Yesterday I drove West out of London to practice my performative cleaning/drawing. I had a rough plan and some villages in mind. I also had my daughter with me to film and photograph, a variety of cleaning materials, maps and a GPS. I wanted to start in smaller places, partly out of fear and also because I was finding it difficult to see how I could include small villages in England in the way I envisioned it in Spain. Most villages in Spain have a square which I could clean I think. Whereas, thinking of villages I have visited in England, for example where my brother lives in Suffolk, there is no village centre as such. This seemed especially true of places we went to close to London. These really were commuter land.
What we found was villages that were one street which had no real services or shops even. Then we found a very small village (pictured above) with a large village green. I had forgotten about the village green. Whereas in the town I grew up in we had a central square this village had a green. I started to worry about how to clean the green (the green really wasn’t dirty! there was no garbage). I was glad I had discovered this problem. Maybe I would have to go to towns and cities only in UK? It started to rain and I had to take my daughter back to work in London so we returned without doing any cleaning.
I therefore started to look on google maps at some of the smaller villages on my line. On google streetview I could see that some I had chosen were just rows of houses with the ocasional shop or pub. However, I then managed to find some relatively small villages with Village Halls and these included car parks or some space in front of them.
Two of the villages in the South of England which are on the line have village halls with carparks or courtyards in front of them which are potentially great for cleaning. i have realised I need to research and identify where I am going to clean in order to plan.
In order to develop my project I also need to consider the actions I make when cleaning and drawing together. For example:
Scrubbing, rubbing, stroking, scraping, pulling, dragging, a list which needs to be added to. I also have though about marking my canvas, or territory, Emily Speed suggested would I need cones? I like the idea of something like mini cones in the corners of sheet sized areas for some reason. I hope it is not back to my previous project of painting on sheet like fabric which makes me comforable with that but it seems like a size which is neither too small nor too big. I need to go and try locally today.
I decided to research billboards and advertising in Barnsley as I like the idea of using a public space and intervening in this way would be potentially interesting. The idea of subverting advertising for jobs for example (I obviously have not thought this through yet). Since I decided I could not comfortably make something about the history of Barnsley for this show I have been feeling quite lost. I love the idea of the walk but I am unsure about the ‘faking it’ idea. I also do not want to show a series of photographs for my exhibition although maps and drawings might work. For the walk I really see the countryside as the gaps between the places where people live and work.
I am worried about the level of surveillance in the UK. There are many more cameras in London than Madrid. Here we can stick stuff up in the street, art, graphics whatever. You have to be careful and of course it then often gets taken down. In my street there are traffic cameras: non residents or delivery people get fined for driving in the centre. I do not think these are used for street pasters or sprayers. However, there are not very many cameras. The cameras in London are more hidden but they have been pointed out to me in Hackney for example.
Looking up the billboards in Barnsley website I came across this totally new phenomenon to me: the Adwalkers. Maybe they do have them here but there are definitely not many! I confess to being rather shocked. Advertising is a bit of a mystery to me anyway as I really don’t see why anyone would buy something based on an advertisement. However this is not my interest really, it is the workers who are doing this.
Website for Adwalkers
I looked a bit further and I discovered that I can order one (I thought I could make one) for 375 euros, from this website.
This is interesting as what feels like the exact opposite to the miner’s wives walking carrying banners. Walking, the amateur activity that it usually is, has been transformed into a job to sell more unnecessary things to people. I find it not only shocking but also quite horrific. We know that Barnsley has a below average level of education and an above average level of unemployment. So people are led to carry out this meaningless activity for a minimum (or less) wage. I have to recognise that I have not researched their earnings, however I am pretty confident that these people are not well paid and the value of the job is questionable.
Adwalkers by night and below a banner from an exhibition in Barnsley to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the miners’ strike.
Both are acts of walking and to me they feel like total opposites.
This is my initial reaction at least.
Dual Personality Walk
I have also wondered about making the walk as two people or one with a dual identity: as Alison South and as @laborolove. Alison South draws and collects whilst laborolove pastes up cleaners in towns on route.
This is something I do quite rarely as I live in the city centre and tend to explore the streets and their inhabitants. I do not dislike the countryside, I have done some of the camino de Santiago and used to live in a mountain village were the countryside was breathtaking and their were views of the sea. However for most of my life I have been an urban dweller and usually lived in cities. I want to look at my ideas about walking in relation to artists who walk as well as walking as a social and historical construct.
Many artists who walk are in fact concerned with ideas of nature and wilderness in addition to geography and mapping. They also seem to use photography as an integral part of their practice.
I really like the quotes by Hamish Fulton:
ONLY ART RESULTING FROM THE EXPERIENCE OF INDIVIDUAL WALKS
A WALK HAS A LIFE OF ITS OWN AND DOES NOT NEED TO BE MATERIALISED INTO AN ARTWORK
His practice is very much about respect for nature which I understand and admire but it is not my main focus. He does manage to make bleak landscapes into potent photographic imagery but I am still trying to figure out how in spite of my adversion to making photographic evidence (and total lack of skill) how I can produce the necessary documentation of my work. Unlike Richard Long Fulton brings nothing from the countryside into to the gallery but walks around the planet and has done for decades. I admire that he takes nothing from the land and I love the fact that he says words cannot describe a walk but he presumably thinks photography does in a way. I prefer the drawings on gallery walls the lines of his routes or the tracing of feet. The most compelling photos of Hamish Fulton’s work are the ones where there are many people walking, in lines or in large groups.
The road to Barnsley is full of nature – but it is the villages and towns that draw me as steps in the roots as people live there (or used to in some cases). This also chimes with the idea of the dotted lines the stopping off and that countryside is the gaps between places. It is also where I hope I will be able to reflect on what I am doing.
I am pretty happy to set myself instructions like a conceptual art piece but claim the right to ignore them (or rewrite them) and to paint and/or draw as a part of that plan.
Mazes suggest the idea of getting lost and also of being controlled at the same time. I am not especially attracted to mazes for this reason. They also have connotations of belonging to aristocracy in my own experience although of course the Cretan legend of the minotaur and the history of the labyrinth goes back much further.
I am interested in exploring the way I can use these bricks to negotiate the gallery space. they do not obscure view or light but they do trap the viewer and limit their freedom. On the other hand they make them see from specific places. These little experiments in the studio created a blind alley. But of course one can see.
This is unlike Carl Andre’s work installed in the Palacio de Velasquez 2015. However whilst intervening in our negotiation of the space it does not obscure our view. I cannot help but find the space here (in the Retiro Park in Madrid) more compelling than the artwork. I need to acknowledge the legacy of André but also my difficulty with it.
The Camino de Santiago has sign posts to help the pilgrims. I am not suggesting that there will be pilgrims other than myself but that I can show more where I have been like leaving a trail rather than giving directions. I like the idea of leaving a mark and also taking away material – collecting for what I make in the gallery. These posts or symbols act as dots or mark making a bit like leaving a trace.
Yesterday I booked to go to London at half term. I am thinking that mid week I could drive from Portsmouth to Barnsley – the last leg of the journey. After my walk on Monday I might need to make some decisions about this. The beautiful line on the map includes parts of big roads rather than abandoned villages. Whereas in Spain there will be abandoned villages
Bricks would be great but too heavy for actual walking – I am thinking fabric or parcel paper symbols – or some light wood on sticks. Some kind of graphics feels appropriate.
If I go on big roads billboards would come into play and the idea of using billboards appeals greatly as I feel they are really invasive and have huge objections to them. Using them or juxtaposing them in some way with the protest banners could be a way into the gallery (or not).
this symbol is about universal work – (see tools of the trade).
In this work Richard Long literally makes the line visible. Not in such a stark way as some of Francis Aly’s work where he paints lines through borders that we cannot see. In Central America and the middle east for example and where the lines may be strongly contested. I had thought of tracing the now non existent borders between France and Spain or Portugal and Spain but I don’t want them to reappear. I have been thinking about them as I am pleased that we can move more freely around – things still change – the language for example is the most obvious and immediate. This is all really pertinent to me now as a European who feels she is losing her European identity and may have to make a lot of paperwork, and change nationality in order to maintain it. Richard Long’s lines, however are not about borders.
Richard Long’s line was literally made by walking and as such relies totally on photographic documentation. The performance of walking over and over the field to make a temporary visible trace. That act of rewalking feels significant. It is a line but it is made by feet making dots over and over again. I am also noticing in 2017 and google maps that walking lines are not always solid they are dots very often. The dots seem very appropriate to the consciousness of walking. To go back to Rebecca Solnit’s idea of thinking at 3mph, which also links back to the greeks nicely, we are not in the world and the wonder of walking is partly this. That we leave the interior world and that brings us our of ourselves and into the world is invigorating. When we walk we then lose ourselves and find ourselves in a new way.
Looking at Richard Tuttle’s work ‘Walking on Air’ has made me think about the line and also dots or other marks we make literally or consciously. How we fade in and out of different types of consciousness and as we notice visible details and as we think things through. I am also interested in the collecting of evidence, of proof – especially as I am not actually going to walk 322 hours. When you walk the ‘camino de santiago’ you get a book to stamp in the hostels along the way which is like proof that you did it – you then get absolute absolution for your sins forever. All bureaucracy implies the need to provide evidence. This usually leads to the faking of proof. I have had conflicting advice about faking it. Lucy Day was skeptical about faking and I see her point whereas Emily Speed was rather more encouraging and suggested I look at how Hayley Newman had done this. Newman has presented photographic documentation of performances which where supposed to have been carried out in various sites on different dates when in fact the photos were all taken in one week in the same place. The point being the unreliability of the photographic documentation.
In the studio this week I want to investigate lines and dots in relation to my journeys both physical and metaphorical. I also want to consider how my work negotiates space with the audience. On Monday the weather forecast looks good so I will attempt to walk to Algete from home and bus back. The cohort have been really helpful with suggestions of buses and treadmills but neither feel right for this – I am either faking walking or walking.