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@Meter Room Coventry 17 - 22 August: Proposal

Proposal: For being somewhere else; for returning.





Each day different

Each day a walk

Each day a memory

Movement

Each day an encounter

Each day a word

Or a phrase

A

s

e

n

t

e

n

c

e

Or

A story

Each day something scavenged

Selected

Placed

Each day something added

Repeated

Each day something lost



17th August

I don’t remember Coventry very well; I don’t have much of a history here. When I was about 16 I came here to see the Pope; I sat all night on an airfield with a friend waiting for him. We were convent schoolgirls from Shropshire, newly confirmed (I’d worn a black lace mantilla over my red hair and felt inappropriately worldly) and excited to be staying up. I don’t remember being devout, maybe I was; it didn’t last. We wore black bin liners over our clothes, they’d been lent to us by a couple in the crowd because we were really really cold, unprepared for the chill in the middle of the night. When he arrived he was a long way away and small. I don’t remember what he said. Only the proximity of the popemobile as it moved slowly, disappointingly, through the crowd, and the memory of being in the wrong place.

If I had any faith then, it’s long gone.

Last year, I came back to Coventry with students for the Biennale. One of three lecturers and a small group of final year BA students. It had been a long time; there was nothing I recognised and I was distracted, disturbed, unsure. Making a bit more history; a different woman. Affected by the architecture of the old shopping centre and overwhelmed by the Cathedral; I wanted to stay longer, explore, come back. Again.

(Coming back hurts; it feels like loss. Almost 40 years had gone - by since I waited through the night at Coventry airport - and it seemed as if I could feel the weight of each one.)

There is something comforting in the contemplation of loss, in the poignancy of remembering and grieving; the places where pain is buried begin to ache and are familiar. For a moment blanketed, the world contracts, sound is muffled, light softens, and time seems to slow as if, gently, to welcome ghosts.




18th August

Different kinds of demise.

Destruction/Construction

Coventry Transport Museum

When I was leaving, the woman on reception who told me that the postcards were free, asked me if I’d enjoyed the exhibition; I said I felt desperately sad and she told me that the staff call the room in which the decline and closure of the car manufacturing works is documented, where the walls bear quotes from the workers who lost their livelihood and news reports of the time are broadcast, matter of factly, from speakers installed on the rooves of the cars, sounding the death knell of an industry and a community, the Ghost Room.

Suddenly the beautiful cars and motorbikes lined up, gleaming and proud, emblems of classic design and collaborative effort, displaying their lineage like stabled thoroughbreds seem like nothing more than corpses in a mausoleum. Spectral signifiers of failed promise; beautiful and seductive phantoms.

Later, the brochure I bought has a page entitled ‘Ghost Town’ and three paragraphs airbrush the death of Motor City UK.

Construction Site

I was looking for somewhere I remembered visiting last year - a rundown part of the shopping centre that was just beyond its shiny neighbours. I wandered around in circles until the sound of demolition drew me to the right place. A kind of massive tree, already truncated appeared to be under attack from a vast hammer drill. Brutalised, its branches like severed tentacles, seeming like wiry cartoon extrusions, they revealed themselves as I walked closer to be the arteries of a huge building that was being brought down. I don’t know what they’re called, those connecting, supporting worms of embedded metal that bind concrete but they stuck out angrily against the sky and seemed to flail like small limbs or, like ribbons, flutter. The sound of a different kind of demise was overwhelming, outrageous, and I stood for a while, holding my phone aloft to film the process – it was awesome, exciting, terrible. Sublime destruction.

Coventry Archives

Excited by ribbons. That bind.

The ribboned metal ties in the disappearing building.

The first folder of photographs that I was brought was tied up with a plain ribbon like bias binding.

Untying and unfolding the paper to reveal the past.

That has to be handled with gloves.

In 1937, the Rex Cinema was built on Corporation Street – just up from where Meter Room is today. It was damaged by German Bombs in August 1940 and totally destroyed in November. In its restaurant there was an aviary stocked with brightly coloured tropical birds.

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Different kinds of demise. Coventry Transport Museum When I was leaving, the woman on reception who told me that the postcards were free, asked me if I’d enjoyed the exhibition; I said I felt desperat