We are asked to read two chapters from the book “Edgelands” by Farley and Symmons Roberts. The two chapters are “Wire” and “Power”, each chapter a self-contained article covering the use and perception of areas of land bordering where the majority live and work.
The book Edgelands gives differing connotations to the term, but the main definition could be; a piece of land or area which is commonly ignored or overlooked by the individual as it is not important or has no particular value, especially indicated where the land or area is categorised by the industrial or social use of a piece of land rather than its purpose; for example, the edge of town where the ports are located is more likely to be mainly machinery and empty land rather than large-scale housing projects.
Within the chapter ‘Wire’, the reader is presented with the defined border of the edgeland, the wire between field and common land or the chain link border which ran around Greenham common. Here the wire represents a barrier, which can be passed but at what risk to the person. The wire chain link fence is easy to climb but at the top is barbed wire or razor wire and only the brave will risk injury to overcome it. The reader is told of the childhood thoughts of risk passing over the wire, the imagined injury greater than it really was. At Greenham common, the border was both a military and land, the area within the land of the US, where they stored weapons of mass destruction. These weapons were controlled by another type of wire, the wire of the Magnetic Core Memory. Small pieces of magnet woven into a complex weave of copper wire, each pole had the ability to change to a 1 or a 0, but unlike today’s modern Random Access Memory, the wires and cores of Core Magnetic Memory did not require power to hold onto the information, so as long as the wires and core are not damaged they could be powered up years later and still contain the information last written to them.
Memory and wire are explored further in the article, as the wire fence nowadays has become something to which people can connect physical memories to. These padlocks, ribbons, flowers, teddy bears and written tributes are location markers for incidents, for example where someone has lost their life, and as long as these items are not damaged they will conjure up memories to those who created the tributes. The wire stands behind holding these memories so that the weather or the environment can be stopped from moving or removing them.
The second article, ‘Power’, presents edgelands in a different definition and use; the production of electricity. Much like the mill in Constables ‘The Hay Wain’, the power station is hidden from sight, its purpose ignored. Here the edgelands are the marker for industry within the countryside, the cooling towers of the power station represent what can be seen and shown of the industry at the edge of the city or green space. The cooling towers standing in for a large body of water or a wide river. While the wispy clouds of steam drift off; these clouds influence and connect to other artworks. The artists, however, fail to connect to the other side of the power station, the generation part of the industry. The smoke from the stations, blackening the sky similar to the factories painted by Lowrey, for example in his work ‘The Accident’. To those on the Edgelands who live and work there, the smoke is pollution from the station in the form of coal dust and ash, the ever present dust devil from the burning of fossil fuels.
These stations also connect to the article ‘Wire’ as these areas are fenced off from the general public, the workings hidden from view, even the coal being brought in can be hidden in tunnels and structures to prevent the public from remembering what is going on. All stations are fenced to show the boundary of the property and its owner. The fence is another unwelcome side of energy production, stating that only those with permission and a purpose may be allowed within, others are not welcome. Unlike the young drivers at Greenham common and their ever-present and seen military shadow, there is an unseen presence watching the wires and the boundaries. Turn up at a nuclear power station and hang around the edge for a while and finally, the unseen watchers will present themselves in the form of the police from within the station. Power here is protected by another form of power, defense in depth.
Roberts, R., 2011. Edgelands. Michael Symmons Roberts, Paul Farley. (s.n.).
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