A year ago, made tame by viral invasion, I wandered listlessly through the arctic wilderness of the Stonebridge Estate in Haggerston, in the company of a strategically-bearded photographer sent by this journal He had recently returned from a sharp-eyed raid on Eastern Europe and was enjoying the sense of recognition, the familiar after-images, triggered by these survivals. In a dream, the cancelled estates of Hackney were seamlessly twinned with some Stalinist wonderland. He couldn't miss. He could point his Leica in any direction. A rough, snot-ice cladding had transformed the tenement hulks into a Gaudi cathedral: Pentonville draped in a septic wedding dress. It was the last of times. Elegantly patterned prints from the soles of our boots would soon be eradicated by the caterpillar tracks of bulldozers. Rivulets from burst pipes, clinking lianas, muted the defiant calligraphy that defaced these walls. Monster slogans in braille aimed at the wilfully blind. Demands. Complaints. Curses. This was not the work of a coven of Class War anarchists but the frantic message-in-a-bottle charter of humans at the end of their tether: marooned exiles who had nothing left beyond a collaboration with the masonry that held them prisoner. The message the dwellings tapped out was simple: 'tear us down.' The white lettering was a suicide note.
LRB 27 February 1992 | PDF Download