‘All these places (despised and chased away)’
Multi media artwork
Exhibited at : “Loitering with intent – the art and politics of walking” July-October 2016 (the People’s History Museum)
‘All these places (despised and chased away)’ is the title of an artwork I have created for an exhibition called “Loitering with intent – the art and politics of walking”. My piece is what they call multi media artwork – it has a visual part and an audio part (you can listen to the song above). When it’s in the gallery the viewer can look at the artwork and listen to the song – the two items compliment each other. The exhibition is about psychogeography and celebrates 10 years of the Loiterers Resistance Movement (LRM) – a radical walking group in Manchester who see walking as a wonderful way to explore, connect with and understand a place.
It’s something I’ve always been interested in. Way back in my youth I did a degree in Geography and I spent much of my twenties exploring Britain’s ancient byways and tracks on foot. I’ve been fascinated by the hidden history I discovered on my walks, how our so-called wild countryside is riddled with evidence of human activity. Our islands have been occupied for thousands of years and almost every spot has a story to tell.
The song – thought processes
The song reflects on the North of England’s industrial past and the neglected and abandoned objects, buildings and places associated with the Industrial Revolution. In the context of the gallery exhibition space, the song is listened to on an old 1970s cassette player. This is a deliberate artistic choice. It’s antiquated technology, much the like the mills, bobbins and machines referenced in the song. These technologies were revolutionary in their time but are now forgotten and unloved. But even though technology moves on, traces of the old still have the ability to engage and affect us. I love how the cassette renders the song with a wobbly slightly out of time quality. As the motor struggles to wind the tape, the music steps in and out of time and pitch, just tiny minute amounts but enough to affect the sonic quality.
You can hear and see the cassette on this mobile phone footage here which also shows you some of the artwork.
The artwork – thought processes
The artwork part of the piece comprises a framed picture of two halves – both maps of North West England. The first map is torn from a 2016 Road Atlas and glued to the piece. This particular road atlas is a sponsored map, where a company buys space on the map. In this case the map shows not just the traditional mapping symbols but every single Aldi supermarket, represented with an Aldi logo.
In 2015 it was reported that the government were going to sell off ordnance survey, the agency that map the UK. I have deliberately used this ‘corporate’ map as a comment on the commercialisation of mapping itself. Inevitable perhaps as our towns and cities are increasingly becoming ‘commercial only’ spaces.
In Glossop where I live, the Aldi supermarket is built on the site of a former Gasworks from 1845. This is common as supermarkets are often build on ‘brownfield’ sites replacing former mills and factories. I’m interested in these layers of history and meaning that exist in the same physical space. In some ways, with their reliance on shifts and zero hours contracts, and paying low wages, you could argue that supermarkets are the modern day mills.
The second map provides a contrast from the modern to the old. It’s a map of the Lancashire cotton fields. This second map also provides the link to the audio song. I have covered this map in cutouts of images that reference the song lyrics – railways, canals, factories, mills, mines.
All these images and the map itself come from a single source – The British Library’s free online archive of a million images. Underneath the images are three detailed and text heavy panels. These provide definitions and background to key words drawn from the song lyrics. However rather than coming from the British Library this text is lifted from its modern day equivalent – Wikipedia. Once again the contrast of these two things is deliberate – the British Library being a physical repository of knowledge and Wikipedia being a virtual one – they are layers of the same function, changing over time.
My intention is that the song and the framed picture create a cohesive whole that explores places, their history and our relationship to them from our place in the world today.
I did get some help to make this happen. I am especially grateful to Craig Edmondson (the very wonderful Stickboy) who not only produced and mixed the song at his studio but played pretty much everything you can hear on it. Simon Galloway from Glossop Record Club had the peculiar blend of old and new technology that was needed to render Craig’s high quality digital recording onto an old cassette tape. My partner Caroline Turner was a big help in helping me decide how to approach the visual part of the work.
- Loitering with intent – the art and politics of walking is on at The People’s History Museum in Manchester from 23rd July – 14th October 2016.
- As part of the exhibition I’m taking part in two guided musical walks around Salford and Manchester. Details here.
- A free download of the song ‘All these places’ is available here