It became almost an habit on the Funambulist to publish projects created within the frame of the Unit 15 at Bartlett. This unit is lead by Nic Clear (see his manifesto) and the concerned project here has been created by the video virtuoso Paul Nicholls.
His project, Royal Cabinets introduces a building of the British Royal Mail that stands like a wart on a Canary Wharf (London) office building. Two ideas of labor are therefore existing in parallel. The capitalist driven one that we experience everywhere in the West, and the accomplishment of public service in a building that recounts its essence by its architecture.
The Royal Cabinets are associated with a film -as it is required in the Unit 15- entitled Royal Re-Formation. I don’t know if Paul has ever watched Zabriskie Point by Michelangelo Antonioni in which the explosion of a house in the desert allows the Italian director to film the luxurious products originally contained in this house while they are in the air.
Paul Nicholls, here, accomplishes the opposite by filming the chaotic Post’s elements of construction and labor in the air that eventually creates the structure of the Cabinets. This process could maybe appear too abstract or even useless but I think that, by allowing us to see the ensemble of pieces composing the Cabinets, he very strongly reinforces the subversiveness of the architecture that seems to be built only by cheap industrial peaces found here or there and assembled as a celebration of emancipated labor.
Here are the two texts written by Paul to introduce his project:
In an age of progressively automated manufacturing and fabrication processes, the Royal Cabinets are an aggressive expression of labour. Assembled from a contractor led design approach, the cabinets draw on highly skilled local craftsmen and artists to produce the fantastical. Staged within the proposed baron ‘facadescape’ of a financially fragile Canary Wharf, the Cabinets are programmatically charged with the loss of yet another great British labour force, Royal Mail.
ROYAL RE-FORMATION The film attempts in part to graphically abstract the construction of the Royal Cabinets, In a dream-like labour of love. This abstracted reformation is a metaphor for this labour as well as representing the ‘architecture of pieces’ nature to the project. With the obsession for the object the film focuses on an assemblage of immense intricacy as the material slowly clusters to form the sculptural mail markets. Once formed the focus stays with the object, now in the form of the ornamentally re-branded building parts, before the nocturnal mail markets come to life, transforming into red jewels in the urban cityscape, becoming misplaced curious objects in themselves which have a strange visual balance of fragility and aggression.