Waterloo and City - Private thoughts in public spaces
My idea of a journey would normally be from A to B. Origin to destination- a straight line or thereabouts. much like Transport for London’s ‘map’ of the Waterloo and City Underground line- there and back- Waterloo to Bank, Bank to Waterloo. For those accustomed to travelling on the London Underground, the Waterloo and City Line is an anomaly. It has just two stops; Waterloo- a major tube and rail interchange particularly for commuters from the wealthy South West; and Bank- for the ‘City’ of London legal and financial district.
Within each tube carriage on the network is a long map, depicting every stop on the relevant line- between 16 and 60 names neatly aligned along a coloured stripe. For TfL to have created a matching map for the Waterloo and City Line, despite the brevity of the journey (some 3 minutes) seems pedantic – superfluous.
Regardless of the title of this work, Deborah Stevenson’s journey shares none of the straightforward characteristics of the Waterloo and City Line. There is an origin and a destination, but not in that order. It is a journey that is both faceless and acutely personal, specific, and yet belonging to many times all at once. Her journey is more like the journey of a thought travelling through neural pathways – detouring along the way, as a mind distracted by a thought, triggered by a memory evoked by a smell.
Although her imagery is specific, singular even- her voice tells a story of a path trodden and re-trodden, like the commuter travelling back and forth with such regularity that the journeys can no longer be distinguished from one another. They collage on top of one another in memory, carving down the route through the layers. The journey is an immersive one, and I recommend that you take it privately. Like the eerie quiet of a crowd of hundreds of workers silently shuffling towards the full carriages of a train, routine so familiar it barely registers- put on some headphones and allow yourself to be led.
Claire Undy, 2016
Deborah Stevenson is an artist and writer based in the North West of England.
Claire Undy is an artist based in London.