Tensed Muscles Album
In 2019 Maiden Lane rap artists Brownsilla and Boss B collaborated with photographic artist Steffi Klenz. As artists in residence at the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre, they explored the histories of Maiden Lane, using maps, newspapers, court reports and images.
Weaving these stories with their own experiences of living and being in Camden, the artists reflect on what has been, and of its relevance to lives today. The resulting album, Tensed Muscles, presents a complex view of Maiden Lane, one of tension and frustration but also of confidence and optimism.
Tensed Muscles explores 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 its inception. Klenz’s photographs layer images of the neighbourhood, mixed with architectural plans, archive material and hand-drawn medical illustration to unearth what is hidden beneath 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’ to present this. Medical drawings and images of Maiden Lane residents’ disconnected limbs signify something missing – something missing in society relating to inequality and social-economic trauma, represented through bodily trauma.
The use of the body in her images connects us with the site, animating modernist architectural plans which use the body to merely populate the space. Illustrations of tensed, spasmodic muscles suggests that these animated bodies (that society and politics might want to disappear) become visible, real and vocal. This idea is apparent in the images of disconnected hands. These hands are separate and disconnected from the main body politic through trauma, but are presented as significant tools of communication. In hip hop and rap hands become gestural instruments and, as presented in Tensed Muscles, capable of vocalising through sign language by shaping an alphabet. Klenz further explores communication by making correlations between Scriptio Continua (continuous writing), an early style of writing without spaces or punctuation which was performed rather than read and the fast-paced transmission of ideas through rap and hip hop.
Klenz’s complex abstract collages of images, photograms, Scriptio Continua, graph work and line drawing together with Boss B & Brownsilla’s considered and compelling lyrics disrupt the discipline of architecture as a measured, rational and ordered space; interrupting this with human agency, interaction and the realities of life on a London estate.
The album tracks were produced by Peter Adjaye at Music for Architecture records in the studio of Adam Helal at Tileyard.