In 2014 as a part of my research of lines and lives, I went to Fiona Banner’s exhibition in London’s Peer gallery. It was a collaboration with photographer Paolo Pellegrin, who was briefed to explore and reflect upon the life, behaviours, costumes and activities of the City of London.
Banner took Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as a point of departure and created a rich and complex installation that combined gigantic close-up drawings of pinstripe suits, photography, projection, artefacts and sounds “…continue [ing] her long-held fascination with Conrad’s disturbing narrative into the moral and psychological depths of man’s inhumanity to man.”
She sought to contemplate the juxtaposition of monolithic skyscrapers casting long shadows on low-rise council housing estates. She questioned the segregation of these two worlds.
Further, she discussed the dualities present in the peoples that inhabit these imagined spaces; The contradictory decadence of City life in itself; A life of opulence & overindulgence, seemingly rich but beneath the surface, expressionless.
Where did the pinstripe come from? Is it some façade of perfection that camouflages what may lie below the surface. Does it represent some repressed yet deeply desired aspiration?
To me it also spoke of T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland (1922).
Reading The Wasteland for the first time was a deeply affecting experience. The poem is composed of an intricate network of poetic, historical & mythical references linked by interweaving stories.
It was one of those poems that you feel before you truly come to understand. And, in truth, a reader may never fully come to know its meaning… but, in essence, it is an exploration of the human condition.
Eliot breaks down the post-war world, its language, relationships and forms.
He composes a particularly lasting image of London Bridge, describing a crowd of people sleepwalking through their daily lives. “So many I had not thought death had undone so many.”
He sees this crowd as a herd of afflicted souls.
Eliot worked in a bank in 1917 – 1925.
I didn’t think much of it when I first met Andrew. It was about a year after I moved to London. I was working in a bar where he chatted me up while ordering drinks. Tall, well spoken, handsome and charismatic. After my shift ended I joined him and his new-found friends at some hedonistic after-party at their Soho Square apartment, where Bowie used to reside. How fitting, I thought.
Andrew was a lawyer at Linklaters. Him in his three-piece Saville Row suit and me in my worn leather jacket and skinny jeans, we hit it off. I was intrigued by the richness of his manner and sickness of his mind.
The pinstripe suit is supposed to have originated in England and was traditionally worn by bankers. The width and distance between the stripes were identifying factors of different banks. Another theory suggests that it evolved out of the striped uniforms worn whilst boating.
I am reading The Wasteland in Andrew’s eyes.
In his eyes, and in the distance between his pinstripes.