When I lived in Hertfordshire and was beginning to transform into a Psychogeography freak I began with Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital, a walk of the M25 which led him to the River Lea which swam behind my secondary school, and the Rye House gate house in a field beside my local pub. Then I moved to Hackney and I read Hackney: That Rose Red Empire, and I have been following Iain Sinclair around ever since.
But that’s only a side note as to why I found myself in the TINTYPE gallery for a talk with Iain Sinclair and artist Rachel Lichtenstein, about her current exhibition Site Unseen, and her book about the history and mysteries of Hatton Garden.
Rachel Lichtenstein has researched and written a book about ‘The Hidden World of Hatton Garden’, and in the former workshop of the Tintype Gallery a series of relics are presented in glass cases, relics which whisper of that hidden world.
Sinclair points towards the back window and the Dickensian courtyard: ‘Rachel touches upon the London that you don’t see, the London which doesn’t present itself on the streets but is hidden at the back of buildings. She has curated the secret room that we can’t get at,’ he suggests as he points to the luxurious false-wall of velvet covered books. The installation is an interesting way of bringing Lichtenstein’s collated artefacts into her practice, a temptingly tactile invitation to push the wall and see where it might lead.
Lichtenstein’s story of seeking out the last of the now subterranean Fleet River, and her recording of its rush and swell in the sewers, is certainly an offering of a secret world her audience has little hope of discovering. This connects beautifully with the secretiveness of Hatton Garden’s industry where security is still elusively tight and merchants and traders still gather behind closed doors.
Lichtenstein spoke of thinking about the book in ‘elemental terms; the rivers of blood, gold and water flowing through the area’. The Alchemists and the Slaughterhouses, neighbours compacted within the history of the area. And the strange prophecy of Saffron Hill’s former name, ‘Gold Lane’, which knew of Hatton Garden’s glittery fate even before the first jewellers had moved in.
To be honest there were too many people for me to get a proper perspective on the treasures of the show, so I’ll leave you with Iain Sinclair’s words: ‘Rachel has been scavenging through the great stream of objects which pass through Hatton Garden, she has decided that certain objects are not ephemeral, that they have value in their history, and here in the glass cabinets, she has super-curated them.’