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Dislocations and Ecologies. The Disruption of the Urban Experience of London in Peter Ackroyd, Iain Sinclair and Gilbert & George

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Abstract:

London exerts attraction and repulsion upon travellers, writers and artists alike.Its past is overshadowed by the never-ending process of change, yet a closeinvestigation helps unveiling hidden parts of a collective memory. PeterAckroyd, Iain Sinclair and Gilbert & George have explored the memory ofLondon through the prism of cultural studies, psychogeography orcontemporary art. London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd, Lights Out for theTerritory, London Orbital by Iain Sinclair and the 20 London E 1 Pictures byGilbert & George may serve as a basis for retrieving fragile realms of memory.We may wonder whether these realms cannot be likened to ecology ofknowledge . If ecology designates an environment regulated by specific rulesand mechanisms, what do “ecologies of knowledge” refer to in the urbancontext? Besides, the nature of the relationship between the experience ofLondon and the ecology of knowledge prompts questions. Does the experienceof London dislocate the artistic universes created by Peter Ackroyd, Iain Sinclairand Gilbert & George? Or do the artistic works partake in the dislocation ofurban experience? My contention in this paper is to unveil the ways in whichthe polymorphism of the city is translated into writerly and iconographic codes.As the understanding of the urban ecology keeps receding, similarly the worksadopt process and metamorphosis as structuring principles. First, thedestabilising exploration of London shall be assessed by its impact upon thephysical experience, and the renegotiation of concepts such as body,empiricism, and the spirit of the place. Then, the frustrating exploration ofLondon may be analysed through literary and artistic devices that echo thedislocation in the works. Eventually, these works will lead us to consider the dismemberingof the city body as the only means to the re-membering of London.

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