By Catharine Morris
A new cultural venue opened in London last week. It’s a semi-permanent construction – part of the sixty-seven-acre King’s Cross development – and, in case you haven’t guessed it from the photograph above: it used to be a petrol station. That’s why, at its inaugural event last week, the subject under discussion was cars.
Geoff Dyer hasn't got one. He hates them. The hatred began when he was a child: his father was so mean with money that he would only buy half a tank of petrol at a time, and he was constantly having to stop to get more. Dyer was willing, nevertheless, to guide us through the history of the filling station in US art and photography – in the work of Edward Hopper, Russell Lee, Dorothea Lange and William Eggleston, for example. The loneliness and anonymity of some of the pictures were in contrast to the mood of the poem read for us by Luke Wright – inspired by his tour, in 2006, of Britain’s service stations: "Hello Moto! Welcome Break! / Massive coffee, piece of cake . . . .".