OLD STREET, LONDON by Kevin Biderman
Cut in two by a roundabout resembling a modernist’s impression of a UFO, Old Street leads east from Clerkenwell straight through into Hoxton and Shoreditch. Industry has long since fled the warehouses on the east side of Old Street. Left to decay in an area which since the mid-seventeenth century onwards has had a reputation synonymous with sex, sleaze and crime, in the 1980s and ‘90s artists moved in to capitalise on the cheap rent of huge open plan spaces.
By the late 90s Old Street was awash with bars and clubs to cater for these alternative types and throughout the last decade the area has gone from uber cool to mainstream.
One of the aesthetic qualities of Old Street has become the glamorization of filth, grime and disrepair. A revelling in relics of the past. Out of this a strange link appears between reality and fiction. One wonders what is real? Is this part of Old Street authentically old or a promotional trick? Is this “graffiti” or is this a piece of marketing? Where do the adverts end and the raw truth start?
The housing estates which surround the area have seemed to almost transcend the laws of physics and bend out of the way of this tidal wave of affluence, disappearing into their own reflection. The homeless continue to heroically stake their claim to Old Street, but often almost submerge themselves into the continual crusade of half dead clubbers on a come down from a forty eight hour binge.
Savvy irony has become a sad innocence to the wheres and whys of our present situation. Maybe this is Thatcher’s poisoned gift. Utter individualism and an obsession with style when inside something rots so badly that it can hardly stay alive. My own guilty pleasure is that I’m drawn to watching it like bystanders to a horrific traffic accident. Sadly too often my eyes wonder to the sight of the bloodied mass. I keep wanting to look away but I can’t, transfixed in this death stare to the end.
Yet if some of us can’t help but to look, it amuses me that as we pass through some parts of the area refuse to look at anything outside themselves. Just off Old Street the windows and doors of the White Cube Gallery are firmly bricked up. Only the glass entrance at the front allows a view to the outside at ground level. Beyond the many practical reasons to do this I can't help but feel it unintentionally gives away something about the attitude here. The pristine white walls stained with piss, puke and filth rise up to the glassed enclosure at the top. An ivory tower blind to everything but the clouds.
Kevin Biderman is a photographer and lecturer living in London. Samples of his work can be found on his website: www.kbiderman.com