Vis­ion Quest, a Ritu­al for Ele­phant and Castle, fea­tur­ing Chrome Hoof, 200812

In col­lab­or­a­tion with Michael Smythe
Digit­al video, HD 16:9 1920 × 1080
51:42 min.
Filmed in Lon­don, UK
Dir­ec­ted by Mar­cus Coates and Michael Smythe
Cam­era by Annemarie Lean-Vercoe
Sound by Sam Nightingale
Edited by Ariadna Fatjo-Vilas
Post-pro­duc­tion sound by Finn Curry
Assembly edit by Maria Ben­jamin and Nic­olas Abrahams
Addi­tion­al cam­era by Llewellyn Thomas, Michael Smythe, Nic­olas Abrahams
Ori­gin­al music by Leo Smee and Chrome Hoof
Pro­mo­tion­al art­work by Mat­thew Appleton and Chris Bianchi
Light­ing design by Barra Collins
Stage design by Rod­er­ick Maclachlan
Film pro­duc­tion by Piera Buckland
Post-pro­duc­tion by Pun­der­sons Gardens
Con­cert pro­duced by Nomad Pro­jects and Qu Junktions
Exec­ut­ive pro­duc­tion Rockfeedback
Pho­to­graphy by Nick David
Com­mis­sioned and pro­duced by Nomad Projects

Loc­al res­id­ents, busi­nesses, South­wark Coun­cil and developers
Ele­phant and Castle, Lon­don, UK
What could be the vis­ion for the Ele­phant and Castle redevelopment? 

The May­or of Lon­don and South­wark Council’s vis­ions to redevel­op Ele­phant and Castle in cent­ral South Lon­don res­ul­ted in one of the biggest planned redevel­op­ments in Europe at the time. A large area, includ­ing exist­ing flats, was to be demol­ished to make way for new flats and busi­nesses. The replace­ment flats were few­er, with little or no pro­vi­sion for social hous­ing, mean­ing that most of the exist­ing com­munit­ies were to be decan­ted’ (re-housed) elsewhere.

In response to this cor­por­ate vis­ion, Coates worked with many people affected by and involved in the plan­ning of the redevel­op­ment pro­cess, to form their own vis­ions of how the Ele­phant and Castle could be developed.

Coates gathered this inform­a­tion and used it to inform a ritu­al at the Cor­on­et Theatre at the centre of Ele­phant and Castle. This impro­vised per­form­ance was a col­lab­or­a­tion with Chrome Hoof (a psy­che­del­ic, doom met­al, funk orches­tra) and was wit­nessed by 1,300 people. After the con­cert, Coates held a meet­ing with the coun­cil plan­ning team and repor­ted his find­ings based on the vis­ions he had on stage. The film doc­u­ments some of the encoun­ters, con­ver­sa­tions and per­form­ances that led to the con­cert. It marks the passing of the com­munity, while ques­tion­ing the motiv­a­tions of the cur­rent plans.


[Con­ver­sa­tion between Mar­cus Coates and Timothy Tinker, one of the archi­tects of the Hey­g­ate Estate, built in 1974.]

Mar­cus Coates: What was the ulti­mate goal? What was the vision?

Timothy Tinker: To provide hous­ing in an area which really was bad before… there was a very clear vis­ion to provide bet­ter hous­ing for exist­ing residents.

MC: So is there a dif­fer­ent vis­ion this time round?

TT: I’m quite sure of it – it’s not that the Hey­g­ate Estate failed – it’s that it hap­pens to be right by Ele­phant and Castle (Cent­ral Lon­don) and offers a real estate gain. There were 3,000 people liv­ing here and they are not going to be re-housed here.

(Tran­script excerpt)

[Vis­ions from Waheed Chakar, loc­al prop­erty devel­op­ment con­sult­ant, the South­wark Coun­cil Plan­ning Office.]


Mar­cus Coates: What’s your role here?

Waheed Chakar: I’m a loc­al prop­erty devel­op­ment con­sult­ant and have been work­ing on ele­ments of this pro­ject for the last couple of years. I’m also loc­al as well to Ele­phant and Castle and as a young boy, my fath­er used to tell me, Son, one day, knock it down will you’, and here I am.

MC: This new place (the redevel­op­ment of Ele­phant and Castle) that some people are excited about and oth­ers are incred­ibly angry about, where did (the idea for) this place come from? Who’s idea was it?

WC: It has come from a pro­fes­sion­al and stat­utary-driv­en pro­cess, but also, as with all these pro­jects and big ideas, there are clearly prime movers and key indi­vidu­als that have helped to bring that vis­ion about in the form we are now seeing.

MC: Do you think that motiv­a­tion is primar­ily com­mer­cial or is that motiv­a­tion to do with the improve­ment of society?

WC: That’s the sixty-four-thou­sand-dol­lar ques­tion that strikes at the heart of this re-development.

MC: What I will try and do in this ritu­al is embody this trans­form­a­tion (his­tory of Ele­phant and Castle) – what it was like before, what it’s like now and what the vis­ion is for the future. It’s all right hav­ing these cor­por­ate and scrip­ted vis­ions but every­one has a per­son­al invest­ment in this place. So what I would like now is to be dir­ec­ted by you. OK, I just want to go through three pos­tures, in a way. The first pos­ture mov­ing into a second pos­ture, which you can talk me through, and then a third…

WC: You want me to determ­ine the form?

MC: I want you to dir­ect the form, to explain it to me. 

WC: What is the point of the form?

MC: The point of the form is to – I think phys­ic­ally – give a voice to this trans­ition. Or for me to embody this trans­form­a­tion, this transition.

WC: OK. To inform the form, I’m going to use the Tai Chi prin­ciple of return­ing, which is that everything must go back from where it came.


[MC moves the table. MC climbs on the table.]

MC: Right. Now, we have to think about where I start and where I end. So how do you envis­age that I embody the Ele­phant and Castle as it was?

WC: In the form of closing.

MC: In the form of clos­ing? OK. Will you give me some point­ers in terms of dir­ect­ing my body for that?

WC: You could either open your body up to allow things in, or you can close it down to repel.

MC: So how to decide? OK. [Move­ment.] Is there some­thing I should do with my hands or face?

WC: It’s how you feel it.

MC: How I feel it, OK.

WC: It depends what you feel your­self to be doing.

MC: So I need to stay open to pos­sib­il­it­ies, or…

WC: If you wish to.

MC: OK. And how does this reflect on the past?

WC: Some­thing we’ve had is chan­ging. Some­thing we had is mov­ing for­ward and becom­ing some­thing else.

MC: OK. From this very open pos­i­tion, how would you expect me to move into the present?

WC: Well, now you have to make choices, because you can’t actu­ally move in the pos­i­tion you’re in, so you have to change the pos­i­tion you’re in to move for­ward, so you need to change to move.

MC: [Move­ment.]

WC: You’ve been neut­ral in your expres­sion; you’ve simply moved. You haven’t opened or closed. You’ve moved with pur­pose. Why are you mov­ing? What is the point of your move­ment? Why not be still?

MC: The point of the move­ment is that I need to trans­form in some way, so this is a pos­ture that is ready to trans­form, but it’s neutral.

WC: OK, so if we want to make the ana­logy, where we are hav­ing to embrace new things, but we’re hav­ing to embrace those new things with old arms.

MC: So I think for this present pos­i­tion, I don’t think this is particularly… 

WC: No, it’s not.

MC: I feel like I need to be in a pos­i­tion where I could almost do anything.

WC: Yes.

MC: [Move­ment.]

WC: OK. Expect­a­tion. Read­i­ness. But there’s intention.

MC: Yup. There’s inten­tion to do something…

WC: Where’s the inten­tion com­ing from?

MC: The inten­tion is com­ing from the idea that there is def­in­itely a transformation.

WC: Right. And it’s going to happen.

MC: It’s going to happen.

WC: It’s going to happen.

MC: It’s going to hap­pen. [Laughs.] Accord­ing to you it is, yeah.

WC: No, it’s not accord­ing to me, it’s going to happen!


WC: Something’s going to happen.

MC: Whatever it is.

WC: Whatever it is, some­thing is going to happen.


WC: And as I said to you, to quote a pop­u­lar con­trib­ut­or: All that is sol­id melts into air’. Build­ings are much more dif­fi­cult to shift than people.

MC: OK. The move into the next phase?

WC: Well, that’s an open sea, isn’t it – how we move, with what intent we move – will affect where we go.

MC: In terms of your aspir­a­tions and dreams, can you dir­ect me in any way?

WC: Yeah. I’d like to start at the ground floor level and bubble up, and in the man­ner of the Pied Piper, carry the people with me to the neo-world that we’re try­ing to cre­ate here.

MC: It sounds like a slow, grace­ful move­ment, do you think?

WC: I would love it to be a slow, soar­ing, cur­va­ceous move­ment. No straight lines, no edges – and flow. I would like it to flow like a mighty river.

MC: [Move­ment.]

WC: OK, that’s per­haps a little closer. At least we’re doing some­thing now.

MC: OK. If this isn’t maybe what you envi­sioned… This is feel­ing like… it’s fluid.

WC: Yes.

MC: But I’m pretty stuck.

WC: Well, you need to take the punc­tu­ation out of it. 

MC: The gesture?

WC: Yes. We’re talk­ing about form and flow.

MC: So it’s too con­scious, too self-conscious.

WC: Think of wind. Think of water. Think of the qual­it­ies of rudi­ments of water.

MC: [Move­ment.]

WC: Think also how water can give life and take life in the same way.

MC: [Move­ment.]

WC: OK, we’re fly­ing a little bit more eas­ily, and more grace­fully now. We’re begin­ning to feel the flow. Now we have to put intent into what we’re doing. It’s not enough to simply flow. We have to flow for a reas­on. So in the one-ness of the move­ment, find the reas­on. Feel the reas­on. Why do we climb the moun­tain? Why do we swim the river? OK. You have to find intent and pur­pose. Without pur­pose we have noth­ing. What is your purpose?

MC: I think the pur­pose is to be settled, but to be fluid.

WC: A con­tra­dic­tion, no?

MC: Yeah.

WC: How do we resolve that contradiction?

MC: By being settled, but main­tain­ing fluid­ity, or main­tain­ing the idea of being able to move at will.

WC: OK. Again, Tai Chi prin­ciple: still­ness in move­ment; move­ment in still­ness. My body is still but my mind is mov­ing. My mind is still but my body is mov­ing. Still­ness in move­ment; move­ment in still­ness. There is no con­tra­dic­tion. It’s how we think about it. I can’t… I’m just get­ting too hot. It’s really hot in here. I’m abso­lutely burn­ing up. Sorry, mate.

[Waheed leaves the room.]

MC: No, it’s fine. I’m still moving.

(Tran­script excerpt)


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