Archive for the ‘representation’ Category

As well as looking at how literature is a way of recording history (particularly in Herman Melville’s Redburn and, soon, the writings of Liverpool working class author, George Garrett), we have been watching film representations of the city. Last week we saw a collection of British Pathe newspeels documenting the early years of the twentieth century. These were fascinating, and what we noticed most of all was their emphasis on royalty, famous personages, patriotism and a sense of togetherness as if everybody took the view ‘we are all in this together’. We then looked at the moving sequence of Boys from the Blackstuff where Chrissie wheels George towards the Baltic Fleet for a pint with the lads, through the decay and destruction of the South Docks, so celebrated as part of Liverpool’s greatness in the Pathe films.

Watching the films gave us the chance to see how representing the city has changed for several reasons, importantly the massive opening to working class ‘bottom up’ representations since the 1950s, and also, importantly, the opportunities that new technologies in production have afforded.

Finally, we watched the opening sequences of Terence Davies’s Of Time and the City and discussed the ways in which music, poetry, autobiography, archive footage could all be blended together to present new and exciting ways of representation.


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When you take to bits what you normally take for granted, you often realise that there are many many ways of looking at something rather than the one you’re used to. A moment’s reflection confirms that how we – the individual doing the looking – are feeling, where we’re looking from, what memories we are mixing with what we see and so on will also affect the way we see things. Crossing the river from the city of Liverpool, one sees it afresh. Sometimes a little distance makes clearer as in woods and trees. Terry’s wide angled shot includes both sides of the river, and softens the city so that its huge cathedral seems to be a part of a natural landscape. Gareth’s deliberate blurring and out-of-focus shots show the importance of the individual viewer. In all of the pictures, because perhaps there are not many clues to time, there is a feel of a certain timelessness.

See more of Gareth’s pictures here.

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During the redevelopment of Liverpool’s centre, Peter was working on some of the buildings and took pictures. The other photographs here are from about seven years ago onwards just after work had started. Photographs of the city even in such a short time frame shows how quickly things change.

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The day after Terry and Vic wandered around some of the old derelict docks, and we’d  added the last post, the government announced the area was to be an “Enterprise Zone”. Obviously, Inspidered carries more weight than we’d realised.

The area has already been approved by Wirral Council as a site for massive “redevelopment” to include skyscrapers, apartments, hotels, shops and so on. Sound familiar? Some calculations reckon the total scheme will take 40 years to complete. Then both sides of the river will be able to admire each other’s skyscrapers, shops, hotels, apartments. Also, if Liverpool wins its current tiff with Southampton over berthing cruise liners, watching floating hotels come and go all week. Whatever, it’s a change from past and it’s history unfolding before our eyes, waiting to be documented.

Perhaps the fruits of “regeneration” behind the new waterfronts could also be documented?



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"The Day of the Dead": Adrian Henri

A quite unusual picture of Hope Street! Artist and poet Adrian Henri was at the centre of the thriving cultural scene in Liverpool 8, especially in the Hope Street area. He taught in the art college, and was often to be seen upstairs in O’Connors Pub at the corner of Pilgrim Street – now a costume hire shop but then on the circuit that took in the Everyman Bistro, the Philharmonic (pub), the Cracke and The Pilgrim. Henri performed his poetry along with the likes of The Scaffold (including Roger McGough, John Gorman and Mike McGear ) and as leader of the poetry-rock band Liverpool Scene.

In the painting, among the figures in the crowd are artists and writers William Burroughs, Alien Ginsberg, Frida Kahlo, Ed Kienholz and Henri’s Liverpool painter friend, Sam Walsh. In the main painting shown here the white suited, pipe-smoking figure on the far left is Malcolm Lowry. Lowry was the alcoholic author of the brilliant novel, Under the Volcano. He was brought up in Birkenhead and referred to Liverpool as that terrible city whose main street is an ocean. Apart from the opening chapter, the novel is all set on the Mexican Day of the Dead when the hopelessly drink-soaked Consul who is the subject of the book dies. There is a very good overview of Lowry himself in a Guardian article.

Henri also painted another imaginative piece, The Entry of Christ into Liverpool. This refers back to James Ensor’s 1889 painting, The Entry of Christ into Brussels. It is fascinating to see how we can put imaginative ‘maps’ or ‘representations’ over the everyday city we inhabit.

The Entry of Christ into Liverpool

Figures in the painting include the Beatles, John Gorman and Roger McGough (Scaffold), William Burroughs, Charlie Mingus (jazz musician), Arthur Dooley (the Liverpool sculptor), James Ensor as Christ on the donkey, and many of Henri’s friends.


“The Liverpool Scene”

From Henri’s poem, The Entry of Christ into Liverpool:

City morning, dandelion seeds      blowing from wasteground
smell of overgrown privethedges.   children’s voices
in the distance.    sounds from the river.
round the corner into Myrtle St.   Saturdaymorning shoppers
down the hill
cheering and shouting in the distance
children running
icecream vans
flags breaking out over buildings
black and red green and yellow
Union Jacks   Red Ensigns
stretched out against the blue sky
over St George’s Hall
now the procession

Obituary of Adrian Henri

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Opposite the Municipal Buildings is this large banner made by artist David Jacques. It’s part of 2011’s being City of Radicals, marking both the centenary of the general transport strike in the city and the death as a pauper of Robert Tressell who wrote The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. David is also exibiting an installation at the Walker Art Gallery which we’ll turn to in a moment.

If you look at the apparently random tiles of type and symbols below you’ll make out the phrase, “the  great money trick’. This is taken from Tressell’s novel. We discussed it in November last year and put up a post which includes an extract fully explaining the great money trick which you can read here

At the Walker Art Gallery   accompanying the  exhibition a short text tells of the discovery by the caretaker on the fourteenth floor of Irlam House, a tower block, of a stash of banners and designs left by the mythological art collective which has abandoned the dwelling.  Jacques has long been fascinated with trade union banners, and the imagined banners here are set in contrast with the commercialised production of slogans, mottoes, banners by nineteenth century entrepeneur George Tutil whose work was commissioned not only by trade unions but by the likes of the Orange Lodge and temperance movements. The caretaker (now embarked on an hilariously titled PhD) negotiates with a curator leading, one assumes, to their eventual exhibition, classification and so forth in an art gallery. The last line of the text has the caretaker saying that he personally thinks his find would be best left in the street.

There’s a great review of the exhibition by our very own Denis who’s now writing for Manchester Salon which you can read here.

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We were talking last week about how complicated our individual lives can be. In particular, we were sharing stories about work, unions and family. Each of us had a different story, but equally complicated. Yet when we think of history, ‘the past’ involving cities, countries, millions of people it is often presented as if everything is very simple in life. We talk about “Liverpool in the 30s”, for instance, as if it’s just a question of gathering a series of facts and documents, but as soon as we go a bit deeper it all soon becomes very complicated. In a way, it may be said that history for each individual was different at the time they lived, as the present is different for each of us.

To confuse matters more, it’s not easy, maybe it’s not possible, to draw neat lines between the future, the present and the past. The image above was made using Photoshop which employs ‘layers’. Maybe time is layered too. Archaeologists dig and find old cities beneath the ground. Yesterday, Duncan was talking about how complete buildings are buried in redevelopments. He also said that underneath Waverley Station in Edinburgh is a warren of tunnels, almost a city underground. Somebody else spoke of a public display in Edinburgh where you go down quite deep into a town more than five hundred years old. . Of course, in Liverpool there are the Williamson Tunnels.

But it’s not just physical digging that’s involved.We dig into memory too. Maybe even in the present there are many different ‘layers’ all existing at the same time. Maybe there is not one Liverpool but many Liverpools (or any city). We are going to explore this idea in coming weeks with a look at just one street, Hope Street.

Meanwhile, as a reminder that the past lives all around us, here are a few images of the sorts of sight we pass hundreds of times each day.

The picture of the ruined hut on Liverpool’s waterfont is fascinating. Next to it is the Liner Super Terminal, and behind it the new developments of apartments, hotels and gleaming skyscrapers. Maybe any image like this with its green and cream colours that were used on the old landing stages and terminals is a trace of the maritime past about to disappear but still just about holding its own.

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