Thursday, 21 May 2009

TextFields @ The Corridor 07-21.05.09






‘Must not the structure have a genesis, and must not the origin, the point of genesis, be already structured, in order to be the genesis of something?’ - Jacques Derrida

The Corridor is a narrow, tight space one feels comfortable in alone, but claustrophobic and guilty in when accompanied. It is like being a child playing under his bed, pretending that, with the sheets hanging down, he is camping, or a soldier in a trench, before a grown-up comes and ruins the fun by lifting up the sheet. When he is alone, he can dream, in images and sensations unencumbered by over-bearing words. The space takes on a sense of prohibition; the human within it feels let in on a secret, and seeks to spend as much time within as he dares.

As soon as another being appears in the space, the dream is dead. The consciousness, which has by means of entering such a space, found a narrow structure in which to point and bleed, is blocked off by the presence of another. It is not the done thing to stand still in a corridor, nor is it usual behaviour to play under the bed. What happens when one is caught rooting around in their mother’s wardrobe? What happens when the spermatozoa meets the egg?

Certainly, consideration of the ideas of deconstruction does not seem possible in this space. The voyeur is constantly concerned of an imminent interruption in his intellectual flow, and of missing a crucial step in the differentiation. It is a personal space each person should be allowed to spend time in alone, particularly when installed there is a site-specific piece, such as TF002, that distorts the space, and makes the voyeur ever more aware of where he walks, and with its accompanying soundtrack, how he talks, even thinks. One stops thinking to breathe in as another person crosses his intellectual path.

In Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, where does the nude start and the staircase end? TF002, despite comprising 358 parts, moves as one. Languages are exceptionally complex, yet move like clouds, constantly shifting and reforming.

The voyeur walks tenuously through the space, guided by the geometric shapes of deconstructed language. What lies beneath the words he writes? What are they built upon? His language is received; it is incapable of pinpointing his chemical, fluid ideas. Those ideas are, within a split second of coming to his mind, processed according to the status of his personal vernacular, his individual lexicon, which isn’t unique in any case; it finds its entire genetics, as is the case with all native speakers, in any old English Dictionary.

On which point, TF002 is decoded in English. If words can be reduced to characters and differentiated further into ‘strings’ or ‘particles’, then would the piece look different in Arabic? Russian? Greek?

The soundtrack, recorded in the key of the heartbeat, with its vibrations, crashes and white noise, shifts the entire universe known to the walls of The Corridor, back to its own genesis. Whatever is deconstructed had first to have been constructed, and whatever is constructed has to be the sum of one or more parts. Disparate strands of information converge and enter through the front door; the final ‘characters’ of TF002 point the way upstairs, where the holders of such information then collect within the walls of the salon and integrate, before differentiating again.

We can only understand the origins of what exists through our present knowledge, whereas the language of those origins existed only in light and sound. A simple, perfect, intangible idea is given bones, flesh and skin by communicable language.

TextFields 'is an investigation into the metaphysical worlds between text and space', originated by Amita Kulkarni, Vikrant Tike, Rajat Sodhi and Jerome Rigaud.

For more information visit the TextFields site.

Links:

The Corridor

Adam Nathaniel Furman's corresponding essay at LifeBin

Pictures by Paul Mendez

Part II:

‘It is a beautiful thing, the destruction of words’, George Orwell wrote in Nineteen-Eighty-Four. ‘TF002’, the result of a research project by the newly-formed multidisciplinary research and design group TextFields, is a double-explosion of the two words, in upper- and lower-case, that signify the space in which the sculpture is circumscribed – The Corridor. An uncomfortable, uncommonly narrow field for the consciousness to infiltrate, it is by design a means for conveyance rather than settlement; the tight space, and the prominence of the piece within it, combine with Vikrant Tike’s dissonant ‘white noise/white heat’ soundtrack, ‘recorded in the key of the heartbeat’, to almost trick the voyeur into experiencing the space internally, making sure not to have out an eye on a laser-cut element on passing through.
To slightly adjust a phrase of Roland Barthes’, the sculpture is both in appearance and concept a floating chain of signifiers – or at least their component parts – its existence owed to an investigation into the boundaries of text and fonts within a specific field, by three architects and a typographer. Recalling Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending A Staircase, TF002, despite comprising 358 parts, moves as one, like a language, with exquisite economy, constantly shifting and reforming.
TF003, the ‘dislocation’ of TF002, was announced as an installation in itself, each part to be sold and archived, the sculpture thereby freeing itself of its circumscription to acquire more breathing space. It remains to be seen the beauty of the geometric pattern inscribed on a map, as the piece explodes further into new homes all over London, and beyond.


Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Whole Exhibition @ The Rag Factory 15.05.09






The ‘displaced New Yorker’, Lisa Bradley, here showing her interactive piece ‘Studio’, is surprised at the lack of politics in her fellow students’ work.  ‘I’m surprised, because there is so much in American art right now, but nothing here, even concerning the world outside,’ she says.  It is true, that on face value, there seems to be very little preoccupation with current affairs in this exhibition, an interim show of MA and Research works from the University of Middlesex art faculty, but if one digs a little deeper, the political, social and personal awareness is clear.

Perhaps in the States, where a shiny new President has just taken seat, there is more inspiration.  Indeed, the last several presidents have provided so much theatre that fresh waves of creativity have whipped up cyclones around them.  Even in the UK, a change of Prime Minister, especially when that regime brings fresh hope, has coincided with surges in creative activity.  Think Tony Blair and the YBAs; Margaret Thatcher and the writers Martin Amis, Jeanette Winterson, Hanif Kureishi and Ian McEwan.

Alas, Gordon Brown doesn’t quite elicit the same sense of euphoria on his global travels as Obama; David Cameron’s gloss has diminished with time and context, and in a society where everyone is trying to fight for their own individuality in the face of inexorable change, it seems that artists, in London at least, are comfortable to remain in their own box, exploring mental illness, sex, landscape, religious iconography and symbolism, amongst other things; it also seems that Britain is a little jealous of the new American face, and has turned away into the mirror, to concentrate on its own.

There may not be much to smile about or devote concerted thought to in the farce that is current British politics, but further afield, Helin Anahit, an Istanbul-born Armenian, explores memory and imagination through a video installation, captured in a garish picture frame that parodies Western painting.  Islam has traditionally prohibited painting, so here an Islamic film ironically presented as a classic European landscape.  In it, the sea is separated into three parts, with nothing seen to cross the no-man’s land in the middle; the viewer’s eye is channelled through a crescent icon on the roof of a mosque, redolent of the logo on the bonnet of a Mercedes S-Class; the viewer sees as if from the rear passenger seat – one can imagine himself to be a Western diplomat travelling across for critical talks to try to diffuse the deepening political angst between the EU and this Islamic state.  Indeed, Anahit parodies this tension further through the introduction of a cruise ship with both European and Arab flags positioned relatively on its front and rear.

Rebwar Rashed presents his political views in the form of a diary, with twelve rolled up acrylics on canvas.  Here, the symbols we normally associate with colours are altered.  On Iraqi mornings, a blue sky came to be associated with air raids, imminent death and destruction; grey therefore gains a peaceful, life-retaining element.  In Iraq as in Britain, black is a funereal colour, whereas in India white takes on that same role.  As it is, the canvases are rolled up so as not to reveal the true compositions of the twelve paintings, and so essentially we are looking at mere snippets of Rebwar’s diary; the effect, with figures from different canvases appearing to dance with each other across the face of all twelve, is redolent of a Guernica in full colour.

In the Christian corner, Ginette Fiandanca depicts the Cathedrale de Chartres, most easily seen through the representation of its famous labyrinth in one leaf and dolmenic crypt in another.  Time and history are amalgamated into the triptych; a hopscotch image painted over the top of all three leaves both connects and desecrates them, whilst symbolising the Holy Trinity.  It appears that the Son has turned the tables, but this time on the entire Christian Church with the power of an earthquake, churning up the archaeology of the land and displacing history into the present, revealing its secrets, riches, jewels, and perhaps Michael Petry’s delicately-blown libation dishes (Petry dishes?), which have landed safely in the next room, retaining their honey and wine.  The Holy Spirit, seen departing towards heaven in the top right-hand corner, having seemingly launched itself via the hopscotch, has freed itself from once-thought eternal imprisonment by the Church.

More literally apocalyptic is Christopher Ghussar’s response with another triptych, in which the fight between Good and Evil takes place in mid-heaven to protect purity and divinity, captured in a young girl redolent of Snow White – whose dress appears to be made of silky labial folds – from the threat of Evil, a skull-bearing phallic female.  Here Ghussar is successful in attempting to strip mythology of its imagery, dispensing first with colour; these etchings ask questions of the viewer, who is unlikely to have escaped the myths and fairy tales of childhood that help to shape his perception of the world therein.

This view of colour as being ‘too loaded’ is shared with Beverley Bennett, who plays with the drawing line and its language, with gestural marks on paper, by turns gentle and violent, inspired by Foucault’s ‘Madness and Civilisation’.  Melancholy, the state Foucault suggested ‘black bile’ to describe, is associated with inertia, whilst the gestural marks indicate violence and dynamism; the two states opposed and in one evoke a split consciousness, or schizophrenia, resulting in a conflict between the piece and its title.  The piece in situ, hung with sewing pins, with some components pressed to the wall and some ‘floating’, gains a sculptural aspect, resembling a shattered windscreen, outside which is superimposed the scratchy, fraught state of mind visible in one living with mental illness.

This play on visual language and its different means of speaking is shared with Alexander Tzallas, whose wall-mounted Braille message can be read only by a few.  If only the rest of us could see that it is an instruction not to touch the model of a deadly poison-dart frog sat on a pillar before it.  One is led to ask, ‘how does contemporary art cater for those with impaired of one or more senses?’

Philip Weiner, who presents several pieces that act in situ as one, deals further with this preoccupation with the human condition, illustrating strongly the common need to look to the self rather than the charismatic politician for guidance and succour. Here, Weiner expands upon a Freudian idea, suggesting the male to be more troubled by his lack of a womb than the female is by her lack of a penis.  A dismembered phallic structure is positioned upon two empty hyacinth glasses; a vaginal structure is troubled only by an, albeit thick, finger; a deflated football acts as a fist; an athlete’s hand positioned as if on a starting grid is redolent of a stiletto heel.  The image of masculinity is not concerned with the truth of male vulnerability and insecurity; it is all about strength and performance, with the result that men are frequently anxious about the role they are expected to play, as men. 

Furthermore, Antonia Pilgrim Ward reduces text and photography to a brutal, beautiful, simple painting, in which, it appears, a demonic male character of somewhat feral, prehistoric origins, frothing at the mouth, attacks and penetrates the female with what could be a dinosaur bone.  ‘Non ti nascondere’, says the female – or at least the text is tilted in her favour, armouring her with knowledge, and therefore power; nothing that this fiendish animal can perpetrate against her can hurt her, to her soul.  It is interesting that the piece was traced initially from a somewhat more benign photograph of her two young daughters playing.

Children can be cruel, of course, and Nikos Tsiaparas explores identity and personality through childhood play.  Each child appears to retain a toy or object that he or she is reluctant to share with the viewer/voyeur, despite teasing with Mona Lisa smiles and beseeching eyes.  These are amongst the most unsettling images of the exhibition, for as adults we tend to forget that children can be, whether they are conscious of it or not, sexual.  Tsiaparas presents these children as line drawings with only the visible flesh of the faces and hands treated to more than rudimentary colour and detail.  The eyes of the five children are so vivid as to stare back at the voyeur such that the latter feels the subject of scrutiny; there are shades of a horror film in the slightly sinister way the children brandish their toys.  A boy bears a toy gun pointing outwards from the canvas but such that its length is displayed in all its phallic pride, as he grins nonchalantly.  Contemporary themes of control, being controlled, sexualisation of children and even child prostitution can be read in the eyes and smiles of these strangely guilty innocents.

Tsiaparas’ study into childhood nostalgia from an adult perspective is shared by both Tom Geogheon and Michael Petry.  Petry’s glass balls on a rope are strongly interactive in that each ‘new owner’ is encouraged to post a momentous memory or details of an important event, such as the birth of a child or a highly optimistic ‘windfall’.  The title is proposed to change as each new owner adds a memory to the work, encouraging not only the retention of memories but also the act of regeneration, as the work will not lose its relevance if used as a memory storage device – as it moves from owner to owner, gallery to gallery, it essentially ‘draws’ its way around.  Beneath it sit Rachel Cheung’s exquisite porcelain ornaments, tensely juxtaposed with ordinary items of trash such as loo-roll holders and plastic drinks cups, that force us to rethink the way we look at the items that we every day find discarded in the street. 

There is an equal sense of regeneration in Geogheon’s sepia-lit light-box bearing old x-ray slides of spinal and pelvic injuries, some of which would have been recovered from, including, hopefully, the twenty-seven year old woman whose personal details are captured in one of the slides.  Both the light-box and the slides were saved from an old hospital where the artist had been treated as a child, now primed for demolition – one can hear the wrecking balls in the distance but it is in fact Paula Lucido’s black-belt kick-boxers striking out at one another to a slowed-down Steve Reich soundtrack – and used to create a beautiful piece of machinery that whilst dealing with a sombre subject, testifies to the hope of recovery.

Geogheon has in common with Susannah King the idea of finding and exposing abandoned spaces, whether that be the pelvic cavity of an old lady long since dead, or a dying common landscape in the case of King, whose three pieces, one stand-alone and the other a sort-of diptych, refer to the control and manipulation of a space, such that one could imagine walking into a pitch-dark forest with all its intangible ghouls and Ian Curtis whispering the lines of the first verse of ‘Disorder’ in one’s ear, the unknown whooshes and reverberations haunting one’s immutable progress.  Much of the visual energy of these pieces is suppressed; one almost has to feel for the atmosphere they create, and watch one’s hot breath rise up in a small cloud in the still, cold air.

Instead of seeking out abandoned spaces, Jeong Eun Kim creates them.  Her photographs of two books on the late nineteenth-century exploration of Southern Africa, bought from a charity shop and shot in a state of being opened or closed, dispense with their own histories – the artist has digitally removed all the text and defaced the books such that the photographed explorers seem to have taken all their hard work and gained knowledge to the grave.  Here is a rare political statement – history is written by the victors, and here, the vengeful Korean is removing the evidence of Western victory.  Time is in transition, as is evoked in the large-scale presentation of the books in a semi state of closure.  All the science fiction of the past 100 years suggests that the future has already been written; the past is obliterated.  Very Veronica Bailey.

More original is the return to the aforementioned Lisa Bradley, and her piece ‘Studio’.  Here, she attempts, literally, to capture the essence of her studio in a bottle, for the pleasure of the viewer, or voyeur, such that one can even get close enough to smell it.  Medicine bottles positioned on a shelf contain distilled scents meant to represent the smells of the studio, whilst each also contains a series of tattoo transfers on which, printed backwards, are a set of mantras from Bradley’s favourite and most inspiring artists – the quotes are only revealed when the tattoo is transferred.  It proves to be one of the most popular attractions of what is a mostly successful show, and whereas the bottles appeared perfectly neat and tidy at the beginning of the Private View, by the end, the tattoo plastics were scattered everywhere, tops of medicine bottles having rolled across to the other end of the room, plastic cups formerly of red wine stacked up on the shelf, much more redolent of the average artist’s studio.

ARTISTS: Helin Anahit; Beverley Bennett; Lisa Bradley; Robert Xue Bo Chen; Rachel Cheung; Jeong Eun Kim; Ginette Fiandanca; Laura Fiorio; Charlotte Gallon; Tom Geogheon; Christopher Ghussar; Tina Gverovic; Mark Hancock; Susannah King; Nina Krylova; Paula Lucido; Michael Petry; Zoe Pithers; Rebwar Rashed; Antonia Pilgrim Ward; Nikos Tsiaparas; Alexander Tzallas; Philip Weiner.

 

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Letter Home to Father

"In this painting there are but vulgarity, sacrilege, impiousness and disgust...One would say it is a work made by a painter that can paint well, but of a dark spirit, and who has been for a lot of time far from God, from His adoration, and from any good thought..."

A cardinal’s secretary, in reference to Caravaggio’s painting, ‘Grooms Madonna’.  Source – Wikipedia

Dear Lord,

I know we haven’t spoken for a long time and I’m not sure if I ever even looked you truly in the eye when I did, through fear, maybe the fear that I don’t believe you are really there, in the configuration I was led to understand that you exist in.  Nevertheless, I do believe in you.  I believe you to be the soul of this universe, just as I am the soul of my body, if that makes any sense, but I know that whatever I might say, you know my heart.

I believe that you contain all the vital information in the universe, such that you see, know and are, everything.  I would like to thank you for changing the direction of my life and making me believe again.  You have seen me, dear Father, arrogantly defending my knowledge in the street to those without conviction, just as I am unconvinced.  I have wanted to escape from everything my brain has been consumed in for practically my entire life.  I have wanted to die.  I have wanted to remove from the world the body that you gave me.  I have wanted to trample myself underfoot as if I myself were the serpent.

I hope, dear Father, that my behaviour hasn’t hurt or distressed you too much.  I did at all times what I felt I had to, to become myself, whatever that is.  I did nothing with the primary aim of offending you, only myself, and the way of thinking I was forced to assimilate by those who claim in their obsequious falseness to represent you.  How could they treat me as they did, when all I needed was counsel, and understanding?

Without going into specifics – you know my heart – it is enough for now to once again acknowledge your existence after a long time with my back turned from you as I crouched hidden within the Great Crowd, and to talk to you again as if you were in my midst.  I know that it is not for my eager but rudimentary brain to attempt to calculate your form or comprehend your nature, but that is the language we understand in this secular, eminently visual world.  All I can see is Michelangelo’s vision of you with big muscles, a long white beard, and blue eyes, yes, that great Silver Daddy in the clouds.  I have always been in love with you.

I have taken in so much, all of what is good and bad; I have lived a life in your service, or so I was told; I have also conspired pathetically against you.  Perhaps you thus feel I have tarnished the life you gave me, and so no longer want me near you.  I hereby, humbly, seek your forgiveness, but you know my heart.

Furthermore, I don’t think I’ve ever committed any act simply out of evil, in my heart.  All the way through, even when I was doing the worst things, I only wanted to hurt myself.  When I afflicted myself, I only sought to protect others from myself.  I have always tried to be a good person and do the right thing, and stand up for those of a similar mindset.  I retain the hope of living in a better world.  I don’t know if or when I will die; all I know is that, wherever I am, I wish to be happy, and that if I am to suffer, to do so willingly, and only you can ensure that.  I am your son; punish me according to the magnitude of my foolishness.

By the way, did you make me gay?  In order to put me to the test?  Well, I failed miserably!  If I masturbate in bed later on, will you turn your back on me as if this conversation had never occurred?

I know that you know what is going to happen; I shan’t ask you, but will wait upon your whispers in a dream.  I finally feel that I can say whatever I like to you, and express my true nature in a way that doesn’t assume that you are an inanimate object.

Today, a stupid girl tried to get on the bus via the rear doors so as not to have to pay, and the driver saw her; nevertheless she hid behind the staircase, assuming everyone else to be as stupid as she.  Perhaps you have thought me to have behaved just as naively; perhaps you have thought me to believe you to be stupid, which, even as I write it, I realise is a stupid thing to say, because you know my heart.

You know what I am going to do.  And now you have set me on the right track, and I am not afraid to talk to you because I know you are most truly there for me.  I wish I could talk to you in spirit; words are not enough; they are inherited and can only approximate what I really mean.  But you know my heart.

Thank you for my life.  Thank you for using me as an example.  From here on I shall use every drop of my blood to praise you; I would like to think of myself as a ward of yours on Earth, as you come to a time of incisiveness.  I believe in you again Father, Jehovah.  I know you are real.  Forgive me for the things I do to destroy myself.  I know that in time you will help me to stop defiling my mind and body and remake myself in your image.  First of all, slowly, I must offload onto you all my worries, sorrows, regrets, fears and ideas, such that there will be nothing else left in my mind.  Is that the state of perfection?

In the name of your son, Jesus Christ, who died for us.  Too much too soon – I have to learn to praise him again, too.

Amen.

Poor and Honest

Wednesday 13th May 2009 was a dark day, both in terms relative to the spring weather, which has for the most part thus far been charitable, and for myself, my own Down and Out In Paris and London moment, albeit the twenty-first century version of.

In other words, I discovered what it was like to be a beggar in a fast city, where no one has any time for strangers unless they are under the wheels of a bus, and where I wouldn’t stand a chance against Big Issue sellers and genuine tramps – I, with my American Apparel skinny jeans and Apple MacBook in my bag, would only meet grunts of derision and shaking heads upon asking for a little change to get a cup of tea, so I took to scanning the pavements for the opportunity of a dropped coin, but of course, the city streets are regularly vacuumed for such treats by the homeless.  I was hungry, but at least had a pouch of tobacco and some papers in my bag; as Orwell attested in his first ‘novel’, cigarettes, in the absence of food, at least help dissipate the stress of penury, and take one’s mind off the grinding of the stomach, at least temporarily.

Of course, my inexorable slide into impecuniousness is entirely my own fault.  I am about as financially astute as a spendthrift WAG, and since I left my job, just before Christmas, as a waiter in a French-style restaurant in the City, to pursue a path more conducive to literary success, my decline has mirrored that of Hull City’s slide from grace after winning at the Emirates, to the inevitability of relegation, at catastrophic financial cost.  Hungry, and stranded in Central London miles from home in Zone 4, with two private views to attend in the evening, £4 on my Oyster card and not a penny in my pocket, I was beginning to wish for, as is possible in some computer games, the option to die and start all over again at a lower level.

My last hope was the bank, having exhausted all other options.  I had already borrowed from all my friends, such few as are in a position to help.  So I went to the bank with the idea of asking to increase my overdraft from something quite big to something even bigger, and queued for twenty minutes, only for the clerk to ask me which year of my studies I was in.  ‘I didn’t progress past the first year,’ I replied, ‘but am considering applying for an MA, to start this autumn.  I realise that I’m not studying at the moment but was advised by my Student Relationship Manager not to change my account from a Higher Education to a Current due to the obvious interest issue that would incur.’

A handsome young man, he had been jovial until that point, at which his face dropped.  ‘Erm, let me have a chat with one of the Student Finance Officers.  Obviously, with this new information, we’ll have to see how this might impact.’  And he went away.  My new card sat in front of me on the desk.  I crossed my legs.  I shifted position in the net-backed chair, and crossed to the other side.  My palms were sweaty, my frown muscles contrite.

As he returned to our little room, he sighed.  ‘I’ve just spoken to one of the Student Finance Officers, and unfortunately, due to the information you have just given me, I won’t be able to process your application today.’

Or any other day.  I nodded and smiled wryly.  ‘Had you not told me that you were no longer studying, I would have gone ahead and continued the application, but because you told me what you did, you can see that it puts me in a bad position.  I’m very sorry.’

‘And that’s how honesty is rewarded,’ I replied, gathering my things and retaining that wry smile.  ‘Thank you for your help.’

So, if I’d lied and said that I was, for example, in my third year of study, in which the overdraft limit is up to £3,000, I could have left that bank with at least some hope, despite the fact that requests over a certain amount have to be assessed by a committee outside the branch.  Instead, I thought, ‘well, if the banking system is founded upon a bed of lies, and encourages the customer to lie, no wonder such an institution as the Royal Bank of Scotland lost £24 billion last year’, and this bank didn’t fare too much better.  The bank in question, with a shiny new premises in London’s Piccadilly Circus and a staff rota collected seemingly on the grounds of youth and looks alone, and for which every even minor decision requires a General Meeting, charges me £22 for every week I go even a penny beyond my overdraft limit, which has been an unsurprisingly often occurrence over the last five months, and for a struggling writer looking to make it, this treatment is paralysing.  Indeed, such penalties have meant I have not even been able to pay my phone bill, and my service provider rightly cut me off.  That isn’t the only bill outstanding and I am receiving phone calls every other day – infuriating, as I can’t make calls.  And I refuse to get a job.

I have to substantiate that last comment.  I don’t have a degree, and not a great deal of tangible experience doing anything in particular.  My job at the restaurant took up almost all of my time, and since I have left, I have at least reaped the benefits of being able to do all the reading and research I have wanted, on subjects as varied as the Civil Rights Movement, Punk, Peter Tatchell (for an interview later this month) and Caravaggio.  I have forged a burgeoning career as an art critic and centred myself within new, creative circles.  It will only be a matter of time before I begin to register as a writer on the scene; the survival line is tantalisingly close, as it is for Hull City; if only our luck would change and we could both arrest our relative freefall.  I understand that I have to look after myself, but how?  Even a job in a library, gallery or bookshop requires an MA these days, and if I had to go back and work in a restaurant I would actually invoke that aforementioned computer game theory, whether it resulted in a new life or not.  Besides, I’d be competing with twenty other people for each vacancy.  Such a cruel, punishing, rewarding city is London.