‘Phantom Railings’

London is a city that, though its fabric is constantly changing, preserves and redeploys much from its past. One of its surviving nineteenth-century features about which I’m slightly obsessed is those iron railings that mark out its squares and parks. Catalina Pollak is an Argentinian artist, living in London, who has channelled her fascination for these items of street furniture into an amazing public installation which commemorates the moment when, in the second world war, railings were removed from the metropolitan scene. In their absence, the ‘phantom railings’ make the sound of someone clanking a stick against them as passers-by walk along the pavement. In a powerful yet subtle political gesture, Pollak’s work makes us think about the ways in which access to urban space is overly restricted and hierarchized, one of the less laudable inheritances the Victorians bestowed upon us.



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