Figures of Speech: before and after Writing

This essay employs site-writing as a form of critical spatial practice for engaging with The Public Inquiry into the Aylesbury Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO), held in ‘Arry’s Bar at Millwall Football ground from 28 April to 1 May 2015. In The Human Condition (1958) Hannah Arendt draws a distinction between labour, work and action, in which, labour corresponds to the biological life of humans and animals, work to the artificial processes of artefact fabrication; and where action – and its connection to speech – is the central political activity. My speech actions at ‘Arry’s Bar were interventions into existing institutional structures, performed to critique and activate them, and so could be described as forms of ‘critical spatial practice’. In this essay I also reflect upon how site-writing offers a way of both tracing those speech acts, as forms of testimony and witness to specific events, where writing operates as some kind of afterlife to the more transitory acts of speech, but also how writing exists before speaking, providing a series of prompts for another set of actions, yet to come.

In the autumn of 2014, as I was drawing to a close a book I was writing on architecture, psychoanalysis and social housing, I discovered that my flat in Southwark – and so the very desk at which I had been writing – was in the council’s ‘estate renewal zone’. 1 The property consultants Savills had been advising the council of the need to ‘unearth the potential’ of public land, including ‘brownfield sites’, a term which for them included fully occupied housing estates. 2 This raised for me uncertainties around my home. I had written before about social housing, but writing about the home in which I was living and the site of that writing itself, figured the relation of my life to my writing practice differently.

Jane Rendell, ‘Figures of Speech: before and after Writing’, Jonathan Charley (ed) The Routledge Companion on Architecture, Literature and The City (London: Routledge, 2018).

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A Way with Words: Feminists Writing Architectural Design Research
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An Embellishment – Purdah
Architectural History in Critical Practice
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Constellation, Insertion, Act? approaching Frontier – The Line of Style through critical spatial practice
Constellations (or the reassertion of time into critical spatial practice)
Critical Spatial Practices – A Feminist Sketch of some Modes and what Matters
Curating, Editing, Writing – Critical Spatial Practice
Cut on the Bias: Relating Art and Architecture through Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity
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Feminist Architectural Figurations
Figures of Speech: before and after Writing
Foreword: Critical Spatial Practice: Introductions and Adjustments and Postscript: From Critical to Ethical Spatial Practice
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May Mo(u)rn – A Site-Writing
Seven Studies for ‘A Holding’, 23 March–31 May 2020
Silver: A Courtroom Drama
Space, Place, Site – Critical Spatial Practice
Spatial Imagination
Surface Encounters: On being Centred, Decentred and Recentred by the works of Do-Ho Suh
Tendencies and Trajectories – Feminist Approaches in Architecture
The Architecture of Psychoanalysis – Constructions and Associations
The Place of Prepositions
The Research of Place/The Place of Research
The Setting and the Social Condensor – Transitional Spaces of Architecture and Psychoanalysis
The Siting of Writing and the Writing of Sites
The Transitional Space of Interdisciplinarity
The Transitional Space of the Social Condensor
Thresholds, Passages, Surfaces
To and Fro/Tours and Detours: Writing between Sites and non-Sites
Trafalgar Square – Détournements (A Site-Writing)
Traveling the Distance
Undoing Architecture
When site-writing becomes site-reading or how space matters through time
Where the thinking stops…
Working (Through) the Field
Writing in the place of speaking
X Marks the Spot that Will Have Been
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