I’m something of a Lewis Bush fan. You might remember April 2018, when I unboxed and reviewed a handful of his books and zines that I received as part of my Kickstartering of his Shadows of the State book. So when he put out a new version, larger and more thorough version of his Metropole zine, I jumped on it.
The new Metropole is a much more complete and fully realized enhancement or enlargement of his project, taking hints from things he did with Shadows of the State—locating sites of strange radio signals and providing information on their broadcasts and who might be sending them—to look deeply at the
gentrification financialization of London in first quarter of the 21st century.
From his introduction (found in both the zine and the book), and apologies, but quoting it at length will save me a bunch of writing…
This city, the mother city, has always been my home. I grew up exploring it, and feeling that it was boundless and eternal. I visited street markets and department stores, churches and temples, museums and archives. I explored the parks and gardens of the living, the cemeteries and necropolises of the dead. I traveled along the course of sunken rivers, followed roads with names that hinted at events and places forgotten, and passed through the invisible arches of gateways long ago pulled down.
London, once the locus of empire, has itself today become subject to an oppressive power. One loyal only to profit. Indifferent to the future and bereft of the past.Bush, Lewis. Metropole. Overlapse, London, 2018. p. 2 (unnumbered). Also in Lewis Bush. Metropole. Self published, 2015. p. 1 (unnumbered).
I think that pretty much captures the spirit and project of Metropole. The first ~2/3 of the new Metropole expands the original with dozens of new high contrast, black & white multiple exposure and splitzer photographs, documenting the construction of the new, glittering high rises that rise up, displacing the “parks and gardens of the living” and denying the “necropolises of the dead.”
Many of the photographs look like MC Escher drawings, with scaffolding that goes every which way, dizzying. After awhile, the photographs get hard to look at, for me. My head spins, and I feel disoriented and unsettled, pretty much what Bush probably experiences when he walks through London in 2019, and, honestly, relevantly similar to what I experience when I drive through my hometown these days. Mrs. Gean’s pool, where I swam so many times, is long gone, and there’s a smooth, five lane road on top of it. The woods, beyond the fence that warned away trespassers, where my friends and I got into all sorts of mischief are gone, and there’s a neighborhood of McMansions in its place.
My nostalgia and lament is more local and country than Bush’s, but I get it, I think.
The last third of Metropole includes what look like rephotographed promotional ads for new, high end condos and residences (don’t dare call them “apartments”), heavily pixelated, almost halftone-looking, in color, with brief descriptions of each, including location, year of completion, number of residences, number of social or affordable housing units, price range, architect, contractor, developer, CEO, company profit, and building tag line, plus a short history of the property, zoning, and ownership changes, and records on number of units rented and who owns them. It’s an excellent document of research and reporting, really.
Throughout the book, Bush placed small slips of paper with a color photograph on one side (in the same vein as the halftone-like pictures in the last third of the book) and some white lines on a black field on the back. Spread them all out and line them up right, and, like old Garbage Pail Kids cards, you get a big “Metropole” poster.
In short, the new Metropole is a document of London as it is now (or was in the ~2014-18 time frame), of the construction and what displaced Bush’s memory (and the people that lived there before), and as I wrote last year, “I’m sympathetic to this project and appreciate Bush’s work on it, the variety of angles and approaches he’s taken towards it, and I look forward to seeing what’s to come.”
Overall, Metropole (2018) scores a highly recommended 4.5 stars.
You can read more about and view Bush’s Metropole on his website, and order it direct from Overlapse. If you’re interested in what can be done with photography and thorough research, it’s worth the $35 to check out what Bush has done here. The original “Metropole” zine was good, but the Metropole book is substantial and mesmerizing.