Monthly Archives: July 2015

Mark Fairnington Interviewed in Studio International

CCW Reader Mark Fairnington has been interviewed in Studio International by Janet McKenzie. It was published in June 2015.

Speakinig about his work, Fairnington said, ‘Researching natural history collections has been important for my work, collections started from the thousands of specimens that were brought back from the first voyages of discovery. One focus of my work is the line that can be traced between observation and speculation: the fictions that build up around facts in the natural sciences.

One example of this is the origin of the name 'birds of paradise'. It was in 1522 when Europeans saw the first specimens, skins that had been prepared for trade by having their legs removed by the native Papuans, sometimes along with the wings and heads. They wondered how these birds could exist without wings or feet, and believed that they must have lived their entire lives in the air, that they were birds of Paradise.

The imagined life cycle of these birds, although based on the study of specimens, seems to represent a desire on the part of the observers. Stories like these are important representations of our changing relationships with the natural world. While they may be described as footnotes in the history of science, their narrative power persists.

Painting can create spaces in which the meaning of the image is continually renegotiated, and this is the point at which the work may relate to surrealism ' a very deadpan, English, surrealism where a sense of the uncanny lies almost dormant.’

The full article can be accessed online.

Top image: Anna-lena, oil on panel, 7cm diameter

James Lander/Those Who Wish To Remain Anonymous selected for Bow Open 2015

Following the recent screening of videos from the Balfron Tower/Rowlett Street Archives at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), part of The Brutalist Playground, James Lander/Those Who Wish To Remain Anonymous had their work selected for the STRUCTURE TEXTURE FUTURE exhibition at the Nunnery Gallery in London. The exhibition was selected and curated by Rosamond Murdoch, Nunnery Gallery Director and Dr. Shahidha Bari, writer, academic and critic, based in London. Bari is lecturer in Romanticism at Queen Mary University of London. James Lander/Those Who Wish To Remain Anonymous were selected alongside 14 others out of 500 Bow Artists.

The works selected gather around the interlocked themes of ruin and repair, as might be understood in the terms of the industrial and the natural. In many ways, this grounds the collection in its home in East London, a part of the city that is a heartland for creativity and making, but which is also constantly building and displacing.

The work included two copies of TimeOut magazine from the Balfron Tower/Rowlett Street Archives. The story written on Balfron Tower provoked responses on the TimeOut website forum and on the Balfron Tower Facebook group. These conversations are archived. A page from TimeOut was reproduced in the catalogue for the exhibition and two copies of the catalogue were reabsorbed into the Archives. The Balfron Tower/Rowlett Street Archives can be understood as a reciprocal conduit. One in which the materials gathered in the Archives which are up for debate and the materials these debates generate, such as the Time Out magazine and online comments, produce and are produced by the Archives, of which this announcement forms part. STRUCTURE TEXTURE FUTURE was on from 20 June to 5 July 2015, and the catalogue is available online.

Commissioned by the London County Council and known during development as Rowlett Street Phase 1, Balfron Tower was designed by Ern Goldfinger as social housing. Built in 1968 and listed Grade II in 1996, Balfron Tower is described by English Heritage as having ‘a distinctive profile that sets it apart from other tall blocks. More importantly, it proved that such blocks could be well planned and beautifully finished, revealing Goldfinger as a master in the production of finely textured and long-lasting concrete masses.’ Ownership was subsequently transferred from Tower Hamlets Council to Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association (Poplar HARCA) who have managed the building since 2007. It was announced by ex-Mayor Lutfur Rahman on April Fools’ Day (2015) that 'Poplar Harca were unable to afford the cost of refurbishing Balfron Tower without selling it on.’[1] Property developers Londonewcastle are lined up to sell all 146 flats on the private market in the near future.

In response to the planned refurbishment, which has been looming over Balfron Tower for the past five years, James Lander/Those Who Wish To Remain Anonymous established the BALFRON TOWER/Rowlett Street Archives in 2012. These Archives are made up of everything and nothing to do with their subject. From its historical beginnings as Rowlett Street, to the widely documented process of regeneration. From the artistic and cultural activities of recent years, to the overlooked traces and ephemera captured in common areas such as the north and south stairwells. The Archives include documentation, photographs, audio/video recordings and original features e.g. corridor tiles, fittings and fixtures. In amongst the Archives are private documents, for which permission to copy, reproduce or publish has been refused.

[1] Rahman, L. (2015) Statement on Balfron Tower. [Online] 1 April 2015. Available at: [Accessed: 1 April 2015] Mayor at time of announcement subsequently removed from office due to electoral fraud.

The Language of Bindings Thesaurus

Ligatus Research Centre is proud to announce the launch of the Language of Binding online thesaurus of bookbinding terms, which was celebrated with a one-day event in the Chelsea College of Arts (University of the Arts London) in collaboration with CERL on 23 June 2015.

Ligatus is a research centre of the University of the Arts London with projects in libraries and archives and with a particular interest in historic bookbinding. The Language of Binding thesaurus is the result of our long experience with historic bookbindings, but has been greatly assisted by contributions from an international group of bookbinding experts and book conservators. This work was made possible by a Networking Grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the UK.

The thesaurus is constructed around concepts (such as different bookbinding components, features, materials or techniques) that can be expressed by a number of language terms (labels). The thesaurus allows one concept to have more than one label, which allows the same concept to be searched for by the different terms that may have been used historically to describe it. It will also allow the concepts to be expressed in different languages.

The Language of Binding thesaurus can be used as a reference online resource that can be searched by keyword or alphabetically. The concepts contained in the thesaurus are, however, also arranged hierarchically, based on a class/sub-class relationship, which allows concepts to be retrieved by navigating down the hierarchies even if their label (the term) is not known.

It is hoped that the thesaurus will enable all those who work with books in early bindings to arrive at more consistent descriptions of those bindings. By being based primarily on single concepts, it has tried to avoid the more familiar but sometimes frustratingly imprecise language that has often been used in the past. This means that some of these familiar terms will not be found as labels, though they may be referred to in the scope notes that define and describe the concepts (and can therefore be found by a simple keyword search).

At the moment, the thesaurus contains labels primarily in English, but work on its translation has already started, and plans for the addition of illustrations are also underway. The thesaurus can, in addition, be used as a look-up service for software applications that need to populate schema fields from thesauri.

An accompanying volume, Coming to Terms: guidelines for the description of historical bindings, which is based on the terms in the thesaurus, is to be published in the autumn of 2015.

The success of the thesaurus will to a large extent depend on contributions made to it by its users, either to add more concepts, refine existing scope notes or correct mistakes. Such contributions to the thesaurus will be welcomed, and can be made online following a registration process.

#TransActing: A Market of Values by Critical Practice


Popping-up on Saturday 11th July 2015, 12 – 5pm, on the Rootstein Hopkins Parade Ground across from Tate Britain at Chelsea College of Arts, SW1P 4JU, #TransActing: A Market of Values will be a bustling market featuring 50+ stalls that creatively explore existing systems of evaluation and actively produce new ones. There will be a skillshare, a peoples bureau, organ donation, bricklaying, an economy of promises, commoners, a fablab, bring your own BBQ food, virtuous communities, a speakers' corner'even a kiosk buying tears. Multiple currencies will circulate, not all of them monetary. Whilst the values of competitive markets dominate contemporary life, including art and its education, other kinds can and do coexist. #TransActing will nurture and celebrate these other value relations in a spectacular one-day event.

CCW PhD student Fangli Cheng and MA Interior Spatial Design student Helen Brewer are two student participating in the event. Describing his contribution, Cheng said, ‘I think one of the values for this project is raising the question of design sustainability; how can we transform waste material into a new functional level. My personal research is concerned with the relationship between architecture and body- it engages with the functionality of architecture but addresses the question of how the architectural function might be understood as a choreographed or performed event. #TransActing is a way to challenge how to use the limited material to measure the body activity, and through the body concern, how to arrange a public ground as market town. In terms of the definition of “market” itself, our project will provide the varying values in the making of art, design, environmental conservation and the other meanings of social engagement.’

Li- Spatial Proposition

Brewer said, ‘My investigation into the politics behind “do-it-yourself” and its emergence as a counter form of labour and production celebrates the values found in the market's construction and re-use of salvaged materials. I am interested in the absorption and dissemination of information, particularly in the form of “zines” where skill shares, storytelling and documentation are passed to and fro freely in the activist network. My primary research takes place on an occupied and appropriated site outside London, where activists are protesting the build of a third runway at Heathrow airport. Self-building and ad-hocism have transformed the site into one of experimentation and resistance. As a result the stall I am building is linked to the practice of agitation. The structure will move around the market and function as a point of contact for information gathering and release. With a scribe to take down happenings – the information will be written on the structure as well as digitally fed to the outside. I would hope the function of the stall changes with the market, a live project activated by the people and events.’

'Buddy can you spare a Time?' Alternative currency designed by Neil Farnan, Metod Blejec and Neil Cummings

‘Buddy can you spare a Time?’ Alternative currency designed by Neil Farnan, Metod Blejec and Neil Cummings

Follow Critical Practice and #TransActing on Facebook and Twitter. For the programme and contributors, visit

Critical Practice is: Metod Blejec, Marsha Bradfield, Cinzia Cremona, Neil Cummings, Neil Farnan, Angela Hodgson-Teal, Karem Ibrahim, Catherine Long, Amy McDonnell, Claire Mokrauer-Madden, Eva Sajovic, Kuba Szreder, Sissu Tarka and many more besides.

#TransActing is organised by Critical Practice and designed in collaboration with public works. This project is part of Camberwell, Chelsea & Wimbledon (CCW) Graduate School's public programme.