Last weekend saw the City of London throwing more public money down the drain on a bland ‘installation’ as a part of its Culture Mile project. Tunnel Visions: Array confirmed yet again that what the City wants to do is replace the living cultures created by our local communities with a dead corporate mono-culture. Rather than emerging from and nourishing our communities, the City wants art to be a servant of big business and to close down any and all culture that challenges its financial interests. With Array, Culture Mile commissioning yet again steered shy of anything quirky or challenging and opted for a utilising yet another design team who share its corporate values. In this instance it was 59 Productions, best known for their work on the London Olympics opening ceremony in 2012. The expense involved for the projections in the Beech Street tunnel was obviously massive; and presumably the spectacle of a huge amount of money being blown in this way was supposed to compensate for the fact that the ‘content’ didn’t warrant it.
While cold weather combined with the outdoor location may have contributed to this event being only half full, the laissez faire culture around feeless online ticketing would have made a substantial contribution too. Typically many people book tickets but don’t bother to show up for free events – especially if it’s a pathetic corporate artwashing stunt like Array. Most of those who attended looked like they’d been lured from the suburbs by Barbican arts centre PR hype and many appeared bored by the event. The half-hour of light projections to Esa-Pekka Salonen’s tedious Karawane, as recorded by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, was not exactly awe -inspiring. Many left before their thirty minute slot concluded. Designed to appeal to everyone by avoiding anything that might offend or spark thought, the bland spectacle of Array failed to engage its audience at all because it was so vapid.
Five minutes walk away across the border into the borough of Islington, the LSO St Luke’s Panufnik Composers Workshop was desperately short of punters too, with free tickets being passed out to anyone who was passing by and wanted them. The London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) has long been in the orbit of the Corporation of London and is a ‘partner’ in its Culture Mile project. The fact that the Corporation’s Culture Mile logo has been plastered across the pavement on Old Street outside LSO St Luke’s is a source of considerable irritation to a number of Bunhill ward residents we’ve come across, who haven’t even been graced with the sham ‘consultations’ on this project seen inside City of London council boundaries. Bunhill residents are swiftly learning that the Corporation, 80% of whose members are elected by businesses rather than residents, hold democracy in complete contempt. The biggest part of the Culture Mile project is a plan for a new and unneeded concert hall for the LSO on the current site of the Museum of London. The site, and the projected quarter of a billion pounds construction cost, could be much better used for social housing.
All that said, the money the City of London burns on artwashing itself via the Culture Mile and other projects is dwarfed by the sums it lavishes on propaganda promoting the interests of the finance industry, tax havens and wealth inequality. And even the crumbs thrown at the arts and ‘charity’ by the City don’t really benefit anyone outside a wealthy elite; such spending is instrumental and designed to promote corporate greed as a public good. The Culture Mile isn’t much of a smokescreen for this tunnel vision.
Header image: Beech Street tunnel from the east.
Promotional trailer for Tunnel Visions: Array – everything you need to know about this piece of junk in less than a minute: https://youtu.be/P8PDbg7Nb4k