauma’, they pursue the impossible aim of ‘procuring a perfect representation of chaos’ (Sinclair) but also of the secret, intensely poetic order behind it. In this connection, the article interrogates the impact on both writers of the scientific theories of complexity which came to the fore in the 1980s, when for some commentators the city’s non-linear phenomena could be mapped like nature’s, from economic booms and busts to urban growth. The article moves on to discuss Sinclair’s concept of memory in connection with the city’s monuments and past lives, as well as his vision of time as ‘an adjunct of architecture’. The role of photography in his urban wanderings with Mark Atkins is seen in relation to Roland Barthes’s idea that the advent of photography marked the death of the monument; examples are provided of how photographs have taken over from memorials as evidence of London’s recent history. The final part of the article argues that in Sinclair architecture becomes an aide-mémoire only by being transformed into the ‘image précaire’ of the camera eye (Durand).

Transcending the Human Scale: Ruins and Traumatised Cultural Memory in Texts on London by Michael Moorcock and Iain Sinclair

COLOMBINO, LAURA
2007

Abstract

This article considers the theme of memory in (post-)Thatcherite London through the analysis of Moorcock’s Mother London (1988) and Sinclair’s Liquid City (1999) and Lights Out for the Territory (published in 1997 but arranging materials gathered at the end of the previous decade). The aim is to understand how their large canvasses of London — its architecture and inhabitants — are motivated by the attempt to retrieve cultural memory and a sense of commonality which the political ideology of the time was sweeping away as rapidly as it was razing broad areas of historical London buildings to the ground. The capital is represented by these authors as physically or metaphorically in ruins (Patrick Wright). These are interrogated in relation to the new concept of the ruin – as associated with physical and psychological traumas – which the Second World War inaugurated. Though differently, in Sinclair and Moorcock, the subject is ‘martyred by the agony’ (Sinclair) of a titanic task: sawing together, down to the tiniest fragment, everything belonging to London’s human and architectural scene, so as to produce canvasses both unimaginably comprehensive (Sinclair) and choral (Moorcock). Traversed by trajectories of different spaces, times, and consciousnesses, these minds and bodies, strained or even in pain, are the unacknowledged sages of their time: ‘like powerful wireless receivers (Moorcock) and shamans practising an ‘elective trauma’, they pursue the impossible aim of ‘procuring a perfect representation of chaos’ (Sinclair) but also of the secret, intensely poetic order behind it. In this connection, the article interrogates the impact on both writers of the scientific theories of complexity which came to the fore in the 1980s, when for some commentators the city’s non-linear phenomena could be mapped like nature’s, from economic booms and busts to urban growth. The article moves on to discuss Sinclair’s concept of memory in connection with the city’s monuments and past lives, as well as his vision of time as ‘an adjunct of architecture’. The role of photography in his urban wanderings with Mark Atkins is seen in relation to Roland Barthes’s idea that the advent of photography marked the death of the monument; examples are provided of how photographs have taken over from memorials as evidence of London’s recent history. The final part of the article argues that in Sinclair architecture becomes an aide-mémoire only by being transformed into the ‘image précaire’ of the camera eye (Durand).
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11567/230185
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