THE BLACK TOWER
The Black Tower 2019 Still of Digital Film
Grenfell Tower defines our political reality. From a state of invisibility to hyper-visibility the Tower appears and disappears through the power of images. How can our networked society challenge the narrative that values some lives over others- one that led to this brutal violence. How does the 'monument' disrupt this reality?
The Black Tower is a research project developed by for Goldsmiths, University of London.
It seeks to tell to tell a story of the Tower through the multiple eyes of Londoners by inviting people to submit images of the aftermath of the tragedy. The project questions if 'art after Grenfell' can open up spaces to see the unseen. This is to offer ethical and political critique of how perceptions sustain the violence to consider how the event can be kept alive in political consciousness. More can be read in the word piece
If 'Art after Grenfell' is even possible, confronting this intolerable image would question the capacity of aesthetics to warp, expand or subtract reality. The spectacular violence that befell Londoners in 2017 punctured a dark hole in the consciousness of the community, its impact spreading throughout London and beyond. In the expanded field, we can ask a question familiar to Krauss: which part of the image is in the image but not part of it?
The Black Tower attempts to engage with the catastrophe to examine the ethics and aesthetics of witnessing in the light of this tragedy. This is to join the conversation between myth and reality, disappearance and the notion of ethico-ideological memory.
In a sense, 'we are all Grenfell' in that we live in a world submerged in visual codes about how some "bodies" are exposed to premature death in hostile environments; some who suffer avoidable violence with a lack of scrutiny in a sclerotic democracy which produces and reproduces failures of representation - too stark to ignore in the face of vociferous yet silenced forewarnings.
Walter Benjamin may have talked about the waning of the 'aura' in light of the mass corpus of images and we can immediately see how the real of Grenfell suffered a temporal collapse in event and representation. We were watching representations while fellow Londoners were perishing. Images of the Tower proliferate across the globe and sit pocket size on our phones. Sontag writes: “To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed...There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera”; and can be thought of as a “chronic voyeuristic relation to the world.” What this quality of engagement does to memory-making is one thing at stake here.
Scrutinising the photographic object in the expanded field would mean radically confronting the relationship between spectator and those spectated and the visual apparatus that institutes the event. The pixelated image indicates at once both absence and presence, theorizes Mirzoeff. A shift towards a non-representational approach could enable critical enquiry of a trauma that is much more complex and far-reaching than meets the eye.
So, the starting point for this project had to be the crowd-sourcing of existing images of the blackened shell of the Tower from the general public, to draw multiple lines of vision. The title and story-line are taken from John Smith's original 1987 masterpiece of a film, and in this project an attempt is made to consider what story-telling might mean as seen through the collective eyes of Londoners.
A Word Piece accompanies this research project for Goldsmiths University which is completely self-funded and not for sale.
Alan Little Award Highest Overall Research Project, 2019
Aesthetica Art Prize Longlisted for Prize and published in the Aesthetica Art Prize Anthology: Future Now and screened in the Exhibition 2021. @AestheticaMag and #AAP2021
Hidden in Plain Site group exhibition at the Stephen Lawrence gallery 5th March - 2nd April 2022. http://www.greenwichunigalleries.co.uk/hidden-in-plain-site/
Sea of Art Monthly Film Festival Award, May 2022
Art.Number23 Gallery Exhibited in Group Exhibition in 2022
LightMatter Film Festival New York, November 2022 Official Selection
Athens International Monthly Film Festival, Honorable mention, October 2022
Athens International Digital Film Festival Official Selection, December 2022.
Strangloscope Experimental Video/Film, Audio, Performance International festival Official Selection, 2023
This film is dedicated to the 72 people who died and those affected by the catastrophe on the 14th June 2017.