A visit of the exhibition Mind Maps: Stories from Psychology yesterday made me realize, once again, that i should be grateful to live here and now and not at a time when melancholia was treated with a 'healthy' dose of electric shocks and nerves were supplied with a 'vital energy' by wearing an electrical belt previously soaked in vinegar. This ancient cure looked like jolly good fun though.

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Model of a human brain, sectioned, French, first half 19th century. Image courtesy Science Museum

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Susan Aldworth, Transition series, 2010

Mind Maps explores how mental health conditions have been diagnosed and treated over the past 250 years. Divided into four episodes between 1780 and 2014, this exhibition looks at key breakthroughs in scientists' understanding of the mind and the tools and methods of treatment that have been developed, from Mesmerism to Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) bringing visitors up to date with the latest cutting edge research and its applications.

The small show is everything but dull and scholarly: controversial treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy and poisonous nerve 'tonics' are followed by pendulum measuring the speed of thoughts, Pavlov's experiments on conditional reflexes and by Freud and his couch.

Every single object in the exhibition comes with a fascinating and at times chilling story. The only criticism i'm ready to make about Mind Maps is that ongoing journey into the mysteries of the brain and the nervous system would benefit from a less dim and confined exhibition space.

Highlights from the exhibition:

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Frog Pistol, invented 1860s. Image courtesy Science Museum

The artefact i found most puzzling was the 'frog pistol' developed by German scientist Emil du Bois-Reymond to demontrate 'animal electricity' to his students.

A fresh frog leg was placed on the glass plate inside the tube, with the nerve ends connected to the keys on the top of the pistol grip. When these keys were depressed, a contact was made and the leg kicked back as it if had been electrified.

The small pistol instrument was of course inspired by the work of Luigi Galvani. In the 1780s, the Italian doctor discovered that sparks of electricity caused dead frogs' legs to twitch, leading him to propose that electrical energy was intrinsic to biological matter. Some of the instruments used by Galvani in his pioneering studies of nerve activity are presented in the exhibition, they haven't been displayed in public for more than a century.

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Amuletic dried frog in a silk bag from early 20th century south Devon. Photo Science Museum blog

The nerve/frog connection doesn't stop here. A dried frog inside a silk pouch is a testimony to the resilience of folk medicine in the 20th century, the essicated amphibian was carried around the neck 'to prevent fits and seizures.'

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Detail of an anatomical table displaying human nerves, dissected at the University of Padua in the 17th century (image Fresh eye on London)

Let's keep on the macabre mood with this 17th century dissection table from Padua with all the nerves of (presumably) an executed criminal laid out on it to form a map of the nervous system on a varnished wooden panel.

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Cavallo-style electrical generator, made by George Adams, London, 1780-84. Object no. 1889-29 © Science Museum

Tiberius Cavallo, a leading European authority on medical electricity, designed this compact electrical generator and its accessories, including the 'medical bottle' that regulated the shocks it administered. Turning the glass cylinder built up a static electric charge in the metal collector on the side of the machine.

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D'Arsonval cage from Riviere's clinic, Paris. Image courtesy Science Museum

The patient stood inside the D'Arsonval cage while harmless high-frequency alternating current from the tesla coil on a desk pulsed around the metal framework, generating powerful electromagnetic fields inside the body. The treatment was claimed to stimulate metabolism, reduce obesity and eczema, and temporarily relieve nervous pains.

The cage was only one of the many devices that Dr J-A Rivière, "electrotherapist and pacifist", used in the 1890s. His Paris clinic specialized in 'physical' treatments involving water, air, heat, light, electricity and after 1895, the newly discovered X-rays. Patients were seated in electric chairs, flooded with electric light or plunged into electrified bathtubs.

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Bottle of "Ner-Vigor", with instructions, in original carton, by the Anglo-American Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. Image courtesy Science Museum

Huxley's 'Ner-Vigor' was used between 1892-1943 for "strengthening the nerves." Like some other medical products of the period, it contains a very small measure of the strychnine poison.

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Nervone nerve nutrient, 1924-49. Object no. 1988-317/165 © Science Museum

The Nervone 'nerve nutrient' was launched in the 1920s as an alternative to harmful nerve tonics and was still being sold in the 1960s when it was replaced by new anti-anxiety and depression drugs such as Valium.

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Sherrington's cat model, c. 1920-30. Object No: 1999-917 © Science Museum

Nerve scientist and Nobel Prize winner Charles Sherrington was fascinated by the way cats kept their balance while negotiating obstacles at speed. This model was used to illustrate how the cat's eyes, whiskers, neck, legs and tail continued to work together even when the 'highest' portion of its brain had been removed.

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Electroconvulsive therapy machine made in the 1940s for the Burden Neurological Institute

The period that followed the Second World War saw the rise of several controversial treatments, including electro-convulsive therapy (where electricity is used to induce a brain seizure) and lobotomy.

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Equipment for conducting an electronic lobotomy, 1962

The machine was designed to deliver just enough current to a gold electrode to make a peppercorn sized hole in the brain. This technique, also known as leucotomy, was a more precise form of lobotomy. It was used from the early 1960s to treat patients with uncontrollable anxiety.

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EEG hairnet. Image courtesy Science Museum

Electroencephalography (EEG) remains an essential element of the psychology laboratory. It is frequently used in conjunction with brain scanning.

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Lecuir's battery, 1880-1920. Photo courtesy Science Museum, London

Batteries to stimulate nervous energy sometimes also featured religious symbols, because mental health needs all the help it can get, right?

Mind Maps: Stories from Psychology is free and runs at the Science Museum in London until 10 June.

Sponsored by:





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Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, The Brothers Non-Collaborative Portraiture, 2013

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First Person Plural. Audience Q&A chaired by Steven Bode with speakers; Adam Broomberg, Julian Stallabrass, Oliver Chanarin Lucy Kimbell and Nina Wakeford

A couple of weeks ago i spent the day at the Dana Center in London for First Person Plural: The cult of the photographer and the culture of social media, a symposium hosted by The Science Museum in collaboration with Film and Video Umbrella.

First Person Plural accompanied the final days of Only in England: Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr, the first exhibition of the Science Museum's brand new Media Space. The conference briefly paid homage to the legacy of Tony Ray-Jones, who chronicled the social rituals of the English in the 1960s, which he feared were at risk of disappearing with Americanisation.

In the increasingly globalised world of the early 21st century, are there equivalent expressions of cultural identity, or equally idiosyncratic social rituals and behaviours, that modern life seems to be passing by - and who are the contemporary artists and photographers who are recording them? Or, taking our cue from new technology, should we turn this question the other way round? In the age of the 'selfie' and social media, might it be the figure of the Photographer, as observer and recorder of social change, that is becoming passé, destined to be replaced by a new type of collective 'portrait' formed from the aggregation and analysis of big data?

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Tony Ray-Jones, Dog owner with is clipped poodle at Crufts dog show, London, 1968 © SSPL/Getty Images

The symposium looked at the impact that current technologies and social media have on the roles, image and identity of the photographer. Some of the highlights of the day included Natasha Caruana explaining how she met with married men in search of an extra-marital affair and documented fragments of their restaurant encounters using a disposable camera, writer and lecturer Julian Stallabrass reminding me how much i love Martin Parr's work (though i'm pretty sure that wasn't Stallabrass' objective) and a talk by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin whose work i've been following with enthusiasm since i discovered it At Strozzina in Florence a few years ago.

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Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin at the First Person Plural symposium

My notes from the events are going to be limited to Broomberg & Chanarin's talk because they highlighted valid points about notions of authorship, about the perception that technology is 'neutral', but they also exposed how representation is complicit in events, not only documenting them but being actually involved in them.

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Jahangir Razmi, Firing Squad in Iran, Aug, 27, 1979

One of the first projects they discussed what the Afterlife series which reconsiders a photograph taken in Iran on 6 August 1979 by a very young Iranian photographer called Jahangir Razmi. Taken just months after the revolution, the image records the execution of 11 blindfolded Kurdish prisoners by a firing squad. This is the kind of photo that wins prestigious awards, like the World Press photo prize. And indeed it won the Pulitzer Prize award. But why is an image like this so beautiful and alluring? Broomberg and Chanarin found and met Razmi and discovered that he had taken many more pictures of the dramatic moment. They looked at Razmi's 27 other frames and dissected them in an attempt to deconstruct the moment. For example, each time the prisoner blinded appeared on an image, they isolated him and included him in a collage which aim was to stop the emotional response triggered by the original image. The collage revealed also the mechanical movement of the photographer around that event.

The deconstruction and reconstruction of the image was inspired by Razmi's answer to the question "What is your favorite film?" He answered that his favourite film was a film that hasn't been made: a film of the assassination of Kennedy but taken from multiple angles.

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Afterlife

Next, Broomberg and Chanarin also explained the importance of chance in photo reportage. For example, Robert Capa's iconic photo of The Falling Soldier was an accident. Capa didn't even look through the lens, he held the camera up and clicked on the shutter. It truly was an accidental image.

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Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, The Day Nobody Died, 2008

B&C illustrated chance in photography with the project The Day Nobody Died, a work made while they were embedded within the British army in Afghanistan. Once there, they turned a military vehicle into a dark room. Each time an important event happened, the duo took up photographic paper and exposed it to light and then put it back in the box. The result doesn't reflect in a figurative way the events that Broomberg & Chanarin were supposed to document in Afghanistan.

The works questions the viewer's expectation from the proxy, the photographer who goes off to the war or to the scene of natural disasters to act as a witness, record and show it to to the public. How much do the images he produces have to be figurative to act as a piece of evidence of the events?

The piece of photographic paper they took to Afghanistan was there. It did go on a journey and, abstract or not, it stands in for this notion of the witness.

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Shirley, 2013

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To Photograph A Dark Horse, 2013

A fascinating point the photographers made was to question the assumption that there is an inherent neutrality to the technology of photography. They illustrated it with a couple of projects. The first responds to the photo of a woman called Shirley. When employees of professional photo laboratories calibrate the printing machine every day, a piece of paper comes out and it comes with various shades of grey to black, then the picture of a lama appears and finally, the picture of a woman. The woman is Shirley. In the beginning of colour films, the Kodak corporation photographed one of the workers, Shirley, and sent the picture out with the word 'normal' as the normal print for caucasian skin. Jean-Luc Godard refused to use Kodak, he called it racist.

Right after the end of segregation in the USA, black and white children started to sit side by side in the same class. Kodak's range was so limited that it was at the time impossible to take a photo of a black and white child in the same frame. It was just a basic limitation of way film had evolved and that's what Godard regarded as racist. Kodak didn't respond to the problem until 2 of their biggest clients, the furniture industry and confectionary industry complained and lobbied Kodak because they were unable to photograph the various nuances of wood and chocolate.
In response to pressure, Kodak developed a new film which they marketed as a film that was good for "photographing of a dark horse in low light."

When Broomberg and Chanarin were invited to a ludicrous mission to document Gabon for two weeks, they went on bay and collected unprocessed 'racist' films which they used in Gabon. They only produced one picture. It is pink (because the green pigment is more stable.)

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I.D. 5, Polaroid Picture, 107mm x 86mm, 2013

From there, the photographers became increasingly interested in the idea that a camera or a piece of films could somehow embody ethical ideas, that a piece of technology wasn't ethically neutral. The collaboration of Polaroid with South Africa's Apartheid State is a clear evidence of this.

Polaroid developed for the apartheid government the ID-2 camera that was used to produce the pass book picture that all Africans had to carry around with them. The camera has two lenses so that you can make the portrait and the profile in same sheet of paper. There is also a special button at the back of the device that has been especially designed for black skin. By pressing it, you increase the flash power by 42 percent.

Two Afro American employees of Kodak ("Polaroid Revolutionary Workers Movement") campaign to convince Polaroid to retire from South Africa. They were fired but the Head of Polaroid eventually sent a delegation in the country and subsequently withdrew all Polaroid products closely linked to end of Apartheid.

Again, B&C went online, bought one of those cameras and traveled to South Africa to take pictures that turned on its head the toxic use of the camera. They decided to ignore the rules they found in the guide book that comes with the camera and proceeded to photograph the flora and fauna of South Africa.

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Yekaterina Samutsevich of Pussy Riot, from Two Eyes Above a Nose Above a Mouth, 2013. Photograph: Broomberg and Chanarin

The last work they mentioned is their ongoing curatorial project Shtik Fleisch Mit Tzvei Eigen, a Yiddish insult that means "A piece of meat with two eyes".

Once again, the work emerged from what the photographers call a 'ludicrous' commission. When the G20 met in Saint Petersbourg, one photographer from each of the G20 countries was invited to come and create a piece of work about Russia. B&C discovered a small Russian company at the avant-garde of surveillance software. Their cameras are invisible and can be placed anywhere. They capture data as you pass through and make marking of your face. The result is not a photograph but a 'data double', an algorithmic map of the face, a structure of your bone. The machine doesn't need the image to portray and identify a person. This technology heralds the breakdown of the photographer and the collapse of camera. At the same time, it announced the advent of software and computer.

The developers of the software said that the biggest challenge was developing a camera that could operate in a non collaborative mode. We are thus entering a new era of non collaborative portraiture, the subject does not even need to be aware that their face is being scanned in 3 dimensions, that can later be rotated and scrutinized. The technology totally substitute the meaning of the face with the mathematics of the face.

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"Life for life, {21:24} Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, {21:25} Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe" - Exodus 21:23, Holy Bible© Adam Broomberg e Oliver Chanarin, MACK/AMC, 2013

Some of the presentations are on soundcloud.

See also: Broomberg and Chanarin's best photograph: Pussy Riot in 3D and 'Racism' of early colour photography explored in art exhibition.

Previously: Only in England: Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr.

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Jealous Gallery

Art14 is "London's global art fair." It took place a couple of weekends ago and it is my favourite art fair in London. Not that i'm a big fan of fairs but, you know, "In the country of the blind," blablabla. Art14 changes its name every year. Last year was its first edition and it was called, you guessed it, Art13. If i had to compare it to Frieze i'd say that catering is far better at Art14 (which for me means "WOW! there's a juice bar, here!"), the public is much younger and the art is more accessible and not just financially. Last but not least, there's no Jeff Koons inflated glitter in sight. I did see too many Botero though. At least one.

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Thorsten Brinkmann, Karl Schrank von Gaul, 2008

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Installation view of Art14 London, Photography: Written Light

The reason why Art14 defines itself as "London's global art fair" is that the 180 participating galleries come from all over the world. Europe of course but also Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America. 38 different countries in total.

What follows is a long series of images of works i discovered at the fair. Most of them are photography because that was the medium that stood out at the fair for me.

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Jason Larkin, Pressurised Water, Krugersdorp, Johannesburg, 2013. Flowers Gallery

Johannesburg was founded on the wealth that came flooding in from a gold rush beginning in 1886. The mines didn't just create the fortunes, they also generated six billion tonnes of waste dumped outside the city's poorer areas. Some 400,000 people now live surrounded by these mountains of waste.

In his series Tales From the City of Gold, Jason Larkin documents life in these impoverished areas.

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Hirohito Nomoto, Facade Pachinko, 2013. Tezukayama Gallery

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Hirohito Nomoto, Façade 05 (ed.7) 2011

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Hirohito Nomoto, Façade 02 (ed.7) 2011

This series records some of the structures damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Hirohito Nomoto explains: The photographs of the facade of each building were taken using techniques of architecture photography that allowed me to keep my emotions at bay, in order to depict the scene as naturally as possible. The aim of this work was to present the viewer an image of what happened there on the day. Most of the buildings in the series were pulled down and do not exist anymore.

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Ohad Matalon, Tower, Egypt-Israel Border, 2011-2013. Podbielski Contemporary

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Ohad Matalon, Tower, Egypt-Israel Border, 2011-2013. Podbielski Contemporary

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Ohad Matalon. Podbielski Contemporary

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Ohad Matalon, P.o.v., Jaffa, 2007

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Shen Chao-Liang, STAGE #97, 2011. AKI Gallery

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Shen Chao-Liang, STAGE #14, 2011. AKI Gallery

Shen Chao-Liang photographed the extravagant stage trucks employed by cabarets and other performers to travel across Taiwan. In less than an hour, the stages turn from mundane vehicles into 50-foot sensory spectacles complete with powerful sound systems, neon lights, and splashing painted stage sets. And back into trucks again until their next destination.

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Francesco Jodice, Capri #3, 2013

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Jeff Liao, Luna Park (Coney Island series), 2010. Crane Kalman Brighton

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Helene Schmitz, Alabama Fields

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Hazem Harb, We Used to Fly on Water, 2014. ATHR GALLERY

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, Schubert & Salzer factory, Ingolstadt, Germany, 1950. Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, Schubert & Salzer factory (Blow room machine, Cotton Mill Machine. Untitled), Ingolstadt, Germany, 1950 (Blow room machine, Cotton Mill Machine. Untitled)

Bauhaus artist Albert Renger-Patzsch looked for beauty and dignity of prosaic industrial machines.

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Nelli Palomäki, Baawo at 30, 2011. Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire

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Michael Ormerod, Child with Mask, Hillrose, Colorado, 1989. Crane Kalman

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Abdul Abdullah, You see monsters, 2014. Fehily Contemporary

Abdul Abdullah's Siege refers to the 'siege mentality'; a state of mind in which one feels under attack. Abdullah feels this is a condition suffered by many minorities and marginalized groups, particularly young Muslims who live in traditionally 'Western' societies. Growing up in the post 9/11 era, Abdullah has stated that he believes that if there is a 'bad guy' in the popular imagination, it would be Muslims, and as a Muslim he has felt obligated to defend his position.

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Ramune Pigagaite, Feuerwehrmann (Menscher meiner Stadt), 2004. Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs

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Ramune Pigagaite, Fischer III (Menscher meiner Stadt), 2001. Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs

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Ramune Pigagaite, Bahnwärterin, (Menscher meiner Stadt), 2000. Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs

Ramune Pigagaite was born in Varena, a small town in Lithuania. People of my Town is a series of forty small sized colour photographic portraits of people from Varena. Their professions seem antiquated, strange and curious: baker, beekeeper and poet.

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Hugh Holland, Stacy Peralta in the Valley, 1977. Crane Kalman

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Hugh Holland, Skate Shooter, Kenter Canyon Elementary, Brentwood, 1976. Crane Kalman

Hugh Holland documented the early days of the skating culture in California. The young people he photographed in the 1970's became legendary names of the sport.

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Sofia Borges

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Sebastiao Salgado, Church Gate Station, Western Railroad Line, Bombay India, 1995. Sundaram Tagore Gallery

It would be unfair to reduce the fair to photography:

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Dominic Harris, Ruffled. Privatekollektie Contemporary Art

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He An. Tang Contemporary, Beijing

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Anton Goldenstein, Rocket Summer. Coates and Scarry

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Anton Goldenstein, There Will Come Soft Rains. Coates and Scarry

Anton's works are a cultural fusion of African/European cultural references and phenomena. Influenced by his family's history with tales of deterritorialisation, migration, displacement and assimilation his practice is multiplicitous, presenting an ongoing exploration, a type of meta-anthropology, a broad sweep of culture(s), conglomerations of many themes, histories and ideas (from natural/world/art histories, language and media).

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Linus BILL, Weniger Jugend, mehr Polizei, 2011. Christophe Gute Galerie

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Penny Byrne, Gaddafi's Girl Guards, 2011. Fehily contemporary


Ding Chien Chung, Église Vide (幽蕩之堂). Galerie Grand Siecle

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At Jealous Gallery

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At Jack Bell Gallery

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Photography: Written Light

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Photography: Written Light

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Yinka Shonibare, Cannonball Heaven

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Metropolitan traffic policeman controls traffic in Fleet Street, London in 1960 before traffic lights and roundabouts came in to regular use. Credit: English Heritage/National Motor Museum

Few people would associate the words "English heritage" with car showrooms, repair garages, filling stations, traffic lights, inner ring roads, multi-storey car parks, and drive-through restaurants. Yet, the exhibition Carscapes: How the Motor Car Reshaped England draws our attention to the country's motoring patrimony and shows that the car's impact on the physical environment needn't be reduced to ruthless out pours of concrete and "wayside eyesores".

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The Esso filling station on the A6 at Leicester is one of the few surviving buildings commissioned from industrial designer Eliot Noyes by Mobil. Steve Cole/English Heritage

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Laurel Garage, Ramsbury, Wiltshire. Peter Williams/English Heritage

The first motor cars entered the country in the late 19th Century. New buildings, signage, rules and systems had to be invented for dusty roads that so far had only been crisscrossed by horse traffic. It is only recently that we have started to value the infrastructures that have facilitated their construction, sale and maintenance of cars. "It took the best part of 100 years for the railway infrastructure to be appreciated," argue Kathryn Morrison and John Minnis in the book Carscapes: The Motor Car, Architecture, and Landscape in England, "now it is the turn of the car."

Many of these buildings, road signs and infrastructures have disappeared, others are under threat of being demolished or are decaying beyond repairs but English Heritage has started to list motoring heritage sites in England. The exhibition at Wellington Arch shows archives images, contemporary photos and a series of motoring memorabilia. It also explores the impact that motor car have had on the planning of cities, towns and on the countryside.

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Argyll's Car Showroom, Newman Street, London in 1905, which featured a lift to the rooftop where cars were taken for 'grooming'. Credit: English Heritage/National Motor Museum

Below are some of the most spectacular buildings and road systems i discovered in the exhibition:

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Bibendum on the facade of the Michelin Building. Image Picky Glutton

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Michelin Building, Fulham Road, London. Credit: English Heritage/National Motor Museum. Credit: English Heritage/National Motor Museum

Bibendum aka the Michelin Man!! Michelin Building on London's Fulham Road is now a restaurant but it was built to house the first permanent UK headquarters and tyre depot for the Michelin Tyre Company Ltd. It also function as advertisement for the company with its corner domes that resemble sets of tyres and the large stained-glass windows starring the cheerful "Bibendum."

The building opened for business on 20 January 1911.

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Brewer Street car park, London. Photo Retrorides

When the Lex (now NCP) car park opened in Soho in 1928, its architects were catering for the rich men who could afford the luxury of a car. The Art Deco architecture thus also housed a cafe (for car-owners) and a separate canteen for chauffeurs.

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Anglo-American Oil Company (Pratts) Filling Station, Euston Road

The photo above shows one of the earliest filling stations to open in London. It was built by F.D. Huntington in 1922. Each pump was manned by a uniformed attendant.

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An early AA Filling Station, Stump Cross, Essex. Credit: English Heritage/The AA/Hampshire Record Office

This was one of the six filling stations built by the Automobile Association in 1919-20, the first to be opened in Great Britain, and originally selling only British-made benzole.

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The Markham Moor petrol station in Nottingham. Steve Cole/English Heritage

In 2012, English Heritage granted listed status on two 1960s petrol-station canopies - one on the A6 near Leicester (photo on top of the page but check out also this night view) and the other at Markham Moor, Nottingham.

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The first vehicles rolling off the production line at Dagenham in October 1931

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The Ford factory. Credit: English Heritage/National Motor Museum

When it opened in 1931, the Ford factory on the banks of the Thames at Dagenham was the largest car factory in Europe. The nearest building in this 1939 photograph is the power station. Behind it, fuel for the power station and furnaces is unloaded from ships via a double-decked jetty.

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Coventry Inner Ring Road. Image: English Heritage Archives

Coventry Inner Ring Road built between 1962 and 1974 is one of the most highly developed and tightly drawn inner ring roads of any city in England.

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In 1963, the M4 motorway was extended on a continuous viaduct, seen here under construction, running above the existing road. Credit: English Heritage/National Motor Museum

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Wellington Arch in 1930. Credit: English Heritage

The Wellington Arch was built in 1828 but Victorian traffic jams meant that in 1883, the Arch was dismantled and moved some 20 metres to its current location. Between 1958 and 1960, to further ease congestion - this time from motorised transport - Hyde Park Corner was altered and the Arch separated from Constitution Hill by a new roadway.

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An exterior view of the shop front of the Metallurgique Car Company's shop at 237 Regent Street. Photo English Heritage

Metallurgique was a Belgian company which opened the first car showroom on Regent Street in 1913

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M62 at night as traffic passes around the Stott Hall Farm. Photo Si Barber

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Romford in 1920 was still a country town with gardens and fields behind the market square. Today, engulfed within suburbia, it is completely urban and surrounded by car parks and relief roads

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This view of Reading in 1971 exemplifies what was going on all round England at that time as new inner ring roads made their mark on the urban environment

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Preston Bus Station and Car Park, built in the 60s, is now a Grade II listed building

More images on The Guardian, Heritage Calling and itv.

Carscapes: How the Motor Car Reshaped England is at the Wellington Arch until 6 July 2014.

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Democratic Republic of the Congo. A young man and woman with severed arms. Mola's hands, seated, were destroyed by gangrene after being tied too tightly by soldiers. Yoka's hand, standing, was cut off by soldiers wanting to claim him [sic] as killed, c. 1904

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J.H. Harris, Alice Seeley Harris with a large group of Congolese children, Congo Free State, c.1904

The largest private estate ever 'owned' by man in recent history was perhaps an area of Africa acquired by Leopold II King of the Belgians in 1885.

For over 20 years, he would be the de facto owner of over a million square miles of central Africa (a territory roughly 76 times larger than Belgium.) He ironically called the country Congo Free Stateand modestly named its capital Leopoldville (via.)

Hiding behind humanitarian and philanthropic promises to develop the region and insure the prosperity of native people, Leopold II acquired the territory and set out to extract its resources. In particular ivory, rubber, and minerals. Nowadays, his rule over the country is associated with the regime of violence, murder or mutilation of the Congolese people. No human right consideration could indeed stop Leopold II's agents in their efforts to meet the growing demand for rubber and maximize profits:

Failure to meet the rubber collection quotas was punishable by death and a hand of the victims had to be presented as proof of the punition, as it was believed that they would otherwise use the munitions for hunting. [...] Soldiers sometimes "cheated" by simply cutting off the hand and leaving the victim to live or die.

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Alice Seeley Harris, Manacled members of a chain gang at Bauliri. A common punishment for not paying taxes, Congo Free State, c. 1904. Courtesy Anti-Slavery International / Autograph ABP

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Alice Seeley Harris, Three head sentries of the ABIR with a prisoner, Congo Free State, c.1904. Courtesy Anti-Slavery International / Autograph ABP

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Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nsala of Wala with the severed hand and foot of his five year old daughter murdered by Anglo-Belgian India Rubber company militia, 1904

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A group of Bongwonga rubber workers, c1905. The Harris Lantern Slide Show © Anti-Slavery International/ Autograph ABP

When Harmony Went to Hell. Congo Dialogues at Rivington Place in London brings side by side archive photos shot by Alice Seeley Harris while Leopold II was still the sole owner of the land and new work from Sammy Baloji, a Congolese artist who has been investigating the legacies of colonialism in his country.

In the early 1900s, the English missionary Alice Seeley Harris was traveling the Congo Free State with her husband and one of the world's first portable cameras, a Kodak Brownie. Shocked by the contrast between the king's claims of colonial benevolence and the oppressive regime, she carefully documented everyday life as well as the atrocities and brutality towards the inhabitants.

The result is often regarded as being the first photographic campaign in support of human rights. The couple took the images on a tour around Europe and the US. The photos of the Harris Lantern Slide Show were accompanied with powerful lectures which managed to raise the public awareness about human rights violations in Congo.

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Sammy Baloji, The site where Patrice Lumumba, Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito were executed and first buried, Katanga Province, Democratic Republic of Congo, January 2010

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Sammy Baloji, 2013

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Sammy Baloji, Deputy Assistant to the Director General's office, Batiment Cielux OCPT - The Congoloese Office of Post and Telecomunications, Masina Sans Fil, Kinshasa, 2013

The Alice Seeley Harris archive was last shown to the public 110 years ago. Her black and white prints are exhibited in an up stair gallery at Rivington Place. The ground floor, however, hosts Sammy Baloji's stunning photos which explore the cultural and architectural 'traces' of Congo's colonial past; in particular, the Katanga province and its capital, Lubumbashi. Some of the pieces exhibited belong to a series of photomontage works that juxtapose post-industrial landscapes with ethnographic archival imagery.

The photos i found most extraordinary, however, are part of Baloji's new body of work. The photos of the Gécamines mining district and of the derelict Office of Post and Telecommunication in Kinshasa are simply jaw-dropping, even for someone who has seen her fair share of derelict buildings. I can't seem to find much images of them so you will have to take my word for it and swing my Rivington street to see them. You won't be taking much risk, the show is free.

I'm going to end this post with an anecdote i read online..

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Leopold II of Belgium as Garter Knight/ Pd _old; old photograph of the king in private collection, own scan. Carolus 17:09, 24 July 2006 (UTC)

With his ZZ Top beard and his neat outfits, Leopold was also a feisty man and he particularly loved women. His last, embarrassingly younger, and most adored mistress was Caroline Lacroix. She gave him two sons, the younger was born with a deformed hand, leading a cartoon to depict Leopold holding the child surrounded by Congolese corpses with their hands sliced off. The caption said Vengeance from on high!

When Harmony Went to Hell. Congo Dialogues is at Rivington Place in London until 7 March 2014. If, like me, you're a Belgian expat who's never really been taught the whole colonial story at school, you shouldn't miss the show.

Check out also Brutal Exposure: the Congo at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool until 7 September 2014. The always excellent Double Negative has a review of the show.

The KOSMICA: Full Moon Party took place last month as part of the Republic of the Moon exhibition programme and that means that I'm ridiculously late with these notes. Kosmica is The Arts Catalyst's evenings of performance and conversations for the 'cosmically curious.' I've attended a couple of Kosmica events in the past and this one was as exciting as ever.

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Space scientist Lucie Green is an expert in the sun but she gave a wonderful presentation about the magnetic bubble that surrounds and protects the earth from the radiation of the sun and about how the moon is electrically charged, Dr Jill Stuart focused on space politics, Tomas Saraceno talked about cities that are lighter than the air, Kevin Fong asked us to reflect on how past expeditions might actually belong to the future.

Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser from WE COLONISED THE MOON presented the largest Moon smelling session ever done on our planet. It was hilarious and it didn't smell nice. My wool sweater is not thanking them.

London based improvisation band Orchestra Elastique live scored Georges Méliès' A trip to the Moon.

All the talks are online. I enjoyed all of them but i wanted to spend more time on the most 'political' ones so i'm writing down below some notes and links from Kevin Fong and Jill Stuart's presentations.

Kosmica Full Moon Party Part 6, Jill Stuart

Dr Jill Stuart is a Fellow in Global Politics at the London School of Economics, and reviews editor for the journal Global Policy. She researches law, politics and theory of outer space exploration and exploitation. Her interests extend to the way terrestrial politics and conceptualisations such as sovereignty are projected into outer space, and how outer space potentially plays a role in reconstituting how those politics and conceptualisations are understood in terrestrial politics. ,

Stuart talked about the long history of outer space law and more specifically about 'Who owns the Moon?' (which she calls the Muuuhn)

We all know that iconic image of Neil Armstrong planting a flag 1969. Did the gesture imply that the United States can claim any kind of ownership over the moon? Who owns the moon exactly?

The answer is a combination of 'no one' and 'everyone' owns the moon.

No One because The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 says that outer space (which obviously includes the moon) cannot be 'appropriated' by any national State for sovereign purposes.

Everyone because the same treaty states that outer space is the province of all mankind.

The treaty was widely ratified and is still today accepted as being doctoring.

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David Scott salutes the American flag during the Apollo 15 mission. Great Images in NASA Description, NASA photo AS15-88-11863

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All the American Flags On the Moon Are Now White (via Gizmodo)

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Larissa Sansour, A Space Exodus

Now another interesting issue Stuart raised was the number of flags on the moon. The US chose to put a US flag on the moon, rather than some sort of global flag. But it turns out that there are more than one US flag on the moon. 6 US flags were delivered by humans on the Appolo mission.

And it wasn't just the US who got 'flag happy'. Four other countries had flags delivered even though it didn't have legal significance in terms of appropriation. Russia, China, India and the European Space Agency also have flags up there. Russia and China have soft landed on the moon and delivered flags. The other delivery method is to crash something on the moon that bears a flag.

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Imagemap of the locations of all successful soft landings on the Moon to date

Speaking of crashing into the moon: the moon is at the center of many geopolitical interests. In the 1950s, the United States were thinking about landing on the moon to show off their technological prowess (in particular to the Soviet) but a top secret study revealed that the US also briefly considered nuking the moon, instead of landing on it. The fall off would enable scientist to study the geological make up of the moon and the flash from the nuclear explosion would create a difference on the surface of the moon that could be seen back on earth.

The first Apollo mission carried a plaque which still stays on the moon and says "Here men from the planet earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969. We came in peace for all mankind."
That same July 1969, the US was also investing in the Vietnam war. How do you reconcile this idea of coming 'in peace for all mankind' with bombing Vietnam?

The last human mission on the moon was in 1972. Since then there has only been some soft landing.

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Moon, a 2009 British science fiction film co-written and directed by Duncan Jones, was about a man on a three-year solitary stint mining helium-3 on the far side of the Moon

Since then, one of the big issues that have emerged is mining. Is mining the moon legal? Is it even desirable?

The moon might have helium-3 which could be a fuel to travel from the moon to other planets. But is it legal? The Outer Space Treaty is a bit ambiguous in that regard. It says that any activity should be carried out for the common heritage of our kind and benefit all people and all countries. The treaty therefore advises to redistribute anything that should be gained from mining. However, the fifth treaty (1979) sought to clarify some of these issued but mostly failed as only very few countries ratified it.

In 2002, China stated their moon intentions. They included establishing a base on the moon for the purpose of mining, they said that the resources that they extract would be for the benefit of humanity. What does that mean?

Stuart believes that mining will be a big issue in the future.

Another problem of the main Outer Space Treaty is that they are rooted in a state-centric language. Many people are curious about the companies that sell plots of land on the moon and other celestial bodies. The outer space treaty says that no nation state may lay claim on a celestial body. So does that give green light to individuals, corporations or private partnership? Stuart doesn't believe so. We are only now learning to deal with the fact that it's not just states that are planning to go into outer space. Wealthy individuals and corporations are looking at it too. Outer space law still have to catch up with that.

Kosmica Full Moon Party Part 5, Kevin Fong

Kevin Fong, a space medicine expert and the co-director of the Centre for Aviation Space and Extreme Environment Medicine (CASE Medicine), at University College London, talked more generally about exploration.

There aren't any wide space left to explore on the surface of the Earth. A hundred years ago, however, there were still many places where humans had never been (South Polar region, some of the highest mountains, etc.) Now we've explored the earth, the air, we've even been to the moon. What happens next?

We're a bit blasé about the future. Going to the moon doesn't look like a big deal anymore now.
But in context, going on the moon was a terrible thing to do. Millions of American tax dollars were spent, 5% of the country GDP, were spent on sending people into space when people (in and out of the country) were starving and unable to afford healthcare.


John F. Kennedy at Rice University ("We choose to go to the moon in this decade"), September 12, 1962

There are some myths regarding the public attitude about moon exploration. It is said that everybody was really into it in the 1960s and then everyone lost interest. But in fact, research shows that approval for the Apollo mission never reached 50% amongst members of the U.S. until they landed on the moon and then approval reached a high point for a couple of weeks and then went back down again. So people weren't so enthusiastic about sending men to the moon.

Why did we go to the moon? We already know that it was a surrogate battlefield for a war that could not be fought in any other way. And some of the people who were the architects of Apollo had actually been around during some of the most atrocious moments of the 20th century. And if they didn't take part in it, they were certainly aware of it and did nothing to stop it. Some of them even probably were 'card-carrying nazis' until the day they died. Yet, we celebrate them in a revised history. And some of the research actually emerges from the V2 rocket. We look for vision and inspiration when actually the mission comes from some of the darkest pages of human history.

Was Apollo worth it? Someone said that Apollo was an aberration and that it was a piece of 21st century that was dragged into the 20th. Which is why we never went back. It was just too hard to do and it was too soon. And that is the way that most explorations are done.

We see romanticism behind most explorations. According to Fong, the exploration of any time doesn't make sense to the rational people of the same time. When you look back at the great explorations of the past, it's the same story. It's some imperial power leading their effort through their military, usually at great expense and great risk of human life.

An illustration of this theory is Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe between 1518 and 1522. In 1518, Ferdinand Magellan can't convince Portugal to support his expedition project so he goes to rival Spain and sails with 5 ships and about 280 sailors. The whole expedition is a real ordeal. 3 mutinies, 4 ships lost, Magellan dies before the completion of the expedition and the only ship that manages to get back to Seville is sailed by only 18 men. In fact, Magellan had not even intended to circumnavigate the world, but to find a secure way to the Spice Islands. Yet, we remember this episode as being a glorious page of history and we recognise it as an important stepping stone. But the men at the time probably thought that too high a cost had to be paid. To Fong, you can only love the exploration of a moment so that people of the future will vicariously enjoy it on your behalf later.

So is this the point when human exploration stops? When we come to realize that it is too expensive and comes at too high a human price?

The Moon is the furthest point we've ever been from the earth. How will history see project Apollo? We will either see it as we see Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe as an important step along a much longer journey or we will see it as we see the pyramids, an amazing achievement but "Why the hell did they do that?"

Image on the homepage from Moon, a 2009 British science fiction film about a man on a three-year solitary stint mining helium-3 on the far side of the Moon.

Previously: Should we colonize the Moon?

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