By Esther Leslie
This companion, like dreams and the unconscious, does not aspire to chronological ordering. The walker will encounter absences, presences, layers, glimpses, buried meanings, half-formed thoughts, observations, disavowals, things plain for all to see, signs in the cityscape, erased symbols, dead people, living souls, events from long ago that still shape a space, and occurrences that have vanished into thin air, or are barely registrable.
Each stopping point on this walk is called an association and there are 18 of them. The first is not at the top of Chalton Street, where it meets Euston Road. It is too noisy and polluted there to begin a disquisition on friendship – one can barely hear one’s own thoughts. The walk begins further down the road, in front of an arch connecting two buildings: a symbol, one might say, of being together apart. Here, further in to Somers Town, the feeling might more easily arise of being inside an enclave, of being tangled in its histories and strange vibrations, its peculiar out-of-timeness, its dislocatedness, its encouragement of a sense of being stranded with others.
Godwin and Wollstonecraft: Building a Partnership
Hangouts for Contacts: Out of Towners
Thick as Thieves
Comrades and Lovers: Frida & Diego
William G. & Mary W.: Tensegrity & Comradeship
Mary Loves William Loves Mary
Desperately Seeking a Friend
Tomo & Marek: Buddy Movie
Friends & Sidekicks
Our Mutual Friend
Schoolfriends & Frenemies
The Princess & the Swineherd: False Friends
Love and Tinder: Of Making Up & Breaking Up
These pieces of writing came about as a response to a prompt from curating students at the RCA to reflect on the idea of companionship in Somers Town. It was Spring, 2021, one year into the pandemic, when easily meeting and chatting with friends was burdened by all sorts of concerns about social distancing and anyway, many places for meeting were closed. I undertook a walk – and took photographs – along the whole length of Chalton Street, allowing themes of friendship and companionship to arise as they struck me. I was prompted by signs that caught my eye, observation of people, historical facts, chance meetings, literary or media resonances. The original idea was that the locations associated with companionship could be visited with a gazetteer or city companion in hand, the words to be read on site. The sequence now finds a temporary home on the Phoenix Road hoardings, nearly one year on. What friendships have been made and broken in the intervening time?
These associations first appeared as part of In The Meantime, a project curated by RCA MA Curating student in May 2021. Those with good memories and observant eyes might have seen one of them on the side of the convenience store just down the road – towards our new museum, where more friendships and associations are to be made.
5 February 2022
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