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October 06 2011

Why do some people really hate Apple | Charles Arthur

Few companies inspire such strong emotions, but is it Apple's profile, design or technology that pushes those buttons?

You don't have to go far on the web or even everyday life to find people happy to say it: they hate Steve Jobs and all he stood for, and those who buy things from Apple – the "sheeple", in an oft-used phrase – are simply buying stuff for no reason than its marketing, or advertising. Apple, they say, is a giant con trick.

Why do they care? Because, says Don Norman, an expert in how we react emotionally to design, buying or using products that engage our emotions strongly will inevitably alienate those who don't share those emotions – and just as strongly. Norman, formerly vice-president of the Advanced Technology Group at Apple, is co-founder of the Nielsen/Norman Group, which studies usability. He's also an author of books including Emotional Design and his latest, called Living With Complexity.

Apple, he says, excels at generating strong positive emotional reactions from those who use its products. The iPhone was a classic example with its revolutionary touchscreen control – which wasn't the first, but was the best: "Touch is a very important sense; a lot of human emotion is built around touching objects, other people, touching things," says Norman. "I think that we've lost something really big when we went to the abstraction of a computer with a mouse and a keyboard, it wasn't real, and the telephone was the same, it was this bunch of menus and people got lost in the menus and buttons to push and it felt like a piece of technology.

"Whereas the iPhone felt like a piece of delight. It really is neat to go from one page to the other not by pushing a button but by swiping your hand across the page." He adds: "The correct word is intimacy; it is more intimate. Think of it not as a swipe, think of it as a caress."

But just as physics sees an equal and opposite reaction to every action, so strong emotions engender adverse emotions in response. Take this comment by Aaron Holesgrove of OzTechNews about the iPad: "Actually, the iPad succeeds because it enables you to read websites whilst sitting on the toilet and play casual games in bed. It's a toy. You can't eliminate complexity when there was never any complexity in the first place – Apple went and threw a 10in screen on the iPod Touch and iPhone and called them the iPad and iPad 3G, respectively." Critics say Apple's products don't have as many features; their technical specifications aren't comparable to the leading-edge ones; they're more expensive. In short, you're being ripped off. And what's more, Apple is exploiting workers in China who build the products.

By contrast, ask someone about other comparable products out there – Amazon's new Kindle Fire, RIM's PlayBook, HP's TouchPad – and you'll get indifference, even if the prices are the same, or they're made in the same Chinese factories as Apple uses.

Norman says that the reaction – both the love and the hate – comes from Apple's designs. "This is important. It's something that I have trouble convincing companies of: great design will really convert people, but it will also put off other people. So you have to be willing to offend people; to make things that you know a lot of people are going to hate."

Apple's focus on design, which is principally expressed through the objects it sells – the iPods, iMacs, MacBooks, iPhones, iPads – drives those extreme reactions, he says. (And it's notable that nobody ever complained about Pixar's products – even though Jobs was chief executive there too.)

Part of why people like the devices so much is that they can personalise them: "The iPhone, being your mobile phone, is part of you, like the iPod is but even more so, because you're carrying everything around, not just your music but also your contacts and the ability to contact people – because people have observed that mobile phones are a very personal item."

By contrast, other companies that try to cater for and please everyone are guaranteed to fall short – and so won't excite emotion. "Many people try to make a product that everybody will love; Microsoft is a good example," he explains. "If you make a product that everybody loves – you do all your market surveys, and when people don't like something about it you change it – you end up with a bland product that everybody will accept but nobody truly loves."

Apple isn't like that, he says. "Apple says 'We're not going to even worry about it. We're going to make something that we ourselves love. We just assume that anything that we really love, lots and lots of people will love. And if other people really dislike it and hate it, so what. Tough on them.'"

But what about the criticism of the lack of specifications? When the iPod was still a hot seller, before the iPhone, I asked Phil Schiller, then as now Apple's head of marketing, about the lack of extras such as FM tuners and voice recorders – which rivals did offer, even though their products made no headway in the market.

Schiller put it simply: extras like FM radio were "a technology in search of a customer". He explained: "We're very careful about the technologies we bring to our products. Just because there's a new technology doesn't mean you should put it in your product. Just because our competitors have put it in their product – because they need something to compete with us, because they're losing on everything else – doesn't mean we should put it in the product.

"We should put new features in a product because it makes sense for our customers to have that feature, and because a significant percentage of our customers will want that feature. Otherwise, not. Remember, all these features cost money, space and most importantly power, and power is a really big deal."

At Apple, the executives' view is that "a lot of product suffer from featureitis": that it's easier to try to sell a checklist than selling a better product that does what customers really need to do. As one explained it to me: "We try to be very careful not to get caught up in a 'list of features war'; we try to focus just on what makes a great product for the customers, what do they really want to do, and focus on that like no one else. If we think some features aren't that great, and don't really work that well, and involve trade-offs that customers won't want, we just don't do it. We don't just have a checklist on the side of a box."

It may be significant that the strongest criticism of Apple tends to come from those most engaged with the nuts and bolts of technology. Apple's staff have probably got used to having their products called toys by now. As long as they keep selling, though, they'll keep ignoring the critics in favour of the fans – which will, of course, inflame emotions on both sides even more. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

June 07 2011

The art establishment needs to make its support for Ai Weiwei visible | Philip Bishop

A curator's signature on an online petition is not enough. The great museums should publicise China's detainee via their sites

One of the most successful attempts to galvanise public support for the detained Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has been a petition started by the Guggenheim Museum and other art institutions. To date, it has been signed by over 140,000 individuals and organisations. The petition has been so popular, in fact, that the social action website, which hosts it, said its site has been the target of repeated cyber-attacks originating in China and which, the organisation believes, are aimed directly at taking down the Ai Weiwei petition. The attacks have been so disruptive to that they've called on the FBI for assistance and a US lawmaker, championing their cause, is calling on Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to tell the Chinese government to stop the attacks.

Ai Weiwei and his associates – Wen Tao, his friend and assistant; Zhang Jingsong, his cousin and driver; Hu Mingfen, his accountant; Liu Zhenggang, a designer — were rounded up by Chinese authorities on 3 April, when police arrested Ai as he was about to board a plane in Beijing. Although there has been chatter in Beijing-controlled media about crimes supposedly committed by Ai, no charges have been brought against the man rated the world's top artist.

Despite the popularity of the petition and the international furore surrounding it, however, if you visit the websites of virtually any of the petition's major signatories, you would not know that Ai was incarcerated. Judging from these websites, all is well with the world.

The Guggenheim is currently promoting an exhibition about Kandinsky at the Bauhaus; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is talking up an exhibition about Elizabeth Taylor in Iran; and even the Tate Modern in the UK, which until a few weeks ago hosted Ai's Sunflower Seed installation, doesn't disturb its homepage to inform visitors that the artist has been criminally detained, hasn't been charged with any crime, hasn't been heard from for over eight weeks. These three institutions are not alone in their homepage silence. Numerous other headlining signatories of the petition also have nothing to say on the matter on their homepages, including: MoMA; Art Institute of Chicago; Hammer Museum; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Queensland Art Gallery, Australia; Harvard Art Museums; Museum of Arts and Design, New York; and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

On the other side of the ledger, the US city of Minneapolis deserves credit – as both the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Walker Art Centre have had some text on their sites about the petition, while the Serpentine Gallery in London also has text about the petition and a photo of Ai. For its part, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, has a photo of Ai Weiwei at the Tate Modern tossing his sunflower seeds heavenward – and a reference to the petition – as part of a series of images that cycle through in a Flash slideshow.

Finally, a tip of the cap goes to the Taipei Contemporary Art Centre, which has a brave message on its homepage calling on its mainland adversary to release all activists and to protect the creative freedom of artists, a freedom it says is a sign of any country's mature development. That's four institutions out of 20 publicly supporting Ai Weiwei on their websites – and not the biggest names in the art gallery and museum world, by any stretch of the imagination. This is surely a golden opportunity that sadly has been missed. Yet, as Hari Kunzru writes of the Montreal Museum (currently hosting a China show), it's also a golden opportunity that can still be taken.

The Chinese government, having abducted Ai Weiwei, is making a concerted effort to make him invisible, including removing all references to him from public media, including the internet. They can do this in their land. They should not be allowed to do it in any other. Ai Weiwei was committed and creative in his use of the web when he was free to express himself. He would expect no less of us now that his freedom has been taken from him and he is relying on others to fight for his release. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

October 12 2010

Pop-up culture

Temporary shops and restaurants were once a way for artists to subvert empty urban spaces. Now, they're just as likely to be part of a corporate marketing strategy

In a dark, dank nightclub beneath some railway arches, with the clatter and chug of trains overhead, I am having a minor Proustian moment. This London club was last open in the late 1990s, and its smell sends me straight back to that era, my student days: to Britpop and Blur, late-teenage clinches, 70p for a vodka and Coke. The aroma is strong, sour, specific, but it won't linger here for very much longer.

Over the last few weeks this long-abandoned club has been taken over by a group of young event organisers for an ambitious, 99-day pop-up project called Counter Culture. The programme will deliver photographers and DJs, comedians and poets, art exhibitions and parties, a different lineup each night, spiriting this sprawling, downtrodden building straight into the 21st century. One of the four organisers, 23-year-old Lee Denny, meets me at the door, apologises for his moustache ("I'm not trying to look cool, I promise") and shows me around the venue he first discovered when he came to an underground party here.

Denny has some experience of pop-ups: five years ago, he started his own small music festival, LeeFest, in his back garden, and he still runs it each summer, albeit from a larger venue. He leads me into the smaller of the club's two main rooms, kitted out with old, over-stuffed sofas and a much more expertly stuffed fox head. The artist responsible for the fox only works with roadkill, says Denny, and he's particularly excited about a live taxidermy workshop she's going to be running.

We move on through a small changing room, where a pair of grubby grey y-fronts hangs from a high ledge, and out to the main stage. On the opening night, in late September, the club filled up with 980 people, "and musicians kept arriving," says Denny, "people who remembered the place, and had heard about what we were doing. There was Jazzie B from Soul II Soul, and Suggs from Madness. He said 'Have you got a trombone?' and then he got up on stage and was like," he holds one hand to his mouth and slides a fist deliberately through the air, "rum-pa-pum-pum-pum."

Counter Culture is just one of thousands of pop-up events that have opened in the UK and beyond over the last few years – ranging from the small to the large, the cool to the rubbish, the sublime to the ridiculous. There have been pop-up shops, restaurants and gardens; pop-up galleries– one in an abandoned Woolworths in Leytonstone – and cinemas – Tilda Swinton even carted one around the Scottish Highlands. There have been pop-up gigs in launderettes; restaurants in front rooms; films projected in disused petrol stations or on to hay bales in fields.

Those are the more guerrilla projects, the grassroots events, often put together on a wing, a prayer and a stiflingly small bank loan. But alongside these are the corporate-backed pop-ups, the temporary shops and bars and restaurants that appear with increasing regularity, often hosted by well-known venues.

The Double Club in London in 2008, a part-Congolese, part-western restaurant and bar backed by fashion label Prada, was particularly successful. A branch of Central Perk, the coffee shop from the TV series Friends, which opened in London's Soho for a fortnight last year, was used to promote a limited-edition box set of the series. In 2006, Nike opened a shop in New York for four days, selling a special edition basketball shoe at $250 a pair. Gap has used a school bus, kitted out with merchandise instead of seats, as a travelling pop-up shop in the US.

There have been pop-up projects that have opened for an hour, like Mary Portas's vintage clothes sale in 2008, and others so successful that they've eventually become a permanent fixture, such as Tom Dixon's Dock Kitchen restaurant in Portobello Dock in west London. But what unites these disparate projects is essentially a strong fascination with the temporary, with the here-today-and-gone-tomorrow, the idea of excitement, urgency and a dynamic interaction with urban (and it is usually urban) spaces. These are projects that stand in opposition to clone towns, to the idea of uniformity and unending drabness.

The debut of pop-up businesses is often traced back to 2004, when Rei Kawakubo of the cutting-edge fashion brand, Comme des Garçons, set up a temporary shop in a disused building in Berlin. Realistically though, while the "pop-up" description might be fairly new, the idea is as old as the hills. The current craze has echoes in everything from the restaurants traditionally run in people's homes in Cuba to the shop that artists Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin opened in London for six months in 1993, where they made and sold mugs and T-shirts and ashtrays.

The artist Dan Thompson set up his first pop-up gallery with friends in a bakery in Worthing in 2001; he now runs the Empty Shops Network, which advises artists who hope to start projects in one of the country's many disused high-street stores. (It's estimated that 13% of all UK shops are currently empty – and that one in five of those may never be used again.) He says that his inspiration comes from the magical curiosity shops that have appeared for centuries in fiction, "which no one can ever quite find again. I love creating something that's gone so quickly that people say afterwards: 'Was that you? Did that happen?' I love that excitement that you can create in a town, that sense of – what's coming next?"

While these businesses have counter-cultural roots, there's no doubt they've become a corporate concern. As Ali Madanipour, professor of urban design at Newcastle University says, there are two key readings of pop-ups, which aren't mutually exclusive. One is that they can be "a positive way of making more intensive use of urban space," he says, "bringing life to parts of the city that are under-used – they can provide space for local activity, civil-society events, impromptu gatherings. But on the other hand, they can also be an aid to consumerism, in which brands create a stage setting, adding colour and texture to the general mall atmosphere that is the backdrop to many of our urban spaces. Pop-up businesses support shopping – they bring a festival atmosphere to shopping."

The exclusivity of pop-up events means those that are ticketed often sell out extremely quickly. Denny says he now finds it "impossible to get excited about a new place that's opening indefinitely – you think, 'Oh yes, I'll go to that at some point' and you end up there in 20 years. Whereas if it's temporary it's like: 'We've got to do it right now.'"

When pop-ups are hosted by established businesses, this exclusivity and popularity can lead to obvious rewards for both host and brand. Over the last few weeks, the London restaurant Meza has been hosting a MasterChef pop-up, with former contestants from the TV show cooking for diners at a cost of £49 for three courses. When I went there last week, the atmosphere was loud, buzzy, excitable – obviously good for the restaurant, and good publicity for MasterChef. It apparently sold out in 72 hours.

One of the attractions of pop-ups for businesses is that they can act as an informal, unacknowledged market research project. Last week the smoothie maker Innocent ran a pop-up event in London called the Five for Five cafe – offering a two-course meal designed to deliver five portions of fruit and veg for £5. Dan Germain, head of creative at Innocent, said that the event, held in a disused tramshed, was "a no-brainer. Put on a bit of a party for the people who buy the drinks, meet and hang out with them, and find out stuff you wouldn't discover in some weird research group . . . You get all these charts and graphs that say your customer is a certain age, that they live in a certain place, do a certain thing, and then you see the real people. We could just loiter in Sainsbury's by the fridges and watch the people who come and buy our drinks, but we'd probably get kicked out."

Like the MasterChef event, the Innocent cafe sold out quickly, and was cleverly run – the cavernous space was dressed with fairy lights, fruit trees and herbs on every table; there was friendly service, and good food. Any pop-up event this well thought out, prompting this much goodwill, is clearly an excellent piece of marketing.

Germain says a pop-up event is better value for money than running an advertising campaign. "You're getting a more intense return," he says. "Fewer people, yes, but you're hopefully forging relationships that will last a lifetime." Their pop-up event also enabled them to communicate their brand in an incredibly strong, concentrated way. "Everything we want to do was under that roof," he says. Their core message was literally: "up on the back wall, written in big letters: Eat your greens."

Stephen Zatland, a partner at management consultancy Accenture, says that pop-up businesses give retailers other benefits which might not be immediately obvious to the consumer. It's a chance, he says, "to try out a new store location, to see if the kind of people they want to attract will start flocking there before they invest in a permanent site. Manufacturers can try out new products, new services, deliver them direct to the customer, promote a new brand, or try and re-invigorate an older brand".

And they can carry out all this research and promotion for a relatively low price. Zatland says that compared to opening a permanent site, pop-ups are fairly inexpensive. The recession, with its surfeit of empty shops, has played a key role in this trend. "When a lot of Woolworths stores became available, for instance, retailers picked up on those and rented them for a short period to try out something new on the high street."

The pop-up trend has been so big, for so long, that there have been whispers that it must be about to fizzle and die. But Zatland suggests this is unlikely. "There's another interesting trend for a more permanent kind of feature," he says, "where there's a site for maybe eight different pop-up stores, and the content of that site will rotate, change, every eight weeks, or every three weeks. That will be good, I think, because it encourages customers to keep coming back to see what the new feature is."

When I ask Thompson about the corporate fashion for pop-ups, about the way they're being used to flog us more unnecessary stuff, I expect him to be disdainful. But it's quite the opposite. "I love it," he says, "I love the fact that such a daft idea, started by artists, has taken over. I went to a pop-up Gucci put on, and it was fantastic. It's like Quentin Crisp said – don't keep up with the Joneses, drag them down to your level. We've completely subverted all these great brands, who are now having to think differently, more creatively, and that has to be good for our town centres."

There's no doubt that pop-ups can aid regeneration and make a genuine difference. As Thompson points out, "if you live somewhere the size of Worthing or Coventry or Carlisle or Margate, and you lose a few shops, you really notice it. If that's your home town, and you're passionate about it, you'll fight to make it better."

Horton Jupiter (whose real name, he jokes, is "Mystic Rock") is less positive about some aspects of the pop-up phenomenon. He has been running a cafe called The Secret Ingredient from his front room in Newington Green, London, for over a year now, and says he prefers the term "home restaurant", because pop-up has "become something that people use as a marketing tool". He appreciates the temporary, impromptu nature of pop-ups, but projects like his, he suggests, are meant to be precisely an escape from capitalism, from the robot on the end of the phone, towards something more illicit, subversive, personal and warm.

For landlords whose properties have been empty for a while, these events are a great way to promote their building, bring people flooding back in, and perhaps get some free maintenance and decorating work done too. Thompson says he's never "paid anything more than a peppercorn rent – we cover business rates, we cover insurance, and in every shop we've been to we've left it in a better condition than we found it. We'll give it a lick of paint, a clean and tidy. We took a shop in Shoreham-by-Sea, initially for six months, but now for another six, and a place that had been derelict for 10 years has been completely refurbished – which has led to two other derelict shops nearby coming back into use as well."

Where artists go, corporations follow. And so does gentrification, as areas blossom, flourish and improve - and rents subsequently head skywards. Perhaps now, at a time of deep economic anxiety and trouble, we should just enjoy the most exciting of the pop-ups, those that bring life to depressed corners, flowers to abandoned skips, the flicker of film to the hollow beneath an underpass.

There is something slightly sinister about the marketing guile – and rampant consumerism – behind some of these projects, but many are straightforwardly brilliant, and there seems no shortage of people happy to get involved. "Every time I walk past an empty shop or building," says Denny, "I think: I've got to do something in there, I just have to! If I had time, every empty space that was remotely intriguing would be filled." © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

December 21 2009

'We're not squatters,' says Mayfair art group

The Oubliette is a new regular venue on the arts scene, with an exclusive address, a corporate strategy and 24-hour security. Just don't call it a squat

The first thing Dan Simon would like you to know is that he is not a squatter. The debonair 31-year-old is happy to admit that his current home, a gigantic nine-floor building in London's most exclusive district, does not belong to him or his half-dozen housemates. They pay no rent, and entered the property on Sunday 6 December without the permission or knowledge of the owners, an offshore investment company called Greencap IV Limited, rumoured to be owned by a Prince of Brunei.

But they are not squatting, they say. They are using the enormous empty space to run what they refer to as an "artshouse", an independent cultural organisation called the Oubliette ("the dungeon" in French), which aims to support the arts without the need for public or private sector funding.

Unlike many other squatters, who tend to be rather chaotic and anarchic, the Oubliette is run on near-corporate lines. They even have a sort of business plan, which they plan to tout around the capital's wealthy property magnates. The goal? To persuade the rich to lend their empty properties to the Oubliette to use for exhibitions, concerts and plays. "It's an alternative way of offering extraordinarily wealthy people a way to contribute to the arts without an enormous pecuniary investment," according to the erudite Simon.

The PR-savvy group held a pre-Christmas open house charity event at their capacious new residence at 61 Curzon Street in Mayfair. Empty for 12 years, it is the former headquarters of Reader's Digest, and looks out over Marco Pierre White's society restaurant, Mirabelle, as well as the old MI5 HQ.

The Land Registry has no record of the price paid for the building when it was last sold in 1997, but it is certainly worth several million pounds and is in relatively good condition despite years of neglect. It is the Oubliette's fifth flashy London residence this year – last month they were evicted from a site overlooking all the cinemas in Leicester Square, and in September they occupied two former embassies near Green Park.

In terms of floor space, their new gaff would be the envy of nearly every arts centre in the country. It is so big, in fact, that last Friday's event, a collaboration with homelessness charity The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields, only used parts of the ground and first floors. There was an art exhibition, featuring work by homeless people, as well as the Oubliette's artist-in-residence, Philip Firsov, and a number of different classical music groups staged mini-concerts in some of the building's many rooms.

The event was one of many unusual partnerships the Oubliette are trying to forge in an attempt to turn squatting into a legitimate way of showcasing the arts without the taxpayer's help, while disassociating themselves from wilder, less well organised squatters in other London mansions.

Their hope is that the building's owners – the mysterious Greencap, which bought the property in 1997 for an unknown price and left it empty – will let them act as caretakers of the building. Simon admits this is unlikely, but said he had yet to be served with court papers heralding an imminent eviction. Boodle Hatfield, the London law firm named on the Land Registry as Greencap's UK representatives, said it could not comment on anything to do with its clients.

The group is currently in the process of preparing PowerPoint presentations to give to the owners of empty buildings – both commercial and residential – to persuade them to allow the Oubliette to use their spaces as arts platforms. A draft pitch, seen by the Guardian, attempts to sell squatting as a way of providing free security, preventing property devaluation and adding value to the community.

Twenty-four-hour security costs £7,500 per guard per month, claims the pitch, adding that a derelict property can "result in a loss of up to 18% value on neighbouring property prices". What's more, the Oubliette pledge to improve empty buildings. "Our dedicated team includes certified workers in electrics, plumbing and construction," they say, promising to "return the property back to the owner clean and functional within 28 days' written notice of wanting the property back".

The Oubliette is based around a "live-in core" of eight people with distinct roles, including "IT guru", "PR operative", "graphic designer", "legal adviser" (a trainee barrister), "artist-in-residence" and "copywriter". They have grand plans, according to Simon, who until 2002 was an IT worker living in Chelsea. "Our long-term strategic ambition is to negotiate for consent with an owner of a suitable empty premise for leave to remain," he said. "Occupying properties in high-profile locations allows us to raise public awareness and garner support, whilst also furthering the organisational aspects of our project and pitch to proprietors."

He is confident of success, and claims to have successfully negotiated consent to squat in eight properties in London in the past seven years. He says the Oubliette has already contributed to the capital's arts scene, pointing to the theatre company Donkey Work, which in June put on a quite well-received play at the Oubliette's first base at a former language school in Waterloo. The success of that play led to an invitation to create a new work in conjunction with the South Bank.

Simon admits the Oubliette's highly organised approach hasn't gone down well with the traditional squatting community. "For some people, it's a kind of heresy," he said, before rolling a cigarette and going off to work on his pitch.

Movers and shakers: Other notorious squatters

The Belgravia Squatters

A loose collective of Poles, Spaniards and random homeless people who have hit the headlines by taking possession of high-profile properties in Belgravia, central London. Coups include a property off Chester Square, just doors down from Margaret Thatcher's house, and an occupation of David Blunkett's former grace-and-favour property on South Eaton Place.

The group is led from property-to-property by Mark Guard, a self-proclaimed multimillionaire property developer, who is making a film about their adventures.

Guard claims to have a hit-list of properties he is going to target in the coming months and years to highlight the scandal of London's empty properties – most of which are owned by offshore companies. After being evicted from Blunkett's house last week, the group claims to have temporarily decamped to nearby Knightsbridge.

The Da! Collective

A raggle-taggle of well-to-do young artists and students who earned the tag the "posh squatters" when they moved into an opulent mansion on Upper Grosvenor Street, Mayfair, last November. They organised art and music events from the house, just around the corner from the heavily fortified American embassy, until their eviction.

Then they moved to a £22.5m property around the corner in Clarges Mews, where they organised workshops under the banner The Temporary School of Thought. Now disbanded.

The VHS Video Basement

A group of creative filmmakers who ran a cinema and other events from their squat in a Soho basement. After their eviction, they moved to the abandoned Puss in Boots strip club in Mayfair, where they organised parties and film screenings. On Wednesday the VHS Video Basement lost a court hearing and resigned itself to imminent eviction. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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