Prangsta and co


Along the high street that is the Western front of Goldsmiths College, just near the plush offices of Debtford Town Hall, our immediate environs – and significantly the College’s street credibility – are enhanced by a couple of shops that have graduated from rather ratty used clothes joints to impressive art forms in their own right, with correspondingly artistic facades and window dressing (and commercial websites – though these are slow – see http://www.prangsta.com). Now I know that there are all sorts of stories about the history of these stores, and that this all revolves around the College owning the buildings, and the politics of squatting, and of creative endeavour, and of course of trendiness and clutter, of fires, of threats, of architectural dreamscapes and catastrophe (a nod to Buck-Morss, and Will Alsop) – but the one thing that shouldn’t be under question is that these places do add something important to the college in the way that is miles apart from, but just as crucial, as the slick corrugated lines of the ipod/shed/sccribble that is the new arts building. There have been a couple of visual anthropology films and essays written about this ‘street’ culture (including some filming inside the store for those who never ventured past the doorstep), but the bigger issues have to do with the gentrification of the New Cross area and the place of cultural mix as opposed to planned privatization and profit margins. There is a lot at stake – the horrendous blunder that was the renovation/destruction of the old Goldsmiths Tavern (which is only now edging back to a faint echo of its very late night glory) would be compounded, if these stores were lost. Any dismantling of such ventures (its not venture capitalism so much as ad-venture fashion) would entail the decimation of key reasons why Goldsmiths has appeal …

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  • Carceraglio  On 09/10/2005 at 03:34

    I remember window displays. They have decayed drastically in North America, if Seattle is any example.

    Along 15th street, a main shopping street in my neighborhood, a large grocery chain has these baffled, desperate windows. Four windows that either have a black plastic shade pulled down, or, depending on the time of day, a rear view of the deli and bakery and meat counters. (Unappetizing.) A window with a few unrelated articles, as if thrust in there in desperation: a lava lamp, a toaster, a box of crackers. A window with posterboard and a childish scrawl, though clearly scrawled by an adult in imitation of a child; it says “Art” or “Summer” or something. A window approaching an actual display, though most of the items are huddled at the bottom of the window. There are roses, some gloves, and a bottle of Taitinger champagne, with a neat little folded card, like a placecard for a dinner, indicating that the champagne bottle is “empty.” In case you were getting any ideas.

    But this is an oddity, a transitional form. Most window displays have been completely forsaken for large-scale adhesive plastic photographs, so the windows become a different sort of advertising.

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  • John Hutnyk  On 09/10/2005 at 15:22

    I remember the windows of Myers department store which used to be a big draw in December – this is in Melbourne long long ago – I wonder if they are still there now. Then I remember that the “Sportsgirl” fashion chain did that huge window display with a picture of Mao Zedong with the caption ‘Women Hold Up Half The Sky’ – a twisted way to quote the cultural revolution. Mainly though, its stores with trinkets and junk that appeal to me most – or the one I looked in yesterday, through a broken up board over the window, that let me see through to the detritus of a store long out of use. Bunged up shopping trolleys and layers of dust…

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