The London Perambulator

I found myself back at the Whitechapel Gallery last night for the world premier of John Rogers’ film The London Perambulator. This documentary is a portrait of arsonist and ‘deep topographer’ Nick Papadimitriou. In 1975 the teenage Papadimitriou burnt down his school, and as a result got banged up in Ashford Remand Centre; a little later he found himself locked in a cell next to serial killer Dennis Nilsen at Wormwood Scrubs prison. Now in his fifties and after overcoming drug addiction, north London based Papadimitriou spends his days tramping around the liminal spaces of the city and collecting archival material connected to his walks. Some might call this psychogeography but since the term is now hackneyed, ‘deep topography’ provides a more attractive description. Papadimitriou’s fascination with suburban sprawl and sewage works might be seen as ‘eccentric’, and  The London Perambulator struck me as a cross between Iain Sinclair and Chris Petit’s Channel 4 movies such as The Falconer and works by  the artist Luke Fowler including Bogman Palmjaguar and The Way Out (see right column on link for Fowler review).
Like Luke Fowler in his art film portraits, Rogers refrains from providing a straight account of Papadimitriou’s life, instead leaving it to the viewer to piece together biographical fragments. The London Perambulator has a grunge aesthetic, including shaky camera-work and with the outdoor shots filmed from a walkers’ perspective, so there are no panoramas or aerial shots. Intercut into this are talking head sequences of Papadimitriou’s three most famous friends speaking about him and his activities. The talking heads are media personalities Russell Brand and Will Self, complimented by writer Iain Sinclair. Self and Sinclair are shot in their homes, whereas Brand appears to be reclining in the offices of his Vanity Productions company. There is the odd shot of Papadimitriou in his flat, but mostly he is filmed outside, sometimes accompanied by Will Self. There are variations in sound quality, with the audio on the Brand segments being superior to everything else. Brand’s Vanity company produced The London Perambulator, Rogers works there and obviously studio equipment is generally superior to its portable equivalents. That said, the sound is acceptable throughout the film, and the changes in its quality are simply a part of its grunge aesthetic. In the interests of clarity, I also need to declare here that there are a couple of projects I’ve been developing with Rogers and Vanity for some time; so if anyone wants to make accusations of nepotism, I should be included in them for blogging about this film!
After the screening there was a panel talk featuring Rogers, Sinclair and Self, with Goldsmiths College academic Andrea Philips as chair. Rogers and Sinclair acquitted themselves well. Unfortunately, the discussion became somewhat strained when Andrea Philips asked Self whether there was a master/slave relationship between him and Papadimitriou. Self jumped down her throat by denouncing this as a detour into the bondage parlour, whereas it seemed to me that Philips was invoking Hegel’s famous and much discussed master/slave dialectic as a reference point.  Likewise, my impression was that Philips was putting Papadimitriou forward as the more senior partner in his obviously close  and collaborative relationship with Self, but the media personality angrily responded that Papadimitriou was in no way beholden to him. It is difficult to imagine anyone who had just seen Rogers’ film coming away with that impression, since after viewing it only a reversal of Self’s perspective would seem in the least bit feasible.
Philips appeared shaken by Self’s odd reply to her question, which might explain why having opened the session by talking up her own academic expertise in the areas of psychogeography and urban walking, she closed by asking why these activities appealed only to men. Sinclair soon put her straight by explaining that most of those wanting to do walks with him were women, and of course Philips’ own academic research also served to disprove her final assertion. Afterwards a good number of those present headed up to the Whitechapel bar, where Self’s claim that Papadimitriou was a contemporary Rimbaud came in for some heavy criticism. On the basis of the Rogers’ film, it would appear that Papadimitriou is principally concerned with observation, whereas Rimbaud’s focus was transformation; such differences clearly render Self’s claim untenable.
The London Perambulator was screened as a part of the East London Film Festival (23-30 April 2009, various locations)._
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by The Toilet Trader on 2009-04-30 12:22:30 +0000

the biographical details of nick’s life are far more interesting than the bits of video i’ve seen on youtube. as for roger’s ‘national psychogeographic’ – looks like hes on a hiding to nowhere. it seems that psychogeographical nationalism is being reasserted – certainly evident in self’s writings too – and debord’s expulsions and attempts to control non-french psychogeographers can be seen as elements of this in the praxis of the si… to really dig psychogeography u need to go symeltaneously backwards to hypergraphy and forwards to situgraphy…

Comment by This Is Not The Man In The Iron Mask on 2009-04-30 12:43:35 +0000

The ‘observation’ about Rimbaud of course relates to the romantic pantheism of Papadimitriou’s ambition as stated in the film of melting into the sewage-works or car-park tarmac. This would have horrified Rimbaud some of whose whose ILLUMINATIONS are precisely about urban transformation, a vision of the city to be not a dissolution into the city that is. The question of poetics is not to interpret the world but to change it. Marx and Rimbaud could have had an exchange about this as it’s more than likely that at some point they were both in the British Library at the same time (I think Rimbaud had a fraudulently obtained reader’s ticket – in Nicholl’s SOMEBODY ELSE, the best book in English on Arthur)

Comment by Howling Wizard, Shrieking Toad on 2009-04-30 13:20:12 +0000

Dear Mr Home, did you remind Mr Self that he had once, in a fit of camp pique, labelled you as “that nasty Situationist skinhead.”

Comment by Howling Wizard, Shrieking Toad on 2009-04-30 13:33:32 +0000

“Nicholl’s SOMEBODY ELSE, the best book in English on Arthur” —
Yes, I read that — bloody good book too.

Comment by Situationist Skinhead on 2009-04-30 13:46:04 +0000

Walk with me, take my hand and let me lead you
I’ll take you on a journey, and I promise I won’t leave you
(I won’t leave you) until you get the full comprehension
And when you do, that’s when the mission
of survival, becomes your every thought
Keep your eyes open, cuz you don’t wanna be caught
Half steppin with your weapon on safety
Now break yourself motherfucker ‘fore you make me
take this 211 to another level
I come up with your ends, you go down with the devil
Now roam through the depths of hell
Where the rest your bust ass homeboys dwell

Comment by Michael Roth on 2009-04-30 14:53:49 +0000

Sounds like an interesting event. I’d love to know more of what Sinclair had to say, especially in the context of his literary output over the last several years. Did you get a chance to ask any questions of the panel?

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-04-30 15:47:50 +0000

Hey Howling Wiz, didn’t remind Will Self of the things he’d called me in the Evening Standard, or anything else. I chose not to join in the discussion. There were questions from the audience, but like me This Is Not The Man In The Iron Mask (see comment above) didn’t feel like contributing to that section of things. We shared these things among ourselves afterwards.
Shout out to Michael Roth too! Among other things Iain Sinclair was talking about his theory of cultural xeroxing, that something has to be copied at least 5 times to make it into mainstream culture. So with psychogeography he had the Situationists and even me as way too early…. He also mentions me in the actual film, and John has included a groovy photo of yours truly…. Sinclair also went into his lovely riff about the boundaries of London once being marked by asylums and the walks of John Clare…. He also talked about the use of film cameras in his communal house at the end of the sixties and on his early London walks from that period. Most of this you can find in written form in his recent books. He mentioned his surprise at coming across a reference to Debord invoking Orson Welles’ largely ignored 1955 film “Mr Arkadin” in a recent LRB review as a kind of serendipity… sorry I don’t recall his exact phrase. He was also talking about filming at the Dialectics of Liberation conference in 1967 and how the forgotten phrase psychopolitics was bandied about almost as frequently as you hear psychogeography these days…. Sinclair couldn’t remember what it meant, but psychopolitics seems to have various mainly negative meanings… related to brainwashing in the USSR… but there is also a book by Peter Sedgwick “PsychoPolitics” (1982) – a critique of anti-psychiatry and of the ideas of Foucault and R. D. Laing.

Comment by THE BUILDING on 2009-04-30 16:56:02 +0000

I still havent seen Petit’s ‘The Falconer’. It was on one night when I came back from a fight disguised as a kebab with somebody or other but it was all a bit too wossname to wotnot at the time. I think it probably reads better in description that it does on the telly but I could be wrong. Anyway, I want to see it so if anybody has this, they can come round to ours for a vindaloo and a bottle of Cantell and Cochranes (it’s the big bottle). Just bring your own spirit level.

Comment by Michael K on 2009-04-30 16:56:40 +0000

It’s no good. Several words in recent blogs disagree with our mediation. ‘Horrid’ in the last blog was bad enough but words like ‘dialectic’, ‘Goldsmiths’, ‘liminal’ and ‘Chris Petit’ are counter-revelationary.

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-04-30 17:02:45 +0000

K, I’m using those words to replicate Whitechapel lingo…. and you’re wrong about dialectic….
And Mr Building, I have a copy of “The Falconer” coz I’m in it, although a friend snapped my good video tape copy when they borrowed it, after which I managed to get a DVD copied from a version taped off the telly. But Chris Petit and Emma Matthews promised me a good DVD copy as they were copying some for other people last time I saw them, so I must chase that up…..

Comment by Will Self on 2009-04-30 17:04:18 +0000

Right mister trippy, that’s it ! This relentless hate campaign you’ve been waging against me for all these years has gone far enough ! I challenge you to a duel. Camden Lock, 7.30 PM 5th may. 5TH MAY, YOU HEAR, MR TRIPPY !!!!! GRRR!

Comment by Will Self on 2009-04-30 17:06:18 +0000

Not only that, im gonna make sure you NEVER write for canongate again ! You rotter ! HAHAHAHA !!!!

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-04-30 17:08:38 +0000

So what is it to be? Water pistols or custard pies? And just because you’re from north London doesn’t mean we have to do it in Camden. Don’t forget I was born in south London, where you now live, whereas I am now resident north of the river on the beautiful Isle of Dogs. So let’s split the difference and meet at the mid-way point on Hungerford Bridge, the pedestrian walkway on the BFI side of the river, not the Westminster side!

Comment by Will Self on 2009-04-30 17:16:09 +0000

How about a good old fashioned boxing match ? But don’t aim for my nose as it’s rather weak and sometimes a punch to the nose can make the eyes water. Apart from that, yes, okay, hungerford bridge it is ! Oh, and no kicking, i suffer from asthma.

Comment by DO MISANDRISTS DREAM OF DIALECTIC SHOES? on 2009-04-30 17:19:19 +0000

Jumpin..and pumpin…and jumpin and pumpin…and jumpin..and pumpin…and jumpin and pumpin.. Jumpin..and pumpin…and jumpin and pumpin…and jumpin..and pumpin…and jumpin and pumpin.. Jumpin..and pumpin…and jumpin and pumpin…and jumpin..and pumpin…and jumpin and pumpin.. Jumpin..and pumpin…and jumpin and pumpin…and jumpin..and pumpin…and jumpin and pumpin.. Jumpin..and pumpin…and jumpin and pumpin…and jumpin..and pumpin…and jumpin and pumpin.. Jumpin..and pumpin…and jumpin and pumpin…and jumpin..and pumpin…and jumpin and pumpin.. Jumpin..and pumpin…and jumpin and pumpin…and jumpin..and pumpin…and jumpin and pumpin..

Comment by K MAIL on 2009-04-30 17:22:11 +0000

What’s going on here. Not only are most of my historical comments on this blog inauthentic but somebody else is now writing the blogs themselves. Home use the word ‘horrid’ ? I should coco!

Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-04-30 17:45:03 +0000

But Will, if it’s gonna be boxing you gotta kick butt, not buts it’s gotta be kick boxing! Although personally I’d prefer custard pies….

Comment by K MAIL on 2009-04-30 17:58:11 +0000

Fill your boots! It’s sploshing time!

Comment by Dan Boleyn on 2009-04-30 18:58:29 +0000

Hey Will!
I want my royalties!

Comment by Howling Wizard, Shrieking Toad on 2009-05-02 00:33:15 +0000

“Truth is not like some finished product in which one can no longer find any trace of the tool that made it” (Hegel).

Comment by Ricardo Terrori on 2009-05-02 02:17:24 +0000

You londoners are so excesively cool and intelligent that make me feel very un-cool and ignorant and very far away from Whitechapel. Notwithstanding, I have heard of that Hegel guy and I am aware of Will Self brief passage by Santiago and that this paragraph , “There ain’t no God,” someone said. “God is dead.” Then whoever itwas laughed, and Dick’s insides cringed from the laughter. It was a woman in the middle of the platform, and she was standing as still as a rock—her mouth didn’t move, and the eyes behind the hair that was down all over her face saw nothing at all. “The End of the World is come and it is too late to repent. We are doomed, doomed—” is presumably out of copyright.
)from Tomorrow by Zagat, Arthur Leo

Comment by Michael Roth on 2009-05-02 04:52:02 +0000

Howling Wizard, I thought you were talking about Michael K. there for a minute …

Comment by Howling Wizard, Shrieking Toad on 2009-05-02 05:23:28 +0000

Q: As far as your book, The Assault On Culture, your art writings and manifestos: how did you get interested in this stuff?
SH: What happened was when I was in school all I wanted to do was to be involved in music, but I wasn’t so good a guitar player. I did a punk fanzine and I was in a band. By 1980, there wasn’t that much happening that I was interested in, musically. By 1982, I got bored of doing fanzines, and I had quit the band I was in. I was bored in the music scene. So I was looking to do something interesting. What I learned from punk rock was I could play an instrument without knowing anything about it. I went to many art exhibits, and I remember one at the ICA in London. I looked at it and thought “This is really lousy. I could do better than this.”
Q: What was it?
SH: It was an exhibition of fake advertising stuff. It was parodies of advertising posters. I thought that it wasn’t a very interesting insight because you can look at Modernist paintings and say “A three year old can do it.” That might be true. That’s banal. What I was interested in was not the fact that I could do it, but how could I get something on a wall in a gallery. I wondered “How does one become an artist?” I have the opposite position of Baudrillard, who says what’s real becomes simulated. My position is what’s simulated becomes real. That’s my Hegelianism: I just want to reverse everything. Or is that Satanism? I became a musician of sorts, or a non-musician, without knowing anything beforehand; maybe I could become an artist? I started advertising myself as an artist. I started taking out classified ads. Doing leaflets saying “Now, I’m an artist.”
Q: Were you writing stories at this time too?
SH: At the same time I started writing this basically banal poetry. All these people in rock bands were getting into poetry and experimental music, which was really awful. At the same time, there was a poetry revival. All these terrible poets get up on stage and reading. People that you had never heard of to people like Ann Clark. They would read about how depressed they were living on the 29th floor of a towerblock and had been burglarized sixty times. I thought that it was dull. So I’d go up there and do these really banal poems about fruit and vegetables, and they’d all be three lines long. I was really into banality for a few years. I had this notion to do plagiarism, not coming through post-modernism because I didn’t know anything about it. It had to do with all these horrible poets talking about being original. My attitude was “Fuck you, if you’re going to be original, I’m going to be unoriginal.” I got into plagiarism, and that was reinforced by reading Lautreamont.

Comment by Howling Wizard, Shrieking Toad on 2009-05-02 05:37:20 +0000

At that time I also got hold of the Nuggets double compilation album put together by her guitarist Lenny Kaye, and that was a revelation, all those groovy garage punk classics from the sixties by The Electric Prunes and The Seeds, I loved that stuff when I was teenage. As soon as The Pebbles albums started coming out, I got those too, from Pebbles 1 onwards. The sixties seemed so long ago to me then, like it was the stone-age, although those garage punk recordings were only a decade old. Back then, those recordings felt to me to be a lot older than stuff that came out in the late-seventies sounds to my ears now. Even the sixties sounds like yesterday now, whereas when I was fourteen or fifteen I thought stuff from 1966 sounded positively antediluvian.

Comment by ITALO CALVINO on 2009-05-02 13:35:13 +0000

Mr K decides that from now on he will act as if he were dead, to see how the world gets along without him. For some while he has realised that things between him and the world are no longer proceeding as they did before; before they seemed to expect something, one of the other, he and the world, now he no longer recalls what there was too expect, good or bad, or why this expectation kept him in a perpetually agitated, anxious state.
So now Mr K should feel a sensation of relief, no longer having to worry about what the world has in store for him; and there should be relief also for the world, which no longer has to bother about him. But it is the very expectation of enjoying this calm that makes Mr K anxious.
In other words, being dead is less easy than it may seem. First of all you must not confuse being dead with not being, a condition that occupies the vast expanse of time before birth, apparently symmetrical with the other, equally vast expanse that follows death. In fact, before birth we are part of the infinite possibilities that may or may not be fulfilled; whereas, once dead, we cannot fulfil ourselves either in the past (to which we now belong entirely but on which we can no longer have any influence) or in the future (which, even if influenced to us, remains forbidden to us). Mr K’s case is really more simple, since his capacity for having an influence on anybody or anything has always been negligible; the world can very well do without him, and he can consider himself dead quite serenely, without even altering his habits. The problem is not the change in what he does but in what he is, or more specifically in what he is as far as the world is concerned. Before, by “world” he meant the world plus himself; now it is a question of himself plus the world minus him.
Does the world minus him mean an end to anxiety?
A world in which things happen independently of his presence and his reactions, following a law of their own or necessity or rationale that does not involve him?
The wave strikes the cliff and hollows out the rock, another wave strikes, another; whether hhe is or is not, everything is always happening. The relief in being dead should be this; having eliminated that patch of uneasiness that is our presence, the only thing that matters is the extension and succession of things under the sun, in their impassive serenity. All is calm or tends toward calm, even hurricanes, earthquakes, the eruption of volcanoes. But was this not the earlier world, when he was in it? When every storm bore the within itself the peace of afterwards, prepared the moment when all the waves would have struck the shore, and the wind would have spent its force? Perhaps being dead is passing into the ocean of the waves that remain waves forever, so it is futile for the sea to become calm.

Comment by Samantha Haworth on 2009-05-04 00:08:22 +0000

as i was there i had to say i LOVED the film i think it was a lovely look in the world seen through Nicks eyes!
john is a talented director and i think the shakey camera worked as it made u feel like u was walking with nick and will
loved the discussion afterwards and was great to have a drink with everyone afterwards and discuse the film 🙂

Comment by The Man in the Iron Mask on 2009-05-05 11:11:23 +0000

Do Nick and Will have Parkinson’s?
And just because they’re shakey walkers, doesn’t mean you have to use a shakey camera. This is the mimetic fallacy, the idea that you’ve got to write a mad novel because you set it in a madhouse etc.
Yeah, great to have a drink: £5.75p for a glass of indifferent red – bled white by the Whitechapel….

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