Nilesh Patel, who is currently employed by Sturgis & Company overseeing a multimillion-pound project in Mayfair, has just had a short film screened at the inaugural International Media Conference in London. Entitled 'Global Image, Global Village', the conference focused on the production and circulation of specific cultural images within a global market. In other words, a world dominated by the political and economic clout of the US and Europe in which images of the cultural 'other' are produced and exploited for very particular purposes, usually reinforcing the cultural hegemony of the west.
The impact of a globalised media on architectural production throughout the world is one which this critic has explored in a contribution to a forthcoming book, This is Not Architecture: Media Constructions, edited by Kester Rattenbury.
As western practices establish global businesses, and images of industrially-produced, standardised architecture become more widely circulated, permeating even the most far-flung cultures, they nurture a production of built form in its own likeness. This threatens to empty a significant area of material culture of any authentic meaning. The issue of cultural appropriation and homogenisation is, literally, embodied by the flow of westerners across the the world during the holiday season.
Patel's film has no obvious 'architectural' content, insofar as it is not about buildings or even space (its nine minutes were filmed within his bedroom, to provide a reference-free backdrop), but it takes on a particular relevance in this context. It comprises a sequence of images of his mother's hands in the process of making samosas, set to a soundtrack of John Coltrane, Indian-western fusion, and traditional music. As Patel reveals, the construction of samosas is intricate, labourintensive and time-consuming - a highly skilled craft, and one which he views as an expression of immense commitment on the part of the mother towards the family and social framework.
Patel was brought up in Britain. His mother worked as an industrial seamstress - and is now suffering the consequences, with rheumatoid arthritis which will eventually cripple her hands.
He is careful to point out the difference between the process portrayed by his film, and the superficial cult of 'globalised' cooking promoted by glamorous, stylised images of food, and celebritycooks on television and in magazines. Yet at the same time, he stresses the inspiration of the Scorsese/Hollywood film Raging Bull, describing A Love Supreme as a feminised reinterpretation of that macho celebration of boxing.
The Patel film highlights the subversive potential of an 'ethnic' counter-culture of images, within the prevailing western discourse of the 'other', and opens the way for discussion of its implications for the future of a globalised architecture.
Nilesh Patel's A Love Supreme will be premiered at the Columbia Tri-Star, Soho, on 5 September. This is Not Architecture: Media Constructions will be published by Routledge in the autumn