Thursday, 27 September 2012

Some experimental images.

Working towards a style for the images in the summer section, particularly. I've used a variety of scanned images of hand-made textures, scanned in to the computer, combined with heavily manipulated photographs and over-drawing. Images after the jump.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Recording a Walk

I have decided to use three different methods to record the walks in Vectis. I could have chosen any of a huge variety of others, but I am constrained somewhat by the considerations of the medium. The method must fit into a book; so, for example, audio or video recordings would not be appropriate (although I have taken audio notes, and may incorporate audio somehow; perhaps a soundtrack to listen to whilst reading the book? A download perhaps; it needs some thought). 

The method I've been thinking of for the third section (the coastal walk) is of taking photographs facing along the coast in opposite directions (so that one is in the direction of the walk, one looking back), and placing these photographs on opposite pages. To explore this concept, I decided to employ it to rccord one of the shorter walks, from my house to Carisbrooke Castle and back. I decided to take a photograph every 70 paces, as this was roughly the length of the path from my back gate to the road. 

Monday, 24 September 2012

Spring, season colours

A spring picture, based on a new photograph; and an idea towards a unified colour scheme for the four seasonal sections. Perhaps a little twee? Perhaps there should be something more counterintuitive at work?

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Processional I: First printing

The first copy of Processional I arrived yesterday morning.

Mostly, I am very satisfied with the quality, the colours and so on; unfortunately, the bleed has not worked properly, as can be seen in the following picture:

There are only at most a millimetre or so white margin, and only on some pages. The width of the margin changes as the book goes on, indicating that the problem might be to do with the printing process rather than my settings. I am rather at a loss, as I followed the instructions online exactly; however, I shall try setting the bleeds a little wider and send the book off again when I have some more money. The main purpose of Processional I, remember, is to sort out colour, bleed and paper quality for Vectis itself. I will also be looking at creating another book to test out the higher quality paper, which is only available in certain limited, non-ISO standard sizes.

Do You Think Culture is Order?

There is a tendency in western thought towards categorisation as the default mode for understanding reality that is, I think, inescapable. I certainly know I'm guilty of it; in fact, I greatly enjoy categorising and sorting things; making playlists of songs based on genre, for example, or identifying and discussing movements in art, which inevitably becomes a discussion, at least in part, of which artists should be included under a certain heading, which typify it, and so on. What is not as often acknowledged is that this mania for classification grows out of, and is related to, a more sinister fetish for dualism.

This may seem to be a bit absurd. After all, dualism is by definition the idea that if something is either one of two things, so how does it relate to situations where we have a whole range of choices about how to categorise something? What it is key to remember here is that an object or an idea isn't merely affected by one dualism. Deconstructing a categorisation choice into a range of binary dualisms is pretty easy. Say we have a ball that can be either red, blue or yellow. What we have to remember is that we can also say that the ball is not red, not blue or not yellow. That is to say, rather than think of a triple choice, we can also choose to say that it is affected by three dualisms, that of red/not red, blue/not blue, yellow/not yellow.

Of course, in the real world, things are a little more difficult. For a start, real world dualisms are generally not constructed logically. They impose a structure on the world, rather than arising out of the existing structure of the world. In a mathemetical or logical model, our above example works, but in reality there are an astonishing range of percievable colours, and perception of colour is bounded by different cultural and scientific models, not to mention differences in human biology. To call a certain range of hues 'red' or 'yellow' is a social construction, nothing more. This is the danger of categories. At their best, they can give us a linguistic or scientific model for discussing the world. At their worst, they offer a form of pantomime rationality, an attempt to crudely hammer the fabulous complexity of world into a preconcieved model. Dualisms, with their starkness, are particularly terrible at this.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Idle Toil

Idle Toil is the name of my 'publishing house', the entity through which my books are published. You will have seen the Idle Toil logo if you looked at the PDF in the last post. Currently, it looks like the example to the right. The idea that the name could be split up in this way was part of the thinking behind it's choosing; it came when I was doodling the logo and the name simultaneously in my sketch book. It has some obvious reasoning behind it. There is the similiarity of the second syllables allowing (with a little poetic license) the remixed words to be pronounced as homophones. There is also the fact that each couplet of letters is a word (in some language). I also liked the fact that the logo works well as a design element on a page; it is a solid block, broadly symettrical, and has a strong vertical presence. However, there is no reason to just accept the logo (which is after all essentially a first design) as a fait accompli, and there's something a little unsatisfactory about the logo as it currently stands. So, I've tried a few redesigns. I am rather fancying the one in the bottom left.

Processional I

Not much to put on the blog over the past few days; I've been working, but more on visual matters. I've also been at work on a physical model of Vectis, despite my vow not to engage in any physical bookbinding. It's wonderfully addictive work, unfortunately, and, as always when you're thinking something out practically, there have been a few false starts. Expect something nice to look at in the not-too-distant future. Until then, here's a little 'side project' book, Processional I:

It's a very simple idea; it's simply a procession or sequence, bounded by the letters of the alphabet, cycling back round through a circle in opposite directions (I was thinking about the year-based structure of Vectis). Actually, the real purpose of this book is not as an artistic expression (shock, horror) but more as a way to test out the capabilities of, the print-on-demand publishing service which I have chosen to employ, for the moment, to produce my books. Particularly, I have not yet ordered a book from then in colour, nor have I done a book with full edge bleeds. I actually sent the order through yesterday morning (I've simply had no time to post since then) and I'll update with some pictures of the finished product when it arrives.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Seasons Don't Fear the Reaper

The idea of structuring the book around the seasons has suggested to me the possibility of using the year as a model for the book. 2012 is a leap year, consisting of 366 days; since the majority of the work takes place in this year, It would make for a book of that many pages, plus a number of extra pages at the beginning (pre-numbering) for contents and so forth; say 7, if we're going for calendar correspondences.

The book shall therefore be divided into four sections. I'll work based on the periods between solstices and equinoxes:

Spring: 21st March - June 20th:  91 days

Summer: June 21st - 20th September: 91 days.

Autumn:  21st September-20th December: 90 days.

Winter: 21st December-20th March (Including 29th Feb): 90 days.

I have been trying to set the structure out in various text files and in indesign, but I think I'll have to make a physical model of the book in order to be able to get a real sense of how this all pans out, whether this is a good idea and whether any fudging will be necessary

I will also need to pick up the pace a little on the first section, though I have photographs, sound recordings and notes on all three of the first walks; the season draws to a close. One of the interesting things about the actual making of Vectis is that, due to the writing and other considerations, the first section shall probably take the longest to produce in terms of post-production, though I already have almost all the material I need on hand. I shall be walking all three routes again in the next few days, before moving out.  Already autumn's chill is in the air. The 21st is the first day of autumn, and will be time to begin considering the longer range walks.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Prison Islands

 Another IM conversation with 'the other', that brings up some points I will write more about in the future.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Society of the Spectacularly Crass

I was going to make my next post on the subject of the prison; in fact, I've begun writing that post. It's beginning to turn rather political (I think unavoidably) and maybe that's got me into a mood. I was just over the shops, and perused todays newspapers, the front covers of which are united in celebrating the orgy of self-congratulation that, I sincerely hope, marks the final, irrevocable end of the olympics.

I have touched already on my problems with the olympics in the version of the introduction I posted, but I'd like to tie that a little more in to a specific point about the Island, and also to illustrate the thinking behind some of what I have already written. The point is this: That the olympics are a fascist spectacle, and that one of the most fundamental differences between London and the Isle of Wight is that it is impossible for the olympics (or similar events) to occur in the latter.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Iconic Progression, Summer

A couple of different images, one dealing with the coastline of the Wight, and the other an idea towards representing the seasonal progression embodied in the three stages of walks.


Another conversation, had a few days back in regards to the earlier posts, and only approved for publication just recently, with another friend.

Islands & Icons

So, the Isle of Wight.

First, some notes on terminology. These are terms I shall be using throughout the rest of the proceedings, that I have touched on before. The Isle of Wight is always, by it's residents, simply called "The Island". The rest of the UK is "The mainland". People who were born on the Isle of Wight (and, depending on the level of severity in play, had both their parents also born on the Isle of Wight) are 'Caulkheads'. The origins of this term (like so many) are unclear, but probably have something to do with the traditional local industry of caulking the seams in wooden ships. Other long-term residents, especially those who grew up here, are 'Islanders', people who have moved over from the mainland more recently, or are over here on business, are 'Overners' (short for 'Overlanders'). Tourists are 'Grockles'. The difference in respect accorded to an overner vs. a grockle is probably distinct just from the sound of the two words.

So, what is the Island? Where is it? Why is it?* 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Some Early Images

Now that I have a graphics tablet, work can begin in earnest on making images. First, here's a couple of images I made a few weeks back based off of an early morning photoshoot of which you've seen one photograph already (as this blog becomes more established, I will upload all the work, except perhaps the vast bulk of raw photographs, I have so far done for this project, reformatting it as necessary). 

As you can see, images  are probably the area that needs the most work...

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Walks & Walking: an outline

So, Vectis is an artistic project. Its final outcome is intended to be a book. The subject of this book is the Isle of Wight. The methodology is psychogeography and the method is writing, drawing, photography and walking. 

I've always had a suspicion that it's a bit dodgy to talk about 'methodology' when you're creating something purely artistic. It seems to have a whiff of a mis-appropriation of scientific terminology, implying something more rigorous than you ever really end up with in art. The term I would personally like to use in its stead is 'motive'; since methodology is the 'why' (opposed to the 'how' of method). Motive, to my mind, implies that even if the project is a failure, there might have been something interesting in its conception. It also allows you to potentially draw more terminology from the world of crime. Walking is part of my modus operandi.

A Tagging System

I've been thinking about a good tagging/labelling system for this blog over the past few days, and I am still not sure. I've been toying around with the idea of categories, and I've got these main ones:

About - posts that are about the Vectis Psychogeography blog itself
Form - posts that are about issues relating to the design and aesthetics of Vectis
Content - posts that are about the contents and concepts of Vectis 
Asides - posts that are not directly related to the form or content of Vectis (research, digressions, notes on books, whatever).
Conversations - IM or email exchanges involving relevant information.

On top of this, I'll also tag posts with key words that are relevant to them. So this post's tags will be

About, tags

A tag about tags? Now how's that for metatextuality? Let's see how it works out.

Precious Materials

Finally, I have my new graphics tablet.

it is...precious to me

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Thinking With Portals

First things first, know that I cannot resist the opportunity for a pop culture reference or a quick pun. Is this a failure or an asset? Personal stuff, art.

Whilst the conceptual and verbal development of Vectis continues apace, one area where things just haven't been moving forward much is the visual sphere. The main reason for this is the tragic demise of my trusty old graphics tablet. Despite being knocking around the family for 11 years, it's only in the past year or so that I've really come to use and now, I realise, rely on the device. The particular style of illustration that I want to incorporate into Vectis (clean, bold yet also somewhat subtle) relies pretty much on the use of such a device. Thankfully, I will have saved up enough money to purchase a new one by...tomorrow. So that's alright then. 

In the mean-time, I have been laying the groundwork for the illustration by taking photographs and doing sketches along the walking routes I have planned (I haven't talked about these yet, I think, in any concrete detail, and should pencil that in as a topic for a post pretty soon). Looking through these photographs just now, I have begun to notice a small fascination developing with a particular visual theme (photographs after jump):

Monday, 3 September 2012


 One great advantage of posting work online is the possibilities it brings about for dialogue. I linked the previous post to a friend, and she related a little critcism to me. The tone of the discussion is informal, but I thought the story she related was interesting and wanted to include it in my notes. I have anonymised this IM conversation, editing some parts out and renaming the participants 'the artist' (myself) and 'the other' (her).

Book introduction: Every Black'ning Church Appalls

This is the current draught of the first chapter/introduction of Vectis, as it stands at the moment. It is not the absolute first draught, of course. It retreads, somewhat more airily, themes discussed in my last post, and may be significantly re-written before the project is finished. I am still not sure about such apparently important matters as tone. It is the longest non-fragmentary piece of writing currently extant, however, and will probably be one of the longest passages that does not closely inter-relate with visual imagery.

The Origins of the Project

Vectis is a multimedia art project, designed to be finally realised in the form of a book containing images and words. This book will be produced in the tradition of the artist's book, that is to say, the physical structure of the book (pages etc.) and it's overall design will be conceptually important features of the final product. What this means is that, if all goes to plan, Vectis will not properly be able to be understood in any format but the book as I have designed and realised it. Any other presentation format will be a record of the work rather than the work itself, much as a photograph of a painting or a recording of a concert. 

The purpose of the book, as previously stated, is to explore the psychogeography of the Isle of Wight. Psychogeography is a fairly nebulous term, which I have deliberately avoided attempting a precise definition of. Literally it just means "mental geography", but the word carries all sorts of interesting associations. It sounds like 'psychology', but also a bit like 'psychopathy'; it would seem to be a word that describes a science, yet psychogeography is not really a scientific practice in the least. It is, as much as it is anything, a crystallisation of an intellectual tradition that Merlin Coverley, in his only slightly breathless introduction to the subject fittingly entitled 'Psychogeography', identifies as stretching back to British literary luminaries including Defoe and Blake, going on down the years to include such diverse figures as Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Baudelaire, Guy Debord, Alan Moore and Iain Sinclair. Coverley explicitly identifies psychogeography, through these and other writiers, with the experience of two particular cities; London and Paris. This is, to my mind, problematic. Leaving out the fact that Coverley notably fails to identify any writers that are not white men*, he also explicitly aligns his view of psychogeography with a strain of urbanist thinking that is, in it's essence, utopian.

I should clarify here that when I say that a train of thought is utopian, what I mean specifically is it comes from a tradition of western thought that recognises the possibility of utopia in a hazily (or, worryingly precisely) defined future, rather than that it assumes that the present day city is a utopian place. A continuous theme that pervades all the way through from the mysticism of Blake to the post-Marxism of the Situationist International  (via Chartism, Das Kapital, the Paris Commune etc. etc.) is the essentially Christian idea that history is a process that will lead first to tribulation and decay, and then to a better and more glorious world. In London/Paris centric psychogeography this finds itself expressed in the idea that the city (these two cities in particular) are great cultural engines that have either failed to start or are winding down because of the machinations of often nebulous systematic oppressors, expressed through modifications to and restrictions on the architecure and physical geography of the cities themselves. If the workers could be liberated, if the 'mind-forged manacles' could be shattered, if the zoning laws could be abolished, ah, what then? What better and more glorious world might we build?

My problem with this intellectual tradition is, I will admit, largely a political one. I believe, essentially, that the majority of the London/Paris writers have, whilst in many cases particularly in the 20th century espousing radical left wing views, failed to confront an essential parochialism at the core of their being. In one short, vulgar phrase, what is it that makes their homes so fucking important? It can hardly be a coincidence that London and Paris are cities that have sat at the centre of two of the vastest and, frankly, most unpleasant empires in the history of the world. Focusing particularly on the London tradition, which is more relevant to my studies, it seems obvious to me that much of the writing identified as psychogeography forms part of a tradition of small-minded intellectual imperialism that exists even within (indeed, especially within) the UK itself, where London becomes the centre of all things and a yardstick by which to measure all other places by. Part of my intention with Vectis, then, is to redress the balance a little by using the methodology of psychogeography (particularly as developed by Iain Sinclair and the admittedly broader-thinking Patrick Keiller) to deal with a much more marginal place.

The name Vectis comes from 'Insula Vectis', the Latin name for the Isle of Wight; this is the subject of the project. The island is an interesting place both because of what it is and what it is not; and this is a subject I shall expand upon in future posts. It is difficult to summarise, but I shall mention one, perhaps rather esoteric sounding point. The surface of the earth is a (rough) sphere. In euclidean geometry, this can be represented as a plane in which all straight lines become circular paths leading back to their point of origin. The centre of this plane, and thus the centre of the world, can be anywhere. We should also note, again perhaps somewhat occultly, that an island, unlike a city, has a discrete physical existence within defined geographical boundaries (its coastline) rather than defined political boundaries; that it is a product of nature rather than a product of man but is still invested with the same significance of being a distinct place we give to cities. 

Yes, I know I'm waffling.

That will probably be all for today; I have some errands to run. I am loath to set a schedule for updates to occur on certain days, as I tend to work unevenly (some days I can achieve nothing, other days I end up staying up all night hammering away). I will say, however, that I hope the updates can at least be frequent; hopefully, they will also be interesting.

*And pretty much all white heterosexual men to boot. I can do something about that at least.

Statement of intent


I am a post-graduate student at the Arts University College at Bournemouth, studying part-time for my MA in Fine Art. This blog is designed to be a record of and exposition of my current project, which is a book called Vectis, dealing with the psychogeography of the Isle of Wight (which is where I am from). Unfortunately, the creation of this blog does not coincide with the beginning of the project; I have been working on Vectis for three months or so now, but it does coincide with a major ramping up in the creative process. It seems at this juncture simultaneously like much has been done and nothing has been done. Really, the hardest part, for me, is over; I know the basic form and layout of the book, and thus I know the tasks I have to complete, and I have a fairly good idea of the order in which I will complete them. This blog will  document the creative process and act as a repository of writing and critical self-analysis. What I want to do is not to create an online version of the final book, but to create a document which is supplementary to. This blog will also fulfill an academic purpose as well as an artistic one, being at least an element of my submission for the Professional Development Portfolio portion of my second unit, if not the entire submission (we'll have to see how it goes, eh?). 

What you can expect to find here will be drawings, photographs and other visual artworks related to or in preparation for the final product; design sketches and proofs for the book itself; thoughts and comments on the creative process and general writings which will probably form the basis for some parts of the book.