London’s disappearing estates documented in new photography show
A group of artists have spent the last few years
exploring London’s estates and blocks, documenting these brutal spaces after
clearance and before demolition. An exhibition opening in Peckham this week
will show their findings for the first time, in an underground space beneath an
estate near the Old Kent Road.
Coming from photography, performance art and
graffiti backgrounds, the artists who’ve put together the “Estate Agents” show
focus on various aspects of these empty buildings – from infrastructure, life
in the high rises, and pirate radio rigs, to Brutalist architecture – as well
as the neglect and decay of the estates, which is particularly relevant in
light of the Grenfell Tower disaster.
The Heygate Estate near Elephant and Castle was
the first place the group discovered, in 2013. “It was a derelict no man’s land
situated on the edge of Zone 1,” said Maëva Berthelot, one of the three artists
involved in the project.
“The council evicted all the residents and the place
slowly became deserted. This enormous Brutalist estate was completely emptied
with the exception of few tenants who refused to move until the bulldozers came
in. We were intrigued and wanted to see it for ourselves. It was such a vast and mysterious place
– almost like a city within the city.”
The group – also made up of Andrew Gillman
and Ivan Bliminse – are especially interested in documenting these spaces
before they are lost to gentrification, as places that have given much to
London’s culture but seem to be overlooked by society at large.
“What was once a model for utopian living in
post war Britain was now deemed ugly and earmarked for demolition. It was often
given bad press and used as a backdrop for crime scenes in TV dramas,” said
Maëva. “It seemed to combine all of our interests: exploration, photography,
graffiti and London history.
“After a while we realised the importance of
photographing these locations. As London becomes filled with shiny glass
towers, it seems that the traditional London tower block is now a dying breed.
As many of the estates followed suit to Heygate and closed, it also gave our
documentation a new meaning as a historical record.
“Each block is very unique. They all have so
much to offer from the complex designs to the rich textures, the diverse colour-ways
and the moody lighting.”
Despite showing their work now, Estate Agents is
an on-going project: the group plans to continue documenting London’s blocks
At this week’s show, there will be a zine for
sale, with all proceeds going towards the families affected by the Grenfell Tower
Estate Agents will be running July 13th (opening
at 6pm) – July 16th at Ledbury Estate Garages, Old Kent Road Studios, SE15
The Claude Glass. A Claude Glass is a handheld black mirror. It was used by picturesque painters to alter their sight creating a denser and more atmospheric landscape through the reflection. I am looking at how I can in-cooperate the Claude Glass into my site through collage.