• Opinion-lead
Opinion

Opinion: Why a show celebrating London's worst bits has struck such a chord

Posted by Rob Alderson,

Editor Rob Alderson tries to explain why a new show revelling the very worst bits this city has to offer has been such a hit and why creatives should embrace the darker, dirtier sides of life. As ever feel free to add your comments in the discussion thread below!

Last week a show called Shit London opened at the KK Outlet gallery. This collection of photographs documenting dirty, underwhelming, aggressive and generally rubbish bits of the city (based on the hugely popular blog of the same name) attracted huge amounts of press attention, which seemed to suggest more than a knowing appreciation of this skewing of the usual artistic/gallery rules. So why are so many people apparently interested in immersing themselves in the crappiest bits this fine city has to offer?

Firstly and most obviously it’s a simple question of context. To truly appreciate the beautiful, the fascinating, the charimng and the engaging elements of any city, you need a counterpoint, those facets which render the best bits as the best bits, otherwise you’re leaving in a uniformly perfect but ultimately sterile Disneyland-esque nightmare. As The Beautiful South sung in Rotterdam “when blonde and beautiful are multiple they become so dull and dutiful” and this essentially sums up how I feel about a city like Bruges.

But there’s more going on here than this. I would suggest that you can learn a lot more about a city like London by studying its dodgy bits. The picture-postcard sights – The Houses of Parliament, The London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral – is the very deliberate projection of how London wants to be seen, the architectural equivalents of Facebook status updates; considered and controlled. But the bits of London captured in this show are like the under-the-breath mutterings caught on a forgotten microphone.

They anchor our sense of the city in reality, in everyday experience, and they’re goldmines of insight – and inspiration – into the human spirit. This acceptance of our shittier sides should indeed be welcomed, and embraced as an antidote to the aesthetic arms race which is the natural result of an online culture driven by oneupmanship – I see your soft tinted Instagram riverscape and raise you a discarded mattress!

comments powered by Disqus
Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Opinion View Archive

  1. List

    In recent months the question of so-called spec work has been raised with us over social media in light of various design competitions we have helped promote. Off the back of that we have spent a lot of time discussing this thorny issue with various people so as to formulate a consistent approach, although the nature of these things is that each is best analysed on a case by case basis.

  2. List

    This week Rob Alderson reflects on the launch of the new Design Museum website and the strange suggestion that the redesign should have been given to a British agency rather than Dutch studio Fabrique. As ever you can add your thoughts using the comment thread below…

  3. Opinion-list

    In the wake of the launch of Printed Pages Autumn 2014, Editor James Cartwright wonders and worries about the secret of designing a great magazine cover and asks for any handy hints you might have. Do him a favour and add your thoughts in the comments section below.

  4. Main

    In light of New York Fashion Week’s main event, a star-studded play put on by Opening Ceremony entitled 100% Lost Cotton, the It’s Nice That team began to ponder their own individual dream play, and what that would look like if they were given the chance to direct it. The results are pretty weird to be honest, but you can’t deny the appeal of each and every one in its own way.

  5. Main

    This week Editor Liv Siddall addresses the world’s distraught reaction to the announcement that MSN Messenger will terminate after 15 years in operation, and wonders if we should get so nostalgic and wet-eyed over technology.

  6. Main

    This week editorial assistant Amy Lewin ponders the cultural impact of the potential England/Scotland split. As ever, feel free to leave comments below.

  7. Main

    We’ve been posting music-related art and design articles on It’s Nice That since the very beginning. In fact the first music video ever posted on It’s Nice That is this one by Koichiro Tsujikawa back in May 2007. Since then we’ve covered countless festival posters and identities, record sleeves, band logos, ad campaigns and tour photography amongst pretty much every other kind of music-related content you can think of, barring only reviewing music itself.

  8. Opinion-list

    This week editor James Cartwright wonders whether it was right to remove the Chapman Brothers’ controversial sculpture Piggyback from a Roman gallery or whether it’s an affront to creative freedoms. As ever your comments are welcome below…

  9. List

    Last week we were duped into running a project on the site that turned out to be a hoax. Here Rob Alderson explains what happened and why it’s left an unsavoury taste, while James Cartwright disagrees and congratulates the artist on a spoof well done. As ever you can leave your thoughts using the discussion thread below…

  10. List

    Two weeks ago we featured DesignStudio’s Airbnb logo. One week ago copywriter Rob Mitchell of We All Need Words wrote an Opinion piece calling for an end to convoluted brand stories. His article was cheered by some people and incensed others; Sam Peskin and Liam Hamill of VentureThree want to have their say and defend brand strategy. Again you can add your views using the comment thread below…

  11. List

    We were pretty impressed with the new Airbnb logo when it launched last week, but for a different perspective, here’s Rob Mitchell from We All Need Words. He tells us why he’s had enough of “over-cooked brand stories masquerading as strategy” and as ever you can add your thoughts below…

  12. List

    In light of our recent changes and the launch of the new-look Design Observer, Rob Alderson reflects on design websites’ redesigns. As ever you can add your thoughts using the comment thread below, and we’re particularly keen to hear what you’re making of our new look!

  13. List

    This week James Cartwright wonders what the V&A is up to with its policy of “Rapid Response Collecting” and whether it really marks a shift in their curation policy. As ever you can add your thoughts using the discussion thread below.