21st Faith

21stfaith

We are a collaborative research project, investigating and questioning faith as a human feeling. 

This publication presents 32 creative projects created for an exhibition in October 2017 at The Workshop, Lambeth. 

6

Someone,

Some Street,

by Yusta.

The City as Memorial

As I move through the streets, on certain corners, at certain crossings I see pink,

red and yellow petals, wrapped in brown paper, clear plastic or just a black bin bag, tied

to street lamps. Some are fresh, facing the sky, taking in water from a halved water bottle.

A laminated portrait and a short message sit unblemished between stalks. Others are

a little older, the leaves have turned brown, with petals scattered across the pavement,

waiting to be swept up by the street cleaning machine’s revolving brush. On others

condensation has made the ink bleed and those tender words are lost in the surface

an object on its inevitable path to becoming rubbish.

Knocked off their bike, caught on a crossing, stabbed or shot. Victims of the city,

those that passed away in the streets, on the concrete, they are immortalized on that

same spot. It is a reminder that this is not just any street, not just some everyday piece

of pavement, but a place of significance.

I find myself cycling around a roundabout on the edge of the city, as I roll around

it’s curve, I pass a bike chained to the railings, painted entirely in white, even the chain,

caked and stiff, unable to turn again. I keep rolling; I pass another, and another. Cars zoom

by, coming off the motorway slip road into the city, this visual code makes the danger

of this place tangible, I slow the rotations of my wheel, I come off and head down

the canal, away from all that past destruction.

It is a cool spring morning and I’m walking through the park that my house edges,

an oak tree sits at the far end, between two rows of terrace houses. As I draw closer,

I see ribbons running up the tree’s trunk, red and gold on rough bark. Flowers

and messages crowd the wet grass, pushing up against the bottom of the trunk.

A single image is stapled to the bark, a young boy; he’d been stabbed a week before,

I’d heard. I stand for minute looking at these offering of memory, trying to construct

an image of this person, who I was learning the existence of in the same moment

I was learning of their death. But it not long before I start to feel awkward, feeling wrong

to linger. In the midst of someone else’s pain, I am a visitor, an onlooker, a rubbernecker.

I keep walking, entering the underpass, its brick walls are dressed in a pastel scrawl.

Chalk lines draw out messages, goodbyes or simply the boys name, written large and bold

in the handwriting of children, teenagers and adults alike.

I pass these memorials on my familiar routes; with each day I see them slowly dissolve

into the urban skin. They cannot last, the city could simply not bear the weight of it all,

or be reminded too often, if it is to consider itself first and foremost a place of life.

No, they must disappear, all trace eventually confined to the minds of those who

intersected with these events, one way or another.

Death often reminds us of the importance of life, a cliché but a truism nonetheless.

I passed by the tree memorial on the estate the other day. I have since moved house,

and this is path I rarely tread these days. It’s been almost two years now but the memorial

still stands. Most of the flowers have all but disappeared, instead two large white t-shirts

with the boy’s face and name in their center are now are pinned to trunk with gold tacks,

bright on an otherwise dreary autumn day. The tree is secluded between eight terrace

houses, all of which have a kitchen window facing the tree.

To find these markings in our streets, reminds us that public space is not simply

utilitarian, and though it may not feel like it, the city is shaped by us. That is to say,

as we live and die we continue to give it form.

Yusta: cargocollective.com/gostamakes, contact.gosta@protonmail.com, @g.o.sta