Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Announcement: 'STEPZ II: Between the Rollerama and the Junk Yard'

STEPZ II has gone to print and will be ready for the Loitering With Intent exhibition this summer. Here is a taster of what is to come from this second edition of STEPZ - this one focused on Northern Psychogeography, Manchester and John Cooper Clarke (please click here for the pilot edition). Above is the front cover, designed by my co-editor Ally Standing.

Below you can have a sneak preview of the editors' letter from the new edition of STEPZ!

Dear Reader, 
Historically zines have formed a key part of the lineage of psychogeography and still do today. Since the time of the Situationists (1957-1972), and with the zines of the London Psychogeographical Association in the 1990s, we see these self-published fanzines taking on the culture and politics of the day. So, too, with the punk zine which was popular in the 1970s. Indeed some zine makers, such as Tom Vague, combine both punk and psychogeography. 
The first edition of the East London Section of the London Psychogeographical Association Newsletter (1993) declares: “We’re Back. After thirty-five glorious years of non-existence, the London Psychogeographical Association is well and truly back”. It goes on to say: “The revival of the LPA corresponds to the increasing decay in British culture, and indeed of the British ruling elite. It has been, in fact, an historical inevitability”. Here we can see the continuation of the Situationist project of the critique of the spectacle. 
STEPZ first landed in the psychogeography arena in the summer of 2015 with its inaugural edition. Having made an especially significant impact in the United States, the pilot edition is now on the syllabus of a course at Bowling Green University and in a specialist zine collection at the University of Kentucky. This upcoming special edition was created as a response to a call for submissions for the Loitering With Intent exhibition at the People’s History Museum in Manchester (summer 2016). STEPZ: Between the Rollerama and the Junk Yard appears at the intersection of psychogeography and the work of the Mancunian punk poet John Cooper Clarke. It is a response to Manchester and Northern Psychogeography. 
Edited and designed by Tina Richardson (academic and psychogeographer) and Ally Standing (artist and psychogeographer) this edition includes a varied selection of writings from a diverse selection of contributors. Come with us on a trip through contemporary psychogeography! You can discover urban phenomenon such as night buses, public conveniences and abandoned playgrounds. You can amble through Salford, Driffield and Ancoats. And you can dérive with us through distant, imagined and virtual places such as Osaka, Xanadu and Google Street View! 
But, let us not forget this zine is also inspired by the great punk poet John Cooper Clarke, whose lyrics geographically situate his place in Mancunian punk history. In his introduction on the inside cover of Cooper Clarke’s Disguise in Love (1978), the punk music author Alan Parker gives us an insight into someone who was known to many of us as a music legend, but really was actually a psychogeographer: 
“It’s winter in 1979, the rain is falling hard onto the North of England’s already grim looking streets. Tonight…we are going to attend a gig by a man who is fast becoming a music press legend…Before the punk wars are over, John Cooper Clarke will have more than carved out his place in the story of Manchester…Legend has it he once walked the darkest of Manchester’s moors, simply to record silence!” 
We hope you enjoy the zine! 
Tina and Ally

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Between the Rollerama and the Junk Yard

Myself and Ally Standing will have a submission at the upcoming exhibition at The People's History Museum in Manchester, Loitering With Intent. The exhibition runs from 23 July to 13 October 2016 and our contribution is a John Cooper Clarke inspired zine and artwork. Below is the abstract we entered in response to the original call for papers:

An intrinsic part of the heritage of psychogeography are the zines it has bequeathed us, such as the Situationist-inspired On the Poverty of Student Life (1966). Also, the 1990s resurgence of psychogeography is well-represented by the post-punk fanzines of Tom Vague, for example London Psychogeography: Rachman Riots and Rillington Place and the newsletters of the London Psychogeographical Association. In contemporary times this format is well-represented in Laura Oldfield Ford’s book Savage Messiah (2011).
In 2015, following the release of her edited volume Walking Inside Out: Contemporary BritishPsychogeography (2015), Tina Richardson edited and produced the zine STEPZ: A Psychogeography and Urban Aesthetics Zine in order to acknowledge the current ‘moment’ in psychogeography (what she has termed ‘The New Psychogeography’) in a traditional way – not just in a text-book, but a grassroots zine. STEPZ has proved to be popular and now appears on the syllabus of an undergraduate course at Bowling Green State University in the US, acknowledging its significance in contemporary psychogeography.
The academic and psychogeographer, Tina Richardson, and the artist and psychogeographer, Ally Standing, propose a new edition of STEPZ for the exhibition, along with supporting artwork. Inspired by the lyrics of the Mancunian punk poet, John Cooper Clarke, the zine will be Manchester and The North influenced, in particular looking at themes that are consistent across urban space in this geographic region. The zine will combine written pieces with visual elements such as photography, illustration and collage.
The artwork itself will take the form of two framed prints of pages from the zine, enlarged to poster size. The zine and accompanying posters will be printed using a Risograph machine, which is a type of stencil duplicator designed for use within a community setting. Risograph printing - often likened to other real-ink printing processes such as lithography and screen printing - produces a unique and vibrant aesthetic, which calls to mind a time before digital, making it an ideal method of printing considering the context of the zine. The Risograph machine was developed in Japan during the late 1970’s - a time which is temporally relevant, in terms of the work of John Cooper Clarke and the punk movement which partially inspires the zine. As well as being contextually and aesthetically ideal, Risograph printing is also a very environmentally-friendly method, requiring much less energy than standard photocopying, and using soy inks which are completely free from Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) the polluting chemicals which are used within most conventional printing.
This special exhibition edition of STEPZ will respond to a number of the themes set out in the CFP: psychogeography, Manchester and The North, the Situationist legacy and creative/DIY. We believe that this new edition of STEPZ will also help mark the exhibition itself and suture it into the history of psychogeography, as well as in Manchester’s rich zine production heritage.
You can download a free copy of the pilot edition of STEPZ here.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

I Walk the (Matri-)line

By Lesley Eleanor Wood

At the beginning of my second year studying for an MA in Creative Practice, at Leeds College of Art, the idea of an extended solo walk emerged for my final major project. This provides a unifying frame for many of my longstanding personal interests: feminism; the politics of space and place especially ‘the North’; geography; natural and social history; conversation; the power of ‘happenstance’; and a simple love of walking and our precious, endangered environment. The open and flexible field of psychogeography has provided a useful and generative ‘frame’ for this constellation of enthusiasms.

The walk retraced the journey my family made in 1962, when I was 12, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Leeds, made in reverse in 2005 by my daughter who now lives in Newcastle (a couple of miles away from where my family lived) with her partner and baby daughter. My walk began on May 2nd, from my house, calling by at my Mum’s at lunchtime that day, and ended on May 15th at my daughter’s home. Eleanors run in the family, down the direct maternal line, either as our first or second name. The baby, Isla-May Eleanor, is the sixth. So I aimed to walk along and among the connecting threads between our four generations. Adding an explicitly feminist awareness to the mix, I also intended to extend my awareness of we four Eleanors, to the braided lives of women past and present in the places I walked through.

The walk was conceived as a psychogeographically articulated response to the awe-inspiring experience of walking those 140-plus miles, desiring, as in Tina Richardson’s description, “not only to explore the social history of a particular space but also to express it in a personal and affective way.” This quote is from Walking Inside Out (Rowman and Littlefield International 2015) which was one of three books I took with me (I was carrying everything on my back). This book (now known to me as WIO) has 14 chapters, one for each day of my walk. My daily reading kept me on track in terms of my psychogeographical intent. Whenever I felt myself being drawn into the roles of tourist or voyeur the book made sure I came back to myself and my intentions.

I appreciated the explicitness of Richardson’s personal and political position and enjoyed the chapters by the radical, ‘leftie’ contributors such as Phil Smith and Alexander John Bridger. Alistair Bonnet’s chapter on critical nostalgia, about Newcastle, was a particular delight. But the best section, for me, was by Morag Rose, written from a feminist, activist perspective. Additionally, since my main challenge on the walk was dealing with pain from an inflamed hip joint, I appreciated her description of her impaired mobility, for example, she can’t walk fast. It was refreshing so see the issue of inclusivity in psychogeographical practice addressed, in relation both to gender and disability. One of the tasks I set myself for each day was to make and place a small banner along the way. The example shown above was inspired by Morag Rose’s chapter and her comments about re-thinking fear and how it limits and disempowers us.

I came home 8 days ago and it is interesting to observe the process whereby experience mutates into memory. Everyone wants me to talk about it, to tell the stories. And I am going over the journey in my head and with all the ‘stuff’ I gathered- images, things, recordings. Over time these will be worked up into art works, 2-D pieces, hand-made books, sound recordings, a ‘mini-museum’, and other things which come to me in the early hours.

In the meantime, there are a few thoughts which keep bubbling up as important reflections:
  • I felt safe all the time, I was not afraid. And I took very good care of myself.
  • I was alone for almost all of the time when I was walking. It felt wonderful to be in and of the landscape.
  • Conversely, I enjoyed and appreciated the company of animals and birds. Curlews and lapwings protecting their young. Ewes and lambs everywhere. Looking through graveyards, collecting rubbings of women’s names, I reflected on how much has changed in the lifetime of my Mum, who was a babe in arms when women got the vote in 1928. From the property of men, to potential US President in less than a hundred years.
  • One of the reasons I felt so safe was that women were everywhere- driving buses, running shops and pubs, walking around Dales villages in red sequinned high heels.

Psychogeography News - June 2016

Language, Landscape and the Sublime
Symposium on 29th June in Devon: “This two-day symposium draws together artists and thinkers from a wide range of disciplines to explore ways in which landscape –– and the ways we represent it –– connects deeply to our lives and underpins our relationship to the world.” Click here for further info.

The Poetics of Place
A new app that highlights the hidden histories of place. A project by Sarah Cole and the British Library. (apologies for the annoying ad that pops up). Click here: The Creator’s Project.

Bimbling About
“Dr Alex Bridger argues that psychogeography – basically wandering around or bimbling – provides important insights into the nature of society and the urban environment.” Click here: University of Huddersfield.

The Co-ordinates Society
The Co-ordinates Society is “an eclectic mix of pieces from geographers and geographically-oriented creative individuals. Through this collection we hope to inspire others to thoughtfully explore, create, and connect with each other and the world around us.”

Urban Sketchers Meet Social Science Researchers
“Lynne Chapman, an urban sketcher and illustrator, is working as an Artist in Residence at the Centre documenting its life and work, and working with researchers to explore the similarities between sketching and qualitative research in the ways they interpret and represent everyday lives.” Click here for the article by Lynne Goodacre.

General Psychogeography Posts, News and Events
Article in the Broughton Spurtle. Blog post about Pleasureland in Southport. Article about the dangers for women on walking in the city: Rhythms of Fear.

My Stuff
A series of online lecture on cultural theory and psychogeography: the two that may be of interest are: What Does the Map Represent? and Are You Interpellated? And an article that was published in Driftmine about a documentary film on the geography of loss and cultural amnesia: Setting Up a World.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Setting Up a World

Phenomenology and Cultural Amnesia in General Orders No.9

In this article, Tina Richardson reviews General Orders No.9, written and directed by Robert Persons and released in 2009, and reflects on the geography of loss and forgetting:

On its website, General Orders No. 9 describes itself thus: "An experimental documentary that contemplates the signs of loss and change in the American South as potent metaphors of personal and collective destiny". As a psychogeographer, the word ‘loss’ is not lost on me, since a wealth of psychogeographical accounts and related literary texts exist on this very subject. Written and directed by Robert Persons, the award-winning General Orders No. 9 would make for a very neat analysis along the lines of nostalgia, haunting and memory – quite possibly one of a deconstruction.

Despite this ‘call’ to me from General Orders No. 9 to write about these themes directly, I will be exploring them rather more indirectly through the concept of centring, in particular under the rubric of cultural forgetting such that it is concerned with ideas around concealing and revealing. By comparing the idea of ‘man’s progress’ (in regards to its impact on ‘nature’) with Martin Heidegger’s example of the Greek temple in ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’, I will discuss how this forgetting operates through an ideological ‘naturalness’ that enables humans to operate with a high degree of amnesia when it comes to environmental impact. Please click here for the full article published on Driftmine.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Collyhurst Calling: 20 Million Years in the Making

By Stephen Marland

The road rises as you leave the billiard table-top topography of Central Manchester, east towards rising hills and the falling valleys of the Irk and Medlock. Your confinement in the tight, huddled streets and architectural canyons, opens to a distant vista of the Pennines, slowly your world seems different, wider.

You are in Collyhurst.

Listen, the whisper of zephyr on silica, hammer on cold steel chisel, there’s music in the air!

Geologists use the term Collyhurst Sandstone for the soft red sandstone, which occurs in North West England. It is a sedimentary rock, created from desert sands blown into dune formations during the Early Permian period, when the area was within the desert belts to the north of the equator.

Historically the area provided much of the stone which built Manchester. The native stone proving easy to work and transport, before the arrival of the canal and rail links that fired the industrial revolution. The rock, however, is not very resistant to erosion and disintegrates relatively quickly, much of that which was built is now well weathered or gone.

We are in a state of permanent, post-Permian impermanence.

The Collyhurst Quarry, no longer worked, was to become a pleasure gardens, the dark abyss illuminated by lantern, music, dance and the illicit romance of the night.

Mr Tinker named his idyll Elysian Gardens, after the place in Greek mythology where the souls of the heroic and the virtuous were laid to rest, and later Vauxhall Gardens, as in London's renowned place of recreation. His gardens were adorned by 3,000 coloured lights and those who paid 1s 6d to enter in the early 1800s were treated to a night which was at once intelligent, rural and delightful.

The band did not play on.

Now landscaped and badged as ‘Sandhills’, something of a misplaced, forlorn inner-city country park. Care worn cast metal arches proclaim the name at every entrance, announcing an event that never really seems to happen. The Lottery funded movement of earth forms gentle yet steep curves of close cut grass, crossed with paths, simply lacks focus. To walk it is to embrace the man-made void, made whole again in the near distant buildings of the city centre, to imagine the mass movement of mass, by river rafts along the Irk Valley. The artifice of the space is overwhelming and all-embracing 280 million years in the making, through geological time to today, in an instant, but where are we going?

The area is literally built on shifting sands, one can’t help but be minded of those wind-blown Permian deserts.

Collyhurst was once at the very centre of industrial Manchester. Large tracts of social housing were built in the area, for a settled workforce and community that fuelled and fed that City’s steady beating heart.

That industry and heart are now elsewhere, the Sixties estates and their inhabitants however, prevail – the people that prospered during the 'good times' are just about hanging on. I talked with passersby who told the familiar tale of the young leaving the area, for fresher fields.

They just don’t think this is a good area to live.

Related links:
Eastford Square

Saturday, 21 May 2016

It’s a Sociologist’s Paradise: Tripping in Manchester

Yesterday, May 20th 2016, myself and Birmingham artist Ally Standing carried out a research-trip-cum-dérive in Manchester in preparation for our upcoming exhibition entry at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. We will be submitting a special exhibition edition of STEPZ - please click here to find out about the pilot edition from 2015 - with accompanying artwork. STEPZ: Between The Rollerama and the Junk Yard will be available at the exhibition (and online) and is a psychogeography zine inspired by Manchester, Northern Psychogeography and the work of John Cooper Clarke. Below are some of my favourite photos from our day in Manchester.

The above was spotted by Ally on top of The Old Nag’s Head. It’s quite freaky to see, even when you know it is only a mannequin dummy. What can she see from her vantage point? And, how did she climb up there with those high-heels on?

Wet rising ‘cupboards’ are everywhere. So are dry risings (or risers). You see them inside of buildings and, here, outside of buildings. But, have we ever really asked what they are? Well they are valves and networks providing access to water.

This image was on the side of a building. The photo looks a bit 1980s and her outfit looks rather Lene Lovich inspired. The image has been inset into what perhaps was a proper window at some time. We saw a lot of window-tax filled-in windows.

Here Ally is admiring Richard Ashcroft’s suit. This building had graffiti on all the shutters and framed music-related posters all along this side of it. I didn’t make a note of what the building was, but it could have been a music venue.