Hex In The Park

IFAC Arts
Jul 8, 2021 9:32PM

Hex In The Park: Cursing out EC1 Ghost Homes by Pippa Henslowe, featuring artworks by Stewart Home & collaborators

Pippa Henslowe, November 12, 2017

At noon on Tuesday 31st October 2017 witches mounted a procession to hex the sites of two proposed ‘City fringe’ housing developments that threaten to overshadow popular local parks. They directed a deadly and hostile current of will at the proposed site of Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen in Golden Lane, after cursing out the proposed St Luke’s Mansions housing development on the space currently occupied by the Finsbury Leisure Centre. The witches are not against more homes being built in the area but what they want to see is social housing for local people built to an appropriate scale and in appropriate places.

Witches hex (31 October 2017) The Denizen development at Golden Lane. Courtesy of Pippa Henslowe.

After gathering outside the leisure centre, the coven marched slowly to Burnhill House. Ritual protections were performed for this social housing block on Norman Street, and then the proposed ten-storey development opposite it was cursed. Next a magic rite was performed in St. Luke’s Gardens to protect the park, trees and sunlight. After this a hex was put on any and all plans to overdevelop the St. Luke’s area, which is the most densely populated part of the UK. The current redevelopment design will shrink sports facilities and prevent afternoon sunlight from reaching the park for six months of the year. It will also plunge Burnhill House into darkness.

Witches hex (31 October 2017) The Denizen development at Golden Lane. Courtesy of Pippa Henslowe.

The witches shuffled slowly out of St Luke’s Park, then west along Old Street, before turning south down Golden Lane. The coven stopped at the west side of Fortune Street Park and turned to face Bernard Morgan House, where Taylor Wimpey have planning permission to replace 110 social housing units with an overscaled block of luxury flats. Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen development was cursed out and protection rites were performed for Fortune Street Park’s trees and the children who attend two local schools (Richard Cloudesley and Prior Weston) whose playgrounds and classrooms will also be cast into darkness if the proposed building goes ahead.

Witches hex (31 October 2017) The Denizen development at Golden Lane. Courtesy of Pippa Henslowe.

Although Bernard Morgan House is still standing, The Denizen has already been marketed and sold off-plan to non-dom foreign investors in places like Hong Kong. These speculators will neither live in the flats nor rent them out, they’re simply hoping an overheated property market will generate profits from empty luxury apartments.

Witches hex (31 October 2017) The Denizen development at Golden Lane. Courtesy of Pippa Henslowe.

Once the coven entered Fortune Street Park, a protection was performed once more, and The Denizen hexed again. The coven then paraded down the busy lunchtime market in Whitecross Street and back into St Luke’s Gardens, where final hexes and protections were enacted before the working was closed.

Witches hex (31 October 2017) The Denizen development at Golden Lane. Courtesy of Pippa Henslowe.

Witches Against Real-Estate said: “We need homes for local people that won’t overshadow our parks and schools, not buy to leave properties being sold to speculators who’ll neither live in them nor rent them out. It is unusual for us to hex anything but we are doing this to protect the parks, trees, wildlife and children, who will suffer if these buildings go ahead as planned.”

Witches hex (31 October 2017) The Denizen development at Golden Lane. Courtesy of Pippa Henslowe.

The rite caused quite a stir among local people, many of whom wanted to know what it was about and eagerly took leaflets from the coven’s assistants. Hex In The Park was also filmed by local television station London Live and a story about it broadcast twice that day as part of the evening news. The witches said it was easier to explain the event to the media in terms of it being Halloween rather than Samhain; since journalists tend to be more familiar with Christian rather than pagan culture.

Witches hex (31 October 2017) The Denizen development at Golden Lane. Courtesy of Pippa Henslowe.

Not only were there witches on the street, others were working off-site and remotely to contribute energy to the rite. These healers warn that the rapacious greed of those involved in the deal to allow Taylor Wimpey to built The Denizen has attracted extremely malevolent forces to the site and opened a gate to hell beneath it.

Witches hex (31 October 2017) The Denizen development at Golden Lane. Courtesy of Pippa Henslowe.

Until the development plans are cancelled it is not safe to enter Bernard Morgan House or the formerly open areas around it that have been enclosed by Taylor Wimpey’s hoardings. From time to time a lone witch will appear at the edges of this site to further curse it; simultaneously ensuring the evil forces that have fastened upon it are contained and prevented from spreading into the rest of Golden Lane.

Witches hex (31 October 2017) The Denizen development at Golden Lane. Courtesy of Pippa Henslowe.

Samhain 2017 Communiqué To The Coven

East London witches called me at 2A.M. with a message. They said we have the vital masculine energy to counterpart my feminine energy in this big picture and we are doing good work. Apparently our energies are having a bigger effect than we realise on a new momentum. This blows me away as they said this is now visible in our area and is infiltrating the city.

Witches hex (31 October 2017) The Denizen development at Golden Lane. Courtesy of Pippa Henslowe.

The Witch In White.

Witches hex (31 October 2017) The Denizen development at Golden Lane. Courtesy of Pippa Henslowe.

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The video art piece Hex In The Park was presented in the context of the exhibition Eaux d'Artifice (12 May - 7 July) at IFAC Athina as part of the Screening: Oedipus Wrecks: Sex, Violence & Incest… by Stewart Home (10 July, 2019).

The screening grouped films by the English artist, filmmaker, writer, pamphleteer, art historian, and activist Stewart Home offering, in this way, an insight into part of his practice. It was the first time these works were presented in Athens and also the worldwide premiere for Porn The Theory (2019), which was then his most recent video art piece made in collaboration with the artist, activist and pornographer Itziar Bilbao Urrutia. VHS editions of this classic as well as of the collaborations Bondage As Theme & Technique (2019) & UNICORN (2019) are scheduled for release in 2021.

Itziar Bilbao UrrutiaStewart Home, Porn The Theory (video still), 2019

The show also included other two collaborative pieces, each one a sequence of eight photographs & one text panel, by Stewart Home and the photographer Chris Dorley-Brown. In one of them, Occult Androgyny (2018), photographs of Home are merged with photographs of a London based Spanish witch incarnating the triple goddess in her maiden form. Photographs of her were used as references for his poses. He calls the final compositions morphs. Home’s body also appears in every image that composes Dual Flying Kicks (2018), this time imitating the hypermasculine poses of small plastic Bruce Lee toys.

During the event Oedipus Wrecks: : Sex, Violence & Incest… by Stewart Home we presented Re-Enter The Dragon (2016) – 40’48’’ – a film genre documentary produced, in its fiction but also in reality, by the ego and the superego Kevin Callan [1] & Stewart Home. As stated by the superego who, according to one of the voiceovers in the film, wrote the script prior to film’s production, the film looks at the legacy of martial arts figures such as Bruce Lee & Count Dante and, in particular, at the ways in which they were willing to, in the 1960s, teach students their fighting techniques now unpacked in popular culture and beyond it. Another electronic voiceover, a female one this time around, states that Stewart Home’s movie is about dreams and not reality, about the unreal quality of martial arts films and ideology of realism. This is followed by comments on the unreality of the fighting techniques portrayed in films like Fist of Fury (1972) and influence such fake fighting has had on fans of the genre. This female voice claims this brings us back to the avant-garde cinema of the lettrists [2] who, in the early 1950s, viewed Hollywood cinema as a capitalist spectacle and believed separating sound from image and scratching the surface of the film itself (physically) would help bring audiences back to the real world.

Installation shot at the exhibition Eaux d'Artifice (10 July, 2019 - IFAC Athina) featuring the artworks Dual Flying Kicks (2018) by Stewart Home and Chris Dorley-Brown and Re-Enter The Dragon (2016) by Stewart Home. IFAC Arts.

Themes recur and develop as viewers are taken into a sped up description of Bruceploitation movies [3]. As the film progresses the voiceover also addresses the author’s other opinions on politics, gender equality and race which approached with humour but through a rigorous theoretical framework.

Home has watched Bruce Lee’s handful of movies multiple times since he was a child. His most recent book Re-Enter The Dragon: Genre Theory, Brucesploitation & the Sleazy Joys of Lowbrow Cinema (Ledatape Organisation, September 2018) addressed the author’s political and social goals through Bruceploitation movie reviews that are carefully organised on the basis of film genre theory.

Screening // Ut Pictura Poesis (1997) – 0’43’’ – “This was made as part of the Arts Council funded Blipvert Project in 1997. It was one of six commissioned pieces cut into the ads at independent cinemas and was seen in that context by an audience of something like three quarters of a million people. It was shot at 50 Beck Road in Hackney (since I appear in it, Nick Abrahams was operating the camera) and edited at Artec at Highbury Corner (…). This was an attempt to distill the lettrist cinematic experiments of the early 1950s (and in particular the feature length pieces “Has The Film Already Started”, “Anti-Concept” and “Screams In Favour Of De Sade”) into 45 seconds. Proletarian post-modernism lives on…” – Stewart Home

No Pity (1993) – 3’46’’ – Promo video for short story collection “No Pity” by Stewart Home (AK Press 1993), made with Nick Abrahams and Mikey Tomkins and featuring music by Bloodsausage. The short stories are from the beginning of Stewart’s career as a writer. At the time his writing focused on skinhead gangs and anarchist activity. An art action and other episodes referenced in the stories also appear in the film.

Red London (1994) - 7'08'' - Promo for Stewart Home novel Red London made with Nick Abrahams and Mickey Tompkins in 1994. I hope to source a better quality version of this by accessing the master tape at some time, but for now you'll just have to live with this watchable but not perfect version digitised from a VHS copy.

Hex in the Park (2017) – 11’38’’ – was a Halloween 2017 ritual curse on property developers in the EC1 area of London in the form of a witches demonstration; while simultaneously being a protective action for two local parks (St. Luke’s Gardens and Fortune Street Park) that will have massive amounts of sunlight blocked from them if proposed developments go ahead. It was organised by Stewart Home, Liz Rever and the St Luke’s Community Collective. The film was edited by Owen Oppenheimer and the soundtrack is by Bioni Samp. Those involved in the protest were opposed to the construction of Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen in Golden Lane which is scheduled to replace 110 social housing units for key workers with 99 luxury flats being marketed to overseas investors who won’t live in them or even rent them out (they’ll be empty ghost homes), with no social or affordable housing provision on site. The demonstration was also against the then current design for the new Finsbury Leisure Centre on the other side of Old Street which would block sunlight from St Luke’s Gardens and Burnhill House (a social housing tower). The witches wanted no reduction of on site leisure facilities and for the proposed housing block St Luke’s Mansions to be moved from Helmet Row – where it would overshadow the park and Burnhill House – to the west side of the site against Central Street, where it would cause no harm. The video works as a spell and builds on the original Halloween working.

Installation shot at the screening Oedipus Wrecks: Sex, Violence & Incest… by Stewart Home (10 July, 2019 - IFAC Athina) featuring the video art piece Hex In The Park (2017) by Stewart Home. See video above. IFAC Arts.

Stewart Home & Chloe Aridjis On Ann Quin (2019) – 0’15’’ – Stewart Home & Chloe Aridjis each give a sentence about why they like the 1960s British experimental novelist Ann Quin [4].

The Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Oedipus Complex (2004) – 41’49’’ – was made while Stewart was in Melbourne as a visiting artist at the Victorian College of the Arts (May 04). In the movie avant-garde techniques and the avant-garde obsession with death interweave with reflections on the life and death of his mother Julia Callan-Thompson. Images of his mum working as a fashion model and club hostess during the sixties are cut against an at times deliberately dissociated soundtrack that uses stories about her to explore the limits of documentary cinema. This is simultaneously an expression of love and loss and an attempt to draw out the ways in which the avant-garde Lettrist cinema of the early fifties in France was commercialised in the later work of Godard, Marker and Resnais.

Installation shot at the screening Oedipus Wrecks: Sex, Violence & Incest… by Stewart Home (10 July, 2019 - IFAC Athina) featuring the film The Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Oedipus Complex (2004) by Stewart Home. IFAC Arts.

Installation shot at the screening Oedipus Wrecks: Sex, Violence & Incest… by Stewart Home (10 July, 2019 - IFAC Athina) featuring the film The Eclipse and Re-Emergence of the Oedipus Complex (2004) by Stewart Home. IFAC Arts.

Porn The Theory (2019) – 06’42’’ – presents a re-enactment of the butter scene from Last Tango In Paris (1972). In it Stewart Home plays the part originally assigned to the actress Maria Schneider (1952-2011) while Itziar Bilbao Urrutia acts as both Marlon Brando (1924-2006) and as Bernardo Bertolucci (1941-2018). The scene was, in 1972, decided upon at the last minute by the male director and male actor without the actress’ knowledge. Maria learned what the scene entailed as it was shot. In 2019, Hegelian reversal is employed by Home and Urrutia in order to explore sexism and sexual abuse in the movies. The film aims at seeing what happens to the scene and also to the story behind it with the genders reversed. In this attempt, the film incorporates in its dialogue lines from the original film, from an interview given by Maria in 2007 and also from Bertolucci’s comment on it (2013). The duo originally agreed on having two versions of Porn The Theory, a soft porn one aimed at the art world and another one aimed at Urrutia’s usual public. As it turned out the soft porn version was never finished and, for this reason, we have been screening the only existent one.

Installation shot at the screening Oedipus Wrecks: Sex, Violence & Incest… by Stewart Home (10 July, 2019 - IFAC Athina) featuring the film Porn The Theory (2019) by Stewart Home & Itziar Bilbao Urrutia. IFAC Arts.

Installation shot at the screening Oedipus Wrecks: Sex, Violence & Incest… by Stewart Home (10 July, 2019 - IFAC Athina) featuring the film Porn The Theory (2019) by Stewart Home & Itziar Bilbao Urrutia. IFAC Arts.

Installation shot at the screening Oedipus Wrecks: Sex, Violence & Incest… by Stewart Home (10 July, 2019 - IFAC Athina) featuring the film Porn The Theory (2019) by Stewart Home & Itziar Bilbao Urrutia. IFAC Arts.

Installation shot at the screening Oedipus Wrecks: Sex, Violence & Incest… by Stewart Home (10 July, 2019 - IFAC Athina) featuring the film Porn The Theory (2019) by Stewart Home & Itziar Bilbao Urrutia. IFAC Arts.

Footnotes.

[1] Kevin Llewellyn Callan is Stewart Home’s birth name. Throughout his experimental works, he includes various fictional versions of himself - often using variations on his birth name - and also recycles fictional characters from previous pieces.

[2] Their cinema resonates with the opinions of the exponents of British structural/materialist films (1970s).

[3] Movies made from 1972 onward attempting to cash in on Bruce Lee’s enormous success in Southeast Asia and, after his death in 1973, on his enormous success worldwide.

[4] “Ann Quin is arguably the most important of a small wave of experimental writers who emerged in Britain in the 1960s. Along with a handful of contemporaries, notably B.S. Johnson, Quin introduced avant-garde themes and techniques to the British novel which had more usually been associated with Continental movements like Lettrism and the Nouveau Roman. Working in a generally poorly-received and misunderstood sub-genre, Quin and other writers of the British avant-garde were always outsiders. Like Johnson, Quin was from a working class background and her work stood both politically and formally in opposition to the conservatism of the British literary establishment of the time. Suffering from mental health problems, Quin committed suicide in 1973. Johnson followed a few weeks later. Although mostly overlooked during her own lifetime, Quin’s work – and in particular her debut novel Berg (1964) – would later become recognized as groundbreaking. In particular, she has had a strong influence on contemporary non-mainstream writers, notably Stewart Home, who contributed to the revival of her work as well as of other overlooked British writers." (Nicholas Gledhill, 2019)

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