The Privatisation of Public Space.

This series of photographs explores the expansive growth of privately owned public spaces (or POPS), open-air squares, gardens, parks and roads that look public but are not.

The rights of the citizens using them are severely restricted and referred to as 'sanctioned behaviours' that the landowner will accommodate though can rely on the police to remove citizens at their request. The consequences of multiplying and expanding POPS affects everything from our personal experience to our ability to protest.

The commentary from many on the Left of contemporary politics is that this transfer amounts to 'accumulation through dispossession' and resembles the process of ‘enclosure’ from the 16th century onwards that saw common land for communal use becoming controlled by new ‘landowners’.

It is more than possible to imagine a future (not long from now) when citizens own nothing. In London, for example, there are fewer home owners year on year as property becomes too expensive to buy and the exclusive possession of the very wealthy.

Do we really want this to happen to our public spaces?

Across Stratford International Station towards Mirabelle Gardens from Montfitchet Road. London.

Lewis Cubitt Square. Kings Cross. London.

From Westfield Stratford towards Celebration Avenue. Newham. London.

From Westfield Stratford City towards Bromley by Bow. Newham. London.

Old Stratford.

Uses of photography.

The judgement of history has been abandoned by all except the underprivileged and dispossessed. The industrialised, 'developed' world, terrified of the past, blind to the future, lives within an opportunism which has emptied the principle of justice of all credibility. Such opportunism turns everything - nature, history, suffering, other people, catastrophes, sport, sex, politics - into spectacle. And the implement used to do this - until the act becomes so habitual that conditioned imagination may do it alone - is the camera.

John Berger 1978.
Towards Paternoster Square from One New Change. London.

From Siding Street towards London Way. Newham. London.

From Glasshouse Gardens, Layard Street towards Pool Street. Newham. London.

Stratford International. London.

Canary Wharf. London.

Towards Olympic Park Avenue. Newham. London.

From Westfield Stratford City towards Maryland. Newham. London.

The issue of the politics of this aesthetic pleasure becomes much clearer and acute when considered in relation to particular issues, for example when landscape is invoked by discourses of nationalist fervour, class anxieties (expressed as fear of social disorder), or in struggles of property rights, ecological debates, or borderlines during wars. National or other identities may well find the “composition of the land” crucial in constructing its imaginary community.

David Bate

Granary Square. Kings Cross. London.

From The Olympic Park towards Gibbins Road. London.

Across the Waterworks River to the Aquatic Centre. Newham. London.

Stratford International.

Roundabout under Siding Street Flyover. Newham. London.

From Stratford Walk towards Lund Point. Newham. London.

From Stratford Walk towards Lund Point. Newham. London.

In making these images I was contemplating how to develop a counter narrative to ‘the spectacle’ – Guy DeBord’s notion that authentic social life has been codified and replaced with representations – and create a series of photographs that interrupts the narrative of glossy advertising images. DeBord argues that the spectacle has become capital’s primary mechanism of social control - social control by seduction and distraction – not force, but no less powerful, with the ubiquity of advertising images becoming alienating and oppressing as capital not only penetrates what we produce and consume but how we communicate.

My practice, here, aims to undermine commonly held imaginings of place and in particular these places and disrupt the flow of the media spectacle. I wanted to find an issue that might, finally, trigger many on the right into action against privatisation and in the post Brexit era with rising nationalism in the UK and Europe it seemed that land might be that vehicle. This work’s ambition is to highlight the hostile takeover of our spaces and places that is only represented on slick websites and brochures despite being a process that marginalises us further and leaves our inhabitation of cities at the whim of corporations and capital.

The work suggests we are forced to adopt the spectacle as our own even though it anaesthetises us from the actuality that the land beneath our feet is being sold to the highest bidder.

A pseudo-public space is no public space at all.

Montfitchet Road. Newham. London.

James Sykes Copyright © All rights reserved.
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