Eight Weeks in the Summer of Victoria's Jubilee: The Queen, the Jews and a Murder by Bob Biderman
Black Apollo Press 2012
A brilliant study of London's Jewish East End at the end of the 19th century and a fascinating exploration into a murder case that shook the very foundations of British Justice
Seeing Los Angeles: A Different Look at a Different City edited by Guy Bennett & Béatrice Mousli
Otis Books / Seismicity, 2007
Béatrice Mosuli writes in her introduction to this fascinating collection, 'Our goal has been (to explore) the myths and realities of L.A. as seen by Angelenos who dwell in the sprawl, and by visitors drawn to the city for whatever reason. But how do you fit seventeen million people, eight thousand square miles, eight-eight languages, and just as many religions, cuisines, traditions, etc. into a single poem?' A fair question - but this little volume does its best to give a kaleidoscopic vision of a city commonly referred to as shapeless. A wonderful antidote to The Ecology of Fear. Highly recommended.
Visions of the City: Utopianism, Power and Politics in Twentiety-Century Urbanism by David Pinder
ISBN: 0 7486 1488 5
University of Edinburgh Press, 2005
David Pinder begins his brilliant exploration into the relationship between power, politics and ideas of metropolitan utopianism with two quotes from Henri Lefebvre, the French surrealist philosopher:
‘Utopia has been discredited; it is necessary to rehabilitate it. Utopia is never realised and yet it is indispensable to stimulate change.’
‘"Change life!" "Change Society!" These precepts mean nothing without the production of an appropriate space.’
Those ideas – utopia as a stimulus for change and the ‘production’ of a certain kind of space being crucial to the type of change engendered – become the twin themes that Pinder develops in 350 pages of compulsive reading.
In the course of this fascinating study, Pinder discusses the competing ‘utopias’ of the Situationists, the Modernists and the Surrealists showing how each had inherent implications and an essential politic that influenced art, architecture and social policy over the rough and tumble of the 20th century.
One movement in particular is analysed in the later sections of the book – the Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Brussels based COBRA group of artists, poets and philosophers who emerged from World War II determined to re-shape art and the political space in which it was created and consumed. The COBRA movement came and went in the wink of an eye, but its influence was lasting especially in the forceful critiques that turned sterile notions of museum curation upside-down in the 1960s.
Pinder focuses on the ideas of Dutch artist and philosopher, Constant Nieuwenhuys, who argued that the structural and artistic elements of city surroundings should be blended so it would be hard to tell where function ends and play begins. Set in an atmosphere of exploration, leisure, and stimulation, it is here that the realms of art and society should meet and fuse, providing, within a community forum, the essence of utopian-based politic.
Having made its mark in Urban Studies, this book deserves a wider readership among young artists and writers who would find a solid theoretical framework for contemporary conceptual art movements. Unlike most academic works on this theme, it is not only literate but literary – a good read and eminently readable.