Rebecca's reflections on our visit to our wasteland site in Nottingham put me in mind of cracks and weeds: of spaes of hope and that which is always trying to disrupt what we often taken for granted...
Our site, as Becky's post notes, is covered in dense foliage. This has really bloomed in the last few months and the change from an unappealing, barren 'wasteland' in February to what could almost be described as a meadow now is quite remarkable. It's nicely illustrated by the following couple of photos, I think:
To many, these plants which are now blooming- and which Becky mentioned in her blog- would be dismissed as weeds: unwanted, interruptive; an insertion of the irrational wilds into the heart of a modern city. An embarassment. And that's how the wasteland as a whole is seen by many in the city, as many comments on the local newspaper's articles attest. It's a hub for the antisocial 'other'; a mecca for drinkers and loiterers, drug users, fly-tippers. We must get rid of such spaces. They are insantitary. They speak of our city's failure.
To me though, it speaks of opportunity.
I'm actually put in mind by two songs from Pulp's album We Love Life: 'Weeds' and 'Weeds II (The Origin of the Species)'. Both use the concept of the weed as a metaphor for 'undesirable' elements that always seem to surface- perennial nuisances in the social fabric. Weeds are likened to 'smelly refugees', but we're reminded they can also function as drugs. The weed is a disruptive figure bursting through the cracks in our system and- perhaps- carrying with them a brief glimmer of utopian hope. I think here of Rebecca's own work with plants and the possibilities (and dangers) that they carry.
I also want to mention the concept of the 'rhizome' in the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. It's a bit of a 'pop concept' now, but I think that's because it has a real resonance. The term comes from biology and refers to a plant with a network of horizontal roots which lacks a central organising hub- Deleuze and Guattari adapt this to refer to a way of organising thought or cultural activity that does not refer back to an abstract beginning; nor forwards to an predetermined outcome but instead proceeds immanently, adopting a space 'in the middle' of things- a journey with no discernible origin nor destination. It's a model of thought which has become popular amongst contemporary social movements, not least because it conjures up images of a weed beneath the ground, always ready to surface; and one that cannot be eradicated by pulling up roots or destroying any above ground manifestations. It will always come back, like all those 'weeds' on the wasteland.
For the radical theorist John Holloway, meanwhile, these weeds can erupt in the cracks of our system. His latest book Crack Capitalism (which you can download- legally- here) advocates opening up spaces of possibility in the cracks created by capitalism to facilitate 'a different type of doing'; a new way of living politically. Our wasteland is precisely such a crack: a space where capital has (at this moment in time) failed (although our wasteland is owned by a company registrered in Guernsey, where tax is minimal); it is a space where all kinds of other social relations are possible. This is something I'm thinking through in another project I'm working on in relation to this space, but the possibility of thinking what the space was/might have been; is/could be and will/might/should/could be is a fascinating one to me...