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All the world’s demountable

Ian Martin
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Ian Martin favours sinister bees over compliant cows

MONDAY Ingratiate my way a little further into the heart of government by suggesting to my old friend the Hon Aeneas Upmother-Brown, minister for pop-uption, that Downing St could start calling housing association tenants ‘home-blockers’. Bingo. Upmother-Brown purrs with satisfaction as a blurry cloud of ultra-conservative pet bees around his head creates an affirmative if slightly sinister hum of approval.

TUESDAY To a conference: From Socially Cohere  To Socially Cothere. The usual ensemble of speakers dressed in expensive post-normcore outfits, hair teased into querulous surprise, faces sculpted into Pixar paradigms. They look as though they all hang out together at King’s Cross after work. One slithery young bastard in full  Victorian facial topiary and a cape shows a short collage of riot footage from news archives. He does a wisecracking commentary about spatial massing and footprint velocity, absent-mindedly fiddling with his trousers.

Then an older woman who looks as though her life motto is ‘Do not eat or trust anything with a face’ solemnly conducts a slideshow juxtaposing images of empty gated communities in Southwark and photogenic  Tower Hamlets urchins, with poems by Philip Larkin and Benjamin Zephaniah. On and on it goes. Style varies, but the message from all speakers to the mute, contrite rows of environmental artists, architectural placemakers, urban spaceniks and creative intervention-mongers is the same. Global capital is creating massive social inequality, with a catastrophic shortage of affordable housing. Or hadn’t you noticed? You’re a  spineless worm and you’re not doing enough to solve things.

The environmental artists, architectural placemakers, urban spaceniks and creative intervention-mongers all wriggle pleasurably in their seats, enjoying the cruel lash of recrimination and a crappy lunch. Idiots.

WEDNESDAY Trudge wearily to yet another conference: We Are  The Climate And  We Need  To Change. Memo to Self: stop going to conferences. You never hear an original thought, they’re expensive, they’re boring and they put you in a terrible mood for hours afterwards.

The hall’s full of the same mix of masochistic epic space professionals, gagging to be told off. I’ve petulantly tuned out, and it’s only halfway through the first presentation – a slideshow of dry lakes, torrential floods, stranded polar bears, etc – that the penny drops.  There’s that image of a topless Rhianna again.  The speaker’s the same bloke as yesterday, only now wearing an indoor hat. ‘What’s THAT doing in there?’ he says to weak, uncertain laughter. As he did yesterday. Only instead of saying ‘Oh yeah. ALL housing is affordable to Rhianna though, right?’ he says ‘Oh yeah. And as long as there are people like Rhianna burning up Earth’s Precious Resources to make their pornographic videos, the struggle continues, yeah?’ 

THURSDAY  Incredible. It’s the same bunch of people, touring London’s conference circuit like a travelling circus. Except instead of entertaining people, they harangue them for not doing enough to stop whatever it is. Brilliant. Hats off. Or on. Depends what day of the week it is. Today, they’re all in jeans and  T-shirts for  The 15-Minute Ethical  Workout, an all-day mixed media bollocking for architects and other wankers unscrupulous enough to accept gigs from developers and other bastards.

‘The thing about ethics? Better late than never!’ says Casual Single Man, who yesterday was Concerned Homespun Dad. ‘Nothing wrong with ethics as an afterthought.  You can always just bung them in at the last minute, like architecture…’  The audience nods along mournfully, philosophically. Not for the first time this congregation of harmless, mostly vegetarian problem-solvers reminds me of beautiful cattle, patiently shuffling through the abbatoir doors.

FRIDAY  Resolve to think of ways in which I and the people of my tribe – the environmental artists, architectural placemakers, urban spaceniks and creative intervention-mongers – can regain some dignity.  We need to be more like sinister bees and less like compliant cows.

SATURDAY  Five-a-zeitgeist theoretical football. 3-D Reticulated Equitism 3.5bn, High Definition Supranational Style Still In Its Original Packaging 4.7bn after late bidding by telephone.

SUNDAY  Media review in the recliner. Jaunty, depressing round-up of property neologisms in Creative on Sunday by my old mate, epic space correspondent Darcy Farquear’say and his architectural dachshund, Bauhau.  The usual stuff. Anything without a chimney may now be called ‘urban’.  The ‘granny flat’ is now marketed as a ‘multiple occupation houselet’. Worst by far: redefinition of ‘lobby’ as ‘investibule’.

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