The utter banality and blandness of the City of London’s corporate Culture Mile project continues with Around The Corner a series of 12 ‘installations’ (11 words & a question mark) between Millennium Bridge and Barbican Station that function as metaphorical piles of poo dropped into this part of the City from a great height. These atomised words spread out along a few streets make up the sentence: “What are you going to meet if you turn this corner?” pointlessly lifted from Virginia Woolf’s 1922 novel Jacob’s Room. According to the Culture Mile website: “The font is inspired by the very first edition of the book in 1922, directly linking the installation back to the historical periods that inform each corner of the City.” Yeah right, so the brutalism of the Barbican Estate might as well be misrepresented as something from half a century earlier, and Christopher Wren’s seventeenth-century St Paul’s Cathedral is English baroque verging on modernism! And that’s just two of the markers on the Around The Corner route.
With a budget of around £60,000 ‘designers’ Karsten Huneck and Bernd Trumpler AKA KHBT Architects have created large wood letters spray painted gold that look like they’ve been lifted from an extremely tacky Christmas card. Given how cheap the word sculptures appear both close up and from a distance, we’d guess Huneck and Trumpler have pocketed a hefty fee and had this public ‘art’ fabricated by others at the lowest possible cost. In a Julia Gregory piece The Giant Golden Words That Will Be Your Guide Around The City of London (My London News, 12 November 2019), Huneck and Trumpler are quoted and paraphrased as saying: “ ‘The colour gold is a recurring theme in the City’ and noticed that many of the older stone buildings have golden decorations, such as the gilded grasshopper weathervane on the top of the Royal Exchange.” This rather overlooks the real gold that can be found in the Bank of England and elsewhere in the square mile including the council’s sovereign wealth fund City’s Cash. Among other things, such ‘gold’ is used to pay for neo-liberal lobbying for low regulation regimes in which a wealthy elite can funnel money away from the many to themselves, as well as artwashing scams such as Culture Mile that are financed in the hope they’ll divert people’s attention away from economic exploitation in which the City of London is a capstone.
Our response to both Around The Corner and the Culture Mile.
The Culture Mile hype claims the Around The Corner ‘route incorporates several major attractions including the Millennium Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, Museum of London and the Barbican Centre and will help orientate the spaces around Culture Mile.’ As if locals didn’t know their way around the area and tourists haven’t got smart phones to direct them…. City boss Catherine McGuinness stupidly opined on the Culture Mile website (21 June 2019): “Culture Mile is as much about place as it is about culture. The north-south axis from the Barbican Centre to the Millennium Bridge is an important route, but one which many still find hard to reach and difficult to navigate…” Hard to reach? Difficult to navigate? The public transport connections to the area are extensive and the Tate Modern and Millennium Bridge are huge tourist attractions – as is St Paul’s Cathedral.
Given that it is an utter shower – like everything else that’s been part of Culture Mile to date – it is fortunate that Around The Corner is only a temporary installation scheduled to run from 18 December 2019 to 31 March 2020. Sadly the City of London council doesn’t look like it is going to abandon its social cleansing and artwashing Culture Mile programme any time soon.
The giant golden words that will be your guide around the City of London by Julia Gregory, My London News, 12 November 2019: https://web.archive.org/web/20191217022955/https://www.mylondon.news/news/zone-1-news/london-city-museums-guides-tickets-17243368