Space Open

Tell a revolution: – I must comment on this amazing, transformative moment we are in: Black Lives Matter has opened up a space for us! A suppressed space, unheard, unspoken, unwanted, neglected too often.

There was the power of the black square, then I put the black frame on. Now at last it emerges more widely and more publicly (once again since the civil rights movement) what had to be brought to attention: inequality, some of the conditions of blackness.

This too gives rise to the space between black and white. Where is the line between us, and why draw it? Why has it been drawn anyway? It’s very much like asking: why slavery, why colonialism? Why have we been divided?

And then there is the amnesia, or the denial about these events, the lack of understanding about the trauma these events lay upon us as a society, which divides us further.
Now is a time when we could all become aware.

There’s a space that speaks a thousand volumes. Other things come into that space which complicates the space, before we can get rid of it as a vacuum. Fill it with understanding, fill it with stories we have to tell.

Can this be the answer, to tell more stories against inequality, mere stories against colonialism? At least it’s a starting point, from which we might be able to go all the way, not just half way. Speak a revolution each, and then it happens!

Black and White, Blackness and Whiteness, where are our spaces and how many are there – and what’s between us? Maybe we realise that we don’t want a space which is to do with our colour. So let’s go deeper! Let all of us take any space!

How can we grow together without being torn apart over and over again by unequal treatment?

The Black Struggle is so meaningful because it’s always been at the vanguard in showing the way for emancipation and equality on so many levels. It accounts, for example, for the historical dimension, and shows how an economic system had been set up in a way that produces inequality on a structural level. There is a lot in there, dynamics of disadvantage which are problematic not just on one level but on many different levels. Therefore we have all benefited from the black struggle, this is my contention. Let’s go on. I don’t mean let’s move on but let’s go on. Let us go deeper, until all of us understand more.
So this is to be continued. Let’s take our stories out, let’s go for an equality walk and say: Black Lives Matter, to all of us, equally.

Water, Earth + Us in the Lockdown

This is a video I made for World Water Day on the 22nd March, at the beginning of our long lockdown. One month after, on the 22nd April, is World Earth Day. So there’s a stretch of a month between these two elements, and this year that stretch falls into a unique period, where we are in the virus-induced lockdown, but where our natural environment has a unique opportunity to get better! This fact of us suffering versus nature healing, that’s not an awkward association but one with a message: we have to stop damaging the environment in order to prevent another crisis, another virus. Now we find out that the farming of animals for human consumption is unhealthy, deforestation can lead to viral infection, and so on. Scientists think there will be more crises to come if we don’t change our ways. So here is is, in other words: capitalism kills.  So we have to take World Water Day, World Earth Day, and all these initiatives to protect

our environment more seriously, Disrespect can be deadly, of people and of place, inequality and robbery of raw materials, consumerism: these have to stop. Some of us have said that decades ago but now we have reached a new level of emergency. It’s a climate emergency, and an inequality emergency now. The rat race that capitalism has produced, and still reproduces, over and over again, is biased towards a small global minority who, despite being cogs in the machine, are ‘privileged’ – for being largely oblivious to the damage they are doing. This ‘not-being-aware’ that we are too often exposed to in the West, is clearly dangerous, a colonial mentality that does not consider others – or even ourselves. (if we knew who we are!)


This lockdown is like a legitimation crisis for capitalism, and our version of modernity. The virus is a dictator: it’s not democratic, it’s seeking revenge. But maybe now, after extensive damage to the earth and our global brotherhood and sisterhood has been done, with divisions implemented like prison-sentences, we deserve nothing else but being forced to change. It’s bad enough that we are once again unequal in our suffering, and the privileged among us get off relatively lightly. But nevertheless, with the virus and the lockdown we have reached a level of alarm we haven’t had before. Now that all of us are more of The Wretched of the Earth (see Fanon) in one way or another.


At ArtCouple, we have put up our Out-O-Space Gallery: artcouple.co.uk/?p=224, and above is some more art I made, in my ‘art at home’ series, which started with my ‘shells in bed’ series, of which one, Outside In/ner Circle, was published in Gaada’s (gaada.org) and another, an “Olympic Assemblage” in ‘Art in the Time of Virus: Isolation’ ( www.facebook.com/indoorsmainly/)  excellent Quarantzine (see also last post, and more on Instagram) – and which is now branches out into placing shells and pebbles on old exercise books from school, like this one, or other things from the past, my childhood, the pesticides and the good times, of which only the ethical ones count. The exercise book – let’s do our homework!


And then there’s the (bar) code-breaker (see also on my Instagram, link on Gallery page): 20200415_144901

Lockdowning – inside up!

The art of enduring the lockdown: lockdowning. So here is our exceptionally weird time, let’s all stay put, stay in. I replace the blue of the sea with the blue of the bedsheet, and let my found sea-shells on it. Then I turn the picture upside down – with the shadow on top –

that feels about right for this weird time-home-space.

Just before the lockdown took hold, I made a series of interesting interventions at a local bus stop that had a cone in it, and now, at ArtCouple, we have set up our new Out-O-Space Gallery. More information to follow! Watch this (interior) space…

Herstory around the Irish Sea

Like Leap-year-2020, my IWD post took one day longer: I am in Maryport. Port of Mary. Not Mother Mary but Mary Fleming. She is one of the women I want to talk about today,

on the 8th March, International Women’s Day. Maryport is a little known coastal town on the Cumbrian coast along the Irish Sea. I will take that sea as my orientation and talk about Women’s History around it – thereby centering the sea, not the land, though the two go hand in hand. There is plenty of women’s history here, especially in the middle of the sea – to which I will come later.
It’s been a vision of mine to establish an ‘Irish Sea Circle’, to communicate across the boundaries of the lands that lie next to it. It’s good for a change to disregard the established borders (and hard border) and go swimming. We could use the sea as a roundtable, it’s not even as big as, say, the North Sea (my erstwhile ‘home sea’ which I have crossed to get here), or the Baltic Sea. So let’s get to know each other a little bit more.
So I will start with the country that the sea is named after, Ireland. Here I think of Mary Robinson, and the impact she made when she became Ireland’s first female president, back in 1990, 30 years ago from now! She was so successful in her job that her successor was a woman as well! Mary McAleese. After pioneering in her job, she became UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and presided over the courageously organised UN Conference Against Racism and Xenophobia, in Durban in 2001. The conference was much forgotten about as it was followed by the September 11 attacks. Listen to Day 1 of the conference here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03m0j1z

Next in the Irish Sea line I am going to Wales – to Ynis Llandwyn, a small island off the coast of Ynis Mon (Anglesey). This is where the setting of the short film ‘Red Sea – spring tides and menstrual cycles at the full and new moon’, from 1982 by Judith Noble –Higginbottom, member of the London Film-makers Co-op.  This film inspired my artwork on ‘Blood Tides’, where I was looking at the state of the tide when my period

starts, and found that it seems to start around high tide. So the film inspired me 38 years later. I had already written about ‘tides in the body’ before, coinciding, https://advantagesofage.com/exclusives/tides-body-menopausal-musings/ , unknowingly then, with her ‘Body Tides’, but what her film did in addition, is to inspire me to look at the time of the tide in relation to my blood tide. Back then, two years after the film was made, in 1984, Sue Butterworth from nearby Llandudno, co-founded the Silvermoon Feminist Bookshop in London, now folded and dearly missed.

The creative distance from Ireland to Wales, and its impact for literary writers, has been highlighted by the conference ‘66 Nautical Miles’, written about by Lleucu Siencyn in ‘Seeing Literature through Irish Eyes can teach the Welsh’ – about the Celtic nations’ commonalities in the literary world: https://www.walesonline.co.uk/whats-on/arts-culture-news/ireland-wales-literature-celtic-rugby-8789998
So here’s the idea as well about the round-the Irish-Sea forum that I, too, am envisaging. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘Celtic nations’, perhaps because I am a foreigner, but I think that everyone who lives around here, is, or should be part of this forum – if you feel the pull and the connecting energy of the sea. My erstwhile ‘home-sea’ was the North Sea, but I am holding them up both, as they too, are connected, and I, on this island, am surrounded by them both! What seas have you been surrounded with? Let’s connect our seas up, like a liquid League of sea-sided Nations.

Our forum comes alive when we respond to our environment. One of Lubaina Himid’s works, first black woman Turner Prize Winner, is ‘Swallow Hard – The Lancaster Dinner Service’ (2007), an installation to respond to Lancaster slavery past, makinghistoriesvisible.com/portfolio/swallow-hard/.
Very close to Lancaster is Sunderland Point, which was once a slave trading port too, and close to it is a grave to a ‘dark-skinned cabin-boy or slave’ called Sambo – who has been buried alone as he wasn’t admitted into the Christian cemetary. ‘Brit born Bajan’ London poet Dorothea Smartt wrote a moving booklet of poems about him, which I had bought but now cannot find – when I do, I will put a photo of it here, as it seems to be a largely forgotten book, about forgotten history. So we are getting into‘twice forgotten’ territory, so I am mentioning it here to try and redress this.

Lancaster and Sunderland Point are all at the southern end of Morecambe Bay. On its northern end, opposite Morecambe itself, is Barrow-in-Furness, with its own Walney Island. Its on that island where women’s history was made in 1975, when the island’s lighthouse got a female lighthouse keeper, Peggy Braithwaite. She was one of only a handful women lighthouse keepers, and the only one during her service, until 1993.

Moving out of the bay and going much further north to Scotland (skipping West Cumbria to which I will return), discovered a feminist feeling statue on my latest trip to Dumfiries.

It was of Jean Armour, wife of Robbie Burns. She was the inspiration behind many of his poems, was known in as the ‘Belle of Mauchline’ and had 9 children with Robbie Burns, of whom 6 survived – how hard times were then.

Now let’s go back down the Irish Sea a little bit again, to the border, go down around 25 miles (25 milefortlets down from Hadrian’s Wall, see previous post), and arrive in Maryport, where we started. Mary is who this town was named after! And I am just thinking that now that we need a statue for that! It’s Mary Fleming, wife of Humphrey Senhouse, who built this town as a new town in 1749 – it seems old now but it has that typical very straight and square grid pattern that new towns have. No wonky roads, no curves, so that’s a bit dull – though the houses are pretty! Humphrey Senhouse was pretty emancipated too, to dedicate this town to his wife, but sadly, his pretty-ness stops there. Coming back to the harrowing topic of empire, he was a major player in it, and owned plantations in Barbados, where he was born, because his father was already in the business! So here’s an early example of a kind of intersectional (feminist) problem: its not gender and ‘race’ here as such but gender and racism – where we might have been able to celebrate him as an early feminist, his record on the side of (and in the service of) empire was so dismal that he isn’t useful as a feminist hero at all. Sad case really. Mary seems to have been complicit in all that, as she did not speak out against her husband’s involvement with the empire. So a bit of unsettling women’s history then. I still think we need a statue of her in town. The most feminist marker we have is a café with the intriguing name of ‘Her Citi’ – you can buy clothes and things here as well.

It’s here, in Maryport, that I did my art work for International Women’s Day: I’ve cut out our women’s sign from a mushroom box (so as to creatively reuse material that would otherwise be discarded), and placed a whelk in the middle.

On this day, too, I found out about a new old feminist: Sal Madge. She was a well known character in Victorian Whitehaven, (two towns down the coast from here), and she acted very much like a man, and thus carved out an approach towards emancipation in a context of poverty and gendered expectations, also wrestling with men: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-19828177

From here I go to the spectacular centre of the Irish Sea, where a world record has been achieved. That’s on the Isle of Man. Here women got the vote in 1881! I wrote a poem that mentions this (100 – 10), which was published in the E-List, Walthamstow’s amazing culture and art mag. (in E17, London, where I lived then), when we on the mainland celebrated a 100 years of women’s vote at most! It amazes me how this has not made more headines – even here on the west Cumbrian coast, where the Isle of Man is within eyesight, the news of the women’s vote has not spread. So from now on, let’s remember the best kept secret at the centre of this sea!

 

Boundaries, again!

Boundaries, right here! – and the end of a line.

On commemorating the Roman Festival of Boundaries, we found that we live at the end of an ancient boundary-extension, without knowing it! We have marked the occasion before – Psychogeogeography marks the occasion https://terminaliafestival.org/ , as well as Women who Walk: women-who-walk.org/terminalia-sync-walk-23-02-20/, and more. However, we have never marked the day here, where we live now – and this place turns out to be the hidden southerly outpost Hadrian’s Wall! – the end of the ‘wall’ behind it the Wall.
What we (that is, Simon Bradley and me) knew already is that there is a milefortlet near us, which is part of Hadrian’s Wall’s lesser-known outer defenses, erected to capture those who come or escape via the sea-route. These remains are of ‘Milefortlet 21’. Now if it’s the 21st milefortlet, it means there must have been at least 20 more fortlets between Hadrian’s Wall and here – and, furthermore, that this milefortlet is 21 miles away from the actual Wall. What we didn’t know is that there are, in fact 25 milefortlets, and the end of the line is exactly where we are, in the little town of Maryport, called Alauna in Roman times! I reel in amazement: here, right here, in a little, and little-known, unassuming and often unheard-of village ‘out in the sticks’ – here is exactly the outer outpost of the whole of the Roman Empire! A little village on a big big line! Like a Roman Meridian greeting.
So we are 25 miles away from the Wall, but connected to it by a line of milefortlets, which are said to have been connected to each other by a fence. Imagine a 25 mile-long fence! Immigratiion was tough back then even!
The Roman god of boundaries unbound
Even this best kept Milefortlet 21 (in the line of fortlets per mile to the wall) looks like less than a ruin, with only tiny walls and outlines left on the ground.
To see the fortlet, the best meeting point near-by is the little car park outside Crosscanonby Carr Nature Reserve, (the first in the Solway Plain AONB: Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). – which itself was once a car park – from Car to Carr!
From there the coastal path, next to the coastal road, would take us to the milefortlet. But on the way, literally across the forlet, at the edge of the beach, are two medieval saltpans – which we included in our walk. They are two circles, ringed by a low stone wall,

around one of them. As you step out of the circle you are already on the beach, and there we collected 21 pebbles, for the 21st Milefortlet! When we got there, sunset-time approached, and after looking around the fortlet, which was familiar to us from previous visits. We then walked out of the forlet, to the wild grass next to it, and then walked back 6 steps in a southeasterly direction. This was to emulate the 6th milestone outside the Roman city of Laurentum, where the Romans placed their offerings to the god Terminus. This too is what we learned this time: the offering towards Laurentum at the 6th milestone – and it was Laurentum because that used to be the border of the Roman Empire. Was this offering made to guard the border, or to overcome it? Was it for or against immigraiton? I hope it was for immigration and against the border. It’s in this vein that we celebratee Terminalia – as a critical act.


Moreover i found out was that there is also a tree called ‘Terminus’. A whole family!
And to top this up, i found some news of that day regarding the surpassing of boundaries, which was the opening of a new raiway station! That’s Worcester Parkway, Briain’s youngest railway station (which was strangely hardly mentioned), opened on the 23rd Feb 2020, our Termin-inter-alia Day!

 

 

 

English Borders / It Brex

  1. English Borders

We know Scottish Borders, – it’s the county next to England, it shares its border with it,

and that’s what it’s named after. Yet there is no county called English Borders. As if there is no common border, as if Scotland is not next to England. And that’s impossible! Obviously, a border always has two sides. But one side doesn’t seem to talk about it.
They used to, in way: old maps show that where I am now in north-west Cumbria, was once part of the ‘Scottish Marches’, – but they were so-named as an area of battle, not in an affectionate way, not as place to meet in the middle, half-way.

An unspoken border, in half. Ignoring a frontier could be a good thing but what if it’s at the cost of ignoring one’s neighbour? Is the idea that the bigger country doesn’t need to refer to the smaller one?
There’s unequal stuff and unfair history around borders between quite a few countries, putting constellations out of sync, I think. I remember as a child I found it unfair that Denmark was too small compared with Germany. Denmark should have had more land (it’s not fair otherwise!), because once upon a time I believed that all our countries are of the same size. That’s what equality meant for me, totally idealistically, I assumed everything really was equal. But reality wasn’t that straightforward to start with.

Being where we are then, at least size shouldn’t matter, we need a seismic change! There should be diplomacy, recognition and friendliness that would acknowledge the border on both sides of itself, so to make it a common border, a meeting point, a connecting line of a union. A union must be respected, mutually, otherwise there can be no union.
A union, what’s that now? – United Kingdom, Trade Union, European Union? Respect?

Within them tales of two halves in different ways. Splits in Britain between and within the countries in its union. Since uni- !?- fication, Germany has a similar situation with east and west Germany. It’s probably not going off in the same way at the moment – although it could get worse – because there isn’t Brexit in the way.
Is Brexit the most extreme form of ‘The Divided Self’ (R.D. Laing) in a nation, not just an individual?

2. It Brex (Brexit): Eng – land

A story of two halves – here once again. So now it’s Britain that’s in the ‘middle of it: and all its parts: Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England – that’s 4 times 2, at least: so many bits and splinters. “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold”, as the Irish poet W.B. Yeats rightly said. But on top of that the centre is now stuck with itself: unlike Scotland or Northern Ireland, it can’t break away, – it’s stuck, but only one half of it might think it is stuck: in the picture below this is the ‘land’.

‘Eng – land’ is depicting its internal division it has had since the referendum. One half of

the country, the ‘Eng’ has gone over the cliff edge and is on the sea, the other half ‘land’ is still on land – though ‘Eng’ now assumes ‘land’ has gone with it, though the land has an infinite line after the last letter that connects the country to other entities.
‘Eng’ and ‘land’ have a dash between them – and extended hyphen. They are now in an uneasy symbioses: the ‘land’ can be dragged further down into the sea by the ‘Eng’, and it’s that first half of the country that has the capital letter (because it is the half that is in power / empowered. The ‘land’ cannot divorce itself from the ‘Eng’, and is left at its mercy.
The little island in the sea, and the big lake on the land show movement and mutual influence between the two. But the island in the sea is smaller than the lake in the land: the lake has more impact, and also the water is eroding the land by the coast – so it’s the ‘land’ in danger, whereas the ‘Eng’ is making the dangerous moves.
What’s next? I don’t know, that’s why my sketch is inconclusive. It’s a way of showing the danger, a sketch for thought.

And here’s the poem I wrote after receiving this new thing called “Settled Status”.

Quo Vadis?

I’ve now got Indefinite
Leave to Remain!
What are you
leave or remain?
I mean what do you think
Leaver or remainer
what’s left, what remains?

How odd is this
shifting sand of an island
that we live in
how old is our community
when did we reach out?
And when did we refuse
refugees, or become them
if ever we could
really do so
have enough experience
to say so?

How do you define
a settled status?
How settled could you
ever be and how
unsettled have I become?
How do we settle
the division between us
what’s left, what remains?

What do we leave behind
and how do we remain focussed
Foreigners and Friends
the Settled, the Unsettled, and
the as yet Undecided
Friends and Foreigners without frontiers
it’s about us
where are we now?
With a harder border in our midst, crusting
creasing, screaming.                                                      Ursula Troche, 8.2019

Art after a year

Art post 1 year: A reverse double countdown would take us into this new decade – I mean, count down from 10 twice, reverse this and so reach 20. On another time-scale,

the end of the last decade made a year in our upper northern location of the west Cumbrian pre-Scottish coastline, side by side with the Irish Sea. Sea-Sides and coast-Lines, and roundabout ways of getting somewhere has made me look at lines. So from now on we are in our second year here. There’s been a lot of artput, i mean art output since, and I like  to respond in it sto some of our urgent issues. For ex, how coastlines get eroded, and on my sketch here is a coastline which was a line and then got broken. So here’s the image of that. So here it’s decay, but it could be deconstruction as well: a porous border(line). Can you walk through the line, or do you have to ‘walk the line’?

Line art
Line of a Walk: this is a walk with a map and it looks like we tried to go up sky scrapers or so, but in fact they were piers in our little harbour.


One day we wanted to go for a walk around the pier – which is possible at low tide – and so, when the tide was less than three hours before its lowest point, we thought that the ‘outness’ of the tide was enough for us to be able to go around the pier. Once we got closer to the far end of the former shipyard beach where we started our pier-circle, we saw the tide was in fact not out enough! We turned back and decided to approach

Belly art, feminist
In my writing I often bring myself in, and I had the desire to do it in my art as well. I am interested in the body because it’s a feminist issue and because I am a life model too. So I

decided to us my belly for printing! The outcome was amazing: it looked like an ocean, or a galaxy: patterns echo! As for the ocean-association, it could even be my local Irish Sea, because my navel at the centre makes for a blank space in the print – just right for the outline of the Isle of Man! Belly button island then. And it’s here where women got the vote in 1881: how fitting to portray the island then with my centrepiece, my navel.

Sculpture
Since our residency at the Merzbarn, I have started on sculpture. Using found and

rubbish materials, such as those tomato-, orange- and onion-nets that I had been using before in my assemblages.

Art with words.
I found that often my art feels complete when I include words in it. I have here my ‘transition paining, because some of them are old, some of them I had only partially done and have now completed them all these years after: so it’s a meeting of the years. After a

while of figuring out how to put things together, I realised also I could mix techniques, and don’t have to keep to one at a time.

I had thought of including another layer into these paintings but haven’t got round to it yet, so the painting, and collaging, continues! Watch this artspace, so to speak, so to sketch… It’s still work in progress, but it’s coming along, and progress is always a nice development and unfolding of things and ideas coming together in some kind of materialised form and shape.      – – – …and there’s more, my Ursonate sketches, also inspired by the Merz barn residency, and of course, the old collages and asemblages, so there’s more to write and show, as always, and it’ll come (out) in the next posts…

Elective Special

My poster-notes for the occasion. There’s an election coming and the festive season is coming: Election + festive = elective.

Elective Affinities! But there’s more to it, for Elective Affinities was a novel by Goethe. All those years ago. And where are our (elective/ion) affinities in this election now?

The magnitude of this election – due to its impact on the Brexit-malaise – propelled me to compose little posters in my notebook, and then exhibit them on instagram. Exhibition is the word, so it’s not necessarily the same as campaigning – it’s about writing new ideas

down, and show with these the irrationality and sadness of the Brexit idea. Taking a fresh look at things to illuminate topics that affect us, such as this. So it’s the idea of art as a socially responsive and critical tool all over again.

I had started writing blog articles about new ideas against Brexit already at the time of the referendum – and now picked up on this thread again but this time in poster-style.

The issue at stake is too big not to comment on, I find.

I can’t make up my mind whether these little works are posters or notes – and that’s good because they are both.

All of these have been on my instagram (except one which is still to come) and some also elsewhere. As my little collection grew, I thought however, to put them all together in one place, so here they are. Maybe I’ll feel the need to add to them in the future. Time and the election result will tell.


The urge to engage on this level has been a conducive aspect of my art practice as a whole – it’s a coming-out and taking-sides process as well, and that is (once again) an exciting choice to make.

Beach 100 / Ortstory

a beach as project-space + a short story of place

Beach 100 is a little beach near me, which is located between two sort-of-piers, which used to be quays when there was a shipyard there. So now it has become a post-industrial former shipyard-beach. The stones on the beach still appear like boats in the harbour that once was: echoes carried forward! The two now-turned-piers are close to each other and the beach in between narrow, and when I first counted how many steps it would take me to get from one end of the beach to the other, I counted 100 steps! When I counted again the following day, it was only 95 steps, and the following day it was the same. But I stick to my 100 as this was the first count I did, so hence the name.

It’s great to have this unusually narrow beach as a local beach – it’s the perfect place for repetition and art-interventions. It’s got a view out – into the sea – and a view in, to a bit of the town behind the wall, the sea-wall. Beyond it on the land-side is a tree-stump in the bushes, which has become a place of intervention as well.


It is not kept well though: as it is so close to town, a lot of waste and empty bottles get thrown here. So at first sight the beach looks like a dirty bit of sand. I collect some of  the thrown-on-the-beach bottles, both as a beach-clean and for art projects: this is where most of my bottles for my eco-art project come from, which started on World Earth Day, the 22nd April.
Then the stone-and shell collecting began, limpets and objects both bigger and more bizarre: fishing rope, toys and pieces. All these have given rise to a number of ideas, play

and assemblages. The limpets, the Irish Sea round. I walked and worked the beach too with Simon, we found objects here and found sounds of waves and seagulls and more. So it’s become a concentrated space of collaboration as well.
It’s a beach one can walk out of – during low tide one can walk all around the pier on the right hand side, where the pier structure boasts a Scottish flag-look, with its St. Andrews-style cross.

It’s a beach between Rivermouth, Firth and Sea: the rivermouth is to the left and is the River Ellen, the firth is to the right, the Solway Firth, and the sea is all around: the Irish Sea. A sea not often mentioned but always seen.
From this beach you can our local lighthouse, and behind it Scotland, in the shape of the mountains of Dumfries and Galloway.

Ortstory

On the 26th September this beach once again gave birth to a launch my Ortstory-project. An Ortstory is a short story of place: ‘short’ without ‘sh’ leaves ‘Ort, which is the word for ‘place’ in German – so here is a term made up of two languages.
So Ortstory is one words in my series of language-images as well, but as it’s bigger than my other ‘bilingual’ words, as I think of this as a genre: a new kind of short story, which is rooted in place: so, very much a psychogeographical story with a linguistic twist.

On this day when I went down to my local beach, this beach-space felt like a canvas to me, so this is my inaugural Ortstory then:

Ortstory on Beach 100:

A beach like a canvas, like an ever-changing painting, made by the tides, with low-and

high tide marks making moving spaces in time. Sand, stones and shells being splashes of paint, tides leaving marks, making changes.
Limpets and cockles, scallops and winkles distributed across the wet sand, this time not just wet from the sea but wet from the rain as well: and so waters meet frequently. Seaweed too, and seagulls gallivanting or flying through the wind. Moves occur in the air and the sea, boats appear not so frequently: the port is of the past, just the pier remains and a little harbour with a marina. Much is missed though seldom spoken, the past is silenced over long periods with short intervals. The canvas of the beach turns out to have paintings under it, readings too, like a palimpsest. Words might emerge, a story might stay for the short while of the intertidal exposure. A short story then: it won’t be long until the tide comes to hide the land and the patterns on this its sometimes-sea-less surface. Look and listen whilst you can.

So this is what happened today when I walked down along the estuary, then the sea. I went past the point of the low tide mark, not in space but in time – the low end of the stretch of the tide has just been. I went forth by the Firth, make my way to the Solway Firth, my soul and I, like hand in hand we go, soul in body, body by sea, water to water, gathering thoughts and dreams down at this edge of return, and ever turning tunes like sea-songs.
With each walk to the beach a poem in reach, then written down in wavy fragments, reflecting ripples on the beach bed, casting shadows between light fields on the sand.
I find limpets next to my writing place, and collect them, together with other shells. I look at the pattern of stones and shells in the sand and try to guess what has changed since the last time the tide was high. That was a few hours ago, and that would have meant, as always in this rhythm played out on the beach, a rearrangement of the details it causes. Details: the way in which stones and shells and seaweed lie there, where they have their place: the lie of this tidal land. Changes we might never notice as to exactly where they are, changes like the subconscious. Only occasionally found. Found out now, as I write, I might catch the secret before it rolls down again like the next high tide. After this it might reappear, that secret, here but not quite here, and hardly to be found, situated on the edge of oblivion, if it wasn’t for attention paid to it. All this, and if it wasn’t for the close observation of tidal transformation which might just hold on to my consciousness beyond itself – or so it may seem in this wet sand.
This wet sand of a beach like a canvas.
I go home with my hands full of shells – this is my catch for today. I don’t catch fish, I catch exteriors, my catch is what has once held little animals: their discarded exteriors I have caught, it’s their shells I gather and keep. Sea-life to sea-shell, living to housing. Structures that become obsolete to the animals and of interest to me. I delight in this, identify with it, I, the has-been animal, connecting on the beach.

Collages and Assemblages

– art-interventions on and off canvas: Ever since living by the sea at the Solway – which

includes a lot of dimensions:1.) north-west coast; 2). where England meets Scotland, 3). where England meets Irish Sea 4). behind the Lake District. 5.) Cumberland-cum-Cumbria; 6). Hadrian’s Wall-land – my art -practice has expanded.

It has done that both collaboratively and individually: working together with Simon Bradley being inspired by his sound-art-practice, and delving into more art dimensions than I had previously done when my travelling land-and-place practice was mainly writing and photography.
I had been on the verge of things I do now: I had spotted sheep-wool in a tree in Sanquhar, Scotland, and was inspired to what it did to the view. I played with shadow and light, to identify moving lines, and shifting spaces, I collected pebbles on beaches and I was inspired by seaweed forms, as well as the accidental patterns and shapes that leaves would make on streets, or how signs could have an artistic impact on a certain scene inside or outside of a town. Through all this, my writing and thinking became more abstract, more experimental.

Practice expansion

Since moving here to the Solway however (7 months ago now), I engaged in all these and more practices more consciously and more deliberately. I started picking up more and different kinds of little found objects, and take them to nearbyplaces for art purposes. I took my found sheep-wool from the previous year in Ilkley Moor to the sea, and carried on from there. I called these interventions: So a line of artistic production emerged, and then a network – i.e. a development of one thing leading to another, and then several things interacting and happening at the same time. I often say it all started with the Ilkley Moor wool, but in a way it started with with Octy, my little soft-toy-mascot octopus – which I then hadn’t called interventions, so it had been an inadvertent thing!


After Octy (subconsciously) and the wool (consciously), I used pebbles and bottles, then I drew circles on stones, then I used nets, which let to using packaging – and thus the use of rubbish that we produce. My bottles so far had been glass bottles, and now, with using packaging in mind, I used plastic bottles, and that opened up the whole field of plastic, and eco-art! Taking them out in public for photos was another adventure, as I could play with the shapes I found on different kinds of ground, once again: a bottle photographed from the bottom looked like a mandala, and one bottle in front of a crack in a wall made the crack look like it was holding my bottle!
By early April, things had already expanded so much that I made this diagram: 20190725_162627

Ephemeral interventions to canvas collages

Then, in a further movement (the movements were coming like waves, but instead of receding they stayed, as if I am a collector of water, making my own ocean!) my collages developed. Partly because I always wanted to bring something onto a canvas – and also because I had found and collected so much wool left by sheep on fences and on the ground – that I wanted to bring them onto another platform which would be less ephemeral than my interventions. On a canvas I create ‘landscapes’: either oceanic collections with seaweed-simulation, or landscapes as in imaginative and abstract maps.

I also still had some old acrylic wool at home, and thought it would be interesting and kind of comical to bring the sheep-wool and the acrylic wool together on a canvas with acrylic paint on! Then I expanded the series with my nets collected from tomato- and onion packaging: I had by then realised that the nets I had strung together (I wrote about them two posts before this one) always got tangled up, so I had to do something else with them. In my typical continuous expansion and merging of ideas I added further layers: feathers, limpets etc.
In the first instance, I produced 5 canvasses – and I call this the original Pentatych – i.e. a triptych plus 2.
As for my canvas: they aren’t all traditional canvases, they are often the hardbacks of old notebooks, which are in perfect order and I felt I didn’t want to throw them away. So there’s another recycling-theme there too – let the cycle be unbroken and continue.

Interior and exterior psychogeography

Public and personal spaces merged in my art too, when I continued assemblages at home: clementines on my breakfast place surrounded by wool and pebbles. Unlikely combinations made great constellations.
Just like the personal is political, psychogeography is everywhere – even the word itself speaks of the two: psycho- as an interior space, and -geography as an exterior space.

Feather – raise one!

Carnival came to town and I picked up some carnival feathers afterwards, and found some on the ground.
They added to the feathers that can be found here on the ground on a daily basis –

mostly seagull-feathers. I’ve never seen as many feathers in a town as here, they are lying about all over the pavements. Picking some of them up and using them in art means to incorporate the objects of this town in my work. So it’s site-specific in that sense – or a sense of it – as well. At the moment I am in a feather-phase. I have also developed the thought of raising a feather instead of raising a flag. The idea of replacing flags with feathers! “Imagine there’s no country…” – and imagine there are no borders! Not in art nor in the form of countries. Let’s find different forms (of living) perhaps.