Alice May Williams’ Dream City – More, Better, Sooner is a meditation on the changing face of London’s landmark Battersea Power Station – smokestack energy colossus of yesteryear now rapidly transforming into an upscale lifestyle playground of tomorrow. Combining archive footage of the building in its industrial heyday with computer-generated projections of the form it will soon inhabit (or what, if things had been different, it might otherwise have become), Williams’ film concentrates our attention just as firmly on the present moment – on the rumble of construction and the grumbles of disruption that currently characterise the site. This heightened focus on the here-and-now functions as the heartbeat of an extended monologue where, as if watched from an open window, a flotilla of images passes before our eyes, in allusive, associative procession. At times, within this gathering stream of words, Williams evokes the language of mindfulness, with its warnings of succumbing to memories of the past, and of the distractions of speculations about the future.
It is unclear from where or whom these words originate. We move back and forth from the partial silhouette of a figure in a room to the subdued hulk of the power station itself. Trussed and tethered with chains and cranes like a modern-day Gulliver, the building lies prone and prostrate, like a beetle on its back, or an animal carcass with its legs in the air. As the words and images continue to flow, Williams reminds us that Battersea’s marshy riverside location has often been a site of flux and transformation; its recent history of power generation paralleled by the various fairgrounds and expos that have happened (or been proposed) near this spot. This is a place where dreams took root, or just as frequently ran aground; left high and dry like stranded leviathans. At the point where another addition to London’s miraculous ‘dream city’ prepares to launch, in the shadow of earlier schemes that became mired in failure and debt, will it deliver on its hyperbolic promise or fall short of some of its more extravagant claims?