Eight Ways of Looking at a Building
Take one abandoned office block. Once the home of CBBC, you might expect this one to be filled with Blue Peter mementoes and BBC mugs. But by last summer, the East Tower at Television Centre was practically empty. Only the odd note on a whiteboard remained, as well as a nameplate here and there still embossed on the door a locked corner office.
Take eight artists. Their diverse practices range from sound art to installation to ceramics. Between them, they have been nominated for the Turner Prize, collected by the V&A and shown at the Royal Academy. We commissioned each artist or creative institution to respond to this space and its imminent demolition. Here is the work they created.
WORDS - Liz Ann Bennett
A swan-song for the departed BBC: Catherine Yass. Most ambitious in its technical challenges, Yass's film centred around a grand piano suspended from a crane. She recorded the sound of the wind playing in its strings as it rose up through the centre of the Helios. The circular structure of Television Centre embraces the world, echoing the BBC's global voice. There is a unique opportunity to see this video installation at RIBA this Tuesday.
A modern fairy-tale with sledgehammers: Hilary Powell. Powell took our call for creative destruction most literally of all. She called in children armed with crowbars and hammers to smash, hack and pry apart the deserted space. Her film is a dramatic reading of Ted Hughes' Iron Man in the style of CBBC's Jackanory. It weaves homage to the Tower's history together with a radical message of hope. Watch her making-of documentary.
An architectural ghost in CGI: Alan Warburton. You can walk the corridors, gaze down the stairwells or peer into the round security mirror. You almost won't notice the difference except that your reflection isn't there. This is the East Tower rendered entirely in code, floor by floor in meticulous detail. Warburton's freely downloadable model explores the democratisation of broadcasting, by immortalising an icon of 20th-century broadcasting using 21st-century technology.
Reflections in a fragmented mirror: Steffi Klenz. Klenz's work operates on the threshold between collage and photography. She built a circle of mirrors, then ran a camera on a dolly track within it. The resulting footage captures slivers of inside and outside – and the lens itself – building up a work as subtle and layered as the history of the tower itself.
Sounds of a sleeping tower: Hannah Dargavel-Leafe and Jack West. What if you listened so closely to a building that you could hear its vibrations? That's what foley sound artist Hannah Dargavel-Leafe has done. Her real sounds are processed and paired with Jack West's invented images. This is the art of the surreal and minute, where drawing pins and blinds are the star actors on a curious stage. Dargavel-Leafe and West's film will showing in installation form at Archway's Bomb Factory gallery space, or you can watch it below.
Writing on the walls: 5x15. That's five speakers, 15 minutes each. The West London literary cabaret group hosted a wrecked-themed evening with DBC Pierre, Emmy The Great, Luke Harding, Philippe Sands and Olivia Laing. And then the night turned to graffiti. Browse the 5x15 back catalogue.
Sampled textures and salvaged wood: James Rigler. Ceramics are intimate artworks. “It's really important you don’t sleep in Tracey Emin’s bed,” Rigler explains, “but for a craftsperson it's important that you do and that you sleep well.” His sculptures are small pieces of the place, scraps that live on on a domestic scale. Each one is destined for the home of someone who lives or worked in the area.
Hearing the walls sing: Resonance FM. "It's a little like a play on the old cliché: if these walls could speak. I like to think that this way, we come close to hearing them sing." Robin The Fog caught stray sounds like the creaks of a fire door. Playing them back over and over into the gutted office space, he transformed them into an eerie requiem as part of Resonance FM's live-to-air event. Listen to the highlights of the programme.
Photos from top: Des Tan (header), Nick Ballon, Milo Belgrove, Alan Warburton, Steffi Klenz, Mike O'Dwyer, Tanya Houghton, Mike O'Dwyer. Photo on homepage by Nick Ballon.
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