What the City Left Behind
There's something profoundly otherworldly about Nathaniel Rackowe's Garden Fence Uprising - almost as if it had simply materialised, emerging suddenly into plain sight. With its tilted angles and rearing prow, it gives the impression of, indeed, rising up at us; of heaving into view, dragging itself purposefully up from unknown depths: like a submarine, perhaps, some sleek and silent vessel; or something from the subconscious, some collective fear made manifest; or an embodiment of the suburban - not, that is, the suburbs as geographical construct, but rather the sub-urban: that which exists below the surface of a city, ignored or repressed; which doesn't form part of a city's conscious image. It's this obscure, submerged zone which Rackowe's structure seems to have risen from, triumphantly, ominously; which, for that matter, all of Rackowe's work seeks to evoke in some way: a terrain of in-between and inadvertent spaces, of makeshift and ad hoc constructions, of mundane and ersatz materials. Vacant lots, forgotten alleys, shabby lean-to's - it's spaces such as these, Rackowe's work seems to suggest, that are equally, if not more, emblematic of the life of a city than any glitzy array of architectural landmarks. Rackowe never attempts to define or encapsulate these sub-urban spaces - the notion would be contradictory, since they are, by their very nature, temporary and indeterminate. Rather, what we get in his work are glimpses and fragments: dark corners that he brings to light; objects whose outlines shift and rotate; fleeting images captured through drawing. The sense is of the city as something fugitive and furtive, undergoing constant upheaval and transformation, its subconscious forms continually threatening to erupt and take over. Garden Fence Uprising can be seen in revolutionary terms, as the first wave of this revolt - its first solid victory, perhaps. Individually, these fencing units would appear lowly, insignificant, if even noticed at all; bandied together, their mass production becomes their strength, a collective demonstration of architectural impact - as they rise up, buoyed by insurgency, to claim their aesthetic dues. Bolted together, coated in waterproof bitumen, made to endure - the final structure becomes a kind of monument to itself: a symbol of liberation, a redemption of what the city left behind.