Curtains and Windows (2011-2018)

 

For Curtains and Windows, author David Rose responds to video images by Roelof Bakker with a short story, Bakker responding with new writing of his own. Artist Dr Will Montgomery creates a soundscape.

Images for this collaborative video triptych were recorded at the now demolished Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle, London SE1, once home to three-thousand people. Each work is made using similar footage, the accompanying text or sound changing its meaning.

Curtains by author David Rose is a monologue read by actor Francis Lee. A soundscape by Dr Will Montgomery evokes the pain of the materials of the building in Curtains (soundscape version). Bakker contributes Windows, with the text interpreted by voice-over artist Brian Robinson.

Both stories appear alongside screenshots taken from the videos clips in Confingo (editor Tim Shearer), issue 10, autumn/winter 2018, www.confingopublishing.uk.

 

Curtains and Windows, David Rose, Roelof Bakker, Will Montgomery, Elephant and Castle, Elephant Park, gentrification, Francis Lee, Brian Robinson, Confingo magazine, Manchester

Curtains and Windows, David Rose, Roelof Bakker, Will Montgomery, Elephant and Castle, Elephant Park, gentrification, Francis Lee, Brian Robinson, Confingo magazine, Manchester


 

Curtains by David Rose

Stone sills. Brushed aluminium frames. Fitted blinds.

I believed, you see.

I lived here. Like Lubetkin at Highpoint. I believed in it. Like Lubetkin. Like the Smithsons, Lasdun, like Corb himself; I believed.

I offered. Had it written in. Top floor. Not a penthouse. That was journalistic talk. Absurd idea. There was no penthouse. This wasn’t Highpoint. Just a top-floor flat.

I paid rent. It was never rent-free. Another lie. On the part of the tenants. Who could blame them?

I moved. Moved out, moved back, moved on. But I hung on, as long as I could. For as long as my belief allowed. Professional pride. No. Not that alone. Persuasive example. Demonstrate my belief, convince
by conviction. Lead from the front.

Flint cobbles asphalted over. Brambled allotments. Runnels, vennels, communal cesspools. Were they worth clinging onto? A new life, the high life. Hygiene of the soul. That’s what it offered.

My specifications were clear. As clear as my conscience. For the whole building.

Vernacular stone sills and lintels. To preserve the context. Wipe-clean Venetian blinds, aluminium frames. Formica worktops. Rough pine panelling, polished thermoplastic flooring. Fan-assisted ducted heating.

That ducting. The tapping. Started within months. Mutant Morse code. Took me a long time to twig. An old lag on the ground floor. Used to check the lifts every day, first thing. Tap out the message: lifts out of action. Passed up from floor to floor. “Hackney drums.”

I left then. Moved out. Stayed private. I had the choice.

Those ectoplasmic shrouds. Like so many white flags.

Summon the wrecking ball. Have done.

 

Curtains and Windows, David Rose, Roelof Bakker, Will Montgomery, Elephant and Castle, Elephant Park, gentrification, Francis Lee, Brian Robinson, Confingo magazine, Manchester

Curtains and Windows, David Rose, Roelof Bakker, Will Montgomery, Elephant and Castle, Elephant Park, gentrification, Francis Lee, Brian Robinson, Confingo magazine, Manchester

 

Windows by Roelof Bakker

We had a view. The living room looked out on mature trees. A myriad of green in summer. Skeletons in winter.

We were a good team, Mrs and Mr. I fixed the rail. She sewed the curtains. We hung them together.

No children. We tried. We failed. I failed. A low sperm count. She didn’t hold it against me. Said we should celebrate instead. The Pill went straight out of the window.



I never once thought I might lose her. Until the bad news. It was hereditary. Two aunts had succumbed.

Then the letter from the council. The estate was to be sold off to make way for luxury housing. By now, I was looking after her full-time. She needed 24-hour care.

The view from the window changed. I saw planners, surveyors, architects, lawyers, estate agents, asset managers, regeneration managers, rehousing officers and many other men in suits.



Then we received a compulsory purchase order. I kept it from her. She was so fragile. I didn’t want to upset her.

I attended meetings at the council and in the community centre. Promises. Lies. Deception. Anger. Tears.

We were all stitched up.



Broken windows. Empty rooms. Boarded-up homes.

This is where we lived.

Where I lost her.

 

Curtains and Windows, David Rose, Roelof Bakker, Will Montgomery, Elephant and Castle, Elephant Park, gentrification, Francis Lee, Brian Robinson, Confingo magazine, Manchester

Curtains and Windows, David Rose, Roelof Bakker, Will Montgomery, Elephant and Castle, Elephant Park, gentrification, Francis Lee, Brian Robinson, Confingo magazine, Manchester

 

Curtains, 2011-2018, standard definition video, colour, sound, 3.13 min. (Roelof Bakker, video; David Rose, fiction; Francis Lee, voice)

Windows, 2011-2018, standard definition video, colour, sound, 3.14 min. (Roelof Bakker, video and fiction; Brian Robinson, voice)

Curtains (soundscape version), 2011-2018, standard definition video, colour, sound, 3.13 min. (Roelof Bakker, video; Dr Will Montgomery, sound)