Camden Alive presented Tensed Muscles, a new work by Steffi Klenz.
During 2019 Klenz spent time at the Maiden Lane Estate in Camden, talking with residents and immersing herself in the architecture of the space. She worked with rappers Boss B & Brownsilla at the Camden Local Studies & Archives Centre exploring the history of the estate. Together, they considered the relationship between the architectural promise of modernist living – of equality and opportunity – and the reality of living in Maiden Lane in the 40 years since the estate’s inception.
Maiden Lane Estate, designed by architects Benson and Forsyth, was a visionary, modernist scheme which included plans for 400 new homes, shops, sports facilities, a community centre, a primary school and open spaces. Due to financial pressures in the late 1970s the plans were not fully realised, resulting in a split site and years of practical and social challenges.
Klenz’s images offer multiple layers and references, combining architectural plans, archive material, and hand-drawn medical illustrations to unearth what is hidden below the surface of the site. Klenz is interested in the entanglements of the poetic, political and socio-economic aspects of the neighbourhood and uses the metaphor of the ‘phantom limb’ and ‘conversion disorder’ to present this. Photograms created from the estate’s building shapes; images of the Archive’s microfilm machines produced by the artist’s portable hand-scanner; representations of sculptural displays of yardsticks and rulers depicting the measurements of the estate’s residents; and illustrations of tensed muscle groups are layered and connected.
Boss Band Brownsilla’s spoken words are embodied in the images via the use of hands, reflecting the articulation of meaning gestures found in rap. Klenz further represents this link through using the hands of local people currently living on the estate to present Karl Teigel’s Modernist alphabet.
Weaving accounts from the rapper’s lyrics, intertwined within the framework of the images themselves, with her own experiences of living and being in London, Klenz reflects on what has been, and its relevance to lives today. The resulting album of images and sounds presents a complex view of Maiden Lane, one of tension and frustration but also of confidence and optimism.