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Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Owen Hatherley presents film screening and lecture in Belfast


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Architecture, urbanism and politics writer Owen Hatherley visits Belfast on Sun 22nd and Mon 23rd January for a film screening at QFT and a free lecture at University of Ulster.

The Dilapidated Dwelling (dir. Patrick Keiller, 2000, 78 min)
Selected and introduced by Owen Hatherley
Queen’s Film Theatre, Sun 22 Jan, 3.30pm
£6.20 (£5.70 online) / £5 unwaged / £4 full-time students & children

Owen Hatherley is a regular contributor to the New Statesman, the Guardian and Building Design, writing on architecture, urbanism, the culture of politics and the politics of culture. His latest book, A Guide To The New Ruins of Great Britain, was published to critical acclaim by Verso in 2010. Owen joins us to introduce and discuss Patrick Keiller's experimental documentary The Dilapidated Dwelling

The Dilapidated Dwelling investigates its subject from an extraordinary number of different angles: archive footage, interviews, statistics, humour, accident, even a quiet love story. An unnamed narrator (Tilda Swinton) returns to England after twenty years spent in the Arctic. Her employer commissions her to investigate 'the predicament of the house in the UK'. She falls in love in a supermarket, and settles down with her partner in an Edwardian house on the outskirts of a university town to pursue her research.

She discovers that at the UK’s current rate of house-building, every home currently standing will have to last for 5,600 years, and that the cost of housing in real terms has doubled since the 1930s. She wonders why, when the digital economy is transforming both work and leisure, and mass-production has made consumer items many times cheaper, homes are still built poorly, slowly and expensively.

She discovers archive footage of numerous approaches to utopian architecture, from around the world. She interviews architects, economists and others, who suggest that the housing market protects itself against mass production, and wonder whether modern capitalism is incapable of adequately providing for domestic life. 

The narrator reluctantly comes to the conclusion that the UK is simply incapable of improving its housing stock or applying modern methods to the production of homes, and that the houses of the future will be the ones we already live in.

Despite the use of more traditional documentary techniques like interview and archive footage, The Dilapidated Dwelling retains the poetic sensibility and distinctive visual feel of Keiller’s renowned films London (1994), Robinson in Space (1996) and Robinson in Ruins (2010).

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A New Kind of Bleak
Conor Lecture Theatre, Art College, Belfast
Mon 23 Jan, 1 pm
All welcome, free adm

Owen Hatherley will discuss the fate of urbanism and architecture in the UK, in the desolate new world of savage public-sector cuts, as government funds are withdrawn and the Welfare State abdicates. He will be exploring the urban consequences of the Big Society (which Conservatives privately call 'progressive nonsense') and the ‘localism agenda', as well as considering the completion of the last great Blairite schemes, from London's Shard to the site of the 2012 Olympics. In this context, Hatherley will reflect on what might be distinctive about the Belfast’s post-peace process redevelopment and regeneration, now ingloriously stalled. 

This event is part of the ongoing seminar series programmed by the Centre for Media Research at the University of Ulster.

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