Thursday, 21 July 2016

STEPZ II – Official Launch

STEPZ II: Between the Rollerama and the Junk Yard

Here is the special exhibition edition of STEPZ II: Between the Rollerama and the Junkyard (2016). It has been specially created for the Loitering With Intent Exhibition which will be taking place at the People’s History Museum in Manchester from 23 July to 14 October. The zine has been edited and designed by Tina Richardson and Ally Standing.

STEPZ II is inspired by Northern Psychogeography and the work of the Mancunian Punk Poet John Cooper Clarke. It combines written pieces with visual elements and is produced on a Risograph machine, creating a unique and vibrant aesthetic. At the exhibition you will be able to view artwork relating to the zine and pick up your own limited edition hard copy of the zine itself.

You can read the editors’ letter here, find out more about the zine here and read some extracts here. If you are unable to pick up a hard copy of the zine at the exhibition, you can download one for free here.

We hope you enjoy it!

STEPZ II is an Urban Gerbil/Ally Standing Publication

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Firing Slits: Jerusalem Colportage

By Niall McDevitt

Firing Slits: Jerusalem Colportage is my third collection of poems. The previous two books were sited in London; this one exports the London psychogeographical method to the city of Jerusalem. Prose poems, lyrics, journals, epigrams... a description of an eternal war zone.

Why Jerusalem? I'd had enough of using the word 'Jerusalem' as metaphor. Inner voices forbade me from using it again unless there was a direct connection between signifier and signified. William Blake agreed, and let it be known he had no objections to my booking an Easyjet. The poet with the lowest carbon footprint after Emily Dickinson was indulging me.

The book merges two titles: Firing Slits and Jerusalem Colportage. Either would have sufficed, together they're a mouthful, but Jerusalem Colportage seemed a necessary qualification, locating the slits, adding a mystique.

Jerusalem Psychogeography was a rejected option. Too commercial, too obvious. As Blake's idea of 'Mental Traveller' is avant-psychogeography, I stumbled upon another genius's earlier cutting of the key. 'Colportage' is a word that appears in Walter Benjamin's On Hashish. It implies street distribution, hawking of religious tracts. Colporteurs were once commonplace in towns and villages of Europe. 'Colporter' is a modern French verb for gossip. Benjamin invents his own hashashin ideal - “the colportage phenomenon of space” - whereby it is possible to imagine all the events that ever occurred in a place happening simultaneously. The space becomes colporteur of itself.

The city was welcoming. The November-December 2014 weather was like an excellent English summer, with occasional biblical downpours. Youthful visits to Belfast became helpful retrospectively. Both were capital cities, divided on sectarian lines, scarred by dirty war. But I quickly realized a lapsed Irish Catholic was safer in Jerusalem than Belfast, and freer to navigate the humanitarian gulf.

A failed exploration was perhaps the most successful. A journey from the Arabic bus station on Suleyman the Magnificent Street to the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis was bitterly exalting. Abu Dis is chopped in two by the separation barrier, also known as the Jerusalem Envelope. It was my first crossing through IDF checkpoints, and I was scared. I wanted to see the unfinished Palestinian Parliament, simultaneously building site and ruin, but I didn't know which side of the divided town it was in, nor did locals understand my question. (My own Arabic was limited to 'sucran' and 'habibi'). What I did see of Abu Dis was heartbreaking, the wall, the graffiti, the deserted campus, an educated pauperized people.

In the Old City, the Haram al-Sharif was the most moving religious site, a daily excursion, and the Dome of the Rock the most astonishing vision. The WAQF administration keeps it sacred, but the zone is a spiritual battleground, coveted by Israeli ultra-nationalists. A question haunts it. How can you have a Third Temple without having a Third World War?

More comically, my efforts to find a former tourist attraction known as Jeremiah's Grotto - where the poet of Lamentations had been imprisoned for prophesying the sack of Jerusalem - led me to a cave filled with bananas. The grotto hadn't attracted enough custom. It was now a fruiterer's warehouse.

The French poet - now Jerusalemite - Gabriel Levin, author of Hezekiah's Tunnel, showed me a storyteller's Jerusalem. He explained how the prettified Russian Compound was a top security prison for insurgent Palestinian youths, and told me of a Bob Dylan concert on the site of Gehenna, the Jewish hell, where the sound system failed. Poets from Joshua to Milton to Ginsberg had decried Moloch, so Moloch avenged himself by silencing the prophet Zimmerman.

The Educational Bookshop on Saladin Street became a hangout. You could drink Arabic coffee in the company of a portrait of Mahmoud Darwish, whilst keeping an eye out for reputed regular Mordechai Vanunu, two modern culture-heroes of Palestine and Israel respectively.


Meanwhile back in London, the manuscript was accepted by New River Press run by the supremely talented poets Robert Montgomery and Greta Bellamacina, and named after the New River that runs from Hertfordshire to Stoke Newington. My poems are lucky. Robert Montgomery is a world-renowned text artist, a verbal-visual pioneer, and his design for the book is beautiful. A descendant of Pentecostalists, he appreciated the glossolalia of the book's vocabulary, and he and Greta have become its colporteurs. I now find myself a member of an independent/leftfield/bohemian collective which also includes poets Rosalind Jana, Zimon Drake and Heathcote Williams.

I will try, in poems, not to use the word Jerusalem again. I swear to try.

Niall McDevitt is the author of two critically acclaimed collections of poetry, b/w (Waterloo Press, 2010) and Porterloo (International Times, 2013). He is an urban explorer who specialises in the revolutionary poets of London, particularly Shakespeare/Blake/Rimbaud/Yeats. He blogs at poetopography.

Photo: Julie Goldsmith

Monday, 11 July 2016

The Ghost Walks in London

By Richard Brown

Walking is everywhere. It is becoming increasingly central to contemporary cultural practice and critical theory. According to Thoreau’s much-revered 1861 essay, walking is a sacred activity, the etymology of the word ‘saunter’ tracked down to the medieval pilgrims and alms-seekers who were headed for the ‘Sainte-Terre’ or Holy Land. This is readily taken up by current environmental theorists of walking such as Frederic Gros in his Philosophy of Walking (2014), Rebecca Solnit in her more physically grounded Wanderlust: A History (2014) or Robert MacFarlane in The Old Ways (2013), where the ‘enabling’ environmental politics of walking is a recurrent theme. Thanks to classic works of urban cultural theory from Walter Benjamin to Henri Lefevre, Michel De Certeau and Guy Debord, walking in the city is regularly now seen as key to the psychological and political survival of the modern and postmodern subject. The Baudelairean flâneur enjoyed a primarily aesthetic response to the newly-configured city space of the Paris of the Second Empire, otherwise increasingly determined by profit and work. Neither entrapped office worker nor distracted consumer, modernist and postmodern pedestrians express acts of cultural knowledge, empowerment and resistance, asserting their fragile subjectivity and cultural agency against the increasing threats of the surrounding environment, whether physical, economic, cultural or political. The surrealism of Breton and the situationist dérive turn this into radical cultural practice.

James Joyce’s work has been shown to embody comparable responses to modernity, accessible through and even informing such theory and he is seen to anticipate postmodern cultural practices in his definitive conceptions of city-walking from Dubliners to Ulysses where the locations of the real city and the characters’ precise movements within it can be traced. Little wonder then that Will Self, one of the most prominent writers to embrace the cultural practice of ‘psychogeography’, introducing Matthew Beaumont’s Nightwalking should turn to Joyce. As we know, a large section of Ulysses is concerned with Stephen’s and Bloom’s walks in the city of Dublin at night...

Please click here to read and download the whole article from the Joyce Broadsheet.

You can also click here to download a map of a Shakespeare walk undertaken in London on 16 June 2016.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016


By Rob Kilner

From here, 51 metres above sea level, you can see the world’s fastest animal. Not just one but a breeding pair. High on a plant-less ledge, tearing and sharing. Feathers fall to a rocky outcrop, where they collect in a crusty, fecal duvet. When the eating is over, they preen and rest. Then, eventually drop off the edge, circling, swooping and disappearing.

I’m no ornithologist, but I know a bird when I see one. Took a while to realise exactly what they were. At first, a screech, like seagulls. Then, when they came into view and I realised they weren’t seagulls, they looked like pigeons.

The peregrine’s flight is projected onto this window. A glimpse into the natural world. These birds of prey treat this landscape like any other, undulations and opportunities, hazards and topographies. Swooping between the tall symmetries, monolithic pinnacles, crags of sandstone, concrete, steel and glass.

The animal, sat opposite me, has a waste paper basket held between his knees. It catches the hairs as he prunes his nostrils with a pair of tailors’ shears. In the afternoon, he swills mouthwash and spits into the bin. I start to drift and imagine the city from the peregrine’s point of view.

Our call centre community, on this ninth slice of high-rise, is connected by radiowaves, copper wires, glass fibres and satellites to the outside world. We are linked to machines and people on the outside, sometimes hundreds of miles away. We have little need to move. Or talk to each other. We can email.

There are phones, one for each ear, and screens, one for each eye, with hypnotic, high-frequency, scrolling numbers, and flashing colours. Neighbours, just feet away, above and below, and in the surrounding buildings have no idea who we are or what we’re doing here. And likewise. On the fifth page of the tabloid there’s a story of workers being tracked by a mesh of medium Earth orbiting satellites, developed by the US military. They go for a wander to the loo, and if it’s not the nearest, they’re classed ‘inefficient’.

In another warehouse, security guards frisk employees on their way out to check they’ve not nicked any sports socks and they’ve got the right undies on. There are companies giving their ‘colleagues’ fitbugs or fitbits to measure their steps to encourage them to get off their arses and move around.

And in a Swedish office block, employees can volunteer to be chipped, with a Radio Frequency ID device implanted into their hands, allowing them to open doors, swap contact details, use the photo copier. ‘It felt very modern’, said one chipped worker. A tech trends expert calls it, ‘augmented humanity’.

Looking out the window I glaze over and adjust the swivel chair. This 11 storey, vertical factory, clad in Finnish granite from the Kotka quarry, has changed hands three times in the last two years. Buildings round here belong to huge pension funds, property companies or insurance firms. For them, they are rent-harvesting silos, finishing where they meet the ground at ninety degrees, and where the rest of the city begins. I picture a map, with concentric circles, like in the booklet the council gave out in the 80’s, showing ‘The Effects of a 1 Megaton Groundburst Nuclear Bomb at the Town Hall.’ Instead of casualty numbers, my map shows where and how far I can travel from here in the hour of free time at midday.

Where do people congregate, where do they interact face-to-face? Where are the old folk, where are the families, where are the cats and dogs in this city? The wildlife? Does anyone actually live here?

So at midday, I disconnect from the CPD, the productivity, the appraisal, the ‘Mission, Vision and Values’ and explore the environs and track myself using GPS to see where I go.

You can see more of Rob’s work here.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Psychogeography News - July 2016

London Overground
Iain Sinclair and John Roger’s new film. Here’s a link to the film and to a talk by them both on 22 July.

Architecture and the City
Click here for some Guardian photos: The Brutalist World: From Rotterdam’s ‘Vertical City’ to Tokyo’s Capsule Tower. Here for a blog about London’s famous gyratory: An Ode to Old Street Roundabout. And, here for a poet’s take on King’s Cross: Talking Mysticism, Spirituality and Salvation with King's Cross Poet Aidan Dun.

Mythogeography – A Manifesto
The Crab Man on his experimental approach to site performance. Click here for the link.

“My work is an investigation and exploration of walking, space and site. Working predominantly with drawing and found objects, I create installations that can be ‘experienced’. I employ detailed hand crafted elements, contrasted with the use of low-fi methods of replication, such as photocopiers and scanners. I am intrigued with the concept of psychogeography, and find my role as artist therefore extends into that of cartographer and topoanalyst.” Click herefor the blog.

Mapping the Paris Commune
“The events that occurred in the last month of La Commune — the socialist government that briefly ruled Paris from March 18 to May 28, 1871 — are mapped out in this extraordinary plan, drawn up by Mr. L. Meunier and P. Rouillier in 1871 in a simple yet informative manner.” Click here to go to the Charnel-House website.

Deep Mapping by Les Roberts
Les Roberts lectures in the School of the Arts at the University of Liverpool. His research interests and practice fall within the areas of spatial anthropology, urban cultural studies, cultural memory, and spatial humanities. With a background in anthropology and cultural studies, his work explores the intersection between space, place, mobility, and memory with a particular focus on film and popular music cultures. You can download the whole book in .pdf format for free here.