Images

Parliament Square Water Crisis Centre

WIRED UK magazine asked Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones to contribute work for ‘The Future As It Happened’ for the magazine’s July 2014 issue.

The magazine asked some of their ‘favourite writes, artists and photographers to convey 2024 news in ‘the format we used to love.’

Robert and Didier’s image ‘Parliament Square Water Crisis Centre’ continues their interest in exploring issues of sustainability and the possible effects of man-made climate change.

‘Following seven years of extreme and changeable weather patterns a high pressure system settles over the North Atlantic which results in the southern UK suffering three consecutive years of winter drought. Clean water supplies are affected with millions of households rationed, with millions of households rationed.’

 

 

London As Venice

© Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones, aerial photograph Jason Hawkes

Like a modern day Canaletto, this disturbing yet strangely peaceful aerial view of a flooded Thames was inspired by shots of New Orleans submerged under the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina. Curious to know how London would appear under similar conditions, Graves and Madoc-Jones transposed projection of a 7.2 metre flooded river on to their digital 3D model of London and aligned with a photograph of the Thames shot by Jason Hawkes. 7.2 metres is the level at which flood waters would breach the Thames Barrier. The low light of the photograph creates an evocative sense of dimension to the view, forming the impression that we are looking at a partially submerged stage-set.

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Piccadilly Circus Water Lilies

© Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones.

At the heart of London’s theatre land, Piccadilly Circus is synonymous with bustle, noise and traffic. How would the famous junction appear in a future flooded London, after its iconic façades are re-clad with lotus-like solar panels and the spot is invaded by energy harnessing windmills? After photographing Piccadilly Circus from the elevated vantage point of Lilywhite’s department store, Graves and Madoc-Jones visually enhanced the appearance of Eros. In reality, its architectural environment dwarfs the 19th century sculpture just as its iconic status is hi-jacked by the surrounding digital advertising. By enlarging the scale of the solar panels and manicuring the urban landscape, the artists playfully imagine a dynamic new setting for the winged messenger.

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Notting Hill Carnival

© Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones

Like a Richard Hamilton photo-collage, Notting Hill Carnival is a visual composite of 20 separate images. A chance discovery of a shot of a young woman applying sun cream (shown at bottom left of the image) catalysed the idea of transforming and uniting London’s carnival audience in blue sunblock. Like the Australian public health advice to ‘Slip Slap Slop’, perhaps a similar Government campaign to protect ourselves from sun damage is not too far in the future?

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Camel Guards Parade


© Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones

With the arc of the London Eye on the horizon, Camel Guards Parade represents the famous military and ceremonial parade ground in Whitehall in a new guise. Amid a dusty haze of heat and sand, camels have replaced horses for the Queen’s own household guard.

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Glacial Thames

© Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones

Glacial Thames and Skating at Tower Bridge are inspired by the historical tradition of frost fairs in London that were regularly staged on the frozen surface of the Thames as early as 1684 up to the early 1800’s. Re-considered amid the current debate of the deceleration of the Gulf Stream, which would drastically lower temperatures in London, Glacial Thames counteracts the romance of a frozen Thames by acknowledging that this immense tidal river would in fact become a slushy, filthy slick of ice. Viewed from HMS Belfast, Graves and Madoc-Jones took a series of photographs across the river and digitally stitched them together to link views of the Tower of London, London Bridge and City Hall within a fictional late summer setting. The build-up of packed ice and an incapacitated river militates against the idealized notion of a city magically transformed by a dramatic drop in temperature.

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Skating at Tower Bridge

© Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones, aerial photograph by Jason Hawkes

Skating at Tower Bridge takes a bird’s-eye view of the frozen surface surrounding the landmark bridge. Tiny human forms skate beneath it, casting extraordinarily long shadows, yet appear as inconsequential as pinheads or iron filings.

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Parliament Square Paddy Fields

© Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones.

A new global economy demands that we become more self-sufficient as former food sources become less reliable and shipping food around the world becomes unsustainable. Austerity encourages us to ‘grow your own’ – even 10 Downing Street and the White House have allotments now. Self-sufficiency also challenges the value of power formerly invested in symbolic sites of political power. In Parliament Square Paddy Fields Graves and Madoc-Jones take a quintessential tourist view of Big Ben and re-present it as a watery landscape inspired an environmental project in East Asia during which Europeans were taught to plant rice. The final image invites us to imagine how the population of central London could re-appropriate the land on their doorstep. Replacing the statues of Churchill, Lloyd George and Disraeli are urban farmers harvesting iridescent green shoots amid the London smog.

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Hyde Park Palm Oil

© Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones

Self-sufficient London by definition questions the value of power in new contexts. Amid the fronds and leaves of tropical palm trees in Hyde Park Palm Oil, the Mayfair Hilton Hotel looms up, dominating its humid environment in an area which houses an established community of Middle Eastern Londoners. Hailed as the revolutionary eco-fuel, palm oil, the true subject of Hyde Park Palm Oil, confronts us with the realisation that this resource and its increasingly elevated significance to Western oil-based economies, poses a potential threat to the planet.

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Buckingham Palace Shanty

© Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones, aerial photograph by Jason Hawkes

Day-to-day life in London takes advantage of new and formerly, inaccessible, spaces. Graves and Madoc Jones explored ideas and images that convey daily life in a transformed London, where the relationship between private and public space is re-evaluated.

The artists were influenced by Tuca Vieira’s stunning photography of shanty towns in Brazil where rich and poor live alongside each other. Sprawling favelas develop around luxury flats, which stand like beacons, each one a separate oasis with private swimming pools on their balconies.

In 2010 Graves and Madoc-Jones worked on a housing project in Kariobangi, Kenya. They were struck by the inexhaustible ways that each owner customized and humanised their patch of land. Aerial views of shanty towns in Africa revealed unexpected visual beauty as by necessity, the conurbations of an urban community grow organically around areas of commerce or food sources.

Inspired by the ingenuity of the Kenyan shanty homes, Graves and Madoc-Jones modeled up a sample of 90 homes of which multiple versions were digitally positioned on to an aerial view of Buckingham Palace. Individual details were added, from wisps of cooking smoke to a myriad of different coloured roofs. The final image depicts 20 million separate shanty dwellings emphasizing how many separate families occupy the space. They live on top of each other right up to the perimeter of the Palace that floats in a private enclave of land that exists to house one family.

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Trafalgar Square Shanty

© Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones

The key influence for Trafalgar Square Shanty was Norman Parkinson’s 1949 photograph of two models standing in the portico of the National Gallery (Wenda Rogerson and B. Goalen, Vogue). Looking out to Nelson’s Column, the photograph idealises the Square, a spot which today has been over-developed as a giant traffic island. Contemporary photographs taken by Graves and Madoc-Jones of street life in Kenya and covered souks in Morocco also influenced their image. Typically the front of each dwelling are the focus of trade and commerce, everything has its use and value. In Marrakech, trade, business and human activity continue through day and night under the semi-covered shades of the souk. Back in London, Graves and Madoc-Jones photographed Trafalgar Square looking south towards Nelson’s Column and used this image to create a model of an imaginary shanty town. Sunlight slices through the partially shaded interior that bustles with life. Amid this ‘new establishment’ Nelson’s Column assumes a secondary, almost inconsequential significance.

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The Gherkin

© Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones

Continuing the theme of Living in London, Graves and Madoc-Jones accumulated images of life in the high-rise tenement blocks of Hong Kong and Sao Paulo. Of these, most striking were the distinctive structures of framed windows, behind which were the signs and minutiae of life that individualized the otherwise uniform setting – clothes hung up to dry and curtains billowing in the breeze. The Gherkin presents an unusual perspective on 30 St Mary Axe in the City of London, the building designed by Foster and Partners on the site of the old Baltic Exchange. Resisting the urge to photograph its iconic bullet form, the artists focused on the textural surface and patina of its façade that they altered in colour. Honing in on the faceted surface and grid pattern of the façade reveals an absorbing layer of depth that reflects glimpses of surrounding buildings. Like Gulliver peering into the miniature lives of the Lilliputians, we search out the intimate details of human life inside.

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The Mall – Royal Power

© Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones

Like every major world city, London embodies and perpetuates different forms of power, from economic, financial to historical. For this theme, Graves and Madoc-Jones explored specific facets of power, from the ceremonial symbolism of the Royal Family, to the tangible power generated by, and located on the Thames.

In The Mall – Royal Power the flagpoles that line the road leading up to Buckingham Palace are substituted with sentries of windmills – a moment where new power replaces the frippery of royal symbolism. All is not lost however as each windmill is decorated with the standard royal crest, mimicking those found on the flagpoles on the Mall. As security controls restricted normal photography on the Mall, the artists took a series of furtive shots and stitched them together to re-create the fictional processional route.

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Thames Tidal Power

The bold composition of Thames Tidal Power was inspired by a photograph of fishing huts perched above the waters of the Gironde in France by French aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand. a striking image of graphic quality and dramatic contrast between light and dark. Combined with separate research into water turbines in Canada and New York, Graves and Madoc-Jones created an image that encapsulated the immense tidal power of the Thames. Using Jason Hawkes’ photograph of the Thames Barrier as a foundation, they dotted a series of tidal turbines around the Barrier, to create a striking uniform pattern. Focusing attention on the force of the river is a clear reminder of the tides that once literally powered London via Bankside and Battersea.

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Kew Nuclear Power Station

© Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones, aerial photograph by Jason Hawkes

In a neat finale to the exploration of power, this thematic group concludes with Kew Nuclear Power Station, a subject that addresses current debates considering the resumption of nuclear power. Where London’s power stations once produced clouds of steam over London, a new generation of nuclear power stations, like Sizewell B in Suffolk, would leave no visual trace on the landscape other than their own distinctive forms. In a perfect marriage of middle-class suburbia and industrial architecture, Graves and Madoc-Jones inserted an image of Sizewell B to an aerial view of Kew Gardens, over which hangs a pall of invented steam. The formal aspect of the power station’s domed structure mirrors the curved form of Kew’s famous 19th century glasshouse, while any quasi-religious connotations associated with the form of the power station are replaced by the recognizable nuclear symbol emblazoned on its façade. Glowing with a natural, almost ethereal, light, Kew Nuclear Power Station is a provocatively unsettling, but compelling image of 21st century London power.

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St Paul’s Monkeys

© Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones

The view from the Stone Gallery at the base of Sir Christopher Wren’s great dome provides a view over a changed world. Tate Modern, the great cultural landmark of London, once linked to St Paul’s Cathedral and City Of London by the Millennium Bridge is now cut off by the flooded river Thames.

Climate change brings with it shifts in eco systems. Some long established species become extinct whilst new and unusual specimens gain a foothold.

The St Paul’s Monkeys are relaxed. They perch on this ancient and venerable building that emerged following the Fire of London, withstanding the blitz and the development of the high rise city around it.

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Whitehall Tornado

© Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones

Trafalgar Square represents iconic London and is a gathering place for tourists and Londoners alike. Every major celebration in the capital takes place in this public space. A warming climate causes more extreme and unpredictable weather. Whitehall Tornado hits at the heart of the establishment and throws the status quo into chaos.

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