Simon Mullan – Counter Balance

Just as we understand that those within our instagram bubbles are performing a set of codes, city life beyond galleries, media and academia is made up of performances designed for other bubbles with other codes. The boys performing scooter tricks in the car park. The tension between fun and fear of falling off. The territory marked with low level graffiti. Grime blasted from a front yard. The guy playing 80s rock while driving around Hackney in a pointy, angular, missile shaped Pontiac Firebird, as supersized and as alien as the Topgun era America it came from. Every drive by a moment of urban ecstasy for observer and driver alike. Glimpses of boys buying and selling criminalised substances, displays of ostentatious stealth. That these happenings are not contextualized or documented by the elite doesn’t mean the actors involved are not invested, don’t research, or work hard to cultivate an aesthetic.

The art of building can be understood as a form of installation, creating the spaces we exist in, the resulting building’s presence amongst the city a source of recognition and status for it’s creators. Sure texts on architecture abound, but the act of building itself should also be compared to craft, that it is never wrapped up in the language of added value; never described as artisanal, nor part of the maker movement is oversight. Maybe building’s dirt and danger happen too close to home? Like artists, builders hate suits and ties, offices and the petty confines of politesse. Unlike artists, society condemns them for these feelings. But in contrast to many of the city’s performers and lost boys, building feels less like a form of madness, less doomed to fail, less like something you feel guilty about not growing out of.

Daryoush Haj-Najafi