City of London Mirror Displacement

Recordings made at Thames Head; tones derived from Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag); mirror (contained, broken, scattered)

“If London is different, it is because the creative destruction of its modernity is hide-bound – haunted, one might say – by the ancient commands and ancestral inheritances that live on amidst the mirrored glass and cantilevered concrete.”
Roger Luckhurst, Occult London

Myth locates the Source of the River Thames around ten minutes’ walk along public footpaths from the A433, just outside Cirencester, Gloucestershire. The location is marked by a headstone laid by the Conservators of the River Thames and a signpost positioning the source as 184 miles (294 kilometres) from the Thames Barrier. The source is dry, its veracity contested. London could not exist without the Thames, yet Thames Head outframes the river – and therefore the City – in both myth and geomorphology, standing as an ambivalent monument that could just as well be the Thames’ grave. The Centre of London is nowhere.

“The mirror displacement cannot be expressed in rational dimensions. The distances between the mirrors are shadowed disconnections, where measure is dropped and incomputable. Such mirror surfaces cannot be understood by reason. Who can divulge from what part of the sky the blue colour came? Who can say how long the colour lasted? Must “blue” mean something? Why do the mirrors display a conspiracy of muteness concerning their very existence? When does a displacement become a misplacement? These are forbidding questions that place comprehension in a predicament. The questions the mirrors ask always fall short of the answers. Mirrors thrive on surds, and generate incapacity. Reflections fall onto the mirrors without logic, and in so doing invalidate every rational assertion. Inexpressible limits are on the other side of the incidents, and they will never be grasped.”
Robert Smithson, Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan

An immediate consequence of the run on the bank caused by his son, George Banks’ last dignified walk to work through London’s Square Mile is the fulcrum around which turns Disney’s 1964 family film Mary Poppins. Financial collapse, homeless on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a surrender of ideological scaffolding, an idealised London charged with sacred energy – these ninety seconds of celluloid, resonant despite – or because of – their naïvety, trace a pattern that repeats throughout London’s myth and history, most recently recurring in Occupy St. Paul’s demands of transparency and accountability to the City of London Corporation. Beneath the streets, beneath the chalk drawings, a forest.

“Make a doll-baby to represent your enemy. Obtain something personal — hair, clothing, a photo — and incorporate it into the effigy. Break a mirror into pieces, being sure not to look into the mirror or any of its fragments, and glue the pieces into the bottom, sides and lid of a box, just large enough to contain the effigy. Place the doll in the box, seal it, and bury it in a graveyard. Walk away without looking back, going home by a different route than the one you took to get there.”
Mirror box protective spell,

The churches in which I was raised held 24/7 intercessory prayer vigils. A room would be set aside for a particularly earnest, emotionalised form of pleading with the Christian god, organised as a relay to ensure that the room was never unoccupied. These rooms extend the anonymous mystic’s Cloud of Unknowing into a cathartic sanctuary in which the religious purge their misgivings about a world that terrifies them, validating the activity through confirmation bias, free from grubby, painful causation. The pattern behind this dematerialised inactivism isn’t unique to the church – the same Cloud obfuscates the realities of global systems of capital, drone warfare, likes and shares and petitions on social networks. The sniper prays as he takes aim with his magic bullet. The butterfly flaps its wings and stock markets collapse. London is unmade in the West Country.

“Musicians often hold heartfelt political positions because they don’t have much money, which makes them more likely to care about what is done to them by others. Quite often the reason they don’t have much money is related to pursuing music, and there’s a certain amount of guilt and anxiety that arises from pursuing the latter at the expense of the former. It makes sense to want to direct that anxiety into activism; it also makes sense that musicians might be seduced by the displacement activity of pseudo-activism through music. It maintains the benefits of being a full-time musician without putting them or their spare time at risk through real political activity, while giving them the sense that they’re engaged and ‘doing something.’”
Seth Cooke, forum post, I Hate Music


The video accompanying this piece can neither contain the scattering of the mirror nor represent the work’s focal phenomena. Filming this instantiation proved one displacement too many.

Seth Cooke, June and December 2013

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City of London Mirror Displacement - Seth Cooke