plywood, paint

Nine components dimensioned to the architecture

Within “the late capitalist Narcissistic mode of subjectivity”…”the ‘other’…is experienced as something that violently interrupts the closed equilibrium of my Ego’ Slavoj Zizek


'Pure ethics, if there is any, begins with the respectable dignity of the other as the absolute unlike, recognized and nonrecognizable…' Jacques Derrida



Diaspora/Coalescence references the ornamental traces left by successive waves of immigration in East London. Huguenots, Jews, Muslims and others have occupied the same spaces and transformed them to suit their own purposes and beliefs. The aesthetic systems that encoded these worldviews from the effusive French rococo to abstract Islamic calligraphic geometries provide the aesthetic system for this work. The sinuous organic lines of Diaspora/Coalescence shift this notion of ‘multi-aesthetic occupancy’ to an examination of the problematic relationship between ornament and architecture after Modernism.

This sculptural intervention into Foster and Partners Bishops Square building sets up an opposition of formal elements. The elements I am introducing to the columns and soffits of The Street are extravagantly ornamental. They refer to a vestigial function of such ornaments – that of the corbel-the carved piece of stone that supported lintels or arches in the compressive structural logic of stone buildings.

These elements play with a sense of modernist disdain for non-structural ornament considered non-essential and merely decorative. Diaspora/Coalescence obscures the terse structural logic of the Bishops Square colonnade in intense ornament as if infecting it with it with net curtain, doily or other item of domestic frippery. This stereotypical opposition is deployed here as a playful critique of Modernism as a failed project, a totalising world-view, an imposition a monolithic aesthetic dogma over local cultures globally. This intervention engages with a new type of totalising tendency: a hardening of belief systems or world-views occuring between different religions and cultures. This work, by inserting an aesthetic antithetical to that of the host building is trying to ask: how do we tolerate the other? How do we live together in areas of the world like Spitalfields and Whitechapel where proximity of ‘the other’ can intensify cultural difference?

I am indebted to Sonia Leber and David Chesworth for discussion of some of these idea while we were working on our collaborative artwork Proximities in Melbourne.


Simeon Nelson July 2007