Previously at the ICA - Events
18 Jul 2014
Artist Paul Elliman leads a walk through London’s West End in search of unmarked police cars. Accompanied by a small group of specialists from different backgrounds, this walking discussion will move through a range of themes, from car-spotting games to techniques of subterfuge, emergency response, surveillance, and the historical use of sirens in London.
Elliman is interested in aspects of language acquisition, and the mimetic relationship between the built environment and our own means of communication. The walk may also provide some tips on how to sing like a police car siren.
Starting at the ICA, this walking talk will follow a circular route through London’s busy West End, via Piccadilly Circus, Bond Street and Marble Arch, a BMW dealership and showroom on Park Lane, and ending at New Scotland Yard.
Architect and kerb scholar Julian Lewis walks the group along the infra-thin architectural threshold separating pedestrians from cars, pavement from road.
Graham Wettone, a former Met police officer and now a policing analyst/adviser for Sky News who worked for twenty years as a class one police advanced driver, discusses his own experiences.
Film locations historian Roland-Francois Lack offers an account of two lost films from early cinema made by electrical engineer and pioneering film maker Robert Paul – On a Runaway Motor Car through Piccadilly Circus, and Sensational Fire Engine Collision (both c.1900). For the former, Paul attached a camera to a car in order to stage a hi-speed 'phantom ride' car chase through Piccadilly Circus, the latter film involved the spectacular crashing of a fire engine close to Marble Arch.
Maritime historian Victoria Carolan reminds the tour of the changing emergency warning sounds familiar to Londoners over the past hundred years, from a single gun-shot heard from far away Sarajevo in 1914, to the daily chorus of air raid sirens across London during the Blitz, and from the light high bell of the ambulance (described by Virgina Woolf in Mrs Dalloway as one of 'the triumphs of civilisation') to the screaming siren tones of modern day Met patrol and response cars.
Reflecting on the relative silence of the UK police communications network TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) which is blocked to the public's ears, artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan talks about the emergency phone calls archive and its role in providing sonic evidence in legal trials long after an emergency call has been made.
Soprano Charmian Bedford, who last summer sang in Peter Grimes on Aldenburgh Beach, performs some of the historical and technical connections between emergency vehicle sirens and the human voice.
Other themes that may come up during this walk through the West End include thoughts on the intimacy of a shop-lifter's relationship to the high security alarm systems of London's thriving retail high streets, the social provenance of car spotting games such as ‘Unmarked Police Car Slap’, and a visit to London's only invisible Underground Station.
Also at the ICA:
Invisible in the Field (Say You Heard and Saw Nothing, 2014)
19 - 20 July
Accompanying the walking tour is a temporary installation in the ICA Theatre, presenting a display of the components needed to outfit an unmarked police car.