Friday, 30 November 2012

This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land

When making art that plays on geography, on ideas of space, place and landscape, it is perhaps impossible to avoid the subject of Land Art.

Land art appears only fleetingly in Vectis, in a couple of the images of the visual essay, 'On the Shoulders of Giants...' in the Spring section. Although not actually at odds with pscyhogeography, land art takes things a step further. It is a deliberate intervention in the landscape, an attempt to change it, to add to or subvert its meaning. For rural psychogeography it is the equivalent of architecture in urban psychogeography. This places land art beyond the scope of my personal project, which is one that attempts to understand the island as it currently is, rather than to change it.

Completed spreads

It's time to give a peek inside the book. I'm very close to being in a position where I can send a version off for test printing, and I've taken a few screenshots of some two page spreads, with a couple to show recent changes.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

History essay: As If There Were No Other Island

It is finished! At last...or at least, a first draft is finished. In other news, I have made a (to my mind) major change to the book, excising the third walk from the Autumn section and expanding the space given to the two remaining walks in size, in order to create something a little more cohesive. If I wasn't so enamoured of the lovely landscape pages in this section, I would consider running both walks together in parallel, one on the right hand page of a spread and one on the left. We'll see if there isn't some possible solution along those lines. But anyway, time now to delve into the past...

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Progress report

The blog remains somewhat dark. For this, I aplogise; I have reached a stage of the project where it feels that working on the blog would be a distraction from the book; my current main focus is to have the entire book laid out in design terms, using placeholders and boilerplate text, in order that I can send a test off for printing next week (hopefully on Wednesday), in order to work out if there are any problems with the bleeds, the cover etc. I'll try and put together a post in the next few days that'll talk a bit in depth about some of the design decisions I've been making, particularly with regards to colour and the use of the book format. I'll also offer a sneak peek at some completed pages and spreads.

The second autumn walk was only half completed, due to inclement weather. Looking at the forecast, it may be next week before I can get out again; this is the one aspect of the project that really keeps me up at night, but it is not yet time to compromise.

In other news, I am made anxious by and am utterly perplexed to note that my blog has been linked to by the Guardian, probably due to the quotes from Oliver Rackham's History of the countryside. I note, with shame, that in that article, posted a month and a half ago, I suggested that I would have the history essay written 'within the next few weeks'. In fact, it still fails stubbornly to coalesce in any final form. Partly this is because my writing energies have been diverted by the essay on methodology and the poetry. I want to get at least one of these done before I send the book off though, so I've scheduled in a writing blitz in the university library for Tuesday, that's normally an environment that gets me going.

In the meantime, here's a nice picture.

I really should write about the Castle at some point, huh?

Monday, 19 November 2012

Some more poetry

This week gone has been mostly about writing, and a bit of drawing. The poetry for the Autumn section is becoming very interesting, allowing me to make associations that I have been struggling to make otherwise.

The Channel

The channel surges like a bellows
Pumping daily oceans;
The heartbeat of the earth
Artery clogged, failing.
Calcification, ancient lands submerged
Sunken bells tolling and toiling
Dunwich, Lyonesse, Blackgang
Disappearing world…
Floating world…
Donated by the grateful people of Japan.

See then this:
A great wave
Rolling across the infinite Atlantic
The distant tropical drumming;
Wireless communication.

Cliffs like teeth.
The wires running through them
Ready to be pulled
Out, taut, off.
The bones of time revealed.

Expanding outward
The circle, the centre
Contracting inwards,
The centre, the circle
Wheel and web
Coast and network;

A boundary of nothing.
A house on the borderland.
A gate on the bridge.
A line in the sand.
But still, the great wave

Tomorrow I shall be making the second of the autumn section walks. This will mark the completion of more than half of the photography.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Iain Sinclair - London Orbital

First, I should like to note that, although as with Keiller I have apparently rubbished the concerns of Sinclair several times, I hold him no actual malice. On the contrary, I actually like him quite a lot both for his qualities as a writer and for his qualities as a person that appear to be revealed through his writing. In fact, I haven't really got anything bad to say about any of the London psychogeographers, except Stewart Home, who I have disliked for years for reasons unrelated to his work as a psychogeographer. My verbal assaults against London are largely a rhetorical device, and, in fact, many of them are echoed in Sinclair's work. What I have objected to, mainly, is the focus on London as if it is the most interesting thing in the UK. Sinclair's take on this is interesting, simultaneously defining London as a microcosm and as something special and apart from the rest of the world (suggesting several times that everywhere beyond the M25 is 'nowhere') whilst simultaneously acknowledging that the road he is studying is an engine that drives this solipsism. He says of the motorway:

"By the time you've driven should be way out in another eco-system, another culture: Newport (Mon.), or Nottingham, or Yeovil. The journey must mean something. Not a wearied return, hobbled, to the point of origin."

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Big Sky, Lorry Depot

A couple of new images. I've been a bit sparse with these lately but I don't want to post up everything I'm doing. Here's a couple of recent ones.

This one might need to be muted a bit. One of the biggest tweaks I've made recently to the structure is the idea of, rather than concentrating entirely on portrait format images, I've been looking at including more landscape format images, which will be stretched across two pages in the book. In the Summer walks, there will only be one landscape image per walk, which will occupy the centre two pages (each walk, apart from the title page and map, takes up 28 pages), and will signal a switchover, from the image being on the right side of a spread to the left side of a spread. This will help give the book a little more rhythm, I hope. In the Autumn walks (which are starting finally to come together), landscape images will be interespersed with the portrait ones in a more fluid rhythmic pattern. The decision on how to bring all this in to the Winter section is still pending.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Gone Walkabout: Flânerie

I have actually been pretty hard at work, despite the lack of updates. One of the problems with this project, and with creative endeavors generally, is how much of the work is 'invisible'; the processes of conception and refinement which it is almost impossible to document. With Vectis this particularly comes down to the walking.

I am on to the longer walks now, Section 2 and Section 3. These walks require more logistical forethought than the other walks, particularly now the days have closed in so much. Rather than being loops that start and end at my house (as the walks are in section 1) the walks require bus travel at either one or both ends. This places a new financial strain on me as well; bus travel on the Island is regrettably expensive.

So, since I've been doing a good deal of walking, I think it's probably time to talk about Flânerie. The first question we have to answer is: why the French? How do we justify the pretension, isn't there some equally adequate anglo-saxon expression for what we're getting at? Flânerie translates as something like "strolling", "sauntering" or "loafing", but none of these really provide a full meaning. The word evokes a literary and cultural tradition, particularly associated with 19th century Paris, of the man (always a man, it seems) of leisure who draws inspiration from the matter of everyday life, observed on strolls that have no purpose except observation. The Flâneur is simultaneously apart from and integrated with the urban environment during the process of walking through it; the Parisian literary critic Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve described it as “the very opposite of doing nothing." It implies a form of non-passive observance that is a great model for artistic practice and for psychogeographic walking. The body as recorder moves along streets like the needle on a record, scratching away an infinitesimal amount of new material each time, subtly altering the song that it sings.

Obviously, when I talk about using Flânerie in my work, I am removing it from an urban context. I am also breaking, quite deliberately, the concept of moving with and observing other people in crowds. This is quite necessary, of course, as there are no crowds on my walks (though there are people, who are not entirely absent from my images and observations). So why don't I adopt a rural term, such as rambling? First, Flânerie has strong associations with psychogeographic practice that I wish to evoke, and for good reasons. A rambler moves over the landscape, and leaves it as they find it. The 'countryside code' states that the walker should endeavor to 'Leave Gates & Property as You Find Them'. But this is not appropriate for psychogeography, nor is it really an accurate description of what walking through the countryside means. On un-metalled highways and holloways more than anywhere else, walking on a path reinforces the path, carves it, and helps create new paths. The walker moves not across but through the landscape, helping to carve the interface between space and time that we have already mentioned.

Monday, 12 November 2012


Not much concrete to report, slow and frustrating progress over the last week or so. For the moment, here's some portraits of four famous people associated with the Isle of Wight in the 18th and 19th century, a possible illustration for the section on Isle of Wight history that is rapidly nearing completion. Not 100% sure about the style (Perhaps I should make it more graphic?*) or some of the decisions.

 Clockwise from top left: Karl Marx, Julia Margaret Cameron, Queen Victoria and John Keats. Together, these figures tie the island into many of the most important political and artistic developments of the last 200 years. Marx visited the Island for health reasons three times in the last decade of his life; though he had already written the books that would make him immortal. Julia Margaret Cameron kept her studio here, and helped advance the art of photography which has so transformed the world. From Osbourne House, Queen Victoria entertained her dynasty; a friend of mine has an anecdote from his grandfather of seeing Edward VII, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicholas II walking together during Cowes Week sometime in the 1900's. The war between their empires would eventually lay waste the whole world, birthing both World Wars. And it was whilst staying at Carisbrooke, gazing upon the castle ruins, that Keats wrote "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever"

*EDIT: Something like this perhaps?

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Worth a Hundred Pictures?

In the 'Autumn' section of Vectis words will be entwined (more on this to come) with the images I've gathered. I have come to decide that the text in the second section should be in the form of poetry that returns to and explores in other ways the themes developed throughout the other written sections of the book. I am writing the poems as a cycle, jotting down various phrases and images, trying to assemble something. Here is a first taster:

Under This Bridge

The world is browning
Where once it was blue and green
Soon it will be time for sacrifices
To recall the sun to the earth
But the memory of its warmth
Lingers still

And yes, it was under this bridge I sat
Sun to my face, Circle a to my back
And smoked in another life
Reading the signs in the ground
Knowing I was not the first
And sure I would not be the last

Is that not where happiness aims?
Is that not faith?
Not to be the first or last
No glory or tragedy
But quiet persistence
Cyclic law, and the mystery of the word

Friday, 2 November 2012

Worth a Thousand Words: Text and Images

One concern that, as I assemble the book,  is becoming obviously very important to Vectis is the way text and images interact within the structure of a book, and withn a 2D medium (the individual page) generally. Thankfully, I can lay claim to knowing at least a little of what I’m talking about with both subjects: the first being one of the main focuses of my previous MA unit, and the second being the subject of my BA dissertation, I am already well grounded in both. I am also helped by the fact that each subject has a (to my mind) clearly written and definitive book on the subject. These are Keith Smith’s The Structure of the Visual Book and Simon Morley’s Writing on the Wall: Word and Image in Modern Art, which have both been of immense help to me.