Chaos of Orderliness
Milton Keynes is famous for its picturesque
orderliness, so it may come as a surprise to find an element of crudely-figured
chaos scattered throughout the gridded, repetitious neighbourhoods. In this extra-ordinarily
ordinary place, an unregulated, unauthorised, impulsive and highly visible act begins to
redress the local imbalance between regular and irregular, puncturing the Cartesian regime,
revealing an intelligence that works apart from but within Euclidean logic. This thematic
irregularity registers an authentic local aesthetics as a disruption
to the beat of a banal nihilism - and vice versa.
shopping trolleys are the beauty marks on this cosmetically
arranged New Town. They give the place an air of unruliness which proves
that life exists here. They are welcome reminders
that some thing - or some one - remains out of place even in
the idyllic settings of a planned community. The presence of
derelict, reckless trolleys registers a tension between the
messy real world and the repressive orderliness of idealised
Subdued, Trolleys Rampant
has its attractions, including a sur-reality that isn't exceeded by that of many
other places. It has extensive and bucolic open spaces which make strolling
pleasant and whose organic fluidity contrast sharply with the stark planes and places of
industrial, architectonic cities. Untended and semi-wild places soften the edges
of excessive orderliness among the cookie-cutter housing blocks and
suburban family units. But even nature is kept in place by the regime of
spatial development. This is ironic, even perverse, in that
the role of nature in British cities is most often that of an
unwelcome intruder, while in Milton Keynes, nature has been
accommodated to such an extent that it develops a passivity
not seen elswhere. This is in direct contrast with other
cities where nature (pigeons, gray squirrels, rats, feral cats,
buddleia) is threatening and derelict shopping trolleys are
banal, unthreatening and incidental to urban life. In Milton
Keynes, derelict shopping trolleys take on the power of
nature as an unruly, unwelcome, dirty and dangerous pestilence.
Milton Keynes is suburban, not urban. It
cannot compare favorably to the intense humanity of any street-based society,
nor to the complex, conflictual heterogeneity that defines urbanity. For
example, the material structure of central Milton Keynes mitigates against all
but officially promoted culture. What exists is marked by sameness
and authority. Given that crowds and the attendant mingling are confined to and
regulated by the rigidly delineated, enclosed and policed central shopping mall,
a people-watcher and fan of street-corner society would both perish of boredom. There
is, one might say, hardly room for living, between and around this overly
orderly, extremely regulated development.
It is within and against this regulated
background that scattered trolleys develop power as representations of
disruptive spontaneity, as traces of sanity, and by extension, a mark of
authenticity. Within the context of hard surfaces and shopping, trolleys are
emblematic of sameness. Nobody thinks twice about a trolley on the pavement in
front of a shop. But outside of this context, trolleys become emblematic of all
that is disorderly, inciting multiple rants in the local newspaper, proving that
small things out of place take on an inordinate significance, and that
small gestures in an overly orderly environment can have large effects. By
moving between order and disorder,
shopping trolleys reveal the real Milton Keynes as a place of tension between
and hilarious eruptions of disorder. This tension makes Milton Keynes real, and
makes the trolleys emblematic of and integral to that reality.
It is fitting, therefore, that trolleys are celebrated in a
variety of ways. In the first instance I have created a gallery
of photographs showing irreverent, life-enhancing trolley antics.
In the second instance I am helping with the organisation and
promotion of a trolley-focused sculpture,
and in the third instance I am developing the role of spokesperson
for trolley culture in Milton Keynes.
Sculpture, Trolley Rites, Trolley Cultcha!
If the shopping trolley is emblematic of
Milton Keynes, two further developments are called for: an iconography and a
ritual. In conjunction with the Milton Keynes
Navigational Sculpture Project, the Northfield Roundabout (H5, H6) is
proposed as the setting for a giant trolley sculpture.
This proposal firstly
association of Milton Keynes with whimsical artworks visible to motorists. The
concrete cows have established and maintained this reputation,
but they are nearly demolished. The gaudy red neon Point
and the cinematic display at Xscape continue the tradition.
But there's nothing on the east end of town - nothing for motorists
on the M1. A
sculpture at the Northfield Roundabout would serve as visual identifier to those arriving at Milton Keynes via this primary
gateway. The structure is big enough to incorporate a high-level display platform,
such that seasonal displays could further enliven the scene.
Most importantly, a trolley sculpture signifies commerce, ordinariness, humour, and a
touch of chaos, all of which are accurate characterisations of Milton Keynes.
Secondly, ritual trolley-centred
activity is consistent with ongoing civic promotions. In this case a series of
games, collectively titled the Milton Keynes TrOlleympics shall be presented on a
variety of occasions during the year. Based more on inclusiveness than athletic
skill, a series of trolley excursions, trolley races, trolley pageants, trolley
roundups and other trolley events provide entertainment for all, raise funds for
charity and promote a vibrant, playful impression of Milton Keynes.
trolley sculpture and trolley-centred activities celebrate the
role of trolley culture in the social and spatial configuration
of Milton Keynes. But these two projects are further augmented
by developing new local strengths through other forms of artistry.
In particular, Milton Keynes stands to enhance its reputation
as a place of creative talent by developing a series of public
sculptures on roundabouts, via the Milton Keynes
Navigational Sculpture Project, which promises to make the city a drive-thru arts
destination - a feat not often accomplished succesfully.
Navigational Sculpture Project
Milton Keynes is
easy to drive across. It is even easier to get lost in. Everyone
who travels in Milton Keynes has both experiences. The system of roadways and roundabouts that make driving so
easy also make it easy to lose track of one's location. Despite years of loving
landscape work on and around the roadways, differences between
one junction and another are difficult to identify and
remember. Even long-time residents
complain of the years it takes to distinguish one road or roundabout from
another by memorising minor details of shrubbery. This is a problem that calls
for creative and magnificent solutions! We have identified such
a solution in the Milton Keynes Navigational Sculpture
Project, which aims to make navigation easier and more enjoyable by locating
distinctive and easily described sculptures at grid road roundabouts.The project
is potentially a huge undertaking, as there are about 100
roundabouts in the area, and even the small ones have a disc
of turf in the middle.
The main idea is that designs
relate in some way to themes of everyday life, and are identifiable using common
language. The navigational sculptures are meant to be easily described, so that
verbal directions can be given using familiar and easily communicated
terms. For example, it would be extremely difficult to overlook a giant set
of car keys located in the middle of one roundabout and
a pile of giant shoes in another, so that if one were meant
to make a right turn at the keys and a left at the shoes it
could be communicated much more easily than saying 'make
a right turn off the H8 onto the V8 at the Netherfield/Marina
dual roundabout, then carry on up to the Redbridge roundabout
at the H3, where you should turn left'. Of course, some roads
are given national ID numbers, so one can occasionally navigate
by saying 'take the A421 to the B4043, turn right, carry on
to the A422 and turn left' but this is an exception rather
than the rule. Keys, shoes, teapots, cups and saucers, cutlery,
paper clips, a frilly lampshade and a giant shopping trolley
are much better navigational aids!
So far, discussion has
centred on organising a design competition, but as this takes time and
considerable expertise to do properly, it is hoped that people will contribute
ideas and images to the on-line gallery
of sculptures, as part of a broadening base of interest in
and support for the project. Sketches, renderings, collages,
maquettes are all welcome, especially in digital photo format!
The mail link on this website is current.
there is no formal timeline for this project, it will develop
as time and resources permit. There are no deadlines. Not yet.
links open external Flash movies)
on related topics
on new pages, like pop-ups)
Journal of Mundane Behaviour (USA)
Art - The A13 Artscape
Art Gallery (Simcoe, Ontario)
Shopping - Trolley Guide
Waitrose Trolleys - Lost &
Keynes Council @ MKWeb
Encyclopaedia Britannica - Milton
Keynes ("There is no single
Rough Guide - Milton
Keynes (MK is no longer listed - Sorry!)
Men's Club (USA)