From the City to the Sea

City to Sea – London to Cumbria’s Coast

In my last four blog-posts I have talked about the amazing transition of leaving London

and moving to the sea up in the north near Scotland – as well as art that has happened since then! (1. Coastal Collaboration; 2. Introducing ArtCouple; 3. Easter, Eggs, Box, Beach; 4. Words and Nets). So the two big themes that have been happening are these: city to sea, and art. I’ve always written about both in each post because they so influence each other.

So I’ll add some more stuff about the theme of City to Sea here, and more about my art in the next. Here are some notes from my notebooks about the thrilling experience of comparing those spaces, moving between the two, and finding ever more angles on the subject of social space – it’s psychogeography in ‘social movements’.

My movement from the city to the sea meant going from London to a small town in the north. Hence there are more movements included here: city to small town, south to north, inshore to sea. That’s three subject-areas within the overall topic then. Had I moved to e.g. Liverpool, I wouldn’t have been confronted with the subject of small town. Had I moved to Bristol, I wouldn’t have been confronted with the north, and had I moved to nearby Cockermouth, I wouldn’t have been confronted with the sea.
So all of these changes happened for me together, and that’s such a rich combination that only a lot of writing and art on this theme could bring out some this dense conglomerate of experiences.

Come Full Circle?!

There is even more to it, because my previous location is not my origin – my origin goes back to a location across the sea, i.e. Germany. Here the sea comes in again, because my childhood holidays by the sea had become some of the most significant aspect of my memory – so much so that the sea, where I live now, now goes back to my childhood-memories! As if I had come back, as if I had come full circle! So I feel a going-back aspect not by referring to the land but by referring to the sea!
A circle, in reference to the sea, but not the land/country then!

Periphery?

Leaving the city, and the south at the same time, means under current economic structures, that somehow this is some sort of periphery! As if this is being the opposite of an economic migrant! Though I am poor, and I have art to pursue! If it wasn’t for my art, would it be possible to even go against the grain? The system does not make it easy, and on my own it would have been too difficult, both me and Simon did this move together, which appeared against all expectations for many! Simon, unlike me, had lived in the north before, but it was city-north, and Yorkshire-North, so much more on the map! And here we are in small town and in the far-north, wild-west of coastal Cumbria. The oddest place to be? Why would we want to be ‘out in the sticks?’ On top of that this particular town isn’t known for its artists either, so we would stick out like sore thumbs? Economically and otherwise. That’s how predictable this system is. One is expected not to make this type of move. And we did. Because we loved the sea here, its forgotten character in comparison with the better-known east coast. And we loved the location between the Lake District and Scotland. We are in the middle of everywhere here, rather than in the middle of nowhere!

Experiences, Economics and Escape!
For all the beauty and open space outside the ciy, people are forced to consider economics, which so reduces ones options. There is little written on this, here’s two great articles from The Guardian: Carmen Fishwick writes about northern experiences about moving to London: ‘At first it was a disaster – northern readers on moving to London’ (21. Nov. 2016). and ‘The great northern braindrain: I daydream about moving back (also 21. Nob. 2016).
So regional applied in this country is quite unequal – we know this but it might even be getting worse, where it should be getting better.

London is not just a city but a bubble, a capital, a destination that the world desires. Migrants everywhere are attracted to London, inside this country and outside of it. For 27 years I seemed to be no exception to this but now I am all too pleased to be bucking the trend! Londoners can’t often think of leaving – and neither could it, for a long time – but now I am all too excited to have left!

City to small town

Hyper-urban space versus small-urban space: city versus ‘sleepy town’.
Other factors come into this, like north/south, and seaside versus in-the-country. ‘Country’ is associated with ‘sleepy town’ but in this case, the sleepy town is by the seaside and the city (Leeds), is in the country.
Here I want to attempt a dialogue between these two modes.

Here I was, in Leeds, the city, again!
I had an intention to bring the small town to the city, and so I brought geese feathers.
But it turned out that I became totally absorbed in observing the accidental arrangement of found objects in the city – i.e. an upside down bottle pushed into a barrier; the reflection of traffic lights in a broken glass window. Observations like that kept me too busy to bring my found objects from my little seaside town in. That mean that in the end I didn’t perform an intervention.
Therefore no urban-rural dialogue of objects occurred.
At this point I realised that art-intervention, in the way I operate it, means dialogue! I hadn’t thought about it like that before, but now the association seemed to be clear.

I think there is a social echo about this!
If two groups, or communities (i.e. the city and the seaside town) have such strong and manifold voices, there is no time and space for interaction between those two groups! I was listening to these internal voices like a non-participant observer.

Dialogue with Leeds

When in Leeds, a curious merger of new, old as well as different experiences come together.
Leeds as a surrogate city,
with a curious sense of anonymity, for my personal perception.
Anonymous like London never was because I had lived there and grown into it, before I reflected on it.
And so London developed for me as a person somehow, and it grew into me. I, as person, had London in me, and London was a person too.

Leeds is different as I hadn’t lived here, but compared to the small seaside town where I live now, the city-ness of Leeds is familiar to me! So it’s in part a replica, and in other, further and gran?der parts new, northern, another dream come true, a looming northern nirvana. What’s it saying to me? How do I dialogue with this city, that I know on account of its city-ness but not otherwise?
How is the knowing and city-ness revealed?
For example the buildings, the rushing people, the big railway station that has a world-flair: this could be anywhere big too, Hamburg maybe, for example, even. This could be anywhere specific.


Silence Anonymous Home

Anonymity produces silence, because you aren’t at home yet.
And anticipation, for the same reason
And for your enquiring mind, what this would feel like if it was home.
The journey as an amazement! Something I used to do and even then enjoyed.

Back to the Sea

Here at the Solway it looks like how it did when I was a child at the sea.

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Words + Nets (entanglements + internets)

Word Nets: if could catch words with nets! This sounds like one project but it’s two!

I had started with words long before, and then I got into nets! The idea was developed from my whole eco-art intervention stories. I played with wool, then with circles, then with bottles, with pen tops and with shadows, then with shells, boxes, and with seaweed, and eventually with nets. They are by-products of selling produce, packaging, holding items like bags: for tomatoes, onions, oranges, plums, garlic and so on. I kept those nets when they got empty, and put in pebbles instead of produce, as an act of (over)throwing (out) capitalism.

The Nets
I photographed them and I filmed them, and was amazed by how good those ordinary

pebbles look inside one of those colourful nets – and vice versa! They made great pebble-holders, display-structures. Next I thought of putting those nets together, to make a network. A whole network, with the spaces in between being the internet-spaces! I used

a skein of wool I had bought years ago, to string some of my nets together. A skein so sloppily kept that it got entangled to itself! But the wool didn’t look old, it was just its multiple entanglement within its skein which was weird! I found that these entangulations actually really looked good, and liked the message that it suggested: in theory one could disentangle this skein of wool, but it practice it is impossible! Once  entanglement occurs, it is there to stay, it seemed to say. We work with enmeshments on a daily basis. There is no straight path, and it’s not narrow either: it goes to so many places! And this theme of entanglement indeed has been coming back to me even in my work, as it developed and continued.

The Network
So I cut a piece of string from the wool, and used it to string my assembled nets together, to make a Network, as planned. I loved the pun of it (pun intended, double!): this was my

network! This is what networking can be! To take a nets from fruits and veg, put inside a different catch, therefore sugegest fishing nets, and then open it out into a work of nets.
Next I took my Network out, and with each time I did it, I realised that this Network in itself became entangled, just like the wool had done before! And so the theme of entanglement returned! I could have anticipated this, but didn’t think of it. So the network itself became an entangulation. With those, the spaces in between became more solid, and in these places, i.e. these gaps between the nets, a kind of internet developed!

The Words
Quite separately from that, I had been making a sort of word-game series. They consisted on the one hand of extended words on a theme, and their mutations of association and meaning, and on the other hand of a kind of image-based inter-language I developed, between English and German. For example, how, by phonetic resemblance, the ‘I’ and the ‘egg’ become associated across these two languages: the pronunciation of ‘I’ would suggest an egg in German. So a meaning-space opens up between languages, which happens purely by sound-association – (I have posted a pic of the I-egg in my last post, the one with the egg-box). Another kind of space between those languages (or

any two or more languages) is that of literal translation, and where they lead: for example, ‘roundcast’ is the literal translation of ‘broadcast’, which makes for a totally different word and meaning, which is interesting, and therefore a different space opens up. So instead of playing the right-or-wrong game, I let spaces develop. In these spaces, totally different words and new meanings are created, and I find that thrilling. It’s a kind of international dadaist thing perhaps, a bilingual dada-do.
My word-games, however, didn’t start here, they started with a different kind of dada, or para-dada – the extended words on a theme, with their associations and/or mutations of meaning. Examples of these are: “Cuppa on Cupboard”, “going home then”, “post-urban”, and so on, where I write down free associations on a theme, some thoughts. In this example I was inspired by moving from London and Leeds to Lake District borders, in one of my ‘word-tricks’, I have morphed the London Underground District Line into the Lake District Line. This, and the other plays, some of them achieved by separating words and bringing them together differently, are creatively brought forward into an altered meaning. Word-plays that makes a meaning-movement.

I have also framed word-observations, such as the ‘boy in the body’: this could be a feminist critique, and it’s a big topic, and has thus started a whole other project, which I am in the process of writing about. And so the projects continue, as they always give birth to more projects, like a tree branching out.
Another word-observation with a gender-aspect is the MoorMoon (MaMars) project, which started with the Moo-similarity and then went on to knock on the idea of a masculine Mars, which was at odds with its similarity with ‘Mama’! So words can say a lot of things, not just the things we make of them in a standard way: language says a lot, language speaks!

Naming
Now what name could I give those manifold word-play displays, which I do on paper, and are meant as art-pieces? Though I have these different types of approaches, I think the inter-language type of word-play is the most unusual, in a way, so I had to find a word for this technique! After a while, I came up with ‘Wordworts”. It sounds a bit like ‘Wordsworth’, or like ‘forward’, or like an almost-repetition. It is a repetition actually, but across languages again. ‘Wort’ is the German for ‘word’, so I just put it behind the English word, and then ‘the two words’ make a good double together! Even if some of them have nothing to do with German, ‘wordworts’ would still work as a description I think, because the two words differ by only one letter (-d in one, -t in the other), so that makes it quite interesting – also to suggest the idea that languages are just dialects to each other.

The musical factor
The branching-out- process did not stop with the naming of this kind of work. Even more styles of word-games developed, and I got into something I now consider to be a word-round, such as “(over)-thrown (out). It’s like an amalgamation of ‘overthrown’ and ‘thrown out’, and by writing the ‘thrown’ part of both words, which belongs to both of them, only once, I create a continuous loop. That loop, I found, is a bit like an inflected musical round-form, where two or more groups sing a song but start at different times, and therefore become locked in an exiting and harmonious loop. A loop also makes a tune entangled to itself. In particular, with my inflection, i.e. the only partial repetition of the motif, creates further entanglement.

StoneWordNets
So here is entanglement yet again, and that seems to have become a leitmotif. Now the next stage will be to entangle my nets with my words. Stop catching pebbles and start catching words! The possibilities of cross-fertilization, and therefore – yes, you’ve guessed it: entanglements – are endless. It’s the basis for new spaces, and therefore and within them, new ideas.
Here then, is another example to end with, a story: each word a pebble perhaps, pebbles as sentences, stones as bigger sentences, bricks as structured sentences, a house as a book! A town a library! The streets between the houses the network. An a-stone-ishing Stone Age Literatus. Now read this!

Easter, Eggs, Box, Beach

Art Intervention News: in my eco-art endeavours I looked through the stuff we leave behind around the food we buy: our packaging. There was the egg-box. Up until

considering the egg-box, one of the things I had done was working with stones, or pebbles rather: little stones – and I had given some of them eyes, i.e. I glued googly eyes on them. So I thought, how about putting the stones in the empty egg-places in the egg-box! I could thereby make a critique of mass-production – how all these eggs, maybe sometimes even the organic ones, were produced in dodgy conditions. Replacing the eggs with stones would make ‘them’ perhaps look like a totally free range example!
Stones instead of eggs! Or Pebbs: pebbles posing as eggs! With or without eyes, the stones in the egg-box were a great idea I thought: those with eggs would have hatched, and those without ones hadn’t. If some have hatched and some hadn’t, it was also a thing of birth in the box! So the story grew already then.

And then I did it: I took the box to the beach near me, and filled it up with 6 pebbles where once there were half a dozen eggs, as planned – some of them with eyes put on, some without. As I was doing it I found, to my surprise, that they had a look of Easter Egg about them! And it so happened that this intervention coincided with the Easter season of now! This I hadn’t planned, I didn’t think to do an art intervention in an egg-box because it was Easter, I just thought of the box as a kind of package I hadn’t used before. It was all a good coincidence and timely. Happy Easter! May you find egg-citing surprises in my box!


Choosing an egg-box for eco-art was like a double-whammy as well, because an egg-box is already an environmentally friendly kind of packaging: it’s made from pulp! And here comes an art-link: on the subject of pulp, my artcouple partner and collaborator Simon has produced a pulpture! – a pulp-sculpture, which will be the subject of our next post on our artcouple blog. Back on the egg-box, I discovered it has an interesting name for its structure, which is called a monocoque or shell structure (meaning it has no frame but is like ‘structural skin’, what this type is referred to technically) – so it’s ideal on the beach, to add to the theme of shells…
And then there was the primal theme of eggs! Especially because the I is the Egg in my childhood language German one may say! So whereas there is primal stuff about the egg anyway, it is heightened when one translates the English I into German on a soundbasis, which sounds as if one had just said ‘egg’.

I filmed my box as well: https://vimeo.com/331419797

A few days later, I took my box to the forest, and then again to the beach. This time on the beach I filled one egg-space with a red button. So there’s the odd one out! Egg out. There’s another thing I did: I didn’t place the box on a stone but on the bare sand, for it to be totally on the ground. But then I found that the sand was wet, and the box got wet, and eventually it broke apart! Here the box came to a natural end then, having been well used, and not thrown away except when its bits got torn!


In the process of its ending interesting images, or rather associations, developed. The long bits between the egg-spaces stood out taller and taller, as the edges of the box lowered, and so a lighthouse-look developed. The the ‘lighthouses’ turned wonky and the box started to look like a sinking ship. Then the image morphed again: the remaining features mingled and bent like those concrete tetrapod sea defences you can see on some beaches. So there it was the image-association series: lighthouse, sinking ship, tetrapod.
The tetrapod image was telling because of the theme of erosion, by the sea. Erosion, decomposition. But there’s been a hatching. A story had been born, an imagination! Something was there, and something remained. It’s what one might call a sustainable story! Re-cycle: it goes on an on. I, egg, you, he/she/it..

introducing ArtCouple blog

ArtCouple blog! + video links

News update: in my Coastal Collaboration post, below, I announced the big new change

happening in my art practice and location (far out of London now): me and Simon working together on the Solway since we moved here at the end of last year, 2018 – the Solway being a borderlands area in the north of England, where we are, but also in Scotland, and bordering on the Irish Sea on seaside and the Lake District on lakeside. So we’ve been working on a blog about this big new project, and it has now gone live! It’s called Artcouple – we are ArtCouple! Here it is: http://artcouple.co.uk/

The idea of me and Simon as an Artcouple came about as our work unfolded together, in the same area, sharing similar concerns and interests. We realized we were not just a couple, but an artcouple too as it was about our work becoming more and more intertwined and coupled up.
For me there was an unprecedented thrill here, as Maryport, where we are, is one of the few towns in England that I hadn’t even heard of before! The idea of having moved somewhere one didn’t even know existed is intriguing to me. It’s such newland, newtown, and furtherland! Ironically, I know the coast behind the sea which appear on the horizon in the distance from here: these are the Scottish mountains of Dumfries and Galloway, where I had visited before and taken great walks: Annan, the Nith Valley, Dumfries, the Isle of Whithorn. It is thrilling to think that I know what is on my horizon but that what is in front of me is totally new! Tbere is a lot then, though this town is small. This town is smaller than anywhere I had lived before and that brings with it new experiences, new coordinates – an unknown unravels and thereby transforms into a known: though only in my mind, the town itself is what it is. My relations have changed, expanded yet again, acquired new dimensions once again!
This unprecedented adventure of being somewhere elsewhere, and on top of that doing new things, and on top of them working on stuff together: living by the coast, up so far north that Scotland is around the corner! Like Scottish Borders on the other side! Coming from down south, through this island’s centre-land-piece Yorkshire, the last big road to take to get here is the A66! Like 99 Red Balloons upside down, side by side with the sea.

Harbour behind my back at the breakfast table, seaside at backside, and therefore all that history that goes with it, too: a harbour past its prime, with no more of the big boats coming in (and mining too, has been undermined). Upon leaving the house, I walk into the setting of this plot of post-industrial decline, this declension, even if they don’t tell you, for it’s too hard and too long to say just by the way. You might notice it indirectly: when you feel like feminism hasn’t been processed yet. There’s some kind of stagnation somewhere in the air, though the sea is flowing. So I have been having a lot of joy getting my teeth into all this: here I am somewhere else! I love experiencing and dissecting this new old form.


New art forms
A lot of artistic development has been happening for me here simply through being inspired and taking on three new art forms: art-interventions, taking videos, eco-art! I can splash out here, make waves among the waves that I am already surrounded by.
My first new art-form I homed in on was taking videos: I had taken some before but rarely, due to a permanent lack of space on my phone-camera. With an SD-card that Simon put in my phone for me, I had a lot more space, and so I could dive in to my new video-art. This was about introducing movement, motion! That felt revolutionary, for now I could do a kind of a series instead of single photos, I could connect, and thereby able to tell a longer story! So movement was about story!

The ability to tell a story now led me to doing interventions – so one thing led to another. It all began with my sheep wool from Ilkley Moor, which I had carried with me in my bag ever since Simon introduced me to that moor last summer. I had already enjoyed carrying the Yorkshire-picked sheep wool out of its place in London with me – and now I discovered it consciously as an intervention! So this started the intervention-story, which is so long and exciting, that I will talk about it in my next Artcouple blogpost! So have a look there.

Then came the third art-form: Eco-art. This in turn came out of my interventions – when I thought about what meaningful objects I could use for my interventions: packaging objects seemed ideal because they are already there: in the stuff you buy – and instead of throwing them away I could make them tell stories, or serve as a warning of the excess of waste we have to process.

And here 2 my videos:
Below are two little videos I took.
1): Eco-art: Seaside Supermarket. The idea were these critical questions/imaginations: What if stones were commercially sold like onions? What catch is in the net? this is an eco-art vid I took in my locality, the Solway coast, England, to bring up questions about how our society operates in relation to ecology and consumerism.

2): a video against hard borders (and thereby against Brexit, in response to our current crisis): Sea no hard border! The idea was to show the continuity of the sea (and the land under it!) and how that makes borders become absurd. We are facing the Irish Sea here, and so a sea-consciousness arises. I wanted to document this, as the Irish Sea is not even only Northern Ireland, but borders on England itself, and so the issue gets very close.

 

Coastal Collaboration

Coastal Collaboration+ Terminalia gig link Leeds

Here I am again with a new post, it’s taken ages! Months!

And that’s for an artful reason. So my last post was on Revolution and Time, and since that time there’s been a revolution! And that has been my collaboration with new

artpartner Simon Bradley. We met at the World Congress of Psychogeography 2017, and we found that we had a lot of concerns, practices, and artwork areas in common. He did a doctorate on The Archeology of the Voice, and that resonated with my work on the politics of speaking, such as in ‘Can the Subaltern Speak’ (Spivack). He concentrates on Displacement Activities, and that resonates with my work on the politics of belonging, such as in my ‘My-grations’ project, and also in ‘Each Other’s Islands’. We have also both been performers. So it made sense for us to collaborate, though I hesitated. I had other work too. In the end we arrived at the point of art together again, and collaboration became kind of inevitable. The context was there and the theories, Deleuze, Deep Maps, Spaghetti Junction, Drigg, Wasdale. Then the conferences at which we presented: Cardiff, Huddersfield, Milton Keynes, and then Split, Croatia. And  the gigs: in Huddersfield and at the Cave in Pimlico.

At that time I lived in London and he lived in Leeds, but eventually we both left the city, in parts, behind. To experience something new, a different everyday-life, seemed a great challenge and a novel territory, and to find space for art, and more time too. Our first destination together was our mid-point between London and Leeds, which is Leicester – and from there we moved on, further north, to coastal Cumbria.

So it’s not the Lake District bit where we went, the famous bit, it’s the bit by the side, where the coast is, the impoverished periphery. We are here on the edge of the Irish Sea, on the way to Scotland, and at the southern end of the Solway Firth. So it’s a junction here, where lots of lines meet, lots of areas intersect. Here is Maryport, harbour town, mining town, coastal post-industrial, dodgy post-empire. Port town, post-town, always a post-modern apocalypse on the side, but this is where it’s at. Our common context in a nutshell, sea-shell.

A psychogeo-sea

Our work has been around psychogeography, and now we are at the sea. So it’s a psychogeo-sea. Place-specific. We are doing deep mapping, flow-charting, and interventions. It’s all happening. Words are emerging and images, have a look at these to start with.

Our next performance, cum intervention, will be at Leeds Terminalia – Festival of Psychogeography – on the 23rd February, with ‘Out of it’. Pop in and find out, there’s always a lot of interesting stuff going on at Terminalia, named so after the Roman god Terminus, the God of Thresholds: terminaliafestival.org

Our blog artcouple.co.uk is coming soon! Have a wee look! And there’s also good stuff on Simon’s blog at DisplacementActivities.org

 

 

 

Revolution and Time

Suffragettes – Magna Carta – Windrush. Revolution and Time: This was the perfect day for me to wear my self-made (a first!) Votes for Women T-Shirt, which I made on the occasion of the centenary of the passing of the Votes for Women Act on 6th February. I didn’t wear it ,but it was a good day. The day I mean was ‘Processions’, organised by the art organization Artichoke, to celebrate 100 years of Women Voting in Britain!

 

100 years – not for every woman, as it’s had no effect if you didn’t have property – so voting was tied to how ‘well’ you do in the capitalist system! – but still I honour this achievement, as it was not easy to get this far! If it hadn’t been for Emily Davidson throwing herself in front of a horse, how much longer would it have taken? So when I saw the horse manure in the middle of the road, not too far from the Houses of Parliament, I was absolutely touched!

 

1918 – 2018, so these are the years! Powerful years, 1918 at any rate: war had ended, women got the vote! Absolutely magic! And, right in the middle of this centenary, directly half-way through, was 1968! Wow, so there’s a kind of revolutionary rhythm going on. What a sweet half-time that was! Then I find women on the march who are celebrating women in the NHS, and that started in 1948. One magic 8 after another, it seems. And that wasn’t even the only revolutionary event of 1948, there was the Windrush as well! The ship that put African-Caribbeans on the map. It wasn’t the beginning of African-Caribbean presence in Britain, but it was an amplification! Through the years, the 8th wonder continues: 1958 the first CND march to Aldermaston took place. And then there was 1928, when women’s suffrage was extended to all women in Britain. And then, long before this, there was 1848, the year of social revolts across many countries!

 

On the march, we borrow from each other’s liberation struggles too. They plaid reggae and it was great, for these are the sounds of liberation par excellence. But then they played less fitting tunes I thought, going hip hop, a bit pop. I would have loved to have heard more Greenham Common song.

There were hundreds of banners, very good ones, and they reflected some more snapshots of feminism. I saw ‘Your silence will not protect you’, a favourite of mine by

 

Audre Lorde. How I wish it were true! I think that before that standard will apply, we might have to make it into: ‘Your silence should not protect you’, or it must not protect you. But we are not there yet, it still does. It may be challenging enough even to think that speaking out is not just an act of courage, (though it certainly also is!), but also an act of responsibility!

As the march made its way through Piccadilly, the Royal Academy had banners out, to commemorate 250 years of painting! So we had 100 years of Votes for Women, they had

 

250 years of painting! Now we know which came first, the chicken or the egg! I say ‘us and them’ but who are ‘they’? We know who ‘we’ are:  us previously disenfranchised cannot rarely be mistaken, or diluted.  But ‘they’: painters, artists, including ‘us’. But then did it? Did they include ‘us’? Perhaps yes, perhaps a woman could paint before she could vote. So much for our rights then! I want to paint, vote and more.

Magnu Cartu

So this is about the Magna Carta, but I am putting my own spin on it, so I’ll give it an

 

independent name and call it magnu cartu – and to include those in its making that have not been acknowledged. I am here to visit an art installation called The Jurors, which is

 

doing this too, brilliantly: acknowledging the activists for justice, and so it revealing many bits of history we don’t know, we have forgotton, or we don’t remember, or we are not aware of – or some of us are. The Jurors puts together the rebellions and quests for justice across the centuries of the magna carta, the grand card of rights. The Jurors are those who have judged injustice to be unfair: judgement leading to activism. The Jurors, here, are not the judges, and the powerful of the system, but those who are leading rebellions, the people, the dispossessed! Power, and judgement, to the people! There have been struggles for justice at every time in history, but only some have been recorded, and most of them once again forgotten by too many of us, if it wasn’t for public sculptures like this one. The sculptor of The Jurors is Hew Locke, British-Guyanese artist from Brixton. Locke has done lots of great and deep art works, such as For Those in Peril, and other victims and activists, enslaved or otherwise forgotten, in need of declaration.

Getting to The Jurors is not easy. On the way I saw there were several sculptures and murals about it, all around Runnymede, where it all happened, the big charter, the magna documenta! I want to go back and look at the other artworks as well, but The  Jurors was the longest to walk to, so for that reason alone, I wanted to make this my priority. As always, relying on railways for travel is interesting, for what you find out along the way, or before you have even started travelling. First of all, despite Runnymede’s significance, I find that there is no railway station called Runnymede. I then found Sunnymeads and Wraysbury on the map, two stops on the other side of the river Thames, but it doesn’t help getting off there because there is no bridge across the river! Very peculiar I thought, because the whole area is so exquisite, so why is there no bridge across the river? But maybe that’s why, maybe a bridge would make one’s access too easy? Magna secret! Don’t spread the word of justice, don’t mention the charter! The secret is as big as the charter itself! What a magnificent mystery.

 

Magna magic land. Big land, magnus, grande, great, massive.  I take the road to this land, I take the road as a pedestrian, walking on the side. It’s a big road, many cars, no pedestrians, so I am alone, walking. From here, the road is bigger, and louder, than the land. I walk by the edge of the road, along the edge of The Land, with cars as loud and threatening as thunder and lightning! The land: it’s old and magna: magnificent. The road: it has more voice than history, more volume at laest. It’s a bit tedious and dangerous, it’s as if history has been taken over by the road.  At least the road has surrounded history, side-lined it, overtaken it like a car with an arrogant driver inside it. No respect for history, this is the road! As if it’s more important. If the car is on the road, I am on history.

A road instead of history! History is a road, of course, but not that kind of road that’s filled only with cars and lorries, and the noise they produce. Apart from the road, Magna Carta land is surrounded by the houses of well-to-folk. Nobody, who I asked, knew The Jurors, to start with, and when I did see them, I recognized them by a group of people who were moving around the chairs, which make up The Jurors. So now everyone can play juror! That’s just amazing! Now is playing juror enough to generate consciousness?

I am still by the river, on the other side of the road. The chairs formed a circle. Getting there, approaching the chairs, was like finding your path to some ancient stone circle –

 

the type I last saw with the Ring of Brodgar in Orkney!  And that was a great appearance, and a great entry I thought!

When getting there, I found it was a school class, and the teacher told me, how much schools have been involved in getting to know the great work. What better thing to do then to show children works about getting justice!  Each chair is intricate, and tells more than just a single story, in itself. And all the chairs together is a great conversation! Struggles for justice across the centuries, making stories which sit side by side here, with

 

a common denominator: making this world a better place. Where would we be without or advocates for freedom and equality. Let these stories not just be told, but also be seen. So go into the field, go to magna carta land, go right through to the end, along the river, and then see the inscriptions of the stories of revolution, time after time, for our benefit.

Addendum dum

I cannot seem to finish this, there is never enough time to list all the revolutionary moments we have had, or there have been – because ‘we’ never had all of them. Here I have passed by London Bridge, and remember I had mentioned 1948: so here it is, a new artwork on the wall, about one of the big events of that year: the Windrush. Now 70. The artwork is by Deanio X. “Empire Windrush”, they call it, and I say: let the empire go, but let the people stay! mobilepicsOneThirtySeven ut 339

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discoveries in Belgium’s East End

::: Side-puzzles — Mine Magic — Flat to Hill.  (a – e)

 

a. Which side are we on?

Ghent is a well-known destination in Belgium, but I didn’t go there: I went to Genk instead – to start with! Yes, Genk, not Ghent! Genk is in the east-end of Belgium. So if you go from the middle of Brussels, Ghent is to your left, and Genk is to your right: only it’s a bit further in still, the country extends much further into the continent than you might expect: it is not so small after all!

 

Left, right, west, east: as you internalise that you are in Belgium’s East End, and that the whole country has an East End due to its long kind of horizontal shape, you start wondering about directions as you find that the famous seaport Oostende (ie. East End) is in the West End! So how come that? It’s clearly an East End from the English side, but why would it be called East End here in Belgium, where it seems wrong by 180 degrees? I found out that it’s because there was once an island! An island off the coast of Belgium, and this island had a West End port and an East End port. What happened later though, is that the West End port side of the island sunk into the sea! Whereas the side of the island where the East port was merged with the mainland! So that side remained and became the Oostende that we still know. Whereas the west end is deep inside the water!

That old lost little island was called Testerep, and it’s not up now, it’s down, deep down! So give a little thought to what we have lost. Testerep, in itself, was a relic of the earlier bigger Doggerland, too, the land that famously connected Britain with Belgium too – when the channel was a river. So it was Doggerland, then Testerup, and now just Oostende in the west end. Changing of the elements! Pay homage to this past island!

So when I am talking about east and west sides here, I don’t mean Flanders versus Wallonia: that’s another issue, that’s a north-south issue – I am talking about this east end, or These East Ends! And in the east, there’s pretty Wallonia too, and more and more of it too! So I’ll talk about it later.

N.B: totally complicated directions: and I haven’t even mentioned that the province of East Flanders is not in this East End of Flanders, but between the province of West Flanders and Antwerp and so, almost in the middle of the country. The peculiarities of the positions of east and west don’t easily cease to amaze.

 

b. Triangle, Mine

Genk: how it became a destination, and discovery, in the first place is because it was the meeting point for the European Mining Heritage meeting I was attending! So the idea was to deepen the ‘mining work’ I had done – not literally but literarily – and look at other mines, and more mines, and i found there was more to them and in them, even now, in their ‘retirement’ when they are no longer working.

 

I stayed in a place called Tongeren, to the south of Genk.  Tongeren turned out to be the oldest town in Belgium. To get here from Genk you need two trains: there is no direct line, I have to change in Hasselt. So here my triangular travel between Tongeren, Hasselt and Genk came in, and, as so often in my travels, I have found myself again in a triangle-correspondence between three towns.

Genk is full of former mines: coalmines mostly. It’s an absolutely industrial area – this is a region of seven mines, spread around itself and Hasselt, making up the Limburg Mine  region. Tongeren, because I stayed there, became my daily starting-and end-point. It is itself outside the mining region, and instead is the oldest town in Belgium, evoking the medieval age! It’s also on the southern end of Flanders, edging on Wallonia, so this is where my edge-adventure, too, began!

Tongeren is old-monk-Trappist, city-walled, cobble-stoned, ancient city-walled, with medieval magic. Famous also for ‘Ambiorix’, ambitious leader of the Eburones, which is not a reggae-band (nothing to do with the Heptones!) but an old Gallic tribe!  I stayed in the youth hostel in the street with my name: Ursulastraat! In ‘my’district was the famous ‘Moerenport’ too: like Moorgate, maybe older.

 

The medieval character of Tongeren is not just in the buildings but ‘in the air’ too: as if it unfolded secrets and stories of the past, interminglings across centuries and influences, impressions, inscriptions. I felt home in a way that cannot be easily described, and need poetry and excavations in order to pinpoint the kind of space I encountered there.

c. Meeting, Mines, Machines, Magic

Then the mine meeting: I went here to do my presentation of the Mine and Yours – a mining and twinning project, which I have written about back in October (also on this blog), and added part 2 of this project too. Also I was curious of course to get more insight into mines. Then what I saw completely overwhelmed me: these mines of eastern Belgium were big, very big!

 

There were seven mines here alone, 7! And each of them was not just a mine, but what I didn’t anticipate that they also had a lot of machines in them! And many gadgets, and individual showers for the miners, hundreds of them! As if they lived there somehow, and like a whole world is in a mine.

Mining magic! Machinations! like putting the whole world into a structure. Industrial structure, mega mine, megalith! But infinitesimal order prevails, perhaps. Hundreds

 

upon hundreds of machinery in one mine. A kind of Myopia, too, seems to threaten: press the wrong button, and you could blow it all up! Danger of industrial progress? It could be either you, or more. How safe you are depends on which machines you use. There’s a machine called ‘widow-maker’, it’s not safe! Miner’s sacrifice, for our supply.

Knowing that other mines faced the same situation and the same struggles is so comforting and liberating. It’s striking too, miners’ strikes happened too, miners of all countries, strike!.

 

Surrealist magic with a little bit of horror mixed in. Industrial superlative! Machines to last a lifetime!

I got so absorbed in the mine’s belly, its bundle of stories, its work and meaning, its symbols and signs.

 

The last mine of this complex of seven was closed down in 1992, but it looks fresher than that. Some of those mines had been transformed into sites for creative business, museums, pubs, art-spaces. Belgium seems to really appreciate its mining heritage. Industrial heartland with a heart!

 

Heart indeed, soul, spirit: our group was shown miners’ churches, and miner’s villages, modelled on the garden city model in England. There’s a kind of war-and-peace side to this too: men who worked in the mines during the war in Belgium were freed from fighting in the war. This was the case in Britain too, but there wasn’t the prestige associated with it as it was here in Belgium. The  story of the boss of one mine I heard was particularly moving: he was so disgusted with the war that in the middle of all this tragedy he ordered his miners to build a church instead! A church against the war, even in the face of aggression, worry and large-scale multidimensional existential scare. An amazing act!

 

d. Lim-Lux – another word for this edge-crossing

Tongeren, apart from being in the east end of the whole of the country, is also at the southern boundary of Flanders-part of the country. If you take a train from here southwards, you reach Wallonia immediately, because Tongeren is the last stop before the boundary.  Like Genk and Hasselt further north, it is in the province of Limburg. Limburg also exists as a province in the neighbouring Netherlands, but this is Belgian Limburg. From here I went to Luxembourg! Like Limburg, Luxembourg is also a double: it’s a little country of course, but also it’s another province in Belgium! So I went from

 

Lim to Lux, and each of those has a double, and each is on the respective other side of the division between Flanders and Wallonia. Doubles and divisions, geographical mirror-images and double LLs! Just to add on to this, between the two provinces of Lim and Lux, there’s Liege! LLL then…

My destination in this Luxembourg was a place called Barvaux-sur-Ourthe. I had chosen this little town with this long name for two reasons: one is that it is close to Durbuy, which is known as the smallest city in the world -and there is something exciting about going from the oldest town in this country to the smallest city in this world! Secondly, Barvaux is the closest railway station to reach the remains of this regions’ ancient stone circle. A tiny bit of Stonehenge here then, a rare site in continental Europe. When I got here, I found it’s still a bit far to go, and a bit difficult to find too, so I just went to the river instead. But to my amazement and delight I found another ‘stone circle’: not a circle, but a place of worship made of stone! It was at the far side, and low side of a hill leading to a chapel. The far side, the hidden side: how wonderful. Here is the energy, the spirit, survival – mixed in with Christianity but not stopping there, going beyond spiritual boundaries, traditions, edges and taboos.

There’s a lot more to say on the way. Literally, on the way, as there is something you notice which happens as you get there: here in Wallonia it’s not flat anymore, as in Flanders: it’s hilly! Before you reach Liege, hills come ‘rolling in’, and they ‘roll on further’, the more you move down south. With the rivers in the middle of them all – first the Meuse, then the Ourthe, it looks like West Yorkshire around Hebden Bridge. These hills are the Ardennes, but they could be brothers and sisters of the Pennines!

 

From mines to mountains and back again -from flat to hill, and back – from Flanders to Wallonia and back -from one pretty place to another.

It’s funny, then, how not only the language changes between the two halves of this country but the geography too: Flemish for the flat land and French for the hills.

 

e. Back to the other side of the Tunnel

I had seen and found out a lot but far from all I wanted to see: I hadn’t even made it to the labyrinth at Barvaux, and not even to the Gallo-Roman museum in Tongeren! I had to take two trains home: first to Brussels, and then to London. So I set off in Tongeren, arrived, in the end, in‘ Tottenham, and passed under the tunnel under the channel with the Eurostar between these two Ts. Taking the  Eurostar also meant a stopover in Brussels, specifically Brussels-Midi rather than the centre. So I had to discover what was to be found on location around here, which I enjoyed with unsurprising psychogeographic curiosity: Brussels as seen, and walked, from here!

I found: a park, and in it a ‘porte’ (‘ Halle Gate’: a grand old tower which was part of Brussels’ second city wall), a market, and some interesting art-galleries. It’s called St. Gilles around there., not quite like St. Giles over here, but really interesting, more cozy, multicultural, arty: like Walthamstow in, but not too much inside, London perhaps.

Then Eurostar time came and I went for it. Land, tunnel, then land again, this time England. It’s only the second time I’ve ‘eurostarred’, and the first time from and to St. Pancras and I loved it. Arriving at the centre of London rather than at the edge, where the airports are, is great in this case: you just walk into and inside central London: from the platform to the centre! St. Gilles, St. Pancras, Salutations, and the east side I had just come from. This is the (east) end I had enjoyed on both sides: on the Flanders side, and on the Wallonia side. They are both beautiful ends: belle, Belgium, bellissimo!