Inner City

A series of projects by various artists
November 1998 – June 1999

Inner City explored the interface of the city and the word in both its spoken and written forms. It will encourage writes and artists to excavate a range of urban places and contemplate the changing nature of city environments and the counterpoint between narrative and place; between language and location.

Writers and thinkers of all kinds — from architectural and social historians and urban geographers to scientists, philosophers, poets and novelists — have been invited to consider different aspects of the inner city, and work with us to define an appropriate form for the expression of their ideas, spoken or written, live or recorded.

A significant opportunity to speak to new audiences in new ways, Inner City builds on the current appetite for new thinking across art forms and relocates it in the many centers of the metropolis — in the places we think we know,  as well as the places that elude us.

Projects range from the re-invention of a traditional form of address (the lantern lecture; the walking tour) to pre-recorded audio guides for particular places by artists; the urban environment viewed as a historical network of personal experience, pathways and relocollections; an A–Z of the city's insides.

Surface Noise

Taking the sights and sounds of London and the nursery rhyme London Bridge is Falling Down as a starting point for a journey through the city, sound artist Scanner gathered audio samples and visual material as ingredients for three evenings of live sound.

Overlaying a map with the sheet music for London Bridge is Falling Down, Scanner walked through London and made audio recordings on a Digital Audio Tape (DAT) machine and took digital photographs at the points where the musical notes fell on the map. The visual images were fed into a computer and translated into sound which Scanner mixed live with the DAT recordings.

This live performance took place six times an evening for three days with the audience retracing Scanner's original walk from a Routemaster bus travelling between Big Ben and St Paul's Cathedral.

Surface Noise was the first in a series of projects entitled Inner City in which artists, writers and thinkers were invited to react to the city of London. 

Read more about Surface Noise

The Art of Legislation 

It was theatre, fiction. Even so, it showed possible paths: by means of theatre, law can be made. Theatre as politics, not just political theatre. – Augusto Boal

A series of workshops with activists from different groups in and around London culminated in a one-off performance at the former Debating Chamber at County Hall. Writer, performer and social engineer Augusto Boal, well known for his Legislative Theatre practice, ‘passed’ proposals for changes in London housing, education and transport.

Augusto Boal, who died in May 2009, was in the United Kingdom in the Autumn of 1998 on a lecture tour coinciding with the publication of his book Legislative Theatre. Artangel invited him to present a project applying his theories and experience in the pursuit of change within three major areas of public life affecting London: housing (where we live), education (how and what we're taught) and transportation (how we get from A to B). Boal introduced his ideas and this project for London at Conway Hall, 28 October, and then conducted a series of workshops to generate debate and to contrast opinions within a mixed group of practitioners and activists for change in these areas.

The final event on 27 November was the United Kingdom's first glimpse of legislative theatre in action as an animated event in the resonant setting of the former debating chamber at County Hall, a location devoid of political debate since Margaret Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council in 1986.

Read more about The Art of Legislation

The Vertical Line

This way please, this way, down the tunnel...  

Over four nights, the writer and art historian John Berger and Theatre de Complicite’s director Simon McBurney were accompanied by actress Sandra Voe on an intimate journey through 30,000 years. Performances of The Vertical Line began 30 metres below the streets of central London at the disused Strand tube station on the line which ran between Holborn and Aldwych. 

Part theatrical event, part archaeological dig, The Vertical Line was an oratorio of faces, voices, darkness and light; a unique excavation took a small audience down 122 spiral steps into the bowels of the disused station, where a sequence of audio-visual installations culminated in a live performance.

Available here are five recordings, which combine audio from the performances with archival radio material to evoke a little of what was encountered by the audience. These tracks were originally released in CD format with an accompanying booklet in 2000. A fifteen minute radio version was also broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in June 1999.

The Vertical Line was an Artangel commission and part of INNERCity, a series exploring the interface of the city and the word in its many forms. INNERCity encouraged writers and artists to excavate a range of urban environments and to contemplate the changing nature of the city. 

Read more about The Vertical Line

Rodinsky's Whitechapel

Iain Sinclair and Rachel Lichtenstein's guided walks through London's East End revealed the roles history and place have played in creating the bizarre and compelling mythology of the Jewish recluse named David Rodinsky.

In 1969, he mysteriously disappeared from his attic room above the synagogue in Princelet Street, in the heart of the old Jewish East End. A decade later his room was reopened and its mess of papers, notebooks, writings in several languages and cabalistic diagrams began to capture the imagination of local people. Eventually, Rodinsky and his chambers came to assume mythical proportions.

As the granddaughter of Polish immigrants who settled in Princelet Street in the 1930s, writer and artist Rachel Lichtenstein was immediately intrigued when, in 1990, she first heard of the synagogue. She secured a residency in the building and took over Rodinsky's role as self-appointed caretaker. She began to catalogue the objects left in his room, and she also started searching for people who had known him. Granta Books commissioned her to collaborate on a book about her findings with Iain Sinclair. It was titled Rodinsky's Room.

Working on this publication and walking the streets of Whitechapel, Lichtenstein built up a wealth of information about the area, and gradually the story of David Rodinsky began to interweave with her own history, her knowledge of this neighbourhood they had both inhabited. With Artangel, Sinclair and Lichtenstein wrote an artist's guidebook Rodinsky's Whitechapel which takes the reader on a walking tour, past sites and buildings that played an important role not only in Rodinsky's life, but also in Lichtenstein's own. The walk also highlights the last remnants of many important locations of the once vibrant, but now quickly vanishing Jewish East End.

Sinclair also took the Geographer's A to Z Atlas of London and Suburbs, an item found by Lichtenstein in Rodinsky's attic, and created walks interpreted from the markings and embellishments within the guide. These trails were filmed and relayed on strategically placed video monitors in and around Whitechapel forming the backdrop to a series of events devised by Sinclair throughout June 1999.

The final stop on Lichtenstein's walk is a stonemason on Osborn Street, A.Elfes Ltd. This is where a headstone was carved for the previously unmarked grave of David Rodinsky. Set and consecrated later in 1999, the stone was an unusual curiosity: the only permanent work ever commissioned by Artangel.

Read more about Rodinsky's Whitechapel

The Missing Voice (Case Study B)

You are in the Whitechapel Library. You have been told to go to the crime section. You hear footsteps. Voices fill your head.

Part urban guide, part detective fiction, part film noir, The Missing Voice (Case Study B) is an audio tour of London’s East End created by artist Janet Cardiff in 1999. Intimate — even conspiratorial — in tone, Cardiff’s audio-walks are psychologically absorbing experiences that entwine their listeners in a narrative that shifts through time and space. 

The tour begins in Whitechapel Library. Today, it is where the library used to be. In 1999, inside of the building, visitors were given a Discman. They would then leave and find themselves transported in time and on a route tracing from Spitalfields, towards the City of London before being brought to some kind of resolution in a space off of Commercial Street.

Although the Whitechapel Library closed and the building was absorbed into the neighbouring Whitechapel Gallery, it is surprising how many of the walk’s other landmarks remain present today; from KFC restaurants to ultra-simple news stands, albeit with the occasional change in detail, or paint colour. Listening to the mp3 today and the effect is that of accumulating a new kind of intrigue: as we listen to its mysterious, multi-layered tale and compare the narrator’s observations with our own, we observe the drip-drip rate of change on a certain set of London streets.

Read more about The Missing Voice (Case Study B)