Kevin Kremer

Journal

What does it mean to get to know a place? Exploring White City through Embodied Archiving.

 

In late 2017 I participated in a course at the Royal College of Art called THE CATALOGUE. The brief asked the participants to utilize the concept of the catalog to open new perspectives on White City, a neighborhood of West London, which had recently become the new home to one of the RCA campuses.

I approached the brief by firstly looking into the history of White City – a place, whose identity is hard to grasp at first glance since it is part of several multi-million pound commercial and residential developments.

As you walk through the streets you're surrounded by corporate language, show-suites, and one of the largest shopping centers in Europe. Therefore it is hard to find an instant, emotional connection to this place, which appears to be lacking a true “center”, a place where residents and everyone else in the community come together.

 
 
 
 

As I was researching more about White City – a name which could have been coined by J. R. R. Tolkiens’ Lord of the Rings – I came across something interesting. During the 1908 Olympic Games in London, the White City stadium was the endpoint of the men‘s marathon. Until then, the distance for the Olympic marathon has varied slightly – around 42 km – but by the time the games arrived in London, King Edward VII requested that that race would start on the grounds of Windsor Castle (so his grandchildren could watch) and end in White City stadium in front of the Royal box. The distance of 26 miles and 385 yards equals 42.195m and has since then been used as the official Olympic marathon distance. What was particularly interesting for me is that the 1908 marathon ended right behind the new campus – next to the BBC building – with the official distance and the winners inscribed on a large winner‘s board right on the White City Place Plaza.

 
 
 

Alongside the Olympic Games, White City was also the host of the Franco-British Exhibition in the same year. The exhibition buildings and pavilions were all painted white, which gave an area then called Shepherd‘s Bush the name: White City. Unfortunately, none of the white buildings or the stadium still exists, therefore depriving the area of true historic identity and sense of purpose. As I read about all these spectacular events I could no help but feel nostalgic. And it was that feeling which led me to my approach to responding to the brief for THE CATALOGUE.

 
 
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To truly get to know the place and explore it I decided to recreate the 1908 marathon but instead of starting in Windsor Castle I decided to walk the entire distance through every corner of White City and its outskirts. In 42.195m (the official Olympic marathon distance) I would explore White City while simultaneously gathering and generating evidence of my walk, in reference to practically every other historic proof having been removed from this urban landscape. Therefore I decided to precisely document my marathon generating a body of data, which would then turn into an archive of my journey and represent a snapshot of White City today.

 
 

With the help of several apps and equipped with a go pro and questionably appropriate shoe-wear I set out to my walk on December 9th, 2017 at exactly 5 am. The system of in-situ archiving that I used was defined by a strict protocol of data accumulation. To “leave my mark” – literally – I decided to attach a piece of white string at the beginning of every kilometer to an object or urban structure that was closest to my location at that point.

 
 
 
 

Further, I committed to taking a short video sequence at the beginning of every kilometer and sending a voice note to a close friend on my phone, explaining how I was feeling and what was going through my head while trying to complete this massive challenge

 
 

In order to keep me even busier during the walk, I decided to forensically document and preserve spontaneous finds on the streets, the cigarettes that I smoked and the painkillers I had to take.

 
 
 
 

After completing the walk I started to scientifically structure the data I had gathered and created a visual archive of my process. The documentation of external and internal processes – embodied in-situ archiving – generated a rich body of data, that evidences my walk on December 9th, 2017. The project was on display as part of a pop-up exhibition in the White City Garden House.