Tony Fretton (1990)

Mark Pimlott
artdesigncafé - design

| 28 July 2010
This text was included in a presentation folder accompanying a lecture by Fretton about his work at the Architectural Association, London. This lecture occurred in relation to Fretton and Pimlott’s inclusion in a group show called 1980-1990 held at the site in autumn 1990.


In his Passagenwerk (Arcade Project), Walter Benjamin speculated on the complex of History and subjugation being ’blasted apart’ by an awakening to the constituents of that History. This would be provoked by the collision of conventions of images normally held at a distance from each other. In a technique resembling collage, the cultural artefact or arrangement would suddenly see itself; the subject/viewer would recognize his location—as a shock—and be jolted out of his position into a new state, a potentially revolutionary one.

Tony Fretton’s work has been made amidst the context of strategies that our society deploys in order to locate its participants. He has observed and studied ’unconscious’ London and those margins at the centre of cities and territories in continental Europe and other extensions of the West. These areas, wider and greater than those of the legitimated, validated City, display both the instrumental and the fantastic: unburdened by the need to represent for the omnivident gaze, another condition is described, another Nature—that of the Other within. Tony Fretton is inclined to say that all of the City’s manifestations are legitimate, and must be taken account of, seen and read. This done, the Nature of the City presents itself as infinitely more complex: a complex of parallel and perhaps conflicting truths meet. The City exposed to its many consciousnesses sees its own constitution. Within it, the viewer/user becomes an empowered and responsible subject in its matrix of making, awoken from a historical Sleep to a politic rooted in the realities of day-to-day experience.

Mark Pimlott is an artist, designer, photographer, filmmaker, and art/design historian.