A London Address: The Artangel Essays

A London Address: The Artangel Essays

by Artangel (Compiler)


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In a unique collaboration between Artangel and Living Architecture, a dwelling was built on top of London's Queen Elizabeth Hall. The dwelling was a boat, Roi de Belges, inspired by the Thames and by Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Writers and artists were given short residencies and wrote about the strange experience of staying in a boat overlooking the river. This book, a collection of their pieces responding to Conrad's masterpiece, is a result of that collaboration.

From Juan Gabriel Vásquez's meditation on belonging, identity and the otherness of London to Michael Ondaatje's piercing reflections on history and literature, via Jeanette Winterson's lyrical, impressionistic musings and Caryl Philips's supple and poetic observations, this is Joseph Conrad, the Thames and the capital city as you have never experienced them before.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781847088338
Publisher: Granta Books
Publication date: 12/06/2013
Pages: 172
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

ARTANGEL commissions and produces exceptional projects by outstanding contemporary artists. Over the past two decades, Artangel projects have materialised in a range of different sites and situations and in countless forms of media, from film and video to sculpture and sound installations. Artangel has generated some of the most talked-about, contentious and acclaimed art of recent times, including work by Francis Alÿs, Clio Barnard, Matthew Barney, Jeremy Deller, Brian Eno, Douglas Gordon, Roger Hiorns, Michael Landy, Susan Philipsz, Gregor Schneider, Rachel Whiteread and Robert Wilson.

Read an Excerpt



I caught myself listening on tiptoe for the next beat of the boat …

Joseph Conrad,

Heart of Darkness

With London’s Olympic year visible on the edge of the horizon, Living Architecture and Artangel embarked on a collaboration that would conjure up a boat beached on the top of a building high above the Thames.

We imagined a space which would work both as a one-bedroom hotel for private booking by members of the public and as a studio and observatory for artists, musicians and writers. An international architectural competition for A Room for London was launched with an open brief for the site on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall at London’s Southbank Centre, offering panoramic views taking in the City of London and St Paul’s to the east and Big Ben and the London Eye to the west; at the epicentre of the city, yet gently removed from its urgent bustle.

David Kohn Architects, in collaboration with artist Fiona Banner, won out with their

Roi des Belges, a boat-shaped installation that took its name from the paddle steamer Joseph Conrad captained up the Congo River, setting sail from the Thames at Gravesend in 1890. We know from Conrad’s diary and Up-River Book that it was his experience of this attritional journey that inspired the story and setting for Heart of Darkness, published just at the end of the century.

Table of Contents

introduction 1


Remember the Future | Juan Gabriel Vásquez 5


A Place Before the Flood  | Jeanette Winterson 15


Bed and Breakfast | Sven Lindqvist 23


A Bend in the River | Caryl Phillips 35


A River Passage | Maya Jasanoff 47


A Port Accent | Michael Ondaatje 57


London’s Heart of Darkness | Alain Mabanckou 73

Some Stories, with Annotations | Geoff Dyer 83


Natives on the Boat | Teju Cole 97


Waiting for the Flood | Ahdaf Soueif 107


A Room, With a View, of One’s Own | Kamila Shamsie 117


Solo in the River Thames Orchestra | Adonis 127


Boats | Colm Tóibín 143

acknowledgements 159

contributors 161

copyright 166

sources 168


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