vue cinema, wood green
it's hollywood, baby! but infinitely really worse.
|awful stack||Feb 4|
the windswept maw of Wood Green station. it clears its throat. it gasps, loosening the muscles until they flower, sickly, into four elongated and equally un-mystifying roads. four roads which slouch off deep into the lowly underabundance of North London suburbia. roads which tumble south, like a body falling down a flight of stars - the knees, bone buckled, giving way into central london. your head on each and every step, which it scrapes. the ladder of green lanes, and what lies beyond it - a prolapse fingered indelicately back into the metropolitan sphincter. Hold on.
one of these roads - that facing west, ish, sort of - climbs eventually toward the debased platform of Alexandria Palace; a structure that seems permanently about to burn down, and which - given a rudimentary glance - exists only to host miniature model conventions, Dimuborgir concerts; and sparsely-attended ice hockey games. actually it sounds pretty lit. holy fuck. my grandmother remembers coming here to dance, during the years in which the BBC television studios cast tinny, magnetic films - lit by effervescent bulbs, those which melted wax and plastic - into the scooped-out hills of London; still ravaged by bomb damage, and generally - probably - a shitty place to live.
and yet, the vast majority of those who come to this place - to wood green - do not make it beyond the choke-point of Lordship Lane and Station Road. most will remain where they are, dragging wetly on an off-brand vape pen while attempting to shake the buttery smear of a cold fry from the grooves of their trainers. the air, filled with the scent of sharp meat, sesame, the taint of blood - iron, ferrite, loose - on the tips of tongues. this is wood green; a place that recently went viral because a man was filmed throwing a dead pigeon into the air, his voice dully - with surprising confidence - calling it an actual bastard. the only redeeming moment is when a person - off-camera - has the forethought to intone ‘don’t do that,’ but sort of - blankly? wearily? at him. the way you’d defeatedly tell a dog to stop chewing up bits of its own sick, in a morbidly ouroborean cycle of purging and engulfing. as in, you recognize and acknowledge that what he is doing is not ok, but you also have no real skin in the game; that there is no clear advantage or benefit to you should he stop doing it, except that, with each lob, it is also - painfully - your arm which is winding up and letting go. that you are tainted by association with this dispiriting act of failed, never realizable flight. Elsewhere in wood green, at its hinterlands, a dead pigeon was removed from the pavement and - just, sort of, dumped in an empty flower planter. this - being as close to an anglo-saxon burial mound as you will find in these obtuse environs fed by the flat mirthlessness of the New River; a canal which feeds some 210 million gallons of water into london each year. the poison, comrades, has sunk deep within us.
but let us drift elsewhere, for a moment - to a different place and a different time. we are in california.
you know it - the one. furiously photographed, shared, cropped, zoomed into, colourized and made monochrome; shared, stored, downloaded, deleted, uploaded - the sign never shifting or moving place, all the while its image - as Hito Steyerl would have it - circulates to known-unknown world.
this signage had originally been erected as part of a property lure; a piece of gestural public architecture whose aim was to encourage buyers to move to this - until then - less than desirable nest of sun-hot roads and cul-de-sacs. it was a ploy, comparatively easy to construct and - i imagine - never intended to remain there permanently. and yet, the law of urban sprawl is the law of the always-permanent-temporary; in which the greater the transitoriness of an object, a structure, an intervention, the greater becomes the forces of entropy and dilation which work upon it. estate agent signs; rave posters; dumped mattresses; chicken bones; . all sorts of transactional interjections within the urban fabric - small, gesturally short-term rearrangements of or behaviours on the built environment - can become alluringly, and sometimes alarmingly, permanent. The city is a monstrous accumulation; a process rather than a specified and tightly-closed loop. the calcification - the dilation - of architectural accretion causes the impermanent to become permanent. why? because its creators had few deep tethers to remember them within a place. the rave promoter, pasting A4 fliers onto a piece of wet hoarding, is not going to be there tomorrow. they will be nursing the mother of all comedowns. The estate agent, digging their toothless sign into the hard ground, will tomorrow have moved on. they’ll be queuing listlessly before an infinitely recurring fridge of prawn mayo sandwiches, and prawn sandwiches without the mayonnaise. those things that are temporary become-within of the city. it lives it dies and things - always, always things - gather on top of one another.
Vue Wood Green is a cinema. it is a cinema owned by vue which shows films (cines?). before you watch a film you ascend a tricky little escalator housed both behind and before the main lobby; one at its foot and another within a rear territory accessible only over a footbridge about a quarter of a mile down the road ? inexplicably, making it the most indirect possible route to gain access to the cinema?
it is a cinema, vwg. it is a cinema which - echoing years down from the first raw bulbous flickerings of the lumiere brothers (those who destroyed a wall, and filmed it, and reversed it again). but it is also something other than a cinema; in so far as all of its seats seem broken, twisted and lilting at unusual angles, and are - each of them - made from the kind of car plastic you find in old ladas and whose fabric is really a kind of hard, smoked-on carpet you find in the houses of your grandparents. the kind of carpet that has become so worn as to become diamond, a substance brighter and more reflective than the surface of the most brilliant mirrors. so lopsided, cold and fretting, you begin to gnash and bite your teeth and gums.
are you sitting comfortably? no. because it is actually impossible - in any bodily configuration - to sit comfortably here.
on this particular day i was watching ari aster’s Midsommar. a really, deceptively cloying and unexpected film. a film in which the bright, summer light - so endless, and redolent - exposes without remorse the physical dismemberments and violences on which its cruel harvest depends. there is no, or little, shadow. there are infinities of shadow, for those outside of its closed loop; its un-agitated inner circle.
it is - i must stress this - not a good film to watch in a cinema that seems inherently debased. haunted, by the ghosts and future ghosts of all other cinemas. something brushes against your mind. a piece of popcorn - old, and wilted, and somehow still sticky - clings indifferently to your sole.
WGV has a hollywood sign. erected on its silver-metal roof is a big, red hollywood sign, because it is near hollywood lane, and because it is a cinema.
this is really very brash, and extremely legitimately funny.
it recently burst into literal flames. without any obvious reason or cause. it was put out but, for a while, it burned; turning the air slightly more acrid than it was before.
what kind of big, red guileless sign - a sort of Baudrillardian signifier which has detached itself from the gory meanderings of the reel-real world - would burst into flames for no obvious or apparent reason?
this was an act of self-immolation. the spirit of hollywood - mirnau clutching his collar, raggedly breathing. it was an incident of seeming auto-obliteration; the cinema, sagging with the weight of flickering light and old popcorn and clumsy, poorly-oriented lighting and yukky toilets and reek, deciding to vaporise itself. a knot, tying itself in stomachs.
when the credits eventually rolled and we stood to leave it became apparent - as we made our way toward the exit - that the only means of escape - improbably - was down a dog-legged elevator into an elephantine grey sub-lobby. one we had not really seen earlier. it was late. close to midnight. ten or fifteen or twenty of us descended in the thick dark. the door was closed. the lights were half out. the door - covered by plastic and dim sheets of metal - had to be dragged open; open onto the mouth of wood green. it stuck to the carpet, as if digging its claws into the nonexistant pile. a sense of stiff, awkward unease stirred in us.
somewhere a voice called out.
the city rolled over in its sleep.
*in the past six months i have become a sort of chronicler of WG’s more salubrious moments, and a reader of its council minutes and policy documents. i hate who i am.