The Faraday Memorial
Designed by Brutalist architect Rodney Gordon in 1959 and built two years later, the Faraday Memorial is a box-shaped structure of stainless steel with a concrete frame, located on the northern roundabout of the Elephant and Castle gyratory system. It commemorates the pioneer scientist Michael Faraday (1791–1867), who was born in nearby Newington Butts. Faraday contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry, developing the main principles that underpin electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and electrolysis. The interior of the memorial contains a London Underground electricity substation for the Northern and Bakerloo lines. Gordon originally intended the structure to be clad in glass so that the workings of the transformer could be seen, making a vivid connection between electricity’s applications in the modern world and one of the key minds responsible for their discovery. However, fear of vandalism prevented the use of glass so the casing was changed to metal. Other aspects of Gordon's design that explained the connection to Faraday were also omitted, so that, ultimately, few people understood its purpose or meaning. In 1996, however, the monument was given Grade II listed building status.
Singer-songwriter, actor, dancer and performance artist, Chisara Agor’s music is influenced by jazz, folk, storytelling and electronic sounds. Having grown up in Peckham, south London, she describes her creative output as being very much affected by the world around her – she is especially inspired by current events and physical spaces – and her lyrics often touch on social issues from the refugee crisis to the environment. She studied philosophy and modern languages at the University of Essex but her interest in architecture developed from subsequent Masters in philosophy and art history, and an internship at the Hayward Gallery, which prompted her to consider the relationship between art, architecture and music. Her latest projects will see the release of new music showcasing her different stylistic influences, together with performances at Brighton Fringe and the Southwark Playhouse.
So Michael Faraday was a scientist..
The first thing I did was head to the site - The Faraday Memorial is a building that always puzzled me as a child. It was for me a shiny metal box in the middle of the crazy roundabout of Elephant and Castle. Little did I know that it was a memorial for an acclaimed scientist.
I wrote down all the initial thoughts and feelings that came to me when I thought about the building. Altogether I had around 30 words, later narrowing them down to 6; Power, Reflection, Modern, Future, Magnetic and Brutal. All referring to building, its stature and relationship with its surroundings, often reflecting the city in its shiny metal casing. Faraday was essentially investigating the nature of electricity, I however was investigating how electricity in such a space could manifest through sound, what steel and power and magnetism could feel like.
I started off with two separate tracks, which further along I would realise matched perfectly together. The first focused on ethereal sounds, field recordings recorded at the site or on the tube, drones, ghostly howls etc.. I wanted to make people feel like they were inside the structure. The ghostly echoes of technology, hums, beeps and silence. During the process some lyrics came to me. At the time I didn’t know what melody it would take, I had no chords or sense of rhythm, at the time they were simply ideas.
Power sending power
Over spilling waves
I live inside a power field
Resisting powers waves
In the wider context of Elephant and Castle I reflected on how it was a contested space, at risk of or we can argue, in the midst of social cleansing and full scale cultural and architectural change at the hands of profit hungry developers. I questioned how we can both live in powerful places, economically culturally, even geographically and resist the incoming power waves of those who seek only to profit from it.
The second track was more upbeat giving a nod to the placement of the memorial in a buzzing urban metropolis. Following the addition of a groove, I drew out a wave of my own illustrating how the two tracks may come together. This wave demonstrated the journey from field to function, to voices and poetry, the journey in the track attempts to illustrate change and comment on the area the memorial is sitting upon.
I’m just tryna vocalise synthesise change
If they’re building high rise towers then the landscape’s gonna change
Where there is power there’s resistance and the two they inter-change
I’m just tryna vocalise synthesise change