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..

Advertisements

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!

 

 

 

 

Perambulations for Peace:

1. In Shropshire, 2. Around Newcastle, 3. To Aldermaston

 

 

Perambulating is a very typical psychogeographic word for walking wildly, and widely, radically, and consciously. The book “A perambulation of Kent”, however, was written in 1576 (by William Lambarde)! How about some Shakespearean psychogeography then? We would certainly enjoy the comedy of walking ‘errors’ when walking somewhere wildly, then finding something unexpectedly, and thereby coming to a point – or an edge, or a boundary, as the case may be.

The triple trip I did, however, was far beyond Kent, more like a perambulation of England almost, walking into Wales, and close to reaching Scotland. I covered tiny bits of the West Midlands, the North East, and the South.  Criss-crossing country, ‘triangulating’ places. Not walking all the way, by far of course, but taking trains in between places, which went much further than I did on my own. Trains, indeed, and the lines they run on, the network they make, are always important to my travels.

So here are the three chapters of my trip – two of them ‘tripped’ together, and the last one later by itself.

  1. In Shropshire:

I had been collaborating with Andrew Howe, who is involved with VAN – Visual Artists Network – in Shrewsbury. We had met at the Psychogeography Conference in Huddersfield last September, and had exchanged ideas since then, which led to my participation for the Encounters exhibition, which is about putting words and images together – i.e. poets respond to artist’s work and vice versa. More on his blog here: andhowenow.wordpress.com. Andrew also worked together with Kate Innes and Paul Baines as well, and there’s a lot of other artists and poets in the exhibition, so there’s a lot to see and read, so definitely worth a visit: a must-see, a must-read! The exhibition is still on until the 28th April, so go to Shrewsbury and see it, it’s in a great converted sort of warehousy space but it’s really centrally located, just past the High Street So if you have the railway station on one side of the High Street, VAN is on the other side – but they are all in a straight-ish line too! VAN is definitely the vanguard of Shrewsbury!

 

 

Topics that Andrew and I got talking about were the river and the border. The river Severn makes an amazing impression with its many looping circles, and the border is an interesting to explore because it’s so nearby: Wales is not far, and the border is soft.

 

 

I had been to Shrewsbury only once before, and remember that I was curious as to which of its two bridges I would reach first without looking at a map: the English Bridge or the Welsh Bridge. And I reached the Welsh Bridge first! Ha, enter the dragon (me too!), and it’s a sweet one!

 

 

This time round I discover much more: the Quantum Leap sculpture ,in honour of Darwin, hadn’t been there before, and now I see the round church, St. Chad’s. It amazes me: it’s the only church I have ever seen which is round! This very unusual design was built apparently by mistake, when one design was confused with another. That happened in 1792, which makes me smile: the fresh air of the French Revolution at that time causes new, innovative things to happen!

 

 

Now I go back to it, and more, entering Shropshire via Birmingham, from where the Shrewsbury Express runs, via Telford, Shrewsbury’s interesting counterpart, and partner on the (train) –line. Here the train is advertised as going to ‘Shrowsbury’ whereas in Telford, it will be ‘Shoesbury’, like an inverted turning of the linguistic Shrew, where it gets better, the closer you get.

Place Names

Looking at a map, Shrewsbury Is surrounded by places with intriguing, and past-is-looming, sort of names. As the swinging Severn loops out of town and into Wales, about half-way there, its biggest loop is called ‘The Isle’! So ths might have been an island down the ages, closer to the time of Lake Lapworth perhaps, which spread in England and Wales during the Ice Age. There’s a little tiny lake (Isle Pool!)still there inside the loop, and the whole loop could almost pass as a peninsula.

Then there’s the legacy-of-conflict-and-border’ place names: ‘Battlefield’ and ‘Loggerheads’. ‘Trench’ sounds like it too, but apparently a trench used to be a clearing in a woodland; wow! Then there’s funny names ike ‘Nobold’ and ‘New Invention’. There’ also ‘Little Ness’, making me think of Loch Ness, and there’s ‘Great Ness’, making me thing of greatness! Then there’s ‘Wem’, ‘Grimpo’ and, most spectacularly and historically ‘Ruyton of the Eleven Towns’! And then there is, quite apart from the famous ‘Ironbridge’, also ‘Isombridge’. Isom!

 

 

Telford

Then there was the Telford experience: I stayed near Oakengates, which has its own railway station, but I missed it and so got off at Telford Central. This turned out to a unique experience. It’s a station you cannot get out of! I mean, as a pedestrian it is impossible to walk from the station into town. This is odd. It’s a New Town, but an extreme version of a new town. Pedestrians have a hard time and you cannot even walk to the bus station from the railway station! The station is situated by two motorways and four roundabouts! They encircle you, and so all you can do is take wait for one of the few and infrequent buses that stop here, or take a taxi. Surrounded by streets more than anything! It all sounds very well: Telford has three train stations! The other two, Oakengates and Wellington, are fine and ‘normal’, in that you walk to and from them like to would to any other train station, but Telford Central is like an closed centre, unreachable, unlike the edges, which are much more centrally located than the centre in terms of pedestrian accessibility. I think that when this New Town was created, the plan was too ambitious: the little towns that it is supposed to hoid together, are too far apart somehow.

 

Apparently, Telford Central railway station, and its car park, was a siding to an industrial estate, so that automatically put the station at the side of things. It was, then, off-centre, and industry-purposed, from the beginning. No wonder pedestrians have a hard time then! There is a tiny, almost wonky, bridge that crosses on of the massively noisy motorways – it moves when you walk across it! – but it leads to another industrial or business complex. Only behind this complex is the shopping centre. Difficult! Complex!

In the end I see the famous Ironbridge, the first of its kind. I have seen other smaller bridges, in Oakengates too, which fascinate me. Industrial awe overcomes me, even

 

when things are simple. Even when things are dire: if you don’t know how to make use

 

of the town, it can eat you up, abuse you, or someone will. Life, in this locality, seems under-resourced too – an all too common feature of course. I believe that with art we can overcome. So turn to art for change!

 

Border Moss

The day after the opening of the Encounters exhibition at the VAN-guard, Andrew had organised a group of us to walk to the border. There were poet and painter Ted Eames, potters and architects Ruth Gibson and Adele Mills, Andrew and myself, and our very knowledgeable guide was Mike Crawshaw. We chose a moor-and moss-region rather than Offa’s Dyke, the Welsh kind of Hadrian’s Wall.

Wall types of border: Offa’s Dyke differs from Hadrian’s Wall, in that it is built entirely of earth, not using any brickwork as territorial demarcation, but the earth itself. That can be a harder thing: the earth itself will tell you who is King… on top of that, unlike Hadrian’s Wall, Offa’s Dyke is a double-wall, and so has a ditch in the middle. What a hard border that was!

So to the borderland, so to the edgeland: the bit of the border we went to was to the right side of Offa’s Dyke, which was England at the time of Offa. So Wales has moved on, especially in this area, where the Welsh border makes a semi-loop, like the Severn, no longer keeping to a straight line but curving, carving up the land. Nowadays this curving carving is so soft and gentle that it is harmless and interesting to go here. The past is concealed, invisible even, and it is hard to imagine that there was once suffering here, over the right to speak the Welsh language, and assume Welsh identity. How important peace and understanding is! Enter the dragon, please, and don’t be afraid, it brings peace!

 

It’s called Whixall Moss where we were, now a conservation area, recovering from former border disputes and some industrial use, and missing a railway line, which had been closed down in the 1960s. Nature has won the day here, and the mosses are so varied and special around here, one of Britain’s biggest Raised Bogs, and of international

 

interest: it’s a European Conservation Area. There are miles and miles of dense and fully-fledged open space here, of a kind of atmospheric emptiness that’s full of nature and rich in fullness. It’s like a moss-desert, for its wide and far views of the most beautiful monotony at first sight, and wonderful diversity when you look closer. And so now there is wonder at the border!

The border as a mirror

What amused and moved me deeply is that the occasional border-markers were low poles, saying ‘England’ on one side and ‘Wales’ on the other. Only that when you read England or Wales, you look at the respective ‘other side’. So when you read ‘England’, you are actually looking at Wales, and when you read ‘Wales’, you are looking at England. It’s all the same though. The moor and its animals wouldn’t have a clue which is which, and neither would we, if there was no marker to tell us. But when we read the name of the country we are in, we are looking at the country where we are not: the border as mirror!

 

We had amazing discussions on the moor, as we were walking: about pottery, earth and architecture, moss and words, psychogeography, work and story. It was so conducive, the density of the land, yet so open and free, nourished our creativity, and we will all take this back into our work, art, and artwork. It’s still in progress and there is more coming. It’s been a dip into Ombrotropia, I might say, for this is an ombotrophic meaning that it is apparently a cloud-fed – moss!

  1. Around Newcastle:

From Telford then to Newcastle, amazing cross-country stretch! And it’s the big Newcastle I am going to, not the small one! That is, not ‘Under Lyme’ but ‘Upon Tyne’: I am going over, not under, leaving Shropshire shrubbery: from one industrial heartland to another! And the weather didn’t turn colder, but sweet spring-sun came out.

Industrial areas both then. I have found another similarity between these distant places. To the west of Newcastle there’s Cumbria, of course, and to the west of Shropshire there’s Cambria, the other word for Wales! Cambria to Cumbria then it is, almost.

 

The towns I pass to get there from here: there is Wolverhampton, which fascinates me always. It may sound or look like nothing special at all, but it is one of the very few towns founded by a woman: Wulfruna. So here is a potentially feminist town! Then there’s Birmingham again, the underground station which always reminds me of Brussels, which is also situated slightly underground, just like this one. From here goes my train to Newcastle. My ‘mission’ here is to meet my good friend there, and to visit the new Miner’s Art Gallery in nearby Bishop Auckland. Arriving at Newcastle railway station is always an exhilarating experience for me. I love this station. It just looks good, a great peace of architecture, homeliness and arrival, all in one, all in all.

 

In Newcastle’s  great Museum of the North, ‘The Heart of the Matter’ had opened: an eye-opening exhibition about the heart. It exposes you to the heart’s ‘parallel forms’, like forest, corals, and ocean. Then from The Heart of the Matter we come again to the issue of borders, and our concern for their softness: an EU rally was on, decamping afterwards to the Tyneside Irish Centre, where a border-poem, I had written, came in handy for performance (thanks to Bill Corcoran!). It picks up ‘borderline’ issues, and their currency has arisen anew. How do we stand up to and against borders? Train lines through borders! Another idea, and thing, I am interested in. To cross the line of the border with another line!

Next day Bishop Auckland was on the agenda. Sweet little town it is, through Durham-land. The first thing I want is a cup of coffee. I pass by a Café with a Soviet hammer and sickle, and I am thrilled, intrigued! It’s called Red Square Café. I go in and find a love

 

story is behind this. The owner’s mum is Russian (well, Ukrainian by current developments), dad is English, and they met in Red Square, all the way in Moscow! What a unique place/story! I said how I grew up along a train line that went to Moscow, despite being in West Germany at the time. And here it is: a train against a border: my poem/my idea, comes back to me and reasserts itself. Anyone who visits Bishop Auckland, go to the Red Square Café! It’s on the main street between the castle and the railway station! It ‘s amazing too, how things make you see other things, and parallels arise. Thinking about Russia, i am thinking about Russian traditional wooden houses, and there i saw some, right here, and looking Russian, totally amazing me.

 

Bishop Auckland had another surprise for me too: Stan Laurel, from the famous old Laurel and Hardy comedian pair, is from here! And on the beautiful town- and castle-square is a great sculpture by Louise Plant, looking alchemical, but is called ‘Ps in a Pod’.

 

The Miner’s Art Gallery had only opened late last year. What a great idea to open a gallery that tells the story of miner’s art history! A new exhibition was just opening: The Bevin Boys’: miners that were sent underground in the war. This, too, part of the war effort – underground, but not to be forgotten.

I am now continuing to write the story that I began in the ‘Mine and Yours’ blog post, and which I will present at the Mining Heritage meeting in Belgium next weekend, so wait for more on this!

  1. To Aldermaston:

Nowa to a peace-effort: the following weekend was the 60th anniversary of the big march for peace, and for nuclear disarmament, organised by CND, co-founded by Bertrand Russell. It made big waves then, and was supported, too, by many famous people at the time, such as top artists Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. I had been on the famous march once only, in 2009, at a time when it no longer took place annually. For the big anniversary of course, it was on again, and I felt itchy to go too.

 

It used to take four days, now its’ a single daytrip. That’s not because we walk faster nowadays but because we don’t walk anymore. We don’t walk to Aldermaston, we take the coach, and then go around it. It doesn’t cause the same publicity as it used to, back in the days of the beginning, and then again in the years of Greenham Common. But at least it’s happening. Famous old peace activists like Bruce Kent and Walter Wolfgang were there, and spoke. Afterwards we left paper peace doves on the fence. I saw a now-historic hat on a now-veteran Greenham Commoner, knitted, women for peace! May the cause of peace continue. May borders be overcome. May the structures that separate

 

us be successfully challenged, and the world will be as one. Imagine!

Altogether

What’s the picture? Walking to edges, crossing the land, looking at boundaries, challenging borders. Using walking for peace. And discovering the beauty of the lands  that may have been pushed to the edge, and the importance of our lives, which may have been decentred. Finding the rivers, the waters, following their flowing lines, the loops and  the roundabouts! Challenging edgelands of a certain edge, speaking out, walking out! Angela Davis’ Let us All Rise Together could also be a ‘Let us all walk together sometimes. There is always more to say. There is always further to go, and walk, and make art, too – to collect the stories along the way.

 

 

 

 

That Was the Women’s Week that was!

TWTWWTW! And this one’s serious! It was International Women’s Week! Not to be confused with the comedy ‘That was the Week that was’ then, though it sometimes might tell (an alternative version of) that story too. Tell it to the BBC! – and all…

First and foremost this week this year I wanted to celebrated a hundred years. I thought that was the big theme: a hundred years of votes for women! It wasn’t exactly 100 for women like me, without property, as I wrote in this poem, which came out in the EList, Waltham Forests’ unique and exemplary art info magazine (an example which other

boroughs should follow), but I am still celebrating this year because the struggle to get as far as the suffragettes did was very hard, so we have to give thanks to them who paved the way for us. My poem is a compressed version of my earlier blog post “100 +10”, and I decided to make the “plus 10” into a “minus 10”.

Neither a placard with ‘100 years’ on it, nor the Isle of Man’s world record of introducing women’s suffrage in 1881 featured at the annual Women of the World – WOW festival at London’s South Bank Centre. What a disappointment I thought! Fair enough, International Women’s Day itself had had it’s 100-year anniversary already in 2011 – so IWD is older than women’s suffrage – but for some reason this centenary grabs me even more. The Mind the Gap placard is from the WOW festival though, which i absolutely love, and would love to know who made it – so please if you know let me know (it was not actually from this year’s Women’s Week, it was from last year’s Week…)

I celebrated IWD by looking for prime suffragette (and active anticolonialist!) Sylvia Pankhurst! I mean, I looked for her sculpture in Mile End Park. On a day as significant as

this you might have expected other women paying homage to her, but there was no other pilgrim I encountered. Sadly, it’s not very well known she has a sculpture there. And sadly, her name is not mentioned in front of her sculpture – so if you haven’t googled for her, and you don’t happen to recognise her, you could pass by the sculpture and still not know! The fact that next to her is a representation of a mule doesn’t help, because she could be mistaken for a peasant.

Near where she is, there are boards telling you about the different kinds of spiders and beetles that live in Mile End Park, but there is no board to tell you about Sylvia Pankhurst! Just like with Elizabeth Garrud, the suffragette outside Finsbury Park, who I visited on the 6th February, the day of the centenary of votes for women (also in 100+10 blog post). She too, is not mentioned by name, and neither are the other two sculptures next to her. When googling, I found out that these sculptures were put up by the cycling charity Sustrans, in 2011 and 2013 respectively. It’s great they are publicly commemorating important people, but why can’t they put a name to them? Even the

sculptor him-or herself hasn’t been mentioned!

I remembered that the year before I found another sculpture in Beam Valley Park, between Dagenham and Hornchurch, which also features a women’s rights activist, maybe a trade unionist, I still don’t know because the sculpture doesn’t say! Look at this lovely pic and let me know. And then let Sustrans know that their sculptures are highly appreciated but could they please name them. Public memorials, after all, should be educational I think, otherwise they can’t even encourage women passers-by. And the point of women’s history, impact and significance is once again compromised, even made invisible. A sculpture, of course, is the opposite of invisibility, but if you don’t know who you are looking at, the perception of visibility is not guaranteed.

Later in the day, still on IWD, when I went to the South Bank to the WOW festival, I found, to my surprise that there was little going on! The market, so typical of the festival I thought, had not yet been set up, and all there was were empty benches! There was an event in the evening, fair enough, but the then-missing market, me and another feminist were told, would be up at the weekend – but we thought that IWD is the most important cause for the whole festival, this was the Day Par Excellence, and most of what we saw was emptiness! Wow! Yes, WOW indeed…

I did go back on the Sunday – and, amongst a lot of other things, reflected on the overlooked female forms within architecture (I always seem to come up with my own

events by thinking about things). So on the Sunday I was a little more impressed, but I think we have to take the day itself more serious. Not just as a festival of course. More like a reminder for the kind of revolution we should engage in, which has to be one for peace, because patriarchy, like capitalism and white supremacy is divisive and violent. We desperately need something more peaceful, more kindness, more communication, more fairness, more awareness, for the planet and all of ourselves, equality for all!