Urban Detective

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words Richard Wentworth

A British artist obsessed with architectural clues, urban oddities and of accidental space opens his files and brings us the case of the rogue orange tree. "Our eyes are set side by side so we have marvellous peripheral comprehension, adequate for the uneven ground ahead, but rubbish for up above." So says my brain scientist friend, who is good at sympathising with the worst head-banging moments.

I always see the crack in the window before I see the glass. I am sometimes sure that I can hear my synapses clicking, as if I am hurrying along behind my own deductive powers. How quickly we extrapolate from little things to bigger pictures, and how strange is the lame surrogate of the photograph whose periphery is the architectural doorway which shuts off the wonder of stereoscopic intelligence. It regulates our looking, leaving us to peer between the reveals.

I was recently in SSS, Scalextric Southern Spain, Berlin Airlift flight patterns, Brussels-funded autostradas in an auto-da-fe landscape of salt flats, grubbed-up orange groves, and eruptions of urbanizacion hither and thither, por alli, por alla. These rashes, I thought, may be how the turn of the century will be remembered - not-city meets not-country. Mundo Martino Parr. An economic depression is the only known lotion that could alleviate this itching and spreading.

I love the way we must always refer to the East to describe deracination, or getting lost. There are, though, comforts to being dis-Oriented, little surprise hand rails, anchors and trig points which the survivalist in us is sure to find. I am practised at finding the steadying hand in these moments, often where big system meets little system, the little nods of recognition.

The line of the concrete paviours gets snagged on a young orange tree, slightly out of step with its grid of comrades. To the buzz of the cutting disc, a new protocol is rehearsed. Scissor, paper, stone ...
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