Some more stuff relating to the Olympics then, which I'm just sure you're pleased to hear. The Olympics seems to be taking up much of my writing life at the moment, with at least three Olympic texts/talks in the last month, various articles, a talk and a number of talking head appearances. I suppose that you could say this was cashing in, in a way, taking advantage of what's going on to boost my profile. But that's nonsense, because as a critic, or at least a journalist, one isn't really supposed to just have an informed opinion about anything you feel like, but one is expected to be informed about what is going on at that point. The olympics are happening, I'm writing and talking about them a lot.
But one of the things I've noticed recently is that this sort-of passive attitude towards the Olympics is actually rather prevalent, including within some of the Olympic organisations themselves. In much the same way that Ken Livingstone thought that the investment and deadlines brought by the Olympics would be the only possible way to get some funding into East London, or indeed that in their more compassionate moments the Blairite nonces thought that the private sector's greedy dynamism would bring in enough cash to redistribute around, so many people seem to consider the Olympics a rather destructive force of nature which they are nonetheless attempting to harness to make some kind of positive change in their area.
In a way this is the flip-side of 'trickle down'; that idea that always seems to be a fairly flimsy fig-leaf for old fashioned acquisitive greed has also its mirror in the belief that one can harness a greedy force for the people. This is the logic of 'affordable housing', of section 106 agreements - there is a profit motive, but if you can skim some of the froth off of a capitalist's investment, you can do some good.
But of course that's nonsense. In the end, the Olympics, like most of these things, is a gravy train for some, with everyone else picking up the pieces. All the re-paved streets and refurbished community centres that it provides are entirely dwarfed by the rent catastrophes, removal of public space and increase in 'security' that has come with it, to name but a few things.
I got into an argument recently with a bunch of people from a certain popular PR website, who have been promoting a series of features on local Hackney designers with an Olympic theme. Never mind the fact that Hackney is but one of the Olympic boroughs, albeit the most gentrified, but my problem was the basic and rather incontrovertible fact that if you're a designer who lives or works in Hackney, the Olympics is making your life worse (unless you happen to be a property owning Hackney designer, but frankly if you are it's because you were already rich, which is a different problem). Not only in terms of the way that it has starved arts and culture funding, upon which so many Hackney art & culture workers depend, but also in terms of the suffocating influence it is having on property and rent prices, meaning that so many skint designers are leaving the area entirely. However, pointing out the fact that promoting these people with a pageant that is negatively effecting them is a little bit hypocritical was enough to get all manner of accusations flying my way, from being a negative-ninny sniping from the sidelines, to simply being jealous of these people who are 'doing something'.
And in a way, they're right: what is the difference between me making money writing about this mess, and these people promoting others' good works using the fact that the Olympics is around? Well, it's the difference between pointing out how pathetic this whole situation is, £9+ billion for a private park, mega-mall, luxury housing and missiles deployed everywhere, and swallowing your pride, shouting "OLYMPICS YAY!" and getting on the dirty train as it sweeps by.
Because let us not forget that this thing, this aesthetic nullity, it has been inflicted upon us, capriciously, by that ruthlessly bumbling thug Boris Johnson, and the country's richest 19th century industrialist throwback Lakshmi Mittal, and we're supposed to be grateful!
And let's not forget that although it sits in that lovely new park, it is surrounded by some of the poorest parts of all of Europe.
Perhaps this is the problem - the Orbit isn't just an inept piece of public art, indeed, I've frequently said that its ugliness is perhaps the LEAST interesting thing about it. But in its childish twists it almost carries within it a hint, a fragment of what a genuinely interesting reevaluation of the aesthetics of utilitarian structure would look like, but it seems to have been approached from every single possible wrong angle.