The Wells Way material was delivered to me in a brown box featuring a symbol on the top. Amongst other things it contained photographs and crumpled pages torn-out from a work book. At around the same time I also received some video files: one showing a drinking fountain and another a night shot of a fire brigade putting out a fire on a parking lot. About a week later I received a file transfer with two video files of a walk down one end of Wells Way and back, which to me suggested that CADE was measuring the length of Wells Way in a variety of ways.
(The box also contained an unused saw for some inexplicable reason.)
Why was Wells Way was singled out would be the first question one asks. I should tell you that when I came to curate and present the ‘Neo London’ archive -CADE’s urban research of London - I was surprised at first to be dealing with seemingly insignificant details from the landscape, almost as small as particles that spin and gather into a force which undermines larger structures. The established hierarchies and the accepted order of things perceived as a normality were taken up by CADE. The implication of the undercurrent of chaos and public unrest documented in his materials to my mind stem precisely from such an extreme close up view; this type of magnification of the subject at hand has the adverse effect, able to burn up like a powerful lens, fuelling the destruction of everything in its proximity; it is from these metaphorical embers that CADE reconstructs his case for the 'non-event horizon'. His attention is mainly channelled towards the unimportant and discarded, turning over the veneered facades as it were to get to the singular chaotic elements which comprise the very fabric of the everyday and mundane, eroding the semblance of normality and leading to ever greater ambiguities.
How much of a coincidence was the fact that the road in question is located in the immediate proximity to my house, the road which is very much a part of my mundane landscape and which I can reassemble in its details at this very moment, I cannot tell. Whereas before I was able to have a more objective outlook on the outcomes of CADE’s research, retaining psychological distance while archiving his movements in some far off territories, in the case of Wells Way I was on my guard immediately fearing this familiarity. I started becoming emotionally involved.
I was to sift through the familiar images of many ‘X’s dotted around the map of Wells Way to disclose its unremarkable architecture in a series of stills: its empty bus stops, the underpass, small warehouse units, a now defunct Edwardian wash-house turned self-defence training centre by Lynn’s Boxing Club, the pop up bondage gallery of Mori-Stein on the corner of Southampton Way. Was I to look at this material unaffected? How was I to take these seemingly personal observations which showcased the implication of the local residents in some highly questionable and often criminal activities?
I left the material for a while feeling like an unwilling accomplice having to validate the crisis suggested by CADE’s research by arranging the findings in the archive. I felt pulled in opposing directions between the gravity of material presented to me and the apparent insignificance of the road in my own mental landscape - I was struggling against the divide. If I were to be entrusted with the role of chief curator of the project, I would also implicate myself in the suspicious and often criminal activities of the residents of Wells Way. I started to be drawn into a game of suspicion.
I found myself consciously avoiding the road, not thinking about the material, not walking down it; for a while I managed to create a psychological blind spot around its boundary. But something drew me towards it -whatever it was it was only happening at night. I was only going out at night, a sort of a night-time warden keeping a watchful eye on the community. I was loitering on the corners, looking into people’s windows, eavesdropping on conversations and at all times suspiciously looking over my shoulder to check whether I was being followed. And yet for weeks I did not go out at all. Needless to say my night time wandering yielded no further suspicious behaviour from the residents as was suggested by CADE. I never found any traces of discontent. For me, Wells Way remained a sleepy rat-run road on the outskirts of a modest industrial estate. I became more secretive and suspicious of my own conduct.
I left the material for a few weeks. I became myself the subject of suspicious looks and quickly drawn curtains, hushed conversations at the local pub, closed doors at theJamaican patty shop, along with other local hangouts.
I scanned the figures in the photos and wondered whether I had been caught on CADE’s camera but I recognised no one, in fact the road, apart from a couple of images, is shown in almost complete desolation.