Current Issue

Issue 13 cover Maria Garton
Contents
 
Introduction

This Issue 13 appears four years after Soanyway's relaunch issue in September 2018. The introduction is formed from a conversation between Derek Horton and Gertrude Gibbons in September 2022.

GG. I was thinking about this being the issue marking four years since the relaunch of Soanyway, when we wrote up the magazine description as an unravelling of the title 'soanyway', with the latterly added subtitle, 'a turn in conversation'. So I was thinking about the place singular words have when we title each of the issues, in some way related to the overall title. As an idea, walking seems to naturally lend itself to story-telling, and also to roads and paths — all things mentioned in the description. In the open call for this issue, we listed a range of words both closely and distantly related to the idea of 'walking'. We thought in both narrowing and broadening senses, adding ‘just’ to the title before 'walking' and '(what this might entail)' after. Because of this brainstorming which formed part of the concept behind the issue and open-call, I wondered about the etymology of the word 'walking' — one of its origins is from the Old English wealcian which means to curl, twist or roll up. I didn't realise its history had such an inherent connotation of turning, interiority and digression! I imagine it more as a line, but perhaps coils and curves are more accurate. 

 

DH. That’s really interesting to think about. You raise some fascinating inter-connections that I hadn’t anticipated.

 

GG. There must also be a connection with cloth and weaving, with the 'waulking' of cloth. There are the Scottish folksongs, 'waulking songs', I've seen depicted with women in a circle, turning the cloth on a table and beating to the increasing tempo of the song. Maybe the turning and twisting of the cloth is the connection. Anyway, it's a nice idea that cloth and fabric working is connected to walking. This gives it more of an atmosphere of story-telling too. I'm thinking of Johanna Bolton's 'material record of walking' in this issue, with trousers worn out at the vulnerable location of knee joints.

 

The other thing I was thinking about was that there are many poems that take place during or from a point on a walk. Sometimes the literal walk features prominently, sometimes it's just as though it's a way into the writing, like there's no actual walk at all, and it's a device for thinking and thought processes. John Welch's text in this issue evocatively considers the process of writing a poem with and through the experience of walking, reflecting on the two as spatial practices. I guess that's why 'wondering' and 'wandering' are easily paired, though I feel 'walking' and 'wandering' are very different. There's Sylvia Plath's 'Night Walk', Robert Frost's 'A Late Walk', Rilke's 'A Walk' and my favourite, Rimbaud's 'Ma Bohème'. In that one he's a young boy walking away from home, going along without a determined destination, with worn-out, wearing-out clothes, and scattering "rhymes" on his path. The poem appears like the path in this way, and the scattered rhymes reference the fairy-tale “Petit-Poucet” who scattered pebbles as he was led to an unknown destination, so that he might find his way back home.

 

For Rimbaud, scattering rhymes instead of stones, it's as if the rhymes might be traced back to their source, where some kind of home is to be found. There's a sense reading that dream-like poem that perhaps ‘home’ is something within the poet, the "heart" which is the poem's final word. The contemplation of identity makes me think of Stephanie Fan's piece, moving between worlds, and exchanges of selves and anonymity. I couldn't help thinking of that poem when I saw that one of the origins of the word walking is to curl or roll up, because it seems to point towards the core of something... as well as walking's possible connection to cloth, and this poem's prominent use of clothing! So there's an implication of moving and turning, process and return, and movement both outside/outwards and inside/inwards, which I felt was something connecting across this issue's contributions.

 

DH. The worn-out clothing, and the wandering, and the idea of ‘home’ that you are talking about in relation to that Rimbaud poem have made me think about a project by the photographer Odette England, whose work was included in the first incarnation of Soanyway in 2009. In 2010 she made the work Thrice Upon a Time. The background is that when she was fourteen her parents were forced to sell her childhood home, a dairy farm in Australia, due to falling milk prices. For this project she returned to the farm with her parents and gave them colour negatives she had previously taken in places where they had photographed her as a child. She fixed the negatives to the soles of their shoes and asked them to meander around the farm and surrounding fields. As they walked, the negatives became torn and imprinted with dirt and debris. England then printed photographs from the damaged and fragile negatives. Of course, given its location, as well as the personal memories and sense of loss, the work is inflected with the idea of the ‘walkabout’, the Australian Aboriginal rite of passage involving adolescents leaving their family and setting off alone into the wilderness on foot on a spiritual quest. In Thrice Upon a Time, England reversed the process by sending her parents on her own version of the walkabout, where their ritualistic wandering provides battered yet beautiful, physical evidence of a profound emotional attachment to place. 

 

It’s very different, not least because it’s quintessentially urban, but this also made me think of Mona Hatoum’s performance Roadworks (1985), documented in a video that’s now in the collection of the Pompidou Centre in Paris and in still photographs in the Tate collection. She had been part of a show at Brixton Art Gallery in South London and she walked out of the gallery barefoot through the market and streets of Brixton with overalls rolled up to her calves, dragging behind her a pair of black Dr. Martens boots tied to her ankles by their laces. Of course the boots were synonymous with early punk and skinhead fashion, tainted by their later association with racist skinheads and their use by the police, and so Hatoum's bare feet meandering through Brixton were directly engaged in the politics of the city street.

 

GG. That makes me think also of the recent exhibitions at Edel Assanti in London, one by Yoshinori Niwa and another by Marcin Dudek, which both had film installations involving walking and were politically fraught, although the artists in both appeared very calm. 


DH. The idea of walking as a political act is another interesting aspect of this theme to consider, and one that is referenced by some of our contributors in this issue. The mass trespass on Kinder Scout by members of the Young Communist League in 1932 comes to mind. It was a protest to highlight that working class walkers were denied access to areas of open country by the landowning classes, and it eventually led to the formation of Britain’s National Parks. Of course, there’s now a long tradition of walking as a performative method for making contemporary art – Richard Long, Nancy Holt, Hamish Fulton, Sophie Calle, Janet Cardiff all come to mind, and there are many others, some of whom focus more on the politics of walking than others. I’m thinking of a piece by Hito Steyerl from her Serpentine exhibition in 2020 where she used walking to highlight the vast material and social inequalities in the local borough of Kensington and Chelsea. She worked with the artist Constantine Gras and activist groups including Disabled People Against Cuts, Architects for Social Housing, and The Voice of Domestic Workers, who all led what they called “Power Walks”, highlighting the work they’ve done in the area. Disabled People Against Cuts made a point of renaming their contribution as a “Power Tour”, since many would be participating in wheelchairs. Through this semantic difference, the accessibility of walking as a political action was called into question, and Alisia Casper’s contribution for this issue is a powerful reminder that walking, as an everyday activity or even as a metaphor, is not something that can or should be taken for granted.

 

GG. Yes, I think the walk, both as a literal or metaphorical process, can be used to reflect freedom and suffering, political and personal. It's certainly important to remember that the walk cannot be taken for granted as 'just' a walk, and I think this provides an opportunity for contemplating empathy and the consideration of personal experience and response, where a word or concept can weigh very differently on each individual, and this is only made accessible to others' awareness and understanding through conversation. There are several contributions to this issue that use walking as a means of reflecting on personal memory and loss, like the beginning of a coil inwards, working through the mind. The walk as a pilgrimage or ritual also contains a sense of pain. When you spoke of Odette England's piece, I thought of the pieces in this Issue 13 which consist of traces or evidence left from literal walks, and the meanings they come to bear, like Juliet Bankes' tapestry of prints, and mud pots, which are strikingly present objects in contrast to the transience of the river and walk beside the river. Lydia Halcrow, attaching metal plates to each shoe records a 'collaboration' between body and land, reflecting also on the rapidly and constantly changing environment. The audio recording of Kimbal Bumstead and Andy Abbott's collaborative work capture the atmospheric ephemerality of a walk, and they leave a literal trace in the form of a map-like image.

 

Words can be scattered and located in a psychological or physical landscape. I like the fragmentation and path finding through sentences that appears in the issue. Howard Selina's pairing of images and words. Helen Angell's poem in the form of a block, its lines reflecting and imitating the movement of its words. Garry Barker's found words on the street, humorously pulling together a voice and story for the palimpsestic urban landscape.

 

DH. There’s a particular physicality that runs through many of the contributions too. We feel the weight of Patrick S. Ford’s suitcase in his photo-piece made with Nina Yiu. Several other contributions in this issue emphasise the way in which walking, whether a gentle stroll or a challenging struggle, makes us very consciously aware of bodily sensations. Eileen Daly’s poem, especially, does this with its haptic imagery of feet pressing into grass or gravel in the hands, and its evocation of the smells of wood and earth.

GG. And it's a fitting sense of a play between the corporeal and incorporeal with the uncertain presences and places evoked by Maria Garton's cover!

 
John Welch - Closing The Gap

Forty years ago we used to stay in the Duddon Valley on the edge of the Lake District. Opposite the house was Harter Fell. You walked up it and from the top you could see Ravenglass in the distance. What I experienced then was a moment of uplift, a powerful sense of being absolutely here on the top of this hill and simultaneously down there, Ravenglass, its sweep of beach and the small streets below. That sense of being over there seemed to enable me to feel fully here and it felt like setting down a burden. When you got to the top of the hill there was a cairn. You add another stone, to say you have passed that way — you have reached your goal and, turning back feeling quite self-contained you carry this lightness home.  

 

"Walking," writes Michel de Certeau in The Practice Of Everyday Life, "is one of those spatial practices through which people transform places into spaces by making them 'their own' and by circumscribing them within their everyday living. Walking is to the urban system what the speech act is to language". Entering a city was traditionally a symbolic act, passing through a gate, or laying siege and breaking down the wall. But there can be a sense of taking possession by moving through it on foot, movement sometimes as improvisation as you make random, darting movements down interesting looking turnings while holding to an overall direction. The nature of this trajectory is akin to the process of writing a poem with its unpredictable twists and turns, walking a line that isn’t there. 

 

Out walking and some words I need to jot down. I’ve not been writing much recently. The way these words arrive, as if from nowhere with an accompanying flicker of excitement. Of course when I return to my desk these scraps of language have to be sorted; some ‘mean’, most are discarded, just irrelevant doodles. But out there it was a start.

 

Walking through Highbury in North London, past the big handsome Victorian terraces in north London on a bright winter morning, the street almost empty, imagining people in their deep houses, as if there is a benevolent maternal presence, this domestic quiet that I’m not actually part of. It’s the being part of it and not part of it, and an untouched quality about it. At the same time passing silently through I see it as perhaps a thief might see it. As I turn back to go home there’s that moment of uneasiness, sometimes a spurt of aggression.

 

Out walking and filled with a calm exhilaration, following various trains of thought and stopping every so often to write something down. This sense of heightened awareness recalls the critic Adrian Stokes’ phrase, "the calm delirium of consciousness". When it is going well I have a feeling that everything means, it has that sense of fullness as an infant might feel at the breast? But today on my way back – and this is something that  happens on these expeditions, often just after I’ve turned back for home – I get agitated, carrying on an irritable dialogue in my head. It can be anything that sets it off; something I heard on the news before I came out, or the motorist who crashes the lights as I’m crossing the road. But what struck me this morning was that I didn’t exactly lose the feeling I had earlier. It was still there, and as I looked out across the park there was an odd doubleness, as if I were looking around the edge of my irritableness and still able to apprehend that other way of seeing though now temporarily cut off from it. It’s as if the part of me that ‘sees’ is other. There is this ‘I’ that is me moving through the day, and this other seeing which is there as well and which feels like a separate thing.

 

Walking out on a fine December day, enjoying everything I see. There’s a moment when I  become the light where it strikes the front of that building and everything is there all at once, as I walk light-footedly along. Walking through streets of large suburban houses in Reykjavik in a mild trance, then getting to the outskirts of town, scruffy and unappealing, but perhaps this is where the real work is done?

 

Walking round Hillswick Ness in Shetland. Lying in the sun out on the hill, a stiffish breeze bending the tops of the grasses, which are silvery where the sunlight catches them and stretching beyond where the grass stops at an invisible cliff edge is a calm sea prickling with sunlight. Over to the left on the other side of the Ness and visible in a V-shaped cleft in the hill, the sea is a difficult-to-describe blue. Moving on and standing at the cliff edge you face a theatre of rocks. The side of the stack we were looking at a short while before is broader from here, more than a quarter of a mile away now and as you stare at the rock face it comes to seem oddly familiar. You feel you could all but reach out and touch it — what is over there is abruptly here, an inward swoop and suddenly it’s yours, tantalisingly out of reach. 

 

Out on the hill again and walking, great gulps of air. A single figure in the distance, a moving drop of silence, cipher between earth and sky, always reaching for something, moving along steadily. Being loosely anchored here, as if in a sort of happy daze one might simply float away over the edge and fall and fall, out through the gate to nowhere. It is the temptation, this summons of the acte gratuit, that lies behind my moments of nervousness up here when near a cliff edge. But there was brief moment out on the hill yesterday, going along a difficult bit on the side of a slope, when I simply knew exactly where to put my feet. Like a piece of writing when it is going really well.

 
Lydia Halcrow - Ground Texture Recordings

This series was made over seven years walking the Taw Estuary in North Devon.

Halcrow attached metal plates to each shoe to enable a collaborative record of marks between the artist's "walking body and the textures of the ground, transferred onto paper with ink made from eroded estuary earth. The work records a gradual understanding that this and every coastal place is rapidly changing through rising sea levels, erosion, storms and human debris washing in on every tide."

Ground Texture Recordings (walking series)
Ground Texture Recordings (walking series)

​Bideford Black earth pigment on Somerset paper 18cm x 15cm left and right foot.

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Ground Texture Recordings (walking series)
Ground Texture Recordings (walking series)

​Bideford Black earth pigment on Somerset paper 18cm x 15cm left and right foot.

press to zoom
Ground Texture Recordings (walking series)
Ground Texture Recordings (walking series)

​Bideford Black earth pigment on Somerset paper 18cm x 15cm left and right foot.

press to zoom
Ground Texture Recordings (walking series)
Ground Texture Recordings (walking series)

​Bideford Black earth pigment on Somerset paper 18cm x 15cm left and right foot.

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Howard Selina - A Passage of Hours: Colonsay to Oronsay 

The series A Passage of Hours of which 'Colonsay To Oronsay' is a part, was initiated during the artist's 'ritualistic' walks along the local canal-towpath-walk during the 2020 lockdown. Selina describes the process:

 

"I started to upload images of small 'discoveries' to Instagram each day under the title, ‘A previously overlooked detail on a familiar walk’, while at the same time starting to explore a set of photographs I’d taken the previous winter of black, broken twigs, forming patterns along a towpath of pristine white snow. These ideas — along with my history of working with physical elements of the landscape — culminated in my first attempt to document and define a small journey on foot, by bringing together a set of 12 photographs; not of the landscape ‘walked through’, but of the ground ‘walked upon’. I incorporated words, from a poem about the walk, into the 12-image piece; fragments of a poem, with fragments of a walk.

"The route between the two islands is walkable for a couple of hours on either side of low tide, which gives you time — if you’re feeling energetic — to walk to the old Augustinian Priory by Oronsay Farm, and to visit the rather magnificent beach to the south. ‘The Strand’ that you cross between the two islands is a curious, shifting, land and seascape, with groups of cattle occasionally perched on temporary islands of grass as the waters recede."

Howard Selina
 
Eileen Daly - Cattle Trough

Trying to read a clos’d book, walking in the beforetime.

 

Happen’d, six o’clock in the a.m. as I had planned. Alarm went off time enough to let loose. Time enough to pr-epare for a journey. Press’d on through the gates thinking about the ’xpectations of those who ignore the determined parterre.

 

At Jardin du Luxembourg, paths of pea-sized stones, taupe, touch of yellow gold. This particular combination of gravel, sand and whitewash, kicks up around the ankles. Press on.     A figure is walking along the outside curve of a path. It’s a thin perimeter edge cut into the grass. I’m not sure you would find this in J.du.L.

 

Happen’d, seven o’clock in the a.m. We were looking at the same thing. A fi-gure stepping off the path and pressing on press, press. Pressing their feet on the grass. Across the parterre another figure is kicking a ball on the gritty boules terrain. Keep raking it over else boulisme happen to roll quick-fast.

 

Haven’t lived till there is gravel in your hands. The sharp edges smoothed over, dust coating palms and fingers. Makes you forget the wide expanse has been organised or that compacted paths only exist through constant use. Figures follow them.
 

First was a wide desire path across the tumulus, dry, no stones. The second, a place to return to, the memory of a desire-thought. Third, a thinner perimeter edge cut into the grass. Fourth, woodchip between two avenues of trees, bouncy, light, pressing emits smell of earth and wood. Fifth, any soft, flat surface, its extent undefined. Sixth, off the path, spongy, grass tufts, softer underfoot, less hard, can go anywhere, less hard. Seems like it’s untrodden, but of course    not. Walking in perpetual motion. These marks across the land. Can you see them if you’re not looking? Entrances through tunnels, the rounded shape of a body with four legs. Talking in the street for company or reading a book clos’d.

 
Juliet Bankes - Dark Walks
Juliet Bankes

"Dark Walks is a series of experimental prints and 3D pieces started in November 2020 as the second lockdown was underway. Walking alone, late on dark afternoons I took photographs and doubled the exposures. I found myself walking the same path by the river every day—almost a haunting—and re-exposing the analogue film became a routine that was comforting during those dark weeks.

My make-do-and-mend philosophy from the end of March 2020 and a large body of work triggered the impetus to cut the prints up and rejoin (stitch) them in a quilt-like manner. As well as photography I filled my pockets with mud from the riverbanks and made small vessels. These, to my surprise, dried and hardened into stone-like material, and the different earth pigments from different parts of the bank record the walks.

This body of work is as close to the intersection of print and photography as I have ever ventured, and ‘unprecedented’ in my practice. This isolated physical connection to the landscape reveals layers of information as I became aware of the stillness, silence and harmony in contrast to the dissonance of all that was happening in this troubled world." 

Juliet Bankes
Juliet Bankes
Juliet Bankes
 
Stephanie Fan - Anonymous to Kilburn

The following text is made of an extract from a larger project titled Homebody, a collection of essays in three parts following Fan's movement traversing national borders, different worlds of work, psychologies and languages. It contemplates belonging and unbelonging through an exploration of the materiality of the home. One component of this exploration takes place through the urban landscape, walking, and the contemplation of ways of identifying with surroundings via an immersive personal narrative which alternates between internalised reflections, alongside analysis of external voices and references. Walking between worlds of finance and art writing, food recipes, domesticity, history and politics, Fan considers how such words and spaces can build the fabric of an identity. These are weaved together in the rhythmic manner of a journey of discovery or reconciliation, an attempt to unite or harmonise multiple disparate worlds and identities.

 

Fan describes the project, "The world Homebody portrays is one of multiplicity. It questions what it means to occupy a position of contradictions while searching for identity and belonging — between a capitalist working world and writing, between China and the West. Through personal narrative and experience at its core, the project aims to open up conversations and reveal links between disparate worlds and ideas; a portrait of contemporary paradoxes and contradictions where ambivalence persists at its centre." The extracts are taken from the first section of the project which, borrowing methods from ethnographic work, explores space (and place) as a product of interrelations; co-existence of different trajectories always under construction.

 

 

I had come here to be hidden. You see Chinese people in the centre often, in department stores, in museums, in restaurants, on campuses. Here in the northwest, you feel indistinguishably a resident of Brent, like everyone else. Perhaps it's a strange desire for anonymity when you want to start over unrecognised somewhere refreshingly unrecognisable. To fade into the background of a small patch of the urban fabric and to be free from any impression or identification.

*

I was anonymous to Kilburn, and this suburb is refreshingly anonymous to me. Alasdair Gray once explained it well in a passage in Lanark, “Glasgow is a magnificent city. Why do we hardly ever notice that? Because nobody imagines living here...” [1]. New York, Paris, or the 'landmark parts' of London — nobody visits them for the first time as a stranger because he’s already visited them in films, paintings, novels, news footage, or history books. “But if a city hasn’t been used by an artist, not even the inhabitants live there imaginatively” [2]. By way of similar logic, this part of London was perfect for me.

Over time I slowly developed a sense of this place. I began to register the specificity of this suburb which was previously regarded by me as a nondescript “placenessness”. Slowly, the area started making more sense to me as I memorised it with my feet. As I walked further, the map being made in my mind began to expand outwards, connecting Queen’s Park to Maida Vale, Willesden to Dollis Hill, and Hampstead to Highgate. “The flaneur, attuned to the chords that vibrate throughout its streets, knows without knowing” [3]. A flaneur in this north London suburb, I understand the sensation that Lauren Elkin describes, “every corner, alleyway and stairway has the ability to plunge him into reverie” [4].

When I walked by the community church with a pointy Gothic head on my way to the local gym on Salusbury road, I would remember the mid-century Parish life described in the novels of Barbara Pym, who used to live in Queens Park. I wondered if this was the church in her novel, and if she lived in one of the tasteful terrace houses off Salusbury Road which is now dotted by a few gyms, Alice House, Planet Organic, and Gail’s. Besides that, there was not as much notable history as the imagined life each house and door evoked. For me, it allows more space for imaginations when the souls are anonymous. These unseen sights, weaved with the thoughts I was contemplating in my head, and sometimes the Spotify playlists I was listening to repeatedly on this route, formed its topography for me. And this “sense of place”, urban theorist Kevin Lynch identified, "in itself enhances every human activity that occurs there and encourages the deposit of a memory trace". Perhaps this was why, when the pandemic began, I would walk down Salusbury Road every single day, listening to the same music as pre-pandemic, as if it was a ritual mourning a world that was now gone.

On the other hand, the only times I remembered walking down Kilburn High Road was when I lived briefly in an Airbnb before moving in on Dartmouth Road, and since then my commute never required me to cross to the other end of Kilburn Station. A walk down the high road, gets you a snapshot of London being a melting pot of ethnicities, but it was hard to bring views into one focus. Thirty-one years ago, Doreen Massey had observed this of the very same road in “A Global Sense of Place”.  

In this essay Massey argued against the problematic ways of what she termed as the “reactionary” notion of place. The first way is to see places as having single, essential, identities. Another is the idea that identity of place — the sense of place — is constructed out of an introverted, inward-looking history based on delving into the past for internalised origins. She argues the problem of defining regions is that it has almost always been reduced to drawing lines around a place and that kind of boundary precisely “distinguishes between an inside and an outside. It can so easily be yet another way of constructing a counterposition between 'us' and 'them'” [5]. Massey notes this desire for fixity and boundaries from otherness is a form of protecting identities from the flux changes and influences of the outside world. Yet this denies the fact that the ‘other’ is already within. Not only this, but what has always constituted that place has been the influences of the ‘other’, the global. All the relations that have passed through that place are what makes its constantly evolving identity.

As a new immigrant, I often feel I only see the surface of a place. Reading Massey makes me wonder whether there is any virtue in this surface-staring, in the distance between me and the place, in the not-knowing. Kilburn certainly has a character of its own. But the character of a place also always feels so fleeting, often only flickers in passing. Every inhabitant’s route through the place, their favourite haunts, the connections they make (physically, or in memory and imagination) between here and the rest of the world vary enormously.

Maybe for me, precisely because of the reason I couldn't see through its surface in a glimpse and associate it with any seamless, coherent identity, a single sense of place which everyone shares, it is possible to feel all this without subscribing to any of the static and defensive; it is possible to glimpse at moments through the dim facade into the truth of a place always in flux.

 

NOTES

[1] ALASDAIR GRAY. Lanark: A Life in Four Books. CANONGATE BOOKS LTD, 2021.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Lauren Elkin. FLÂNEUSE Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Doreen Massey. "'A Global Sense of Place' (1991).” Exploring Human Geography, 2014, pp. 243–251. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315832555-19.

 
Kimbal Bumstead and Andy Abbott - Exquisite Walks

This is a collaborative artwork by Andy Abbott and Kimbal Bumstead produced for the ‘Art Lab: Experiments in Collaboration’ exhibition at Dean Clough Mills, Halifax, 2022

Kimbal Bumstead Andy Abbott
00:00 / 06:17

Initiating from their shared love of landscape, field recordings and chance-operations in the creative process, Abbott and Bumstead began collaborating by walking around their respective locales (in Halifax and York) simultaneously. They documented their walks through audio recordings and a linear trace of the routes they followed. After sharing their results, each used the other’s documentation as a guide for a further pair of walks — like the game ‘consequences’. This process was repeated four times. They then got together to jam with the audio recordings using sampling and sequencing equipment, and created an image by layering up the routes they had taken.

 

Included above is an extract from the final six minutes of the resulting fifteen-minute audio piece, along with the print image, capturing a process of local exploration, deep listening, being together-apart and collaboration.

The full recording can be heard here

 
Johanna Bolton - A Material Record of Walking
Johanna Bolton
 
Garry Barker - A walk through the street texts of Chapeltown

The streets once had a voice and as you walked them they sang poetic shapes into hard geology. Texts would appear and disappear, gradually revealing a chthonic under-world from beneath the streets, telling tales that flickered like snake tongues embedded in the looped terraces of old Chapeltown.

 

Magic could erupt as a boil of words, a stain quickly lanced, disinfected by an ever-vigilant local authority team of mind cleaners. A fierce dialogue between jet washers and street wordsmiths created an ever-changing palimpsest of writing and cleaning, cleaning and writing, woven together as the voice of a sentient street. One voice would gradually become dominant: a vampiric drug rapture, an approaching gangland Armageddon, the street song of terraced walls and words that opened portals into the ginnels of other cultish underground cities.

doublesunglasses.jpg

Shops have their shutters drawn; as we walk past we read the words, ‘DOUBLE SUNGLASSES’ sprayed in black next to the warning, ‘RA IS DOOMED’. Other shutters whisper a reply, ‘WITS BREATH EDION’. The street finds its voice and opens lungs to breathe in raw spirit. These are streets of tangled history, whose walls whisper, ‘HITTITE GIPT C.P.T.’ while anarchist sects now read the runes, shamanic rituals enacted. Cross the road and the message changes, ‘C.T.P. Suck Hand’, an epistle of submission. Something is going on and it is not the ingestion of chemical substances; it is more ritualised than a drug habit, more spiritual than addiction. In blue paint on a red brick wall, ‘PRECINCT GOBLIN WORSHIPPERS JAM’ is written over a fading white text, walking on, in pale blue letters on a grey-painted wall intones, ‘THE EATING OF PACKETS OF BRAIN DAMAGE TABLETS’.

cobwebs.jpg

A story is unfolding, ‘IT’S A DRUGS BARON IN A UNIFORM’ sitting between rows of red bricks, ‘COB WEBS’ sprayed large in blue over red, the final ‘S’ already fading into the wall. ‘END OF HOUSE KEYS AND YOUR MIND BUBBLE’, a suggestion of mind control, of people locked in behind these walls. Words coil like unearthed worms as they wriggle into the corners of your eyes.

 

Street languages now extend your mind. ‘SHORTAGE OF PLATEAU OXES’ is sprayed in blue over a fast-fading ‘EGG’. The text gets dense, further from the main road, the words multiply. ‘TAROT QUAKES’ and ‘TRILLION EXCHANGE’ float out from a wall. Squint and you can spell out ‘BLACK NATION’, someone is ‘LIVING WITH CRAZED RUNAWAY TAR ROT MURDERERS’. These walls re-enacting the psychic drama of the ‘TAR ROT’; the dirty memory of tar babies, still staining these streets that, no matter how hard they are washed, will never ever come clean. ‘BIG GANG OF DRACULAS’ disappears behind an electrical control box, ‘BLOOD SACRIFICING RELIGION BOYS NOT SHINING’ now covered by a white lettered ‘RADAR’. The nerve centre of these streets is a house with bricked-up windows covered with text in white, green, yellow and red. Lines of text obscure lines of text until a final layer is left — the filtered tip of a gloss paint iceberg. Whoever was writing these texts was otherworldly tall, the writing continuing confidently across what were first and second floor windows. ‘HELLISH BEAST WORSHIPPERS FOLLOWERS’, ‘ARK RAIDER’, ‘ZOMBIE MAKERS IN PROGRESS’, ‘DON’T BELIEVE IN HEADACHES’, ‘VOODOO YELLOW ILL EYES’, ‘BRAIN ENSLAVEMENT’, ‘DEALING WITH WHO THEY ARE’, ‘TRAMPLING SEASON’, ‘CRAZY STUNT MAN STYLES’, ‘TOMES MUSEUMS’; these are the surface texts — the ones obscured below suggesting ever darker thoughts that needed to be driven down into the brickwork of this house. A lone word ‘ABYSS’ is stands out in white alongside ‘DANGER 0’, ‘DANGER 2’, ‘DANGER 4’, a street equation ending in a crude drawing of a rabbit.

 

As you walk, runes unfold, ‘SAC REDNESS’, ‘EARTH’S RULNG OWNER’ painted in black on a low wall, this street grimoire tells of ‘FIRMAMENTS FOUR’; ‘FIGURATIVE RUMBLE’; ‘7 THUNDERS WITNESS’; ‘RIWAN NIGHTMARES’ and the need to ‘CLOT JAGGEDLY’.

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Sandstone walls are now replaced by raw concrete. ‘MASSA GOD SAY’ sprayed across a mildewed surface, and down a ginnel we find ‘SKULL BUCKLING’. ‘MASSALANTIS BUMMER, SMITH AXIS SAGA’ with ‘CANT WORSHIP IT POSEIDON’  below; an image of a sea god and a drowned world hammered out by Wayland Smith as he fights the neo-Nazis. An uprising of mythic beings is happening beneath these streets; something mythic slumps against the edges of normality.

 

On the corner of a street, next to what was a library is now a bench. If you read the text cut into it you will find that it was engraved in memory of David Oluwale, a Nigerian immigrant who was kicked to death by the Leeds police. On the opposite side of the street is Cantor’s, a former Jewish chip shop, still trading under Harold Cantor’s name but now serving Southern Fried Chicken as well as fish and chips. The large Jewish synagogue that stands just down the road is now a dance school. The street graffiti binds their stories into legend. On the wall outside the old synagogue it is written, ‘VENOM GOD SAY’, and as we walk back towards Cantor's the wall on our right, tells us to ‘JUDGE AFTER’.  On the corner of the street where the Hayfield public house once stood is sprayed, ‘When David fought Goliath, WHO WON?’ and on a new standing stone a single word, ‘God’.

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A biblical text is suggested for the interpretation of these walls, ‘REV 2:13’ written in fading black on a sandstone wall is our key.

 

I know thy works and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is and thou holdest fast my name and hast not denied my faith even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you where Satan dwelleth.
(Revelations: 2:13)

 

Only photographs taken with an old instamatic camera exist as proof of these street stories, memories of streets that once had their own inscribed religion. This was a domain of poetry not prose. The anonymous street poets of Chapeltown still speak out on hot nights and ever hotter days; ‘ZOMBIE MAKERS IN PROGRESS’; ‘7 TRUMPETS, 7 SEALS, 7 VIALS’ conjoin with ‘PRECINCT GOBLIN WORSHIPPERS JAM’ while ‘TARO QUAKES’ and as it does we finally stop, gazing at a wall that laughs: 'HA, HA, HE, HEE!'

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Helen Angell - Around The Block

Outside the barber’s shop

the red and white rags twist

and Pete smooths his thumb

over split lips. The others sit indoors

lined up like calves eyeing Paolo

changing the razorhead. Up the street,

Cathy’s mother has finally made an effort

wearing salmon pink sleeveless

with matching toes and fingers. Her shoes

red as sheep’s hearts. The Hot Butty

owner smiles, busy amongst the tubs

of fillings, spilling her love out

into the litter on the too-narrow pavement

and into the road where tyres flick it up

like coins with the broken tarmac,

gripping the sticky fragments

in their cracking tread. And me,

with my milk, taking the long way home.

 
Alisia Casper - Comportment

This piece considers the subject and experience of ableism as a response to the notion of walking, and what reaction or feeling is 'appropriate'. It is also readable as text here.

00:00 / 02:57
 
Patrick S. Ford and Nina Yiu - No holiday

In the ongoing performance No holiday, Ford continues his practice of deconstructing everyday life for paradigms that can be isolated and examined within durational events that attempt to retrace actions or activities observed in life, exploring and reconfiguring observed movements he calls "found actions". Ford and Yiu describe this performance's focus:

 

"For many working people the highlight of the year is an annual summer holiday. During this short, intense period, people remove themselves from their habitual surroundings and immerse themselves enthusiastically into what is often unfamiliar geographical or cultural territory. 

 

"No holiday considers the journey to and from this holiday adventure, reversing the usual paradigm by focusing on the journey rather than the destination and eliminating the relief felt upon arrival at the intended holiday location. Ford will drag his suitcase everywhere with him as he explores the choreography of the holiday experience." 

Venice, Italy - 2017 ​
Venice, Italy - 2017 ​
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The Walls of York, UK - 2019
The Walls of York, UK - 2019
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Sydney, Australia - 2019
Sydney, Australia - 2019
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Hanoi, Vietnam - 2021
Hanoi, Vietnam - 2021
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Norwich, UK - 2021
Norwich, UK - 2021
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Danes Dyke, UK - 2022
Danes Dyke, UK - 2022
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