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Still: Short Stories Inspired by Photographs of Vacated Spaces (edition 2012)

by Roelof Bakker

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Member:parrishlantern
Title:Still: Short Stories Inspired by Photographs of Vacated Spaces
Authors:Roelof Bakker
Info:Negative Press London (2012), Paperback, 190 pages
Collections:The Parrish Lantern, Anthology, short-stories, review-copies, microfiction, on-my-shelves, fiction, owned, Read
Rating:*****
Tags:Art, Fiction, Review Copy, short stories

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Still: Short Stories Inspired by Photographs of Vacated Spaces by Roelof Bakker

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Still started out in 2010 as an exhibition to mark Hornsey Town Hall’s 75th anniversary. This building opened in 1935 and is considered one of the foremost examples of architecture of it’s time and was the first major UK building to be constructed in the Modernist style. During it’s time it has hosted events as diverse as school prize-giving's, a location for films & TV and the band Queen’s first concert. It was closed as a civic centre in 1963, when Hornsey Borough Council was abolished & the London Borough of Haringey was created, leaving only part of the building in use as office space. When it ceased to be of use to Haringey council, the local residents campaigned for it to be retained for the use of the community, and they set up a partnership board with the council officials, along with The Hornsey Town Hall Creative Trust (a corporate charity) to run & maintain the hall. Haringey's planning committee voted to allow this building to be converted into an “arts hub”. Move forward to the exhibition in 2010, and the artist Roelof Bakker, who the previous year had been given unlimited access to explore this building, said…

“It is now 75 years later and the building still holds a place close to the heart of the local community. I’m celebrating the building’s past, present and future. The project is a personal exploration of the building’s interior spaces.”

Still, is a three stage project, with the ideal of exploring via a variety of methods, how to breathe life back into vacated spaces. The first two stages, the creation of a photographic and video archive of a vacated municipal building not open to the public, & the exhibition inside the vacated space itself, giving the space a renewed public function were completed when the exhibition opened in 2010. Leaving only the third stage - a collaborative literary art book combining photographs from the project with new short stories inspired by them, allowing the photographs to travel from the physical space.

This part of the project involved Roelof Bakker inviting a series of writers to select a photograph from the exhibition of Still and to use it as inspiration for a story. The aim of this idea was to find fresh meaning from the image, transferring it away from the original physical setting and in the process breathing new life into them. Twenty six writers from around the world became involved in this project, each providing a short story, the writers were:

Richard Beard, Andrew Blackman, S.J. Butler, Myriam Frey, S.L. Grey, Tania Hershman, James Higgerson, Justin Hill, Nicholas Hogg, Ava Homa, Aamer Hussein, Nina Killham, Deborah Klaassen, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Claire Massey, Jan van Mersbergen, Barbara Manghami-Ruwende, James Miller, Mark Piggott, Mary Rechner, David Rose, Nicholas Royle, Preeta Samarasan, Jan Woolf, Evie Wyld, Xu Xi.

What is amazing about this book is the diverse group of writers involved in the project, not just in style, genre etc., but geographically there are writers from countries such as Netherlands, USA, Zimbabwe, Canada, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Great Britain and Malaysia to name but a few. Sometimes you know something is going to be good from the moment it lands in your hands, it could be down to the way it’s packaged, the way it looks, the image on the cover or the font (Museo) used that somehow fits in with the whole idea. Still is such a book, it oozes style, from the original idea to the end product, this book looks good, feels good, and that's just flipping through the pages, glancing at the photographs. This was a book that I carried about with me, dipping in and out whenever a moment arose and I fell in love with it. Whether it was Mark Piggott's character Edward & his boozy midnight visit to the old town hall (Midnight Hollow), Andrew Blackman’s priest and his confrontation with more than his faith (Sanctuary), or Tania Hershman’s strange monologue by a female robot? (Switchgirls), I just loved it.

The tales.

Midnight Hollow - Mark Piggott
Edward, now retired, after a few glasses too many returns to the old town hall where he worked. Finding reflection in his old work habits. The end is sad, shocking and yet somehow fitting.

My Wife the Hyena - Nina Killham An office worker describes his married life & love of his wife (the hyena). This is a weird tale, that just rings true.

Sanctuary - Andrew Blackman
A desperate man is chased into a church by the police, armed he holds a priest hostage. This is a tale as much about the priest’s faith as it is about the man seeking sanctuary.

Corridor - Evie Wyld
This is a tale of hiding from night-time horrors, about finding a safe neutral place (the corridor), and yet this is only a temporary patch..

The Staircase Treatment - Myriam Frey
Suffering from memory loss after the birth of her child, the narrator tries to recall words whilst using the staircase, the story then shifts forward & changes perspective.

Pa-dang - Jan van Mersbergen
I read this author’s book, Tomorrow Pamplona & loved it, this is his first English language tale (Pamplona was translated) and is the story of Anton’s visit home for his birthday. We rapidly come to realise that all is not well with Anton.

A Rose for Raha - Ava Homa
This is the story of two sisters, whose father is an unemployed refugee. There is a threat of prison if he doesn’t find the rent money, causing arguments between the parents.

The Blind Man - Nicholas Royle
This is the tale of the narrator's obsession with buses and how as a child he stole the route blinds. There is a lovely dark twist to it’s end.

From the Archive - James Miller
This is a tale of how things can become misunderstood, when only partial knowledge exists. Set in the future, a writer attempts to interpret an image & gets it so wrong. This one leaves you pondering.

Switchgirls - Tania Hershman
A sad and strange monologue told from the perspective of a female automaton, possibly the last of her kind.

The Playwright Sits Next to Her Sister - Mary Rechner
This is another story of two sisters. One a drab & self effacing playwright and the other all glamour. The tale plays out against the backdrop of the playwright’s new theatre piece.

The Tree at the Limit - Aamer Hussein
The narrator takes you on a tour of an art gallery, whilst reading extracts from the exhibitions catalogue, although it is slowly revealed that the narrators interest may be more than is first revealed.

Lift Under Inspection Do Not Touch - Richard Beard
It starts with the narrator talking about lifts & his experience with them, before shifting into territories I’m still not sure of.

Odd Job - Preeta Samarasan
After completing their exams, two girls do volunteer work at the houses of their rich neighbours. This is a story of a dark secret and its exposure to light.

Noise -James Higgerson
This is a wonderful comment on the modern world. We listen to a man tell his therapist how the world about him is to loud in great detail.

A Job Worth Doing - S.J. Butler
We are back at the town hall, that is being closed down, and we follow the cleaner on her last shift, even though the building is being closed she will still clean it because.....

Sere - David Rose
What starts as the narrator discussing shoes, turns into a tale of an elderly man’s feeling for the world he now finds himself in.

Morayo - Sarah Ladipo Manyika
A tale to freak out any booklover. A writer, now seen as just an old woman, is moving into a residential home, hoping all her books will shortly join her, but the social worker dealing with her case sees nothing of worth.

Waiting - Justin Hill
“Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an “event boundary” in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away....”

Ten a Day - Jan Woolf
This is about a woman obsessed with how time works & how it could be changed by adopting a different system.

Opportunity - Barbara Manghami-Ruwende
A tale about coping with life in modern day Zimbabwe and the difficulties encountered.

The Dressing Room Mirror - Claire Massey
The female narrator discusses her childhood dance obsession and her envy towards a classmate, this is another that heads off left of centre.

The Owl at the Gate - Nicholas Hogg
This is the tale of a young boy who is bullied by his cousin, Maria, & also not allowed to leave his house, he escapes one day straight into more trouble, but help is near at hand and from a strange source?

Still - S.L. Grey
A day at the funfair with the family, and yet…. This is another tale that takes you into that uncomfortable zone.

How to Make a Zombie - Deborah Klaassen
This is a tale of one girl’s disillusion with university life, then she meets a lecturer who seems to throw her a lifeline, and yet this tale ends in horror.

Winter Moon - Xu Xi
A tale of exile, long distant love and an obsession with America, sound tracked by Hoagy Carmichael. ( )
  parrishlantern | Nov 30, 2012 |
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