A Protester’s Truth (Dispatch from Iran)

As the rest of the world is discovering, Iran is a rather modern place. With nearly 70% of the population aged under 35, it would be. Men’s hairstyles may have a tad too much hair gel on the go and women may have a liking for bug-eyed sunglasses, but those are regional crimes of fashion to be found from Beirut to Bahrain.
iran demo
The people you see on the streets can be mistaken for the literati, the loathesome middle-class who aspire towards a higher quality brand and matching furniture. Social onanists – those in touch with themselves who doff a patronising hejab at those who never crossed a University’s door.
But they’re not. What you are seeing is Iran. These young angry voices will, in five years’ time, be more mature. Their positions will carry more gravitas. Nobody likes listening to ideas from a smart alec kid, but they will listen to ideas from a considered adult.
Today, the likes of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mohammad Khatami will be marching in memoriam to those who’ve died in demonstrations over the past few days. They will be wearing black. And they will be going via a mosque or two.
Doctors will attend rallies, some wearing white coats so as to be easily identifiable to the injured. Two million people are expected to attend the Tehran rally at Imam Khomeni Square.
The Supreme Leader is expected to address crowds at Friday prayers tomorrow. He’s shipping in people from the countryside to swell the numbers a bit.
How big is Tehran? Massive. A population of nearly 8 million and packed with flyovers, motorways, and nearly two dozen Universities. The roads are wide and the cars and motorbikes plentiful. The smack problem is a major issue – heroin and opium use across all ages is on the rise, employment is on the decline. However, female entrance into higher education is steadily progressing.
Protesters may not succeed at this junction. Friends in Iran are suffering activist fatigue. They sleep little and march a lot. How long they can keep this up for is not clear. The Islamic Revolution didn’t come out of a shoot-from-the-hip rage. It was a carefully orchestrated overthrow of another regime seen as morally corrupt and financially shady. This is more reactive, without a clear direction or plan of action beyond what emotion dictates.
Mousavi, the man the world now sees as Iran’s Obama, is as much a part of the establishment as the Guardian Council. He was Prime Minister of Iran when snatch squads ensured Tehran’s Evin prison maintained its fearsome notoriety.
Will things change? Depends on what you expect from the word “change”. An overthrow of the Islamic Republic? No. A capitulation in light of a lot of pissed off people wondering why the guy they voted for wasn’t declared President? Much more likely.
American and British pundits egging on the fall of the Ayatollah will fall flat on their faces. Iran does not want a complete overhaul of its government. A lot of it does work for the people it’s meant to work for. Women aren’t clamouring to chuck off the chador nor are men that desperate to get a drink in. Those who are so inclined can find places to do as they please. Such is the Russian doll that is Iran. You see one image, but inside lie half a dozen more. How much an Iranian chooses to show you is their perogative.
This is what I received in a message from a friend this morning. It is their truth, a protester’s truth.

Just a few things to clear up what Fox, BBC or CNN are saying. They are liars, as Ahmadinejad says.
So check this…right from us…the people, the protesters.
1- Iranian government blocked most community and communication websites
2- Iranian government tries to avoid accepting people’s right to protest and calls us rioters and vandals
3- Iranian government abused the election results
4- Over 40 youth have been killed, beaten, or imprisoned.
5- Iranian national TV is in the hands of the system that prevents people from airing their ideas
6- They make fear and beat people with their militia called Basij and abused the name of the old Basij. They now use Basij for killing intellectuals instead of upholding Islam.
7- Basij and police go to streets at night and destroy public property, blame it on protesters, then beat protesters up in the morning.
8- Ahmadinejad has shown that he doesn’t respect Iran and Iranians by calling 13 million of us “thorny twigs” and “mindless anarchists who can be blown away with a breath”.
9 – During the last protest in Tehran, several policemen were spotted wearing green bands. Green is the colour of this protest. The policemen candidly told these protesters that they are with them.
10 – During the protests, on several occasion, Basiji who attacked peaceful protesters were arrested by police. Sources say although this happened in several place, it can’t quite be called a crackdown. A few cases only!
11 – Several Basiji militiamen were spotted laying down their arms and going home after being asked to interfere with the protestors.
12 – The biggest threat people are facing right now are plainclothesmen. They seem to be everywhere and are targeting people from their homes, etc.
who are not in groups. These men have mostly been linked with Ansar e Hezbollah. They are responsible for beating people up, arresting people, threatening protesters, taking reformists
13 – So far, it’s been confirmed that 15 people in Tehran and 32 people around the country have been killed. Hundreds more have been injured and over 800 have been detained. Among these are dozens of reformists. Most of these arrests have been made by the notorious plainclothesmen mentioned earlier.
14 – During yesterday’s protestss, mullahs and Ayatollahs were spotted joining rallies within Tehran and in several other cities. No one could confirm the mullahs’ status within clerical society, but their numbers have been visible.
15 – In addition to Tehran, protests occured in Ahvaz, Mashad, Kermanshah, Qazvin, Shiraz, Tabriz, and Qom.
16 – Pro-Ahmadinejad protesters’ numbers have been greatly exaggerated by the state media in comparison to Mousavi’s supporters. In reality, pro-Ahmadinejad protesters have been identified as either people who work at government offices or people brought in from the countryside to boost the numbers.
17 – After downplaying the protests for days, state-run media finally started to announce news of events more accurately.
18 – Text messaging (SMS) is still down in Iran and internet is extremely slow. People are unable to get satellite channels on their televisions. At the same time, police and plainclothesmen are going door to door taking away people’s satellite dishes.
19 – Mohsen Rezai, one of the candidates, is going to declare his support for a re-election tomorrow. The fourth candidate, Mahdi Karroubi, openly joined yesterday’s rally.
20 – A group of prominent officials at the Ministry of Interior have written a letter to the Guardian Council declaring that they have witnessed widespread irregularities within voting and counting processes during the election. They asked for this matter to be thoroughly investigated.
21 – To date, there no report of the military’s intervention into peaceful protests has been established. Not a single one.
22 – Khatami and Mousavi have both asked the Ministry of Justice to investigate the involvement of plainclothesmen in the violence during protests.
23 – Several eyewitnesses have seen non-Iranian Arabs waving Hamas/Hezbillah flags around the protests. These reports have been fully confirmed and are NOT a rumour spread by Israel.

We are not happy. We distrust media like the BBC. But the government called us followers of the BBC. Lies. Insults for us the people. So we continue to resist and make Ahmadinejad fall on his knees and beg. Until the government has pissed off.
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Why We Protest (A Letter From Iran)

Dissidents. That’s what you want to call them. People who actively challenge an established doctrine, policy, or institution.

Iran is a country where there is no clear black or white, good or evil. Like the chadors, hejabs and jilbabs worn by women, you see one thing, but beneath the veil can be the unexpected.

On the surface, everyone conforms. Under the skin, where the blood flows, the flesh stings and the bone breaks is where you find the heart of Iran.

I’ve been receiving many letters from friends in Iran. Most of which I cannot publish either due to their personal nature or because I like my friends’ heads attached to their necks.

This is a rare letter. One from an Iranian who has discovered the bottomless pits of anger and the swelling of rage. The words are not mine — I’ve cleared up the spelling and punctuation but, otherwise, have left it as is.

Why we protest? Because we see and witnessed that they abused our votes. We witnessed that Stupid Ahmadinejad disrespected us and called us some vandals and some thornytwigs.

Who we are? We are among people who made the votes number from 19 million to 40 million votes.

Now I am sure that this government in Animals government.
They killed university students and beat children and people in streets.
We are not against peace. We are not against Islam. We are against lies. We are against abusing our being.
We are against lies, we are against killer police.
We are against the way police are beating calm people.
I am sure this government is based on lies and this leader is a pig. Is shit.
I am mad and sad.
Fuck Ahmadinejad.
Fuck their security police. Fuck their lie they call law.
I saw these brainwashed Muslims broke my mate’s camera when he filmed them while breaking public environment to say we broke.
Spread the reality.
Ahmadinejad blocked all websites and satellite, blocked mobile access and control every phone call ….
We have nothing too lose when we see they are abusing my being.
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This video was filmed on 16 June 2009. It’s an exclusive, if you’re into that sort of thing. I won’t say who filmed it or edited it, but if you like it, let me know and I’ll pass it on.

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Turban Warfare (Tehran Street Art pt.2)

My friend is tired. Having spent the day erecting over 400 street pieces throughout Tehran’s concrete, steel, and rage-lined arteries. Having run away from angry men on motorcycles wielding batons towards angry men wearing green and throwing rocks.

The world has been introduced to a new lexicon. The Guardian Council, the Basij, Khomeni, Khameni, Khatami, ValiAsr, Supreme Leader, Ayatollah, Mousavi. We knew about the other guy. The one everyone called Dinner Jacket. We knew about Iran. Or at least we thought we did. Something to do with nukes and Islam and not liking Israel very much. Strange race. Don’t they speak Arabic? No? Farsi? What the fuck’s that it all looks the same. Threatening. Angry. Alien.

The phones are dead. Dying. Or gasping. They’re not good. The internet is equally dodgy but proxy servers are still operating. So, for now, the internet is providing either a vital means of communication or a useful weapon for control.

The Guardian Council is probably eyeing Burma and North Korea enviously. It seems they are trying to emulate their regime cousins by restricting communications and limiting foreign presence.

I received more images and a note from Tehran’s street art Scarlet Pimpernel. I’ve been asked not to reprint the discussion.

The text on the top photo reads “Where’s my vote?’

45i

ik

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All photographs and artwork are by [REDACTED]. Names and identities have been withheld for the security of those involved.

Should you choose to repost these images, please drop me a line with a comment I can forward to the artist(s) involved.

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Images For A New Age (Tehran Street Art)

Sometimes the best presents you receive are the ones that show you people are not alone in fighting for what is right. Weapons of this battle? Feet. Minds. Paint. Words.

If you wander through the streets of Tehran, you may encounter some of these images. Look closely.

If you wander through the streets of Tehran, you may encounter a country whose population is primarily under the age of 35. The beards who ran the Islamic Revolution had an issue with condoms around 1979. And since nobody could go out and have a drink and a dance to bide their evenings, young couples took up more amourous pursuits. The result is a country with a young population. A population with ever increasing female university students. A country with people who know how to dodge firewalls. A people imbued with a passion for self-expression and a rich artistic tradition.

Nothing – not a beard, a Basij, a club, or a gun – can repress the creativity and flair I’ve seen with my own eyes in Iran.

This video was shot from a balcony in Tehran. The pictures below are of art recently placed on the streets of Tehran.

musavi sticker

scream

doctormahmood

mola

fone

dictatore-with-beard

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All photographs and artwork are by [REDACTED]. Names and identities have been withheld for the security of those involved.

Should you choose to repost these images, please drop me a line with a comment I can forward to the artist(s) involved.

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Letter From Tehran (Dude…Where’s My Election?)

Lounging langourously on a Sunday afternoon, I received the following on my BlackBerry. It’s a letter from a friend in Tehran who asks their name and profession not be published. Having subsequently spoken to other friends in Tehran (social networking, SMS, and other tricks of youth have been shut down…unless you know a hack or two), the anger on the streets is as thick as the smog on the motorways.

Whether they feel this is a “revolution” is an issue for debate. Do they want to overthrow Ahmadinejad or the Ayatollah? What is clear is that they feel the democracy they were offered was ersatz. That the powers that be (in this case, the incumbent) held an election they’d already determined the result for and took the people along for a ride to make it look good.

Opposition candidate and reformist Mir Hossein Musavi has launched a formal appeal to cancel the election results announced in favour of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by the Interior Ministry. His appeal was lodged with the Guardian Council, a group appointed by the Supreme Leader whose remit is to interpret and implement Iran’s constitution.

Meanwhile, Musavi’s wife Zahra has called for peaceful demonstrations across 20 cities from 1600h local time on Monday and a national strike on Tuesday.

Given reports of deaths, beatings, and missing from anti-Ahmadinejad protests in Rasht, Qom, Tehran and other Iranian cities, nobody is sure how many people will answer her call.

As one pro-Musavi voter said “I’m very angry with myself for being fooled so easily. They got us to vote, which gives them legitimacy. Then they manipulated the results.”

My friends in Iran are of the literati – artists, writers, journalists, teachers. They fear chain murders – murders and disappearances of those critical of the religious regime. The last time such killings came to the fore was as a reaction to the election of pro-reform president Mohammad Khatami in 1997.

Their fears are real. Almost all of them have been either under official surveillance, arrested on bogus charges, detained for indeterminate sentences, bullied by the Basij, received death threats etc etc.

What my friend has written isn’t much, but it is a voice among many that is crying out for something new… even though those voices aren’t clear what form that reform should take. As another friend said, “Anything. Anything but this.”

liberty


Yesterday, after coming back to my studio from the street revolts, we saw that they blocked all satellite TV. All the internet sites like YouTube, Facebook and… and maybe more. All blocked.

Internet speed was reduced from 128k to 12k. I tried to send you a video of streets to publish on YouTube and… but it is impossible.

They bit and hit people and young on the streets. They fear our power. We trusted them but they abused our votes. We could never imagine such pig minds.

I just sent you this and hope you try spreading this news. Not just from me but from all Iranian freedom seekers. They are banning us. They make us fear and keep us silent.

I cannot be associated with this letter. Or with anything else I send you. Have you heard of chain murders? This is what I fear. Some Muslims. Individuals. The Basij. They call around, find a person easily and cut his neck at night.

Even the person we voted for [Musavi, Karroubi] told us to “be silent because this government has no fear to tear your breasts and spill your blood in all of Persia’s rivers”. The person we voted for asked us to be silent. To forget. He said these people are not Muslim. They are liars.

The police here are like wolves. Religious people in neighbourhoods laugh at and disrespect us as non-Iranian. It is hard.

The government blocked YouTube to stop many Iranians from publishing videos of dangerous streets. We have our ways around this. For now.

The police and the basij  set fires and broke into banks at night to say we, the people, did this. But the people are doing nothing wrong, nothing criminal. We are shocked. We are angry. We just want to know where our votes went. We elected one man and they empowered another. The only people who don’t agree with this are the liars who are scared to lose their regime and their control.


Yours,

[REDACTED]

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Death By Acronym

Common sense dictates that drinking an industrial solvent found in wheel cleaner is a stupid thing. Yet clubbers across the UK are ignoring the “Toxic: Do Not Drink” warnings and are necking back litres of the stuff for shits and giggles.

After a couple of hours I think I’m straight enough to communicate with the outside world. I’m not. I babble incoherent nonsense on the phone, post worse on Twitter. Having ingested a dose of the latest nightclub drug sensation GBL, I’ve lost nearly three hours of my life, my loins are turning over in stimulus and my head feels like a tar pit. I can’t breathe and have probably relied on my asthma inhaler more than I ought to. And I’ve lost my glasses. Hester Stewart, a 21-year-old molecular medicine student and cheerleader at Sussex University, lost more than that.
Hester died after taking GBL at a party in Brighton in April 2009.
“She was attending an awards ball then was meant to meet her brother for a drink,” recalls Hester’s mother Maryon. “All we know is that she went off with another group, ended up at someone’s house, probably went to sleep and never woke up. Two policemen turned up at my door when I was making brunch.”
Maryon, a nutritionist, insists her daughter wasn’t part of a drugs scene and that reports of a bottle of GBL found near her body were untrue.
“In France and Germany they have posters in clubs that read GBL + Alcohol = Death. Hester had a blood alcohol level 1.5 times over the driving limit, but none of her friends nor I knew what GBL was until she died.”

GBL, or gamma-butyrolactone, is an agent used in industrial cleaners and solvents. Think nail varnish remover, bike chain degreaser, enamel stripper. You can buy quantities of it off the Internet for £50 per litre. In a club, it comes in a glass vial, which you shake up and drink. It looks like water and tastes like flat fizzy water with a penny in it. You go giddy, you sometimes hallucinate. When mixed with alcohol, whatever drowsiness you experience is enhanced.  It can also lead to shortness of breath, a constriction of the chest, unconsciousness, coma, death.
Increased use of GBL came after the Home Office amended the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to classify its cousin GHB, gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid, as a Class C substance. Some clever clog worked out that GBL converts to GHB when it hits the bloodstream. Similar effects without the jail time.
Typical clubber arguments for taking GBL echo “It’s like ketamine, you should only take it according to your body weight”. Therefore assuming the bigger you are the more you can take.
Prominent toxicologist Professor Alexander Forrest insists that there is no “safe dose. GBL is used to remove nail varnish and super glue. It has no physical benefit to the human body. If you are naïve and take it in large quantities or with alcohol or other depressants, the effects are potentiated. It kills.”
So if there is no safe dose, why take it? “I love it,” says clubber Woody. “I get really horny and the feeling’s fabulous. It’s kind of being in it and out of it at the same time.”

The Home Office has opened a public consultation over GBL, BZP (1-benzylpiperazine), and 24 anabolic steroids which closes on 13 August 2009. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has said that she is “determined to respond to the dangers of these drugs and that is why I have committed to controlling them…this is the next step in tackling the unregulated market of so called legal highs.” She vows to continue adapting the UK drug policy according to the  “changing environment of substance misuse.”
In this case, the use of GHB broke its medical remit as treatment for narcolepsy. Bodybuilders took it in the hopes of bulking up and it joined ecstasy and ketamine on tapestry of euphorics available on the nightclub scene. The UK government restricted it as a Class C drug, carrying with it a two-year jail term for possession following a successful conviction. GBL, its precursor, suddenly emerged as the legal alternative.
“We’re working to have the government ban GBL for personal use,” says Maryon Stewart. “We also want the Home Office to start a legal highs awareness programme in universities, schools, bars, everywhere. People should know that legal doesn’t mean safe.”
Online merchants who sell GBL for industrial purposes say they “cannot be held responsible if the product is misused in any way”. My batch came from a conventional drug dealer as a 250ml bottle with handy pipette.
“One of those should equal a dose,” my dealer advised. “But there is no real way of measuring. Just don’t go overboard.”
My dealer has been in his trade for nearly 20 years. He’s also spent time running a “head shop” – a store that sells drug paraphernalia, legal highs, joss sticks and awful hippie clothing. According to him, restricting further substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act could lead users to seek out other legal, potentially more dangerous, ones to take.
“Restricting isn’t going to help anything. In fact, it tends to make people curious and want to try them,” my dealer continues. “People are going to find other things to use whether the Home Secretary likes it or not. I have noticed a spike of interest in these legal highs but I’ve found they’re more of a novelty. Customers try them for a time but always go back to cocaine, ecstasy, dope. It’s what they know and trust.”
“Has anyone died on you?”
“Not yet. I don’t think so. I warn people off speedballs (cocktails where users mix different drugs to take at once) but what they do with what they get is up to them.”

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is the consulting body in charge of keeping the Home Secretary up to date with the latest drug trends. It’s made up of 31 doctors, professors, consultants who compile reports, draft proposals and nag government ministers about what the kids have been taking when their parents are away.
Under their microscope this year are ‘legal highs’ – a catch-all phrase that takes in everything that hasn’t yet been classified and restricted under the Misuse of Drugs Act. GBL is part of this. BZP is part of this. Herbal preparations with added synthetic cannabinoids known as “Spice” are part of this. In a letter to the Home Secretary dated 31 March 2009, the ACMD said they were forming a working group to look into Spice.
However, users are always ahead of the game.
“We’ve not had any Spice in stock for a while now. You’ll find most of the major UK wholesalers have stopped selling it,” says Rolly at my local head shop.
A popular alternative goes under the name of “Magic Silver”, an “exceptionally strong incense” with a vanilla and honey flavour. At around £25 pounds a go, the cost is comparable to the going rate for its illegal cousin skunk weed. Other products such as “Dream” or “D-Raw” offer similar numbing, giggly effects – but you’ll be smoking damiana, blue lotus, or something more chemical that’s usually not added to the list of ingredients.
You can also import the Spice component, JWH-018, from fine chemical producers in China. Online. Just Google it.

A good number of legal highs are imported from New Zealand. One of the bigger manufacturers is London Underground. Speaking to an importer of their products under the condition of anonymity, I asked if trading in legal highs serves to encourage users to take unnecessary risks.
“Quite the opposite. The feedback we get from users is that our products keep them away from harder drugs.”
Professor Forrest is less forgiving. “It’s not an issue of hard or soft. The only difference between something like BZP and MDMA is legislation. One is legal and the other isn’t. They’re both very potent and they’re both potentially dangerous.”
I took BZP in the form of a legal high sold as “Smileys”. It’s 160mg of benzylpiperazine mixed with 200mg of piperazine blend called TFMPP. Your pupils dilate, your jaw clenches, and you dance like a lunatic. Erroneously called “Natural Ecstacy”, BZP is appearing on the public radar thanks to the death of a 22-year-old mortgage broker from Sheffield called Daniel Backhouse. He was found dead in May 2008 after taking a cocktail of BZP and Ecstasy.
A study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal finds the combination of BZP with TFMPP promotes “the release of neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin…thereby simulating the known effects of MDMA”. Not only does it promote seizures in rats, but humans. Taken with MDMA, it forces the heart to beat erratically and forces contractions. Not bad work for something you can pick up as soil fertiliser.
One substance that’s yet to entertain government scrutiny is mephedrone. A pale powder with similar effects to amphetamines, cocaine and MDMA.
After snorting around 1000mg of it, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. My fingers went slightly blue and my lips lost their colour. It keeps you pepped up and makes you chat shit. Knowing what I know about the casual drugs scene, it seems the only thing stopping mephedrone from becoming the new ketamine is its availability. At £15 per gram, it’s certainly cheap enough.
Somebody once joked that with a recession on, people can’t afford cocaine or pure MDMA anymore. Legal highs and pharmaceuticals are being sold as “the poor man’s this and that”. And because there are so many variants and compounds, regulation will always be a step behind and education never up to scratch. Prosecution is like “a nasty suck by a toothless poodle”.
Professor Forrest is keen to point out that regulating legal highs will have a very small impact on overall substance abuse.
“GBL, BZP or any other substance that the government is looking at to control aren’t the biggest issues. Though controlling them would be a step in the right direction, the biggest issues are substances that have widespread use and kill people. Alcohol and tobacco. The government will never crack down on booze and fags. The lobbies are too strong, there’s too much money in them, and they’re very sexy.”

Having started this article with the idea of trying a few things I’ve never taken before to boost my street cred, I’ve finished it feeling like I’ve put my organs through torture last seen in Nazi death camps. Placing further restriction on legal substances used as recreational drugs may force users to seek out the bleach under the kitchen sink in a terminal effort to get off their tits. If you apply Darwin’s theory of evolution, here’s hoping.

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This article was first published in Who’s Jack Magazine, July 2009. All rights reserved.

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Art for Bank Workers

Tucked away in a soulless building in Islington’s Upper Street is the unexceptionally named Business Design Centre – home to the 21st London Art Fair.
Look on it as the Ideal Home Show for the art world.

Not as slick or suave as Frieze, nor as flea market as the Affordable Art Fair.

Of all the art fairs that vie for Londoners’ attention, this one is an unashamed melting pot of 112 galleries from Europe and the UK showing (okay, selling) 20th and 21st century art from the likes of Marc Chagall and LS Lowry to Banksy’s Bristol nemesis, Nick Walker.

The work ranges from £20 “high-quality, editioned video art” to a Henry Moore for a cool one million pounds – although when you start talking figures that sound like mortgages, the ticket on the label always reads “price on application”.

Jonathan Burton, London Art Fair’s director, insists that the art market is still relevant despite a looming recession. He takes the phrase “art fair” quite literally.

“Art is not for a wealthy elite. The reason we have such a mix of galleries, styles and projects is to prove you don’t have to spend a fortune to own something unique,” he says.

He also suggests that a downturn could be the best time to start collecting: “Galleries are more flexible with price, something they wouldn’t have been a year ago.”

The heaviness of economic uncertainty seems to waft away as the serious collectors stream in for the buyers’ preview – an art world convention or condescension depending on which end of the black you’re in. The conversation drifts from “hmm” to bandying numbers while omitting the words “thousand” or “million”.

Polite nodding-a-plenty coupled with saccharine smiles and power-handshakes.

But what of the art? Modern masters and the contemporary canon. Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron, Sir Peter Blake for the former. Gavin Turk, Jeremy Deller, Rob and Nick Carter for the latter.

Art that appeals to buyers who work for banks.

Of this, Burton is unashamed: “City buyers are very important to us. They’re our best repeat customers.”

The art school idea of using creativity to challenge and reflect the world you experience goes straight out the window here. That is, until you ascend a few staircases, meander through a few corridors and ascend a final set of stairs to Gerry Judah’s work.

Gerry’s work stabs you. Destroyed cityscapes turned on their side on paper and canvas – meticulously modeled down to inner stairwells and water-tanks.

A passing electrician commented “It’s Gaza, innit?” Or anywhere wrecked by man or nature.

Despite the obvious sculptural effect that harks to his Hollywood set design days, Judah calls these paintings.

“They’re directly influenced by war zones from the Middle East to eastern Europe. I’m Jewish and my family comes from Baghdad. I set out to address a feeling, not an issue – I don’t like leading people by the nose. It’s political with a small ‘p’.”

Your eye, your body, your mind – all wander through the monochrome of Judah’s deliberate destopia. Repulsed at the grotesque yet magnetized by the beauty of detail.

After spending the best part of two hours despairing that the word ‘art’ had gathered the unwelcome suffix ‘market’, seeing the fragile power of Judah’s work renewed a sense that art exists beyond art’s sake.

:: The 21st London Art Fair is open to the public until 18 January 2009 at the Business Design Centre, Upper Street, Islington, London.

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This article was first published on Sky News Online on 14 January 2009. All rights reserved.

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