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London walks, and anti-austerity-weekend musings.

A collection of thoughts whilst moving around the capital on the weekend 250,000 people came out against the government’s further assaults on social welfare and social life. It is related to a large blog project called Stories From Forgotten Space (using landscape as a platform for quasi-fictional storytelling based on genuine experiences, feelings) which I am currently compiling into a book.

Friday 19 June 2015

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“Walking towards Shoreditch, nearly an hour into walking in the city. The self-conscious me is always looking for things to porcupine-myself-up with in a place of such beautiful cyber-people. Sometimes it seems like everyone looks like a more toned, more Photoshopped edit of a pop-culture figure from yesteryear. I pass somebody who looks like a ‘better model’ of The La’s’ frontman Lee Mavers; more like Lee Mavers than Lee Mavers.”

“The proximity of the DLR train to the crucible-cluster of deemed-important buildings in Canary Wharf forces their importance on you as you begin to instinctively stare up at them in wonder (only to refrain from doing so to hide from public their impact on you). I look up at 1 Canada Square (HSBC building). I give a powerless, punchdrunk smile as my eyes sink from the fluffy-cloud-skyline to the gentrified docklands below. Sometimes it all makes sense to me, and I then spend my time trying to explain my reasons that respond to this sense, only that it all fucks up when things inevitably conspires to undo that sense-making. And it is at these points that ‘the idiot’ appears.”

P1030670“Greenwich Park. Hot weather. Grass going all orangey/brown – like 95/96. Don’t think I’ve sat down on the grass since I was 12 – not properly anyway. Firestarter, The Prodigy [spring 96] is playing in my personal bubble. Feel 12 again. Want to cause shit/havoc (“Bad bad, bad bad behaviour”). All those “old school” shit-causers; they’re all knackered now, evaded swiftly by others in this anxiously aspirational age; ranting at people eating their tourist-orientated food, who no longer need headphones to be zoned-out to such a physical proximity. Head down the congested road on Blackheath; city traffic passing through summer fields. If I crop out Canary Wharf it all takes me back, somewhere. But just now I don’t need to crop it out, with rucksack on shoulder, ideas momentarily electrified, I feel Danny-Champion of Past and Present. But such a surge of self-belief is spurred on by the very thing that crushes it; the ruthlessly ambivalent city. It’ll get me, for sure it will, it always does. It doesn’t let me stand tall for too long. But right now, as I text myself these thoughts, it hasn’t.”

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Saturday 20 June 2015

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“Walking through the refuge of a wooded-park in the centre of Muswell Hill, after staring down at the horizon-reaching cityscape commenting on how only 100 years back New York was just beginning to take over London as being the biggest city the world had even seen. Still slightly drunk from the night before, and, thus, having  a slightly-guilty sensation in an age of “keep young and beautiful; it’s your duty…”. Especially in an area like this where the “everybody’s middle class now” 1990’s rhetoric doesn’t seem to have become like a cruel joke. They run for reproduction, perpetual vitality rather than exhaustion – no sunken faces around here. These woodlands look ancient, even as the noise from the continuous stream of London buses penetrates them. They may just be ancient; this land certainly hasn’t been dug up for coal at any point like most woods have nearer to home. The failure of the 90’s/00’s freshly-veneered/total immersion-capitalism seems to have never happened here. Or so it seems. London-based TV series’s from the politically-passive late 90’s/early 00’s, like Spaced, feel like they could be in their 10th series around here.”

P1030678“The demonstration’s on The Strand now. One of those iconic London streets that I have only just located after a few years of frequenting the city more than before. This is a big demo. Surely too big to be bypassed by the media’s gaze…? It’s as big as the March 2011 one, to which it was preemptively compared. But the feeling is noticeably different. My lasting memory of March 2011 was of hearing a succession of bangs, which I initially thought were some sort of explosive, only to realise that a group named the ‘Black Block’ were smashing the windows of big banks and tax-dodging corporations 200 yards ahead of us in the march. Moments after the bangs a masked young woman cut through the march procession, only to have her arm grabbed in anger by a middle-aged woman in a Unison t-shirt, who shouted “cowards! why don’t you show yourself?”. Although I had mixed feelings on what was the correct approach to counter the much rawer anticipation of systemic wounding, in hindsight I realised the angry response from the then-seemingly-more ‘pedestrian’ protest-approach, was due to the possibility that many who said they were in the Black Block were actually Agent Provocateurs, working in order to allow an aggressive police response, and to whip up hostile sentiment towards the wider demonstrations. And it worked. Only five hours later, on the train back to Wakefield/Leeds a thuggish male, part of a group of football fans on their way back home, had his hands around the neck of a blatantly-peaceful protestor, due to an argument between them, largely sparked by the football fans accusing him of complicity in “the smashing up of the windows of Topshop”, which resulted in the police boarding the train at Doncaster. I, for one, was emotionally exhausted as the tinderstick summer of 2011 drew to a close, prepared for a new world where one would be forced to take sides. The tide of society would consequently dampen this energy, and leave many of us feeling like self-aware-zombies in 2013, 2014. But perhaps the clear lack of noticeable ‘trouble’ on this comparable 2015 march isn’t a negative? Maybe something has changed, tactically; a different collective response is afoot, more based on duration?”

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“The only negatives we receive are perhaps to be expected, due to being received as the march reaches the tourism/consumerism zenith of the capital. First off, we are subjected to a barrage of slurs from a man-woman-man-woman quartet of weekend ‘leisure-seekers’, with one of the women repeatedly shouting “get a life!” as they cut through the march to the opposite side of the road, with bottles of unopened rose wine in their hands. The fact that they clearly deemed it urgent to utter this to us seemed more telling than any general disagreement with the causes being marched for; beyond the initial feelings of “why didn’t I say something back to them?” was a realisation that the demo clearly caused them great discomfort. I think I can see why: when life is narrowed down to a singular romance focused in on the weekend ‘leisure-pursuit’ and all the promises of happiness, meaning, love it has appropriated, protests begin to be representative of possible huge ruptures to that shop-a-day reality. And I say this as somebody who has had this very anxiety about ruptures to those routines-of-least-pain we pave ourselves in the narrowness of the late capitalist world.

Further on, as we near Downing Street, we sense an hostility from groups of muscular young men in t-shirts. But their gesture (which seems to be one of showing solidarity with the coppers by standing in a line with arms folded in front of buildings in this zenith of nationalist value within the capital) looks almost comical, and the absurdity has not gone unnoticed by everybody I spoke to in the march. Everyone was just thinking ‘what the hell are they doing?”

P1030685“My friends head back for their respective coaches back North and rooms in London. I aim for some reflective wandering of the city until my train back later this evening (bad memories of Megabus coach journeys back from my failed attempts to study in London still haunt me). After 30 minutes trying to find somewhere to piss, I end up in Waterloo Station wishing to write expletives on the toilet walls over the lack of public toilets – my biggest pet hate of life in the over-commercialised and privatised UK city. However, due to there being a fault on the pay-in barrier and the migrant-worker toilet attendant politely letting us use them for free, I would’ve have felt bad giving him any extra cleaning up work to do. I head back out into South London, and look for the river. I always feel I need to see the river. The helicopters monitoring the protest are still hovering above. The rain begins to pelt down, but it’s the first time in my life I am carrying a waterproof jacket – a sign of age maybe? If my mood sinks now, and we’ve reached the afternoon it isn’t so alarming, it’s bearable. The Thames splashes against the walls as the rain falls. At least we/I have the river, the murky holder on plenty of secrets, that can’t quite be gentrified – it’s ours whether we are from Bermondsey or Barnsley. I have swallowed the world today; it’s the comforting calm before the potential storm caused by surrender to it all.”

P1030687P1030690“I have walked full-circle, all way down the South Bank and back toward the Bank of England from where the demo initially gathered. The rain that teemed down as the official demo petered out in Parliament Square has all but gone. Yet, this dampened, largely-depopulated area (it’s normal for it to be eerily quiet on a weekend) gives it an unwanted feeling of the aftermath of a party. After all, one common utterance the stands out about this 2015 demo is to not let it be a mere catharsis amidst the carnage. Fading momentum is a huge concern for all of us as we stare down the barrel of deterioration. However, like my weary, now semi-stumbling self, acquiring a slightly macho-self-defensive gate as I slowly begin to see the tailored shirts, suits and bow ties reemerge, as if they were hiding in burrows whilst the protest was ongoing (“it’s safe to come out and play now!”), there is no resignation, not just yet. I walk just that bit further towards the Barbican.”

P1030693“Caledonian Street – the very name alludes to a once-felt physical connection of London to the rest of this Land-mass. Unlike today, where by crossing the M25 you almost feel that you’re in a different reality where everything you’ve come to know from your stunted Yorkshire towns/cities seems to has been given the green light to proliferate, uncontrollably. Which makes it all the more strange when I hear a Barnsley/Wakefield accent (very distinct the closer you get to them, very hard to differentiate the further away you are, geographically) coming from a man on a phone outside a takeaway, across the road. The utter weariness caused by the past 2 days (emotional as much as physical) means I literally stumble into the nearest bar that looks accommodating for a man who currently looks that scruffy that going into a more ‘aspirational’ bar would be to surely give my weary self a hard time. But my stumbling attracts the attention of four men with shaved heads, one of who’s glare is not friendly as I order a drink in a red t-shirt with a sketchbook in my hand. Once I sit down, unable to avoid overhearing snippets of their conversation, it is beyond a doubt that they are part of some far-right, ultra-nationalist organisation. There’s one, big hard-looking Ray-Winston-type-cockney (who evokes an image of more physically violent UK cities, the only aspect I don’t long for in the wake of gentrifying cleansing). Then I realise that two of the blokes are Barnsley lads. Oh yes, it’s beyond a doubt; that’s definitely my mother-tongue the one in the baseball cap uses as he drunkenly slides into chanting a bloody-thirsty appraisal of St George. And on a day like this!? A day when I wanted to feel comradeship with folk from my mother-terrain, and beyond, against capitalist onslaught. But I find myself hiding my face in case  it turns out they recognise it from town. As today, there was (by all accounts) a far-right demonstration planned for Barnsley town centre, preceding a town pubs-based music festival, which seems to pull together folks of left/left-of-centre sentiment in the town better than anything else since the mines closed. I wonder whether there was thus a consequential poor turn out for the far-right, and they decided to head down to London instead? Anyway, I drink up fast, as I’m reminded of how the threat of real physical violence can still quite quickly rear its head in pubs, even in an age where we are more likely to yell in solitude into our cell phones. I head back towards Kings Cross station. Bland but less chance of aggro.”

The 1990’s: they look so old, but feel like yesterday

“It [ ] can’t be old can it? surely?” – nearly everybody

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Due to the family home, a home that used to feel like the eternal return-to-base (for good and for worse), no longer being so, I have stumbled upon old photographs from the 1990’s. They are old. They’re as old as photographs of the previous generation of family members enjoying the then-blossoming popular culture of the mid 20th century looked when the 1990’s felt all new and shiny.

The 1990’s still feel new and shiny, but they aren’t. The VHS’s and TV in this photograph look archaic – they look as close to the 70’s as they were. Yet the 70’s do feel old, the 90’s don’t. 1990’s shopping centres, like the nearby Meadowhall shopping complex, still seem like intrusions of a new brash consumerism onto UK shores, but they look as knackered as cheaply-veneered 25 year old buildings should do.

I’d feel less certain that there wasn’t something unique at play here, if it was just my own attachment to that age, due to feeling like I lost an important part of myself in the last year of that decade that prevents me from developing as an adult. But even people born in the 1990’s keep on looking at me gobsmacked when I put a date on a well-known film like Jurassic Park [1993].

This photograph was taken in January 1995; 4 years before the hyperbole of the 90’s seemed to simmer into millennial malaise, a slow let down by the smoke and mirrors of Britpop, New Labour and ‘end of history’ jubilance. Two technological shifts (I think it’s disputable to see them as advances) seem to have made time feel so out of joint, not merely for their existence, but due to their creeping dominance. Digitalisation of sound and vision, and the Broadband takeover of communication.

Digitalisation seemed to creep in around 1999, to the extent that when I am subjected to music videos from that point through the ever-same visual of contemporary television [She’s The One, Robbie Williams – an unfortunate subjection to say the least) it looks like it was made yesterday. Television, before this point, seems far easier to date; it seems like there’s a difference to image quality from 1998 to 1992 for example. But thereon after it gets harder and harder to spot the difference.

I noticed the impact of Broadband in late 2004 (which seems symonious with the rise and rise of addicting social media sites). As every year passed, especially after the financial crash, social life seemed more and more orientated (and bogged-down) in cyberspace. It makes the ‘telepresent’ of the media-penetration of our lives in the late 20th century seem blissfully un-interfering.

Time no longer seems to move forward. And this is evident in our culture; nothing truly new seems imaginable and what stands as culture has become even more commercialised, consumerist in response to former counter cultural styles that no longer put up any opposition to commercial forces increasingly pulping them into a ‘shop-a-day’ reality. The market-driven imperative on ‘the new’ in a time where nothing is given enough breathing-space to create it means that we’re left scraping the barrel for novelty, dis-invested and in disbelief. Would space technologies really be harnessed merely to make the first sexual encounter in space happen for a porn movie in any other period than this one?

Time seems in a loop. For many older than I am, it seems like the 1990’s already felt like the ‘end of the future’. But growing up then, it didn’t feel that way, certainly in light what it has felt like for the last decade and half [my final true futuristic vision that springs to mind was conjured listening to ‘climatize’ by the Prodigy, from one of the last true popular-yet-landmark albums ‘The Fat of The Land’, whilst driving past the outer-high-rises of Birmingham on the Motorway in the family car in summer 1997) To quote a friend (who I’m working on projects with) the experience of Now is akin to a Tyre spinning furiously in mud, but getting nowhere. It seems likely that this experience has obliterated continuity in the past decade or so, and so the 1990’s remain as yesterday. Even as the smoke and mirrors of that naively optimist age are proven to be what they are, they remain seductive (I still smile and sing a long to moronic Britpop when drunk). I feel this ‘yesterday’ will seem more and more appealing until some sort of closure is sought on the ‘stuck record’ experience of contemporary life. Fundamentally, it requires an unanimous acceptance that the elephant smashing up the room we’re in is capitalism. I can’t see away around this elephant. We need to agree on this point before anything else.

Stories from Forgotten Space (Lost Bus Routes and Pre-election Reflections)

Stories From Forgotten Space builds on 2014 Mapmaking with the aim of taking the most prominent features of the project a little further. It is fact and fiction, clear analysis and emotional garbage, destructive and constructive thinking, but what it is is my truth, recollected through maps made of journeys I make. This section of Stories From Forgotten Space uses lost bus routes and thoughts prior to the UK general election to use spaces to look at what has half-vanished, and what I long for coming into being. Using mapmaking to discuss the fabric of contemporary life may not be ‘everybody’s cup of tea’ (as if that is what everything needs to boil down to?!), but I have always had a love for maps and their potential.

The previous section of Stories from Forgotten Space can be found here:

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/stories-from-forgotten-space-january/

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/stories-from-forgotten-space-march/

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2015/04/14/stories-from-forgotten-space-marchapril/

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21 April 2015

93“Home town-changing. Didn’t expect it to happen so soon; the demolition of the Metropolitan Buildings in Barnsley. The entire side of the centre that greets those entering by train is bordered up, including the Grogger’s Rest – a pub built into the concrete block facing the interchange, once named The Yorkshireman, and deemed ‘grotty’ for as long as I can remember. I didn’t realise it was being demolished too. The late 60’s/early 70’s-built Metropolitan Buildings have always been scorned by people and sources within the town whose opinions are deemed of worth. But I am still unsure whether I like them or not; whether they were inherently condemned to be a scourge on the urban fabric. In a more optimistic, naive stage of art-making, with graduation just around the corner, I made up a set of what-would-it-be-like-to-live-here-if computer edited photographs, where I coated the pre-existing townscape in images of trees and foliage – making it more Babylon than Barnsley. These simplistic edits of the landscape momentarily convinced me that the pre-existing townscape could improve vastly whilst remaining much as it is, if the little things around it all vastly improved.”

9495“Young man sits in cafe in Barnsley town at 6:30pm, facing the window looking out onto the now depopulated main shopping street. An aspiring young professional, if not a young professional already – you can just tell, sometimes appearances do tell the truth. On his laptop. Not reading, just checking emails. That’s all we do these days – keep on top of things, forever. His phone rings. His conversational tone is clear-cut, man-to-man; that passive/aggressive tone all too familiar in this time of communicative capitalism, where words shared become quasi-transactions. “If he has something to say tell him to come speak to me” (he doesn’t look much over 20). Definitely a work-related call. But everything is business these days, right?”

97 98

“Bump into drinking-companion from a more alive, pre-recession Barnsley night-life. He liked that specific vibe so much, he left a nearby town to move here. He tells me he is now thinking of leaving – nothing here for him anymore. You wouldn’t think that much had changed, but something’s very different from 10 years back. It isn’t a time I wish to relive, yet at least it didn’t quite feel like the permanent contraction of now. We stare all around Peel Square – expecting it to throw up a preferable answer. “Don’t drop litter, John” he suddenly adds as he butts his cigarette out on the bin, adding “I got fined £70 pound last week for dropping a cigarette butt as I was about to enter GT News [newsagent]. She [the enforcement officer] watched and waited until I’d come back out to accost me. I apologised, but she said it was too late and sprung the fine on me”. I’ve already heard these stories from cousins; “they sat in a car out of view, watching a waiting to see if I dropped the cigarette butt, and when I did they came and sprung the fine on me”. Already aware that this is a company, thus a profit-searcher, sub-contracted by the council authorities, I know full-well that the usage of ‘given’s’ such as “litter is bad”, “protecting environment”, “anti-social behaviour” is a icing-paper-thin veil over the profit-making-scheme-partnership between authority and company, which ends up punishing those who are already likely to be suffering most from the council-services-spending-cuts, which no doubt are the motive for these half-baked schemes in the first place.”

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23 April 2015

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“It still manages to surprise/confuse me when I can arrive, unaided by public transport into one of the designated urban hubs [central Leeds] of the UK with such ease [having cycled here]. I wonder whether it may feel amiss with my preconceived, due to urban centres still remaining as signifiers for all that I feel I want, and need, in life, no matter how much this sense gets displaced like particles scattering once I am in these spaces. This sense of displacement feels especially acute after a long day in London. Deep down I can’t admit that what I am looking for doesn’t exist; at least not in way I keep on imagining it, nor in constraints of our current social reality.”

100“15X15 foot Advertisement board for the upcoming Victoria Gate upmarket shopping complex. An alien imposition. A silent yet strangely noticeable assault on one’s sense of self, that beams down from Nowhere, asking “Are you up to scratch? Are you one of the beautiful people around here, permitted to frequent here once it opens?'”

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“On the train back to Wakefield, sat behind a middle aged man and woman passing comment on the current horror-show in the Mediterranean (the hundreds who have died trying to migrate from Africa into Europe). The conversational tone is one of mild anger and resent, but, incomprehensibly, it isn’t out of the injustice of these desperate human beings dying horribly, trying to escape desperate conditions; it is mild anger and resent at the idea of these people trying to get into this country, because “the NHS is already at bursting point” [as if migrants were the cause of this]. Who would have thought that such suffering would actually do more to eradicate empathy?”

10124 April 2015

102“Erring (as per usual) trying to get from A to B within the commuter-houses-maze of Woolley Grange. But nobody is even there to see me take this pride-sapping uturn. In fact I’m unsure I’ve ever seen a single person whilst passing through this estate built on a former spoil heap. The odd parked car, but never a resident. It often fools you into imagining that it has never been more than a show/model village. An eerie feeling that would make sense if it was derelict, but it isn’t; it’s a new-build aspirational residential area.”

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“Whilst waiting in line at a cash machine on the main thoroughfare near the [Huddersfield] station, at tall man (who could be anything from mid 20’s to early 40’s) starts talking loudly in an odd manner to a fed-up-looking off-duty postman, who stands in the queue behind me (very few postmen/women look how we’d imagine them to be when we contemplate how nice a job it would be). The tall man says something a long the lines of “ya go something to say now mate!? Eh? Hey?”. The off-duty postman, more or less bullied into responding, sayings “no mate” in a very submissive downtrodden manner. The man, now with an attitude of having won a conflict, says “good, coz there’ll be trouble next time”. My assumptions are that the postman lost his rag with somebody who made his working environment (the public environment) less pleasurable during the day (I know this from once fearing my job position, after telling a group of taunting teenagers to “piss off” whilst working as a postman 11 years back). But no matter what said in this probable heat of the moment situation, I hate to see signs of the vulnerability of all non-alpha males (such as myself) in a bully-boy culture.”

103

“A middle-aged woman gazes for some time at the homeless man sat in underneath a shop window one of the main shopping streets [Huddersfield], probably due to him not yet having the drained and disheveled look of somebody accustomed to such a life. He’s obviously new to this life, he still has the look of household domestication to him.”

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“A placard encouraging people to vote Tory in the upcoming general election hangs from a lamp post leading to busy boundary-forming roads that circulate Huddersfield centre. It will never cease to strike me as perplexing as to how the Conservative Party could appeal to anybody who dwells in the urban environment, rich or poor, unless they are (a) working in the town and and leaving to the commuterised outskirts on a daily basis, or (b) their conditions of living afford them a comforting cut off from all that is.”

10627 April 2015

107

“The board at the entrance to the Cedar Court complex [next to Junction 39, Wakefield South] promotes it’s ‘conference and function suites, for weddings, meetings, conferences, leisure’ etc, etc – all the preconceived notions of work/leisure under corporate-captivity. It’s a world already made for us; fun, taste, memories, opportunities already laid out. Nothing beyond the prescribed. Small, powerless in the face of big (“this is how it is!”) signs, I silently shout “surely there’s more than this?!”‘

“The roads cutting through the fields between Wakefield, Barnsley and Huddersfield are so saturated with ‘Vote Conservative’ placards for the upcoming election, that (A) I feel ashamed of my lowly posture to be walking amongst them, and (B) undeniably relieved to see that one of them has been pulled up and placed face-down. “Not all cap-doffers ’round here!” Whatever the outcome may be come May 8, the moral humiliation of a Tory victory could prove too much to bear.”

“Travelling through a wooded area that runs through the neither suburban-nor-rural mill-town-cum-commuter-village clusters, Clayton West, Scissett, Denby Dale and Kitchenroyd. As somebody who goes out running a few times a week I have to accept my complicity in this, but me and Dave can’t help but agree, as we observe every jogger, in this post-work period, that they are somewhat the new zombie subject of our times. They have replaced the older passive consumer-mall zombie of a previous stage of capitalism. Financial speed re-channeled as undead-anxiety running through our veins. Driven, yet simultaneously passive. Going through the mechanical motions as if the levers and cogs of the long lost factories merely spilled out onto the streets after their closure.”

108109 1111 May 2015

112“Looking over to the Beeston area [Leeds]. Always trying to find the core of place. But they’re just houses, or spaces in shops or pubs. Just space occupied like anywhere else. Get thinking about Paul Sykes, a Barnsley “self-made” millionaire, who is now apparently lonely and miserable in his North Yorkshire mansion. It’s never at anywhere if you’re empty. Behind me two ‘bright young thing’ males exchange information of their culturally-exciting, upwardly mobile ‘where it’s at’ lives, spent between London and Leeds. Do I feel on the defensive? I course I fucking do. 6.3ft BBC-cum-highended-student accented males, who look right through a 5.7ft, suddenly-indelibly-localized denizen (myself). Judgmental or not, I can’t help thinking ‘cyberpricks’.”

“Everybody just looks so successful-looking in Leeds station right now, as I wait for the connection train at 11:30am. Maybe their faces look different at 5:30pm, and their Lego haircuts wane a bit. But I doubt it. It doesn’t reek of Conservatism, but provokes an helpless feeling within of the Tories not only winning this upcoming election, but also the battle of ideas.”

113 114“False tranquility within the Vale of York. I catch white specs up on the hills to my left: the giant golf-balls, listening devices for the US-military-occupied Menwith Hill surveillance base. Green and pleasant England, a silent, invisible collaborator in global warfare.”

“North Yorkshire. Viking places names. Norman-cum-Tory playground since 1066.”

115 116

“[Leaving on train at Newcastle] Can’t admit I’m very human. I am currently hemorrhaging the year 2005.”

“I feel happy, but it’s wavering (has the repeated sight of Edinburgh Waverley on notice boards put that word into my mouth?). 10 years since I was last in Newcastle. Listening to The The’s emotion-bomb Soul Mining, which first became part of me all those 10 years ago. What I’d give for the rawness, that part of my being that would consequently commit suicide within months of  May 2005. Look into reflection in window of homebound train, with an aging face. Don’t want to die this way. Flashbacks to when this occurred, listening to this album, walking down disused rail-track to the west of Barnsley.”

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1 May 2005

117

“[In Newcastle station] looking for toilets, I notice the words ‘help the homeless’ scrawled in either permanent marker or crayon on the sandstone walls of this station. It’s the mark of a heat of the moment act, potentially desperation borne out of hopelessness. Straight off, it makes me wonder if this city’s homeless problem is even worse than the other UK cities.”

118 (1)

118 (3)“Trying to find a toilet in a city infected by market fundamentalism is like trying to find 3 different varieties of ketchup in a old Soviet Bloc city.”

“Walk into a large city-based shopping centre [Newcastle centre] in search of a toilet that I don’t have to pay to use. The big monument I passed earlier appears again, this time appropriated into a virtual-impression draped on cladding for some upcoming aspirational consumer/leisure complex. Always an incorporation of something deemed of place and character into a non-place development that seeks to attract a generic-yet-culturally-powerful aspirational quasi-intellectual clientele, who, themselves, have no real place or character to them, when I think about it.”

118 (4) 118 (5)“An homeless half sits/half lays in his sleeping bag on steps just metres from the Baltic [Gateshead], a former flour mill now an internationally-recognised art gallery. All art gallery staff, who also look the same no matter where (including myself) walk straight past him. Can I blame them if it’s a daily experience? What can they do? I don’t have anything but 20 pence in loose change on me. Feel embarrassed, but I give him it anyway. In a strong North East accent he musters up cheer to say “Every little helps, bud”. I walk back down the river towards the bridges back over to Newcastle. The landscape either side of these two closely-knitted urban centres dips down in a way that resembles much less urbanised coastal settlements.”

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7 May 2015

Lost bus routes. Crofton

119 (2)

P1030483“The road into Crofton provokes many memories for Michael. A perfectly sized-rape seed-covered hill that became terrain for (old skool)Doctor Who-provoked  nightmare-scenarios; catching a bus all the way to Leeds; a ten pence bus ride to Wakefield centre; memories of growing up here. We pass by a series of ‘Vote Labour’  placards, in contrast to the more countrified nearby village of West Bretton that is drenched in big, no- doubt costly, ‘Vote Conservative’ placards. I am worried that size sometimes makes a difference.”

“1960’s (70’s?) small shopping/flats complex [a similar complex in nearby Outwood], now part-derelict, and facing fenced off wasteland where a pub used to stand. Such complex’s intrigue me, evoking an urbanity of a Lost British City, introduced into these proletarian outcrops sticking out of farmland – known as former mining communities.”

“Cutting through large playing fields around the back of a council estate, a familiar experience to people born into the 2nd half of the 20th century all around the UK. Massive Gardens. One of the gardens is fenceless, merging with the field, something once quite common but now almost unthinkable. The smell of freshly cut grass, young people hanging out on a warmish Spring evening. It brings back memories of another life; a mixture of my own memories and no doubt those of my parents’ generation. This memory of council estates is far from an unpleasant one, and is far from being in line with the contemporary narrative of them. Fond memories, of world that seems to have only half-vanished do much to counter the negative, and (of course) ‘undesirable’ ‘un-aspirational’ press that council estates get. Which makes me realise that this story isn’t time immemorial. We walk towards some newer, yet never-finished, private, aspirational hovels –  no doubt casualties of 2008. They remind Michael that he hasn’t stepped foot down here for gone 30 years.”

P1030491 P1030494

“As I catch my breath walking up an unusually steep suburban street [Wakefield is by and large ‘flatter’ than other West Riding towns], a long-lost vitality seems to be knocking loudly at the inner walls of the half dead person I have become. I know why this is. Yeah, this election doesn’t really offer much; but the unusually-high level of uncertainty regarding the outcome has conjured an emotional fidelity to the chance of a different kind of society, one where I can look to the future again. This feeling of vitality, like a plant that only flowers once a generation, is checking the atmosphere to see if it could become suitable. In this moment I recognise just how closely tied my chances of a better life are linked to the chances of there being a better world. It was certainly not planned, but emotional stakes place on the election result seem to have grown higher over the course of this day.”P1030500Between the villages of Ryhill and Cold Hiendley, on these windy old lanes that link up all these former mining communities. Why, after 20+ years since all the spoil heaps and slurry pits greened over, hiding the near past, do many of us still feel the urge to say “this landscape’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Maybe it constantly feels like it needs to be restated due to the nature of mining communities; they are unique amongst other former working class strongholds, because they are a proletarianised workforce cut off in the middle of fields, whilst the politics and ownership of the ‘green and pleasant’ ocean they are lumbered in hasn’t really changed since feudal times. This became all the more absurd once the pits went, making the mining communities look like somebody had literally taken a knife and sliced a few rows of houses out of the city of Manchester and chucked it into a field. The opposing interests in close proximity around here has become all the more apparent again since the political placards appeared.”

P1030507

Lost Bus Routes. Mapplewell, Darton, Kexbrough. 7 May

SKMBT_C45215051319080[1]-page-001

“Memories of May 2000, on the day we left school. Walking through this pathway of gnarled Oak trees, towards an old quarry nicknamed ‘the plantings’, which mimics a mountain top’s rocky outcrop vantage point over the surrounding landscape. All of these things, alongside painted graffiti-covering of the rocks, some of which date back at least to the early 1970’s (full name tags, as if fallen from a raggy old school text book, and ‘Bay City Rollers’ testify to this), well, all of these things are that which the social conditioning of high school, which we were all secretly desperate to escape by then, had blinkered-me-through-fear from even contemplating, never mind discussing, on these obligatory school ending piss-ups that took place up here. Caught between schooled uniformity and anxieties that were too much in their infancy to realise their causation, I vividly remember throwing a full crate of Fosters lager, can by can, into the bushes when my friends were not looking, whilst walking down this very path. Today it would have been the opposite. Maybe I knew my psychological limits better back then…”

P1030514 P1030515

“New Road, Staincross. The long-gone 235 and 391 Yorkshire Traction buses taking me back from college in the infant years of a new millennium too young figure what it was yet. Fond memories of getting time on this slightly route homewards to let new music saturate a still-maintained-happy-ending-outlook as I waded through cassettes, zoned out from the social world, in the days before we were all lost to our Ipods. A calm point before the storms. I’m speaking of late 2001 here, and if the world momentarily stopped in the wake of 9/11, so too did my anxieties in a brief moment of art college-enabled reflection.”

I lead us towards Valley Road [Mapplewell] for a very specific reason. My most lasting memory of the 1997 New Labour general election landslide plays itself out on this road. Aged 13, myself and my school friends took advantage of the general election-instigated inset day to go on a bike ride up to nearby Woolley on what I recall as a gloriously sunny Spring day. Having just purchased plentiful icepops from the now ‘all-propertied-up’ corner shop, we laughed at the seeming absurdity of somebody driving around in car shouting ‘vote Labour’ from a megaphone, when the election had been decided last night. Today, in hindsight, it doesn’t seem so absurd, looking back on what can now be seen as ‘the mood of the mid-nineties’, which New Labour rode. Utterly different what was really happening back then, was the feverish spirit; a conviction that these were ‘good times’. After catching the back end of the Britpop virus, I was far too unclued-up and optimistic not to be swept a long. What, with Oasis, The Prodigy, Pulp, and later The Verve, it truly felt like the working class were back in charge, after what seemed like an awful 80’s. How bitterly wrong this sense of things proved to be. The mood on Valley Road is different now. A huge Union Jack moves in the very calm air, in the garden in a housing block of ‘good intentions’, built in the 1930’s to move people from the slums, betrayed by the past few decades. Will there be cause for celebration tomorrow? It’s funny how you never see any joy or celebration when the Tories win power.”

P1030516P1030521

“In once-called ‘Darton West’ we get out the car and walk up towards the recreation ground, which is across from the 1970’s-built cul-de-sac, the only place I still know as ‘home’. Yet on returning it doesn’t quite feel like home anymore. Yet I do feel quite emotional as we approach the first block of council houses to go up in Kexbrough for the miners in the 1930’s. It’s different now, as when I lived here I left and entered the place with ASAP-speed, with the notion of home then being too caught up with my fears of falling into dangerously depressive states. But now I see it as I remember it before all that shit; as a child. The rows of 30’s/40’s houses, they are still here; they exist. They exist in their own right just as much as any yuppie tower block are doing right now in some place elsewhere.”

“Michael picks up on the clear divide that constitutes the area I grew up in. One road literally slices Kexbrough/Darton into 2 separate places; one of council houses built for workers in the long-gone industries, the other a more aspirational, commuter estate, built up after the opening of the M1 that slices through here. The two sides of the village have never really interacted. Yet there’s a divide even in the commuter-built area; between large detached houses with sandstone fronts (for managers, lawyers, doctors, headteachers?) with the oddly-named Roman Road area, where smaller brick-fronted detached houses cluster slightly more heavily. I can’t explain why it is called Roman Road, but it has changed much since I was young. Like everywhere really. There was a bus that came along here, an hair salon called Caesars, now just another house, and many children playing out on the street. Now there is nothing but passing cars, straggling dog walkers [the only acceptable walker in a car-dominated and paranoid estates], and us, looking weird now the sun is going down.”

P1030522“As we head back north we drive past the large door making factory at the bottom of the hill, where a pit yard once was. Acknowledging it in my vision produces a knot in my stomach, and a poker-faced defiance against a slow sliding down toward even worse work and pay conditions, for those (like myself) caught in the headlights between 40hr-working-week dependency, and a sheer lack of job-hunting guile. “I hear […this factory] treats its staff like utter shit”. Michael responds by talking about stories of fist-fights on the factory floor borne out of misdirected misery and frustration. We don’t even need to confirm to each other our sheer disagreement with working conditions having to be this way.”

Lost Bus Routes and Pre-Election Reflections

Lost bus routes.

Crofton

119 (2)

P1030483“We drive down from Wakefield centre towards Crofton on a pleasant Thursday teatime, the time of the optimist if ever there is such a time. The road into Crofton provokes many memories for Michael. A perfectly sized-rape seed-covered hill that became terrain for (old skool)Doctor Who-provoked nightmare-scenarios; catching a bus all the way to Leeds; a ten pence bus ride to Wakefield centre. Memories of growing up here. We pass by a series of ‘Vote Labour’  placards, in contrast to the more countrified nearby village of West Bretton that is drenched in big, and no-doubt costly, ‘Vote Conservative’ placards. I am worried that size sometimes makes a difference.”

“1960’s (70’s?) small shopping/flats complex [a similar complex in nearby Outwood]. It is now part-derelict, and facing fenced off wasteland where a pub used to stand. Such complex’s intrigue me, evoking an urbanity of a Lost British City, introduced into these proletarian outcrops sticking out of farmland – known as former mining communities.”

“Cutting through large playing fields around the back of a council estate, a familiar experience to people born into the 2nd half of the 20th century all around the UK. Massive Gardens. One of the gardens is fenceless, merging with the field, something once quite common but now almost unthinkable. The smell of freshly cut grass, young people hanging out on a warmish Spring evening. It brings back memories of another life; a mixture of my own memories and no doubt those of my parents’ generation. This memory of council estates is far from an unpleasant one, and is far from being in line with the contemporary narrative of them. Fond memories, of world that seems to have only half-vanished do much to counter the negative, and (of course) ‘undesirable’ ‘un-aspirational’ press that council estates get. Which makes me realise that this story isn’t time immemorial. We walk towards some newer, yet never-finished, private, aspirational hovels –  no doubt casualties of 2008. They remind Michael that he hasn’t stepped foot down here for gone 30 years.”

P1030491 P1030494

“As I catch my breath walking up an unusually steep suburban street [Wakefield is by and large ‘flatter’ than other West Riding towns], a long-lost vitality seems to be knocking loudly at the inner walls of the half dead person I have become. I know why this is. Yeah, this election doesn’t really offer much; but the unusually-high level of uncertainty regarding the outcome has conjured an emotional fidelity to the chance of a different kind of society, one where I can look to the future again. This feeling of vitality, like a plant that only flowers once a generation, is checking the atmosphere to see if it could become suitable. In this moment I recognise just how closely tied my chances of a better life are linked to the chances of there being a better world. It was certainly not planned, but emotional stakes place on the election result seem to have grown higher over the course of this day.”P1030500“After about an hour, we get back into the car and travel towards similar villages on the South and West Yorkshire border. Between the villages of Ryhill and Cold Hiendley, on these windy old lanes that link up all these former mining communities. Why, after 20+ years since all the spoil heaps and slurry pits greened over, hiding the near past, do many of us still feel the urge to say “this landscape’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Maybe it constantly feels like it needs to be restated due to the nature of mining communities; they are unique amongst other former working class strongholds, because they are a proletarianised workforce cut off in the middle of fields, whilst the politics and ownership of the ‘green and pleasant’ ocean they are lumbered in hasn’t really changed since feudal times. This became all the more absurd once the pits went, making the mining communities look like somebody had literally taken a knife and sliced a few rows of houses out of the city of Manchester and chucked it into a field. The opposing interests in close proximity around here has become all the more apparent again since the political placards appeared.”

P1030507

Lost Bus Routes. Mapplewell, Darton, Kexbrough. 7 May

SKMBT_C45215051319080[1]-page-001

“This Thursday evening still feels young as we arrive in Staincross, still under daylight. Memories of May 2000, on the day we left school. Walking through this pathway of gnarled Oak trees, towards an old quarry nicknamed ‘the plantings’, which mimics a mountain top’s rocky outcrop vantage point over the surrounding landscape. All of these things, alongside painted graffiti-covering of the rocks, some of which date back at least to the early 1970’s , well, all of these things are that which the social conditioning of high school, which we were all secretly desperate to escape by then, had blinkered-me-through-fear from even contemplating, never mind discussing, on these obligatory school ending piss-ups that took place up here. Caught between schooled uniformity and anxieties that were too much in their infancy to realise their causation, I vividly remember throwing a full crate of Fosters lager, can by can, into the bushes when my friends were not looking, whilst walking down this very path. Today it would have been the opposite. Maybe I knew my psychological limits better back then…”

P1030514 P1030515

“We walk back down the hill towards New Road, still in Staincross. Recollections of the long-gone 235 and 391 Yorkshire Traction buses taking me back from college in the infant years of a new millennium too young figure what it was yet. Fond memories of getting time on this somewhat longer journey homewards to let new music saturate a still-maintained-happy-ending-outlook. As I waded through cassettes, zoned out from the social world, in the days before we were all lost to our Ipods. A calm point before the storms. I’m speaking of late 2001 here, and if the world momentarily stopped in the wake of 9/11, so too did my anxieties in a brief moment of art college-enabled reflection.”

I lead us towards Valley Road [Mapplewell] for a very specific reason. My most lasting memory of the 1997 New Labour general election landslide plays itself out on this road. Aged 13, myself and my school friends took advantage of the general election-instigated inset day to go on a bike ride up to nearby area of Woolley on what I recall as a gloriously sunny Spring day. Having just purchased plentiful icepops from the now ‘all-propertied-up’ corner shop, we laughed at the seeming absurdity of somebody driving around in car shouting ‘vote Labour’ from a megaphone, when the election had been decided last night. Today, in hindsight, it doesn’t seem so absurd, looking back on what can now be seen as ‘the mood of the mid-nineties’, which New Labour rode. Utterly different to what was really happening back then, was this feverish spirit; a conviction that these were ‘good times’. After catching the back end of the Britpop virus, I was far too unclued-up and optimistic not to be swept a long. What, with Oasis, The Prodigy, Pulp, and later The Verve, it truly felt like the working class were back in charge, after what seemed like an awful 80’s. How bitterly wrong this sense of things proved to be. The mood on Valley Road is different now. A huge Union Jack moves in the very calm air, in the garden in a housing block of ‘good intentions’, built in the 1930’s to move people from the slums, betrayed by the past few decades. Will there be cause for celebration tomorrow? It’s funny how you never see any joy or celebration when the Tories win power.”

P1030516P1030521

“We park up in an area that used to be called ‘Darton West’, get out and walk up towards the recreation ground in Kexborough, which is across from the 1970’s-built cul-de-sac – the only place I still know as ‘home’. Yet on returning it doesn’t quite feel like home anymore. Yet I do feel quite emotional as we approach the first block of council houses to go up in Kexbrough for the miners in the 1930’s. It’s different now, as when I lived here I left and entered the place with ASAP-speed, with the notion of home then being too caught up with my fears of falling into dangerously depressive states. But now I see it as I remember it before all that shit; as it felt when I was a child. The rows of 1930’s/1940’s houses, they are still here; they exist. They exist in their own right just as much as any yuppie tower blocks are doing right now in some place elsewhere.”

“Michael picks up on the clear divide that constitutes the area I grew up in. One road literally slices the Kexbrough/Darton area into 2 separate places; one of council houses built for workers in the long-gone industries, the other a more aspirational, commuter estate, built up after the opening of the M1 motorway that slices through here. The two sides of the village have never really interacted. Yet there’s a divide even in the commuter-built area; between large detached houses with sandstone fronts (for managers, lawyers, doctors, headteachers?) and the oddly-named Roman Road area, where smaller brick-fronted detached houses cluster slightly more heavily. I can’t explain why it is called Roman Road, but it has changed much since I was young. Like everywhere really. There was the 391 Yorkshire Traction bus that came along here, an hair salon called Caesars, now just another house, and many children playing out on the street. Now there is nothing but passing cars, straggling dog walkers [the only acceptable walker in a car-dominated and paranoid estates], and us, looking weird now the sun is going down.”

P1030522“As we head back north towards West Yorkshire we drive past the large door making factory at the bottom of this hill, where a pit yard once was. Acknowledging it in my vision produces a knot in my stomach, and a poker-faced defiance against a slow sliding down toward even worse work and pay conditions, for those (like myself) caught in the headlights between 40hr-working-week dependency, and a sheer lack of job-hunting guile. “I hear […this factory] treats its staff like utter shit”. Michael responds by talking about stories of fist-fights on the factory floor borne out of misdirected misery and frustration. We don’t even need to confirm to each other our sheer disagreement with working conditions having to be this way.”

“The mood of earlier has certainly dissipated, and there is a shared silence confirming that this day is done for as we part company in Wakefield centre.  The updates about early signs of a Tory election victory begin to come through, there’s no hiding from it.”

Stories From Forgotten Space (March/April)

Stories From Forgotten Space builds on 2014 Mapmaking with the aim of taking the most prominent features of the project a little further.

The previous section of Stories from Forgotten Space can be found here:

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/stories-from-forgotten-space-january/

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/stories-from-forgotten-space-march/

.

28 March 2015

65“2 miles north of Wakefield centre. Cutting under a bridge. There is a Large Yorkshire flag planted in somebody’s garden as close to the mainline railway track as possible. The railway represents the gaze of the world passing by. I see more patriotically-placed flags close to railway tracks than anywhere else.”

.
“The future, now drab. Stare out onto the M62 motorway from the bridge. I’m listening to Autobahn by Kraftwerk, with an hyper-realist album cover (always in mind, when listening to the album), and a Utopianist outlook on the still-then-new motorway systems. In this world we now have , when motorways are supersaturated into the netting of everyday life, their beauty is there still, yet it is inaccessible – whilst trapped in a series of systems that are threatening to destroy us.”

66 67 68“A view of central Leeds from inside the large housing estate of Middleton. The Blade-Runner-made-real-by-Dubai effect of Bridgewater Place (specifically) juxtaposed with the style of redbrick houses council houses my grandparents, and their contemporaries, both raised our parents and dragged their parents into from the Victorian slums, creates two opposing worlds. A world of superclass and underclass, of sci-fi dog-eat-dog-dystopia actualised, contrasting with the post war working class life of mild frustration, old religious ornaments (clinging on in a Brave New World), soggy crackers and hard bread. Still inhabited houses, occupied by proud owners seem to jolt into a reality that they have been told they don’t belong in. The popular music from the 60’s/70’s/80’s still seems to echo off the buildings constituting these estates, but nothing post 2000.”

69“In Quality Save in the Merrion Centre, Leeds, now a low-budget shopping centre, pushed as far from the train station as possible. The stress is always far more tangible in these shops, the children cry with a harshness and duration not witnessed in the shops further down towards the upmarket end. It is too much for my dehydrated, weekend-discontented self to deal with, and I have to drop my intended purchases and swap this ‘contained’ noise for the open-air noise of the roads outside.”

.
“Two men and a woman, in low-budget clothing, and drenched from the afternoon downpour (the poor never manage to evade the rain), walk down the road that divides the older working class part of central Leeds, the open air market and bus station, with the newer promotional images of glamour, posted up on the boards circumventing the construction of an high-end-consumer complex, which aims to be an appendage to the bastion-of-arrogance The Victoria Quarter – an enclave of very high end consumables, just across the road. I feel a violence from being sandwiched between a life of poverty that nobody desires, and 6 foot photographs of ‘chiselled’ and vibrant representatives of a world that shows no empathy to a hard life that wears away the such ‘modelling’ looks.”

69a 70“I walk up a side street towards Westgate in Wakefield centre, containing Mexican/Latin-themed bars/eateries. Whenever I see enclaves made for social occasions, my body throws out an instantly-vapourising excitement. It is a perpetually-frustrated excitement, borne out of factors (such as the promises, and a loneliness) specific to our times, due to a potential for social space that I neither ever tap into, or lacks the ability to be tapped into due to being nothing other than an image of socialising.”
.

April 4 2015

71“Walking down Smyth Street, Wakefield city centre. There is a poster on the side of a club for an upcoming Heaven 17 gig – a group known for their ‘Temptation’ track. But that was well over 30 years ago. Something so distant, made near again through comeback tours. But it still feels distant, like it doesn’t belong here now, but is here nonetheless due to the void in genuine cultural production.”

.
“On Ings Road dual carriageway. Under a railway bridge that looks older than everything else on the road, a Sainsburys delivery van drives past me. I can just about make out that somebody has appropriated a phrase made popular after the terrorist killing of the French cartoonist/satirist Charlie Hebdo, (earlier this year) to write ‘Je Suis Clarkson’ in the dirt on the back of the van, seemingly in support of the plight of recently sacked BBC presenter/bully Jeremy Clarkson. The irony in using the words for Jeremy Clarkson, however, is possibly lost on the writer. As both are/were indeed alike in respect of their (arguably) one-dimensional idea of freedom of speech. It is arguable that both had aimed their “I-can-say-what-I-want/Attack-who-I want” jibes at those in weaker, less powerful positions than themselves.”

.
“A gang of young people have a air of brashness with the entrance into Wakefield bus station – the lurching search for amusement. I walk past them with the intention of exiting the bus station, but turn back on myself in usual Saturday afternoon indecisiveness. Shouts come from behind me. I notice a young male, who turns out to be some sort of ring-leader of the group, who’s hybrid style of urban/street with indie-boy surprises me, still surprised, as I am, by such hybrids in our super-saturated times. He keeps advancing towards a dishevelled-looking man, who looks to have a mixture of alcohol addiction, financial, and learning problems; 3 issues that act as weakness in a bullying culture that this young, confident man, seems happy to exploit in order to amuse his gang. The dishevelled man responds exactly how the gang wishes him to respond by lashing out manically at the young man, in the process exposing the distress that the situation is causing him. The young man capitalises on every sign of vulnerability-viewed-as-weakness to escalate the spectacle. Everybody in the bus station is staring, including myself. I look around to see if any security or police are knocking around – on the few times you wish they were every where – but there are none to be seen. And surely the police would see me as wasting their time? After all no ‘real’ harm is being done, is it? The bullies win – as they always do when the vulnerable are no longer seen as vulnerable, but as losers. And bullying is so saturated into our society, via an emphasis on competition that oozes from screens, and creeps into work places.”

72 73“How can you feel anything but loss walking through the tree-lined suburbs (St John’s area of Wakefield)? ‘We’re all middle class now’ – more faded than any sun-bleached abandoned billboard can ever be. Of course these undead desires of a leafy, suburban, fresh-veg-eating lifestyle still appeal to me; I was at the ripe age in the 1990’s to be saturated with them, believing that it was both totally desirable, to the point where a 2.4 children, ‘happy ending’ seemed inevitable. Not any more. And I feel ashamed it still clings to me.”

.
“A gymnasium offering 24 hour access on the corner of Trinity Walk. Work never ends now. The allure of (the appearance of) productivity, of an enviable, toned, professional and industrious subjectivity is very strong, stronger by the day. But where is the room for life anymore? For happenings, chance encounters?”

.
“Michael speaks of how the non-place nature of the private/public space of Trinity Walk doesn’t quite work for him, due to its usage of previously-existing streets that he remembers from childhood, making for an odd experience where the zero-gravity effect of pure simulacrum-consumption suddenly becomes grounded in a very specific space.”

74 758 April 2015

76After traveling on this road for the first time in 3 weeks (that’s a long time for me not to be in Barnsley) the ‘old girls’ school’, now a compound of mildly-desirable apartments, strikes me as a stand out feature on this very leafy, suburban entrance into a town that still conjures images of ugly, northern grittiness in the minds of the rest of the country. But this leafy avenue is to nowhere, as the town in anticipates is somewhat absent. And it is to the frustration of a ‘native’ of the scattered former coal mining empire that clusters around Barnsley centre. A constant hope for a town centre that offers something. But momentum always fades, and it now seems to have died back more than any time in living memory. To the extent that the suburbs may have lost their entire purpose to Leeds/Sheffield commuter settlements. This entrance is one of those that suggests something that seems to be forever displaced.”

.
“Sat in chain cafe talking to Dave, 6pm/post-work, only non-alcohol-orientated place open at this time. We are in agreement, that out-and-out revolution just wouldn’t work right now, and we need to get back to a building a socially-progressive structure that can look to a future again. We are sat behind a group of teenage girls. I become aware of the inherently-pretentious-sounding nature of such a conversation, especially within a chain cafe. But their repetitive glances away from their friends are fortunately (or unfortunately) towards their phone screens and my presumed accusation of “trying to sound all clever” is proven to be false. But there again I’ve only ever had such an accusation from older generations. I begin thinking of how the possibly-intentional misconception of what it means to be ‘grown up’ in our culture usually means to become more conservative and to move away from once-held ideals. We mock straight-outta-college young people for acclaiming that “the revolution is coming”, aware of the relentless tide of disappointments awaiting them that will wear this out. But the problem is in our possibly-intentional conflation of idealism with naivety. Older people can still remain true to their ideals for a better world, a long time after their naïve expectations of the immanence of revolution are worn away. They can do this without becoming resigned to ‘the way of the world’ once they accumulate a few small comforts they don’t want to part with.”

77“Post 6pm Peel Square/Peel Street. Never seen so many semi-destitute/semi-destroyed lives anaesthetised by drink. On the corner of Peel Square and Market Hill two men crouch over an electricity box, seemingly impatiently trying to see what’s revealed on a scratch-card. As we walk up Peel Street two men struggle to walk, so ‘out of it’ that I mistake their growling expressions as the beginnings of potential hostilities towards me and Dave. I look to my right, up the walkway ‘Dog Lane’, to see a drunken man set on the steps with his head in his hands. Yeah, it’s been a rare sunny week (to the which the UK seems to always respond by drinking), but this is a dead end getting closer and closer. It can’t go on.”

78“The tragedy of ‘Che Bar’. A night club, with that typical semi-derelict look during day time, which means you can never tell whether it has ceased trading or not, offering dead-end night-time pleasure-seeking on a street that (due to the premature cut off caused by the ring road) embodies a dead end. A smashed window with a Cuban flag behind it; but it’s the can of Stella that somebody has somehow managed to lob onto the lettering for ‘Che’ that strikes me and Dave as most tragically symbolic. Che Guevara, a left wing revolutionary. No one image embodies that which stands in the way of revolution/social change in contemporary times that a crate of Stella Artois.”

.

9, 10 April 2015

79“ #I get so lonely, lonely, lonely. Got to be some good times ahead# – the Freddy Mercury dance song from yesteryear becomes haunting, and fitting, in this post-6pm, empty shopping mall [The Ridings, Wakefield]. A moment that acts as a metaphor for the wider feeling of being ‘stuck’. Aged 9, at the beginning of my life, this was one a few songs to be etched into my thinking that seemed to represent a perceived-ending of something. I become captive the song’s memory-reprising as I frantically root through my rucksack in vain for the camera I thought I’d packed. 9 years old, travelling between Cornish holiday destinations. With recently improved standard of living for the family, Cornwall looked so different from previous holiday destinations; it looked more like they did on the TV. 1993 – a new world seemed to beckon. But what else would I feel in the early 90’s? I caught the wave of cultural optimism telling me that poverty, war and misery had been eradicated by those good people from the century we were close to leav

.ing. This song: it felt like a closure of all of that – a waving goodbye. But it never went away, it just got stronger.”
“Unlike Barnsley (in fact, unlike any other town I can think of), Wakefield seems to have an active night-life throughout the week, as if it has been permitted to stay in the 90’s/early 00’s indefinitely. The bars are sometimes lacking any revellers, but even then they remain open, playing 90’s House music to nobody. It’s as if the night scene is like an old clock in an unoccupied building that chimes to itself right on time, every day, regardless.”

P1030299“The Tickets Officer approaches me as I enter Kirkgate station’s platforms. Their increasing presence closing in on those fluke times when you get a free ride – those little bits of luck that do much to take some of the weight of everything off your day. Not unfriendly, just non-friendly transactions – as they must always assume that we’re trying to ‘pull a fast one’ at such stations. Notice PMT/SML/PST (? – some abbreviating anyway) above Northern Rail on his staff name tag. A security firm subcontract, or joint venture – whatever it is it makes me queasy. But it’s not the officer’s fault. He hums a tune whilst we wait for the machine to print my ticket. Just like me, he’s trying to make ends meet. The relationship between vendor and customer may be constitutive of false bonds, but maybe they’re the only bonds now holding the entire social structure together, after 40-years-hate-your-neighbour has been drilled into us. I think how futile calls for immediate insurrection, anarchic alternatives are after 40 years of Thatcherism. “We’d tear each other apart – we’ve been bred to hate each other”. Any change surely has to begin with slow social transformation, before any high-end idealism could work – to help us not see each other purely as competitors for diminishing returns.”

80

“A long queue begins to form in the Poundland shop in Wakefield centre, as the cashier is way behind our contemporary demands for Internet-speed purchasing in the physical world. Nobody who has been emotionally hijacked in futility to prove themselves of worth in an entrepreneurial society can endure being in Poundland for too long. “Why can’t the cashier be faster/better? Why can’t I be faster/better?” What an harsh world we’ve made.”

“Approaching Darton railway station. This railway line (from Sheffield up to Leeds) could stand in for my entire adult life. And I increasingly have this feeling that it at least owes me something.”

81 82 (2)10 April 2015

“I pass 30 pence to an homeless woman on the road leading northwards from The Headrow towards the Universities. Homeless on street corners of UK cities so normal now it almost becomes assimilated into the simulcra of ‘city scene’. Not quite entirely though; the exhaustive sense of responsibility and potential vulnerability to homelessness it provokes in me cuts through all the Simulcra City that often eases us into our desire to shirk responsibility.”

.
“Millennium Square [Leeds] empty of fun fares/winter festivals, open space freed up again. Breathable. The only real breathing space in the city – maybe there is down by the canal, but down there the constant barrage of kitted-up joggers provokes too much anxiety over one’s own ‘biopolitical value’. The paving stones of Millennium Square stretch into the horizon of seating areas constituting workers gearing up for their UKWeekend (the macho football-fan-like chanting erupting from one of the tables is too far way to bother me). A young girl takes advantage of the open space to ride her scooter up and down, in a simplistic manner that could momentarily strike you as a shard from our post-war past, in our current securitised, paranoid, surveillance state. Whilst I become mildly incensed over my inability to tell myself just what it is I find so wrong about the big screen replays of the highly skilled performers involved in the ‘Grande Departe 2014’ (the ranter within internally shouts “Jesters for Dystopia!), an homeless man, too honest for me to dispute any of his story, very politely asks me for money for food. But having given change to the homeless woman, and worrying over my own financial-capabilities to stand as tall as I can in this world, I refrain from giving him any change. I feel bad. What could I do? This isn’t breathing space at all. Breathing space doesn’t exist. I move on.”

8485“Walking past the high rise blocks of ‘luxury apartments’ along the canal-side. Man looks pleased with himself; enjoying the sun. Who can blame him? I want to. I want to blame something. Bad feelings building like nausea. So much choice, no fruition. Always barred entry. It isn’t choice though – always the same stale taste. A group of lads all suited-up. Maybe they work in the city. But all together. In unison. The lads away from home.”

.
“Under the footbridge crossing the canal are the ragged remnants of somebody’s sleeping place. Still used or not – it’s hard to tell. It seems an odd place to choose, but if one is constantly moved on within the city streets, what choice is there? Like the ever-increasing visibility of homelessness on the streets, this again highlights the severity of it.”

8687 “Walking down the side of the canal (where the old Leeds/Liverpool canal ends). Sometimes everybody seems 6 foot; neoliberal perfection achieved in body-form. Jogging, laughing, they make me look like the 1980’s flotsam and jetsam washed up on the shore of the ‘Brave New 90’s’. Of course, this is just the gentrified city landscape, but this acknowledgement just makes it so much worse.”

.
“As I walk this city alone, with every instance collapsing my efforts to be at ease into a now-default gritting of teeth/poker-face, I know in my heart of hearts that my loneliness is a political issue, bigger than me whom it is inflicted upon. Yet in words it will forever provoke its response of violin-strings-mimcry-mockery. My decision to buy a soft drink when I reach the pub, and finally managed to quench my thirst, lapses into a determined desire for an alcoholic drink.”

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11 April 2015

88“Barnsley central. I always like my home town at this time, within a 11:30AM – 1:30PM period; a short, vibrant energy that vanishes into fear-inducing zombie-pleasure-addiction (like all UK towns?) as the day descends into night. Unfortunately I was more of a captive participator in the latter – one of the reasons I felt It was wise to temporarily leave here, even if such instilled behavioural patterns follow me.”

89 90“As I walk toward the exit in a charity shop on Division Street (Sheffield), the Power Ballad CD playing in the shop sticks, repeating a one second point on the song over and over. It always takes us a moment to realise what has occurred. And why do we all smirk when we realise? Is it because such technical faults momentarily reveal the truth? That the ‘stuck record’ is the truth.”

.
“As I look down the hill from West Street I notice a huge banner draped down the side of (what I thought still were) the BT offices. But such a banner surely states that they’re now being converted into student accommodation. The aspirationalism of it all (a word that would sound bizarre in association with student life even a decade ago) is an underlying given due to the “book now/don’t miss out” promise/warning. I would’ve never imagine that such an dominating block of offices within this city would eventually become student accommodation and once-again reminds me of what is big business now in this city. I would’ve never imagined myself thinking negatively of the expansion if universities/colleges within our towns/cities, but maybe I should have been careful of what I wished for. Education purely as business, driven by profit-making, with perpetual expansion is (dare I say it, as a Post-Grad?) beginning to have a parasitical impact on towns and cities rather than a positively-transformative force. It’s depressing, and needn’t be like this.”

91 91(a) 92

“I initially mistake a poster draped on the Winter Gardens “calling all city centre businesses” to use their postal ballot for a poster encouraging the local electorate to vote for the Green Party in the upcoming General Election. This is due to the largest words “Vote Yes” being incorporated into a large green circle. If my initial misreading is anything to go by, I hope many more passers-by do the same, and the poster becomes an accidental booster for Green Party support.”
“I exit a side street, to walk across the tram-lined road, down to the former-Castle Market area. As I gaze more at the city than ‘blindfully’ minding my own business, I am accosted by a beggar asking for loose change. I genuinely don’t have anything until I reach a cash machine further down. But I begin to wonder if a city laden with undisputed desperate denizens disables any attempt to experience it as a place to learn, and forces it to be an urban gauntlet where ‘blindfully’ minding one’s own business becomes a default measure that is hard to divert from.”

.
“As I walk down towards Sheffield train station I begin to hear one of my least-liked sounds. Is the football-fan-like chanting/jeering the most indicative noise of the experiential-enclosure-affect of towns/cities over the UKWeekend? The potential of passive aggression , and the avoidance and discomfort of places, is largely absent during weekdays. Their search for a jeer-target lands on two young women, who look to have had their weekend’s fun already turned sour, with the men aiming the slur “plastic fantastic” at one of the women due to the dress she is wearing.”

Stories From Forgotten Space (March)

Stories From Forgotten Space builds on 2014 Mapmaking with the aim of taking the most prominent features of the project a little further.

The previous section of Stories from Forgotten Space can be found here: https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/stories-from-forgotten-space-january/

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6 March 2015

38“Passing through the Thornes area of Wakefield. Leafy, inner-city suburbia, with sun shining on rooftops. Like many things from a surface level inspection, it should all feel right/OK. But it just doesn’t.”

“Sat in a cafe made almost entirely of windows, in the 4 year old, yet seemingly still brand new, Trinity Walk shopping Complex [Wakefield]. A shopping plaza that after all this time still prompts the gut-reaction-word ‘Americanized’ within a UK citizen. The windows help give perspective, pause for contemplation. Sat here I can see as clear as possible the contradictions of the current state of affairs (and my own immobility within it), yet I am as perplexed as ever as to how this state of affairs could be transcended. Two women from the Baby Boomer generation chatter away on the table behind me. For all us 35 years and younger, largely services workers, locked into communicative capitalism, we are probably the most articulate, linguistically-competent generation ever. Yet we were sold down the line, by the ‘Blairites’ more than anyone else. We now perpetually fight the feeling of being ‘surplus to requirements’.”

“With my guard down more than usual, within a fleeting hope within a sunny midday point, I create a fleeting fondness for the young woman shop attendant giving me assistance with the damaged phone I possess. But how can it be anything more than a fleeting dream? For an emotionally-detached person, who lacks the ability to find ‘tastes’, ‘preferences’ and ‘hobbies’ to fill those in-between points in life, I’m more up against it than ever in a lonelier, more cynical world, where Internet dating takes precedence.”

“A young woman, clearly a victim of Anorexia, is caught in a moment of indecision over what food products to buy in central Wakefield’s 2nd Sainsburys superstore. Personal memory prompts me to envisage the anorexic subject as a perpetual prisoner to these palaces of excess choice. “Trapped between life and death” by paraphrase a Manic Street Preachers song on the same subject.”

3940“The train stops in the hinterland of Holbeck/Wortley whilst waiting for room in Leeds train station. Sun light in the window creates a false wall on the landscape. I think about this thing I just don’t seem to be able to get around: an invisible wall that, in turn, makes all alternatives to the place I’m stuck in invisible. But they must be there; I’ve seen glimmers of them throughout my life.”

“Leaving the Waterstones bookstore, the eyes of Audrey Hepburn gleam back at me from a photograph calendar. ‘The Dead won’t go away’. At the other side of the room, the smiling faces of celebrity chefs rebound back from production-line lifestyle cookery books. To me, this all wishes to end itself now.”

4142

“Staring up the river [Aire] at a now gentrified landscape, yet consisting of appealing redbrick buildings all the same. However, the Bridgewater tower, hangs over the buildings like a giant upturned N64 or Internet hub system. It is a monstrous imposition, mainly because of the Dubai-like world it suggests. Serving as a constant reminder of the criminally-unequal logic of neoliberal capitalism that potentially still lays in store for this country. I run out of words whilst staring at the reflections on the night-time river; trying to look for clues – a way out.”

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7 March 2015

43

“Haigh. On one side of the road there remains a slightly derelict red brick wall, which must have been something to do with the mine that once stood here. On the other side of the road, two bungalows are being built on waste ground. Private property – the only thing that seems to be built these days.”

“The adrenalin from running, mixed with that fact that I’m now within my most consistently melancholic period I can recall, makes everything from here on this vantage point ridge-way over South and West Yorks somewhat tragically symbolic. This sense of loss, of dysfunction feels so environing that it cannot simply be specific to my own subjectivity. And even if it is, my current inability to get out if this predicament, necessitates my need to write about the external as if it is so. There is a great view of the dark grey figure of Emley Moor Mast from here. It specifically seems symbolic of something missing, as if their aura can only be felt in a melancholic sense.”

“On Wilthorpe Road a middle aged man is clearly struggling with the weight of his rucksack. Regardless of his actual circumstances, thoughts on the forced-acceptance of low pay work, and general country-wide hardship abounds. Low pay enslaves us to work, making us more obedient, and leaving the top down conservative attitude towards work ringing in our ears all day.”

“In the sunlight of a midday that promises springtime, the town [Barnsley] suddenly feels rich with promise. Expansive. It is as perplexing as it is dispiriting how this changes into its opposite as the day drags on and the streets are slowly engulfed under a desperate search for some kind of stimulus/titillation before the new day.”

44“As I stare at a poster advertising for male models, for an establishment specialising in styling male facial hair, in a ‘retro/vintage’ fashion. I realise that whatever it is I’m looking for, I won’t find it within this ‘cultural centre’ situated around Division Street. I’m generalising when I begin to wonder of in today’s world there is only space for two subjects: the hipster and the melancholic.”

“Especially in cities like Sheffield, I seem to be in an endless quest for something. But it never materialises. Or it is forever displaced. I walk over the hill, from West Street down to Solly Street.”

“5 years-worth of fading anti-austerity posters cling to boards covering up disused land next to Sheffield bus station.”

454647

“As the train heads into the tunnel at Chapletown, the text on my laptop screen doubles up, reflected into the dark outside. I am reading George Monbiot’s 2014 article on our Age of Loneliness, which seems to me one of the most relevant pieces of writing around at the moment.”

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12 March 2015

48“From the bus window I can see into a living room in a mid 20th century, endless-suburbia-style, semi-detached house. There is a large abstract painting hung in the space, the kind you’d expect in a ‘homely’ environment that is used to build a future for your family. Expansion rather than contraction.”

“I almost choke on the smell of Ammonia emanating from the floor next to what was once the Royal Hotel [ central Barnsley]. I initially mistake it for the smell of vomit, but nothing so strong and un-shifting could emanate from a single person. I wonder, wildly, whether it is actually an ‘anti-social-behaviour’ deterrent tactic. The town centre has an incredibly high concentration of youths in a perpetually aimless state, which the authorities are always trying to disperse. The ammonia smell is still in my nostrils as I enter into the turquoise-coloured transport interchange; they go awfully together.”

“On the express train to Sheffield. My attempts to hide the drawing I’m working on from the gaze of other passengers fails as a man who I’m sat across from, who looks to be in his 60’s, brings it up in an unending-paragraphs way of speaking, that quickly moves over to his admiration for the “one off” talent of street artist Banksy. My initial thoughts about pretending to exit the train a stop prematurely (at Meadowhall) and then sneaking to the other carriage fills me with guilt, as I’d just be spreading this ruthless (anti)social virus of loneliness, that each generation suffers from, but some just can’t adjust to. If I’d have been reared in a less individualistic atmosphere, I probably now wouldn’t feel physically seized with the urge to try to escape what feels like incarceration (communication). Perhaps it’s also the realisation that in 30 years I could be this man, socially-stranded, and desperate to speak to other human beings in an age that secretly wishes that old faces would just disappear and stopping getting in the way of the ‘bright young things’. In truth he has a decent well-verse life story which isn’t too hard on my work-tired brain.”

49“The woman I notice sat talking as I walk past the window of a bar seems to possess an essence of the city [Sheffield] that now seems forever displaced on the actual streets; something about the way she carries off her leather jacket look, conjures a working class confidence, and an inventive popular culture that followed its lead. The city of The Human League an Pulp that now seems no longer present. At least not in the centre.”

50‘He’s not setting out to hurt people. He’s got a lot of love in him …He actually, I think, wants to do the right thing. So its more a question of, will power and self discipline and circumstances.’ The sample from the track Etched Headplate by Burial (a song that literally haunted my dreaming in 2014) is so timely as it comes on my Ipod, in how it encapsulates my endless-evening struggle with keeping my frustration with these circumstances at bay. I want to do good. I want to be civil. But there’s a destructive element that sets in many a eve.”

53“Semi-Surbuban streets of ex-mining settlements at night – walked them so many times. I feel so faded and old, as if the perfume of youth has finally worn off. Always thought I’d had found my own ground (so to speak) before this inevitable point found me.”

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13 March 2015

5556

“The train stops in the usual hinterland just outside Leeds railways station. The majority of the buildings still derelict, sort of waiting in line for the infrastructural developments (especially the southern entrance into Leeds station); for the channels that allow the flow of ‘sparkling financial dust’ to spread virally, and turn it into the late capitalist blend of unending work-consumption, that greets you just north of the river Aire. As I stare at the dirty old railways bridges I realise we have left behind the first hour of the afternoon. From 2pm onwards the looming anticipation of the evening’s depressive lassitude hangs over ever thought/action. The 1pm hour is usually the one I find easiest out of all 24, upon the pivot of the see-saw that each day is.”

57 58“Walking up a pretty tiring steep incline into Burley Park. The hard faces, heavy brows, weight-on-shoulders-look of the poor, which is so so hard to disguise from a world that offers no leg up to those who cannot hide these scars.”
“Overly familiar style of suburbia, and redbrick terraces further down, that possible only remain used due to our characterless, placeless present holding on to character and place from times that have gone. For all that quintessential Leeds-feel, the row upon row of warren-like terraces are certainly not an environment I feel has many positive impacts on your state of mind. A labyrinth-like nature which I’m probably more sensitive to at present due to being drained-tired and stressed from taking the wrong turn from Headingley train station. I mistook the size of these parts of the city, they go and on – a Victorian metropolis.”

“Drained-tired, I decide to stop walking when seeing a young woman at a bus stop makes me trust in frequent buses back to the centre. As I wait, 2 men who have the appearance of one made hard by life, look drunk, punch-drunk and passively-frustrated as they attempt the road. I mistake one of the mens’ decision to return back to the pavement I’m on as him coming up to confront me due to him seeing me looking at him. Despite this not being the case, this gets me feeling aggressively self-defensive. My accent hardens due to this, making the young woman find me undecipherable when I ask her about the next bus.”

59“Sitting over a coffee now, I can almost feel the violence, fear, schizophrenia of the city drain out of me and fall from my shoulders, helped by the soft white noise of machinery within the otherwise quiet cafe. My discontent has, for all my post-grad years, largely centred on having an un-fading desire to have the social freedoms of the city at my beckoning, and my repeated failure in being unable to cope in such an environment.”

“Find myself in a brief cocoon of comfort within the ‘retromaniac’, pop-cultural bar, Jam in Wakefield. Refuge feels like the right word – against the anxious and desperate landscape that envelopes you outside if you find yourself looking at it for too long. This artifice of yesteryear is comforting. Champagne Supernova is playing on the jukebox; a now-20 year old song by Oasis, who seem more spectrally present in ‘indie bars’ the further we move from 1995. Yet again, it is one of those moments that you can imagine being on repeat forever.”

“Far too drunk, forget all else…”

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15 March 2015

60

“With the Starbucks drive-thru (next to junction 29 of the M1) opening into the evening on a Sunday, it really does stick out within a UK landscape where such a sight should actually be far normal to us than it is. Despite any ethical reservations towards chain cafe drive-thru’s, the sight of it feeds off the conversation I’m having in the car about the immiserating unacknowledged social constraints with, specifically, evening-time UK pleasure-pursuings. In contrast to Europe, where pubs (which always contain the potential for frustration to be acted out) aren’t the only places dominating the town centres in the evening.”

“Something close to a physical confrontation appears to be brewing outside this Premier Inn-incorporated pub/eatery [in Barnsley] on this dry Sunday evening. Due to its location (within a ‘commuterist’ inn) it is both a non-place and of non-place-people – which makes the territorial behaviour that comes with drunken confrontations all the more banal.”

“The feeling of being stuck. That – despite what I know, think, see – I feel embedded in a rut that surely encompasses more than myself (yet is left to be dealt with individually). It envelopes all conversation to the extent that I become fixed on the surrounding environment, which when I think about it makes sense; due to looking for ways out. I am currently staring out the windows of the Glasshouse chain pub/eatery, over the terraces the cluster around the south of Barnsley centre. From here. they look like a tightly-packed labyrinth, forcing your eyes to look for exits. the conversation follows suit, and sometimes the landscape helps me think about, and explain the wider predicament so clearly – but it never alters the [my] general scheme of things.”

61

“Large bungalow off Cockerham Lane [Barnsley] that has that far-off feel, in that it looks like the ever-dwindling American Dream realised. Albeit in the UK.”

6263“From the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of a middle aged man watching TV in the living room of a type of house that was initially deemed unfit to be anything more than emergency housing in the wake of WW11 and the consequential slum clearances. The TV has the sickly-coloured imagery for intro-credits to one of those X-Factor-style programs (The Voice…?). There is something almost porno-like about the colours and graphics of the presentation (one must be influencing the other, but not sure which way around). Regarding the whole picture I saw as I glanced over; the unsatisfactory quality of the dwellings and the unsatisfactory cultural products fuse to leave my feeling slightly disturbed.”

“Nearing central New Lodge/Athersley, just as the ‘peak-90’s’ club track Let Me be Your Fantasy [Baby D] comes onto my Ipod. This merges with the appearance of two lone males walking their dogs in front of me. Both look to be late 30’s-pushing 40’s. Both look disheveled from hardship, making the baseball caps they wear look like class scars rather than fashion items. Their drained look, prompts me to imagine their draining to have occurred somewhat in unison with the age of this club track, and its consequential genuine-feel-good alienness to the genuine-depression of our current period. That in the mid 90’s both these men and this track possessed a vitality that has since been slowly sucked out.”

“Kingsway, Mapplewell – largely a road consisting of post-war sheltered accommodation. I walk past a telephone box that now looks terribly stranded in an age of ubiquitous cell-phone communication. I remember in the mid 1990’s when an elderly man died of an heart attack in this phone box calling 999, due to being taunted by youths. I was half-shocked as a young teenager at the apparent joy in the malevolence shown to vulnerable adults in this particular conglomerate of villages. I have often wondered whether it was borne out of inescapable boredom, perhaps more acutely felt around this area due to nearly every space being swallowed up by property developers.”

64

“The bright light from a bus shelter I have probably frequented more than any other, which is probably personally a symbolic spot for all the failings, hopes. existential boredom and frustrations of my teenage-to-adult existence. Yet, in a couple of weeks I will likely rarely use it ever again.”

Surfaces of an (Un)realised World

‘The past is another world’. Indeed it is, full of lost what-might-have-beens. I cannot even begin to estimate how many calories and hours were put into making these works that were heading in a more-painterly/sculptural direction, nor the lost might-have-beens that may have constituted an alternative usage of that time. Dating from the bright-eyed-dawn of the perceived-shirking-of-tangled-up-teenage-trials of my very early 20’s in 2004, to works made in the infancy of the long night that proceeded from the 2008 crash, these works now seem to me like surfaces of an (un)realised planet.

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Due to this they just don’t fit anymore, like architecture that has lost its aesthetic function within the light of a new kind of world, the demolishing of them was the last necessary act. Reality has changed, and they are worth more to me now as documentation of an excavation of that past reality that I cannot go back to (all a poetics perhaps [?] devised to acclimatize myself to the truth: that I had no longer have storage space for works that were becoming increasingly smashed to pieces in narrower and narrower confines).

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However, perhaps what surprised me the most, and possibly came close to preventing me smashing up any more of the works, was that the paint was still wet on the inside of one of the pieces from 2007. The smell of gloss and oils momentarily taking me back to 2007…even the music I listen to from such times seems lost as if submerged under a mudslide.

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Stories From Forgotten Space (January)

Stories From Forgotten Space builds on 2014 Mapmaking with the aim of taking the most prominent features of the project a little further.

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8 January

“Lane Head Road, just past the village of Cawthorne, will, for me, forever-be the gateway to the bleak hilltops above our towns, which possesses a symbolic power over me, which I ceaselessly try to explain. The Smith’s The Queen is Dead album is playing on my IPod, an album I heavily associate with my ‘escapist’ ventures up here in my late teenage years – specifically in the wake of the 9/11 terror spectacle. Music that is old to my ears, now only retains the power it once had over me whilst on these such escapades.”

2“Blue skies all the way up, but the storm clouds I see coming in over from the west make me abandon the fulfilment of the motivation behind these walks; to go as far as I can up onto the hills as possible, in order to bring on the sensation of ‘climbing out of society’ and escaping my life within it. ”

33a

4“After the postponement of the future the hills allowed for, my head’s now filled with dread about our future. I reach the former railway bridge over the M1 motorway. Years and years of/layer upon layer of graffiti covers the bridge’s interior sides. South Yorkshire’s post-industrial legacy somewhat? Then my eyes stumble upon the nature of the graffiti. The chitter-chatterings of the now displayed in these words press-gangs my mind out the solace of my antisocial ramblings upon the tops and into the schizoid endless chatter of the deteriorating social world. Anti-Muslim sentiment galvanised into racially-motivated painting action by the child-grooming disgraces in nearby Rotherham (revealed last year). For me, the text is inseparable from the likely intensification of racially/ethnically-motivated unrest due to the ongoing terrorist attacks and terrorist pursuits in Paris. The need for the clarity that walking promises to give me, has been hijacked by the horror of the world that shows no sign of letting up. On a more localised note, whilst racism and aggressive tribalist assertions are everywhere, they seem more suffocatingly concentrated in my home area, give me intermittent bouts of severe estrangement/alienation from it.”

5 6“The Samaritans ‘Helpline number’ sign next to the bridge has also been obscured beyond recognition…”

7“Particularly high amount of homelessness around Division Street today, but most striking, and equally disturbing sight, is of a man who comes stumbling past me in shredded clothing, in a manner that doesn’t even look possible without accompanying slices into his flesh. It almost doesn’t look real. I wonder if he has been subjected to an array of threatening gestures from a knife-wielding individual he has been unfortunate enough to stumble into due to his (likely) circumstances. The shredded clothes seem to function as a metaphor for the continual disintegration of the state-support system.”

7a“The train pulls in at Chapletown. A young adult male gets off and meets two females, one of whom manically drags him away from the platform, and to an over-cautious distance from the train. It’s then that I remember how we were massively delayed in catching the last train out of Leeds last night, due to “a fatality on the line” down here at Chapletown. I then notice there is a vigil ongoing, mainly consisting of young people paying tribute to a young male. As soon as it becomes apparent it was a young male who died, it sadly becomes apparent that it was a suicide. I seem to hold it in my head that there has been a spate of suicide incidents around this area of the railway line over the years. Sheffield is apparently one of the ‘happiest cities in the UK’, but with the Chapletown area on the outskirts, I might be wrong, but I get a feeling that deep unhappiness resides here.”
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January 9…

8

8a 9“Sat with Dave in popular cafe in Huddersfield centre, discussing a shared sense of existential deadlock, located amidst the the fog of the global-political-environment-cultural deadlock. Yet, the very sharing of this discussion, amidst midday urban life, whilst young adults (seemingly still possessing vitality) hurry around us, at least makes it all seem bearable, possibly making it even all seem solvable.”

“Mill-town Yorkshire has an ancient feel to it that just doesn’t add up.”

10 11

“The road down from the hilltops gives me a distant longing for something.”

“Rolling news dominates the room facing the train tracks in Huddersfield train station pub. Perpetual foreboding and mute-panic. The news is focussing on the terror attacks on the offices of cartoonist/satirist Charlie Hebdo. The nature of rolling news, it’s enlargement of the symbiotic-extrapolation of both the security-obsessed state and self-destructive terrorism , acts as a potion unleashing panic and abjection in the mind (tightened facial expression/heavy brow – physical reaction). The nature of our conversation becomes uncomfortable. More than my tired psychological defence-mechanisms can withstand right now.”

“On the train to Leeds. Dead-time ‘nowhere to go’, and the hostile demands of the world creeping all over my psychological defence-mechanisms. The hell of it; like a indecisive creature in slow-motion-panic under slowly advancing headlights. Transpennine Express colours; people on mobiles talking about work (a mere shell of success maybe, but right now it’s convincing). Worn out with indecision. Feel my mind slowly beginning to descend – all catching up with me.”

12

“In Leeds. Walked these city streets for years now – still not found anything; empty searches. All the buildings I stare at being converted into flats for people with career salaries. 31 years old tomorrow, and stuck in permanent limbo.”

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January 24…

23“Staring out of window of the Showroom bar, listening to 1995 chart song Charmless Man, by Blur. A song, which on face-value at least has the air of intelligent social commentary. This prompts me to text a friend questioning whether, even back all those 20 years prior the current establishment placing of the band’s members, that Coxon/Albarn, like rich-man-host Alex James, were all predestined conservatives, if not by name, at least by nature.”

“On sloped walkway down to Sheffield train station, a young man is slumped with his head down close to the money-cup he holds out. I think I’m having one of those days where something seems acutely wrong/dystopian in (what appears to be) a general acceptance of the presence of this level of homelessness on our streets. It’s just an incredibly unwarranted aspect of reality that drops from ones mind as soon as they walk away.”

“Young man, with a face quite similar to iconised-as-northerner Peter Kay, sits reading the Metro paper on the train back to Barnsley. Wearing a flatcap, he makes overly cliche facial responses to what he is looking at in the newspaper. I wonder if this stylising of himself on the image of an early 20th century English ‘gent’ is something he has thought about, or whether it is an involuntary slow accumulation of reassuring pastiche-behaviour to make the world seem slightly less insane.”

“Walking past [Barnsley] town centre pubs, at about half ten on a Saturday night, I try to hold a film-star lone-ranger-style posture, but find it hard – exposed as I am, wearing a rucksack and muddy boots in a done-up-only zone. I begin spitting – and I catch myself doing so, realising I do far more than I associate myself with the act. I begin to realise why I do it. I spit often in my home town. I think it may serve as a kind of mobile, circumferential defence of territory; an act of standing one’s ground in a place where one (at least) feels they have to. Of course, there are different ways of doing this within different social environments, but I’ve heard people from other towns say it is a noticeable trait in Barnsley.”

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January 27…

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“Despite Seeing the Void where the markets were a few times already, it still catches me by surprise. Since I’ve known the town centre (from very early on in my life) the market has been in that location. Yes, things move on, but there’s such a huge gap/hole here now that it cannot but be glared at by passers-by.”

“End up gazing at the well-thought-out display of chocolate bars and gossip magazines that greets you at counters in the Wilkinson’s Store. I initially contemplate the aged-quality of such a display, still promising the New of sugary stimulation and titillation. It looks so ‘lost world’ somehow. Yet it’s still here. I contemplate whether the reign of physical-item-sugary-consumables would fall if it was without its counterpart of immaterial-sugary-consumables that energise our aspirations to be part of the system…”

P1020959“My ‘Mary Celeste’ building, the structure I saw as symbolic of the ‘stuck record’ period we lapsed into fully after the 2008 financial crash (the building was left in a skeletal form since that point) is finally being completed. Supposedly this would mean that if the ‘going through the motions like ghosts’ was the result of the crash then it is over now. But I don’t think so. Like much of the talk about ‘economic growth’ at the moment; the cladding on this construction merely covers up the lack of any genuine advancement; it’s just a mindless drive with no purpose or justification; the dominant agenda still remains defunct.”

” The 50+ year old Beach Boys track I Get Around comes on the radio in the cafe in the Morrisons next to Barnsley centre. But everywhere is currently the cafe lost in time at the ending of the  TV series Sapphire and Steel.  An entire culture dead, but on endless repeat. Disturbing when you contemplate it.”

“The broken-in-half effect that the low-lying clouds make of the Emley Moor Signal mast prompts Michael to talk of a production he remembered watching in Sheffield, about how civilisation will collapse if we carry on consuming and relying on oil in the way we do. He brings this up because he recalled on how driving home he looked towards Emley Moor, imagining its lights gone out; a cold, grey monolith, surrounded by a dark-aged, barren world below.”

IMG_20150130_0002“Passing trains on railway bridges-cum-flyeovers remind me of a monorail system which, in turn, still seems futuristic; a component of an ideal city”

P1020963“Arrive back at the strangest services-area again; the Costa Coffee Drive-thru, the Travel Lodge (placed in front of the incinerator to the effect that the massive chimney looks to be part of the hotel), the commuter-pub/eatery, fenced-off building rubble, and a bordered up church. In many ways it embodies the uneven geographies/contradictions of a commuter-based Life-style Consumerism that has never really succeeded in glazing the the world over in it’s ‘CGI-style’ landscaping (the dark hills that loom over us in the background seem an ample metaphor for this unevenness). Yet, as people who don’t play one of the many games centred around conjuring the appearance of success/glamour (which in turn props up the entire social system) aren’t even registered and lapse into social blind-spots, the same can be said of the bordered up church, and fenced-off rubble, as the people coming out of Costa are utterly oblivious to them. Dave walks up to the car to meet me and Mike, telling us that the pub/eatery, ‘The Yorkshire Rose’, advertised ‘decadent eating’ – surely an odd thing to promote? We come to an agreement that decadent refers to a luxurious way of living that belongs to another time; an example of this would be the English upper class living in Victorian period luxury well into the 20th century.”

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“Tipped rubbish next to canal-side takes on an almost animalistic form. The rubbish that looks like the wings of a large bird is quite eerie – looking like a spectral guardian of the waterways”.

“A plaque next to the canal footbridge says ‘Becky, 1988-2010, Captain of the school hockey team and rough sleeper, stayed here 2008-2010’. I find the plaque very agreeable, reminding us that those whom we walk past on street corners, rarely even acknowledging their existence, are humans with stories like the rest of us.”

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“Looking up the old mill building (Brittannia Mills, 1864), we notice that the fire escape steps were a later edition (anyone caught in a fire here prior to their construction would’ve likely been instantly condemned), noticable due to the strange addition of breeze block, to Yorkshire Stone, used to secure the steps to the building. Contemplating whether breeze block has now been used in construction for a century, we contemplate our collective distorted perceptions of history, of what’s new and what’s old. In these ‘stuck-record’ times, concrete and breeze block seems perpetually near-past, whilst the linear teaching of History makes us believe that everything that is similar must’ve happened at the exact same point. As if all slum-clearance happened in one decade. This leads us to talk about the utopianist 1930’s Quarry Hill construction in Leeds. Now demolished, but once a forward-looking project, you tend to think of the 1930’s still in terms of Victorian architecture/ideas.”

As We Walk into Milnsbridge I look at the old old buildings/landscape. Yet with new cars and broadband technologies penetrating it, Something doesn’t feel right. It feels that if one had the ability to bring a 1860’s resident of this area into its present-day reality, that they’d be massively disappointed in a way, asking “what happened to the future?” As much as I don’t wish to see the demolition of anything that certainly still habitable and pleasant, so to speak, when you glare at the present world it does often feel like for many things the future got stuck, whilst other bits of the future carried on. All in all Dystopias never used to look so pedestrian!”

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IMG_20150130_0004P1020993“Immense destabilisation of here and now (a.k.a normality) brought on by conversation that veers into the near-future of global power-politics, as we pass through a large industrial estate and over inner ring-road arteries. Michael talks of the strangeness of how “it’s all gone quiet” with the West’s stand off with Russia, coupled with the strange recent drop in oil prices; personally, I think of how this issue has “all gone quiet” in my head, unquestionably down to the reality-management affect the omnipresent media outlets have.”

“Horbury has a real ‘lost world’ feel to it. You could say it was ripe for hauntology, having the feel and look of a place (to a passer by) of a place laden with the shells of past happenings.”

“A tranquil point of communicating, each nursing a pint, in the Henry Boons pub in Wakefield, 5PM. I’ve always found there to be something strange about this time of day, roughly articulated by the Beatles lyrics “but oh, that magic feeling [but] nowhere to go”, as this tea-time feeling lapses into the evening’s depressive-pleasure-seeking (as I know it likely will now I’ve had one pint). Yet at this moment, things feel together, connected, our conversation makes sense, and resonates off the walls of this half-empty pub.”

P1020999“Sat in Wharf Chambers, a not-for-profit-cooperative pub. I leaf through an AA Illustrative Guide To Great Britain. Like many things seen on today’s travelling, it looks quite new. Yet the photographs of towns suggest another era, another world. A photograph of nearby Sheffield a now-lost social housing project called ‘Woodside’. It turns out this book was published in 1979, right on the eve of the end of the social democratic project period, just before such estates became continuously less and less desirable.”

3 Days of Non-Stop Inertia: A Stuck Record in London

Reflections gathered from performance in the Anti-Gallery Show, weekend 16,17,18, January 2015

P1020888This text is a reflection on the performing of Non-Stop Inertia: A Stuck Record – inspired by Ivor Southwood’s book Non-Stop Inertia. Part of a wider collaborative project between myself and Leeds-based artist/curator John Wright, Non-Stop Inertia was played intermittently over a 3 day period as part of the Anti-Gallery Show, at The Espacio Gallery in Shoreditch, London. As this text deals purely with reflections during and after these 3 days, the explanation for the motives behind this ongoing work can be found here: https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/non-stop-inertia-a-stuck-record-the-anti-gallery-show/ . However, the writing uses other points within the 3 day period in London to talk about a larger project, in which Non-Stop Inertia is just one part.

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A Psychological Experiment…

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That I am in a well-and-truly-spent state the day after our Non-Stop-Inertia piece means that if it was as much a psychological experiment as it was a piece of artwork then the experiment was successful. The carefully-chosen texts we chose to read out were so fitting, but fitting within the eternal-now, ‘in the loop’ of the performance. Because the gravity of their content could as easily fall from mind as it could be put back there once there performance resumed. The content itself became looped; there was no further level of understanding. It was the poetry of a ghost trapped in the machine.

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No Evolution

And ghosts trapped in the machine we became. Neuro-psychically electrocuted by the randomly occurring door-alarm signal, I for one can testify to the physical effect (in my manic body movements) that such internalising of the constant expectation of random interruptions can have. Certain lines read out from our texts would land in unison on the pulse-line of the subjectivation, at which point we’d look to each other as if to confer “yes, that’s what this is, exactly!”, but cognitively building on what was being said/read felt impossible due to this anticipation of interruptions. How can you build on things if you are in a perpetual state of siege?

The door alarm noise signaling our ‘calling’ to disseminate emotionally-laboured welcoming-spiel (language absent of life aimed at an absent customer) was, of course, implemented in a random-fashion by our own design. But the intention was to show how this unending anticipation of unpredictable interruptions of our thoughts is a constitutive part of contemporary life, which (we believe) is intrinsic to the inability of individuals and societies alike formulate, or even imagine, a way out of the current global cultural situation that consumes the hopes, desires and visions of alternatives with the same level of ferocity that it consumes the people and resources needed to constitute a future world full stop.

We came away from this performance with no answers to this, but this was the intention: to give poetic form to the very structures preventing us from finding the answers to the current situation. We believe that if the structures permeating contemporary life are dismissed as irrelevant to the task of building towards an alternative, then any kind of positive alternative is impossible.

No Desire to Converse

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Whilst in London, myself and John Wright frequently discussed the difference between desire and drive: that, in an ‘always on’, no-future, hyper-competitive, hyper-capitalist world, desire is both short-circuited and disemboweled from drive. This leaves us trapped in a ‘nothing-left-but…’  state, where we often feel a zombie-like-entrapment to the motions of tasks, duties and habits and especially the end-game pursuit of sugary, narcotic, or sexual stimulus; that can often feel like being in a state of seizure due to inconceivability of there being anything else we can do “but pursue pleasure”. (an overly referenced section of Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism book, which I attempted to read out as part of the performance).

As well as the resulting post-performance-state leaving us in a state of incomprehension of what we could possibly do except going and getting alcoholically intoxicated in the city, the performance itself also functioned through pure signal-actioned drive. The words were spoken out of drive, rather than desire. This is why others who attempted to engage in the dialogue, and who weren’t used to the nature of the represented job-type to an extent that they could ‘go through the motions’ like we could, very quickly became frustrated (as was partly the intention). One of the participating artists in the Anti Gallery Show said he couldn’t see the point in trying to make conversation. What was the point of him trying to gain something from a conversation if he was to be constantly sent back to square one by the interruptions?

If we are correct in viewing this predicament as endemic in contemporary life, could it not be said that the breaking down of thought and communication to a sound bite-form isn’t merely the result of a reduction of our attention-spans caused by our immersion in cyberspace, but is actually caused by the lack of desire to engage in conversation due to the anticipation of interruptions slicing through it? We also argued that the increasingly competitive nature of contemporary life further reduces the room for conversation, because the constant sense of the self-under-siege within such a competitive world makes it seem an immediate necessity to get our point heard rather than allow the time for other points to be heard (I, for one, am very guilty of this). Indeed, what was left of our broken up conversations was used to discuss the breaking up of dialogue intrinsic to one of the largest social media platforms: Twitter.

All in all Non-Stop Inertia: A Stuck Record was successful – too successful perhaps; afterwards, the necessary walk (climb) back to Kings Cross station seemed almost daunting.

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The (Un)realised Project

This inability to transcend, to get beyond the “this is so relevant!” point whilst we were reading the texts/debating perhaps makes Non-Stop Inertia:A Stuck Record pivotal to a wider sensation myself and John Wright are investigating. That, as numerically-measured time pushes onwards, and one’s skin slowly sags downwards, somehow one hasn’t merely become ‘stuck in a moment’, but that the moment has terraformed, re-landscaped the horizon so that the next step beyond this ‘stuck moment’ seems to have never even existed, and that the places that proclaim to have movement are merely just full of frenetic ghost-like actions, speeding up but going nowhere. The unending nature of the sentence I have just written embodies a unending struggle to put to sleep the ghosts that haunt me. After countless debates around this matter, myself and John Wright began an investigation, of intertwined stories (personal to me) and wider post-millennial cultural moments, that we aim to turn into a solid body of work under the umbrella title The (Un)realised Project.

Thus far it has been agreed on that one specific work, The Mary Celeste Project (The Scene of The Crash), will take centre stage within this body of work. The Mary Celeste Project (The Scene of The crash), completed in 2014, uses my own turf (post industrial areas stretching along the foothills of the Yorkshire Pennines) to examine near pasts, lost futures and dead dreams to understand the wider contemporary social condition. Focusing on two lost futures and the un-locatable present, the condition of which is largely caused by the loss of the previous, and their haunting presence. The first lost future is that of popular modernism, which died in the latter quarter of the 20th century. The second lost future being the naively optimistic early to mid-1990’s, and its utopian gaze toward the coming new millennium. The un-locatable present here refers to a specific intensification of life under digital capitalism, looking at a severe disconnection to the passing of time since the 2008 financial crisis. The Mary Celeste Project (The Scene of The Crash) is crucially inspired by my sense of a loss of narrative and of being out of time, amidst a feverishly neoliberal reality. But certain locations I spent time in prior to the beginnings of this project were crucial to reasons behind making of it.

Ground-Zero Greenwich

lllllllIt is clear then that specific geographical spaces are very important to this whole investigation. Thus, with the rarity of two people from northern England planning to embark on the south at the same point, it was essential we had to go another very symbolically important location: Greenwich.

So what makes Greenwich so important? We’d arrived in darkness, and the specifically-threatening-looking silver Met police cars guarding the gates put us off trying to find a way in, so we circumvented Greenwich Park wall right down to the river. One point of agreement on that walk was pivotal to the whole text I’ll write thereon after: my ‘stuck in a moment’ fixation with a 3 month (yet 3 year-long-feeling) time spent in London, unsuccessfully trying to complete an MA in Cultural Studies just down the road in New Cross, prompted John Wright to say to me (in a supportive manner, of course) that I really ought to have done the MA in Leeds (I had considered doing the MA at the University of Leeds, the institution John had recently been awarded an MA qualification at), but we both instantaneously and almost simultaneously responded by agreeing that I had to go to London; that there was something much larger and important at play.

P1020901I’ve written way too much already about the mental state I found myself in down London that forced me to leave, and the time leading up going and the time afterwards is far more crucial to the project and the reasons for the usage of my experiences within Greenwich. However, there is one crucial line explaining my state down there that activated this entire project: I believed I’d reached a total dead end, that there was nothing beyond this spell in London.

During this 3-year-disguised-as-3-month-spell, I found myself at Greenwich quite a few times (even ending up with a part time job there, just a week before finding myself back in bed in the north), finding the momentary ease under the autumnal ‘avenues all lined with trees’ an embodier of the wish for a granting of indefinite residence in a place I never really wanted to leave – “I like it here can I stay?” as the lyrics from The Smiths’ Half A Person that weaved through all other thoughts within my room in nearby New Cross.

95Something had occurred here to a degree that I was finding it incredibly hard to get out of bed in morning after 15 years of habitually getting up at 7am. The years preceding had seen a building up of both foreboding and understanding of the global cultural situation, to which 2011 felt like the zenith; a clicking into place of a new reality from which we couldn’t go back. And now I was here, in the last 3rd of 2012, and it truly felt like the eye of the storm; the “that’s exactly it!” masters course (that I wanted to last forever, not 1 year of pressurised performance); the financial epicentres seen from my windows; the potential of meeting the world in a world-city; THE HEART OF DARKNESS – as it really did feel like I’d finally found it in as if in an inversion of Joseph Conrad’s novel – because, as comical as it sounds, the plentiful Megabus trips down there looking for a home were symbolic of a wider feeling of being worn right right right down into a man in search of a resting place. And, after the year 2011, there appeared to be no way of going back. And at that initial point before it all went wrong it didn’t matter that there was no way forward.

But as the London-endeavour lead on it became unavoidably clear that there was a dead end rapidly approaching. Throughout the preceding years there had been so much effort to show how entangled my inability to perceive a future for myself was with the dead end that was the endgame of the course the world was taking, to the point where I was exhausted just as it all seemed to come to a head. But as I walked around Greenwich, a place arguably unsurpassed in symbolic importance to creation of the world as we know it, to the extent that it often feels like the meridian was the first line ever laid, it became very clear to me for the first time how our ‘always on’ global capitalist culture was trapped by the past.

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Greenwich is a place symbolically laden with traces of ghosts from other eras that refuse to die; a fusion of what-might-have-been’s (lost futures) and unshifting-has-been’s’ (archaic tombs that won’t close up). One that caught my attention was the Queen Elizabeth Oak, an important tree for the Tudor dynasty (a crucial period in the formation of Imperial expansion and modernity). Yet the tree is 100+ years-dead, and has laid on the floor like a wooden carcass for some years now too. Trapped under the weight of the past, with no future to speak of, the speed of life/the ‘always on’ endless labouring within the infinitely accelarating capitalist technosphere, traps us in a frenetic eternal-now epitomised by the Non Stop Inertia project. But in such a Stuck Record state, the present is also a void without a perceivable future in its wake, meaning the past, especially the near past, seeps into the void left by the unlocatable present (think of how traces of the optimistic 1990’s seem to cling to everything); impounding the pressure between the new reality demanded in the wake of 2011 and the lack of ability to be able to even think beyond the current moment. This is well and truly an hauntological state, and through my endeavouring after abandoning London to engage on a cognitive level with the South/West Yorkshire landscape I lapsed back into, these past 2 two years have been profoundly hauntological; all that has followed as felt unrealised…undead.

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Connections….Always Looking for Connections…

Of course if we didn’t deem all this crucial to some wider situation we wouldn’t have embarked on the (un)realised projects investigation, nor would we have bothered taking the bus to Greenwich on a cold, dark night. The very fact that I also ‘sound like a stuck record’ on this blog now is more to do with my emotional energies smashing against 4 walls, looking for a way out, than the indulgences of dwelling in the past. Or at least this is what I tell myself. I have to tell myself this, because I am profoundly sick with the way things are, and the conviction that I am not alone means that the current direction of my work is as much as political act as the works I made in my early 20’s that dealt specifically with the threat of climate change.

The closed brackets around the ‘un’ in unrealised, was John Wright’s idea, positing it as the hope that all that is hanging around in a ghostly form will one day be realised. Using Jacques Derrida’s differentiation between an Ending of something and a Closure of something, John and I discussed how this dead-end feeling doesn’t have to be (or at least shouldn’t have to be) the end in itself, but a closure of something that allows the beginnings of another. Of course, our usage of specific geographical locations was a way of simultaneously commenting on this as both a deeply personal and deeply global cultural state. Perhaps using landscape is one of the strongest methods or articulating the fusion of two issues that would appear very distinct on a surface level?

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The Utopian Never Truly Dies

As much as we felt it necessary to travel to Greenwich after our performance on the Saturday, after our final, most exhaustive, performance on the Sunday, we deemed it necessary to spend time in the Barbican complex before we set off back for the train.

There is something truly special about this place, which gets beyond the facts of why it remained like this whilst other Brutalist utopian residential schemes failed drastically; that this estate was designed for the well off, the cultural elite, and thus corners weren’t cut in its construction (nor was it fucked up socially by mass job losses), is a seperate matter to to truth of the place which is that it exists as a realisation of the utopianist society that truly could have been.  This place doesn’t even seem to have been bothered by the onslaught of Thatcherism; neoliberalism seems to have been kept at the gates of this fort-like-structure, and you can imagine the same being true in long night of fascistic, repressive governance if we don’t find a way of changing the course we are on. It may be a place of the communal/the shared for those who already have their fair share, but in that it actualises elements of the ideal, it shows that they could, and should exist elsewhere.

What I like about this place is what makes me realise that as undead as I often feel, as emotionally-turned-to-stone as I regularly feel, I am still deeply utopian. Utopian is different from a Utopia; arguably Utopia can never exist, but to be Utopian is to be an idealist in life, not to accept any given reality as ‘the way it is’ – such fatalism is dangerous, and has arguably made the situation we are in profoundly worse to deal with.

The Barbican reveals traces of the utopian in the past that was left behind when neoliberal economic theory and postmodernism galvanised the TINA (there is no alternative to capitalism) reality. We sat in the canteen (the only place I know of in contemporary life where the word canteen isn’t associated undesirable eateries), and just sat, without the need for more pleasure-seeking, drink, etc – just sat.  As we moved on toward the station, making a closure on this situation still felt as far off as it did before the performance, in the Barbican we did at least get a glimpse of elements of a place that could exist beyond this stuck point. This point has to be moved on from; personally speaking, I cannot stay here any longer.

2014 mapmaking (part 9) – End of Year Haunting

This is the 9th and the final post of 2014 in a series that I still call psychogeographical maps (or cognitive mapping). Quoting certain sections and using a selection of photographs to widen the project, which at its core still has the intention to be a Cognitive Mapping of Now – aiming to be useful for locating the wider socio-political mood, and the psychological impacts of it. This project has been ongoing since 2013 and has largely been an artistic response to Frederic Jameson’s 1990 essay, and call to action, Cognitive Mapping, which is posited as a means of class consciousness in our contemporary social landscape. Arguing that the “mental map of a city [I’d say the wider human-made landscape] can be extrapolated to that of the social and global totality [one that we] we carry around in our heads in various garbled forms”. Also, due to often residing in places deemed culturally ‘insignificant’ I feel that my work is justified by the words of social Geographer Doreen Massey in that  “…spatially, the local place is utterly implicated in the production of the global and the globalisation that we so often find ourselves wanting to confront”. Although some of these maps aren’t made in places I live in, whilst traveling through them I am implicated and involved in that locality and the myriad of circumstances and incidents that constitute it.

The project has also allowed me to bring my love of maps into my art.

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The 1st post can be found here.

The 2nd here    The 3rd here      The 4th here      The 5th here    The 6th here   The 7th here    The 8th here

A collection of the 2014 maps can be found here.

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16 December 2014

“Always surprises me when I suddenly come across steep inclines in London. Like rivers (excluding the Thames), they are features that just don’t seem ‘natural’ in London as it stands. The place is such a concrete+metallic machine in its own right, that you don’t expect rivers and hills to start forming until you’re beyond the M25.”

“A fashion store on Kingsland Road, that looks [to be] webbed into some local scene. A single trainer shoe is on a plinth in the window. An area that presents itself as ‘against the grain’ [is] evidently as slavishly obedient to the consumerist reality, as anywhere else that is deemed less ‘edgy’.”

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22 December 2014

“An unavoidable sight amidst the emotional chaos of the Xmas/New Year period: people, half drunk, coming very near to fist fighting, in Peel Square [Barnsley]. A young man VS the rest of the group, [he then] drunkenly storms up Peel Street, before leaning, with his head held low, against the window of the Iceland store. Next time I look he’s disappeared again.”

“Lots of teenagers stand amidst the now-empty market stalls, almost in complete darkness (I’m sure the streets lights are being dimmed or being switched off completely) [in Peel Square]. They look like they’re waiting for something to happen. But isn’t this more likely to be [the usual] sign of the state of [existential] boredom?”

18624 December 2014

“Despite it being the most depressing of signs of our (collective) inability to look after the environment (and the moronic nature of the act), there is something visually appealing about about sites of fly-tipping. After all, the entire UK landscape is shape humans have made it into – this just adds another historical layer”.

“Make the mistake of trying to take a shortcut through the woods at the bottom of Litherop Lane, in order to get to path leading to Bretton Park. I realise something isn’t quite right when all the footpaths begin to fold back in on one another, almost like a race track course. A man stands looking at me. I [then] realise that the rumours that this is site where people meet up for outdoor sex are well founded. As I turn and head in the other direction from the man and notice the floor is littered with the left-overs of things used for sexual intercourse, I notice another man. As I find a path heading out of the woods in the right direction, I notice that he has been staring at me for a long period of time. It initially intimidates me, as it does when a stranger is staring at you in a bleak winter woodland, but afterwards I see it in a tragic light. Not that I am one for tradition, but to be stood there in a cold, muddy wood on Christmas eve, desperately waiting for sex, is a sign of the impoverishment of life’s larger wealth. These people are [more than anything] victims, addicts to a nihilist landscape. prisoners to the pleasure-pursuit.”

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“All the talk: that something big/a seismic shift from the current state of affairs is bound to happen soon, takes on an ominous feel within this eerie-looking early evening, which doesn’t settle easy with the [East Leeds] landscape through which we are witnessing it.”

“In the Dark Arches, walking above the river [which is at its] winter torrent levels. something awe-inspiring, specifically due to how if you were to fall in you wouldn’t stand a chance. These rivers are almost the hidden powerhouse, both past and present, of cities. I say ‘hidden’ because the common image of the river in the contemporary city landscape is as an appendage for pleasure for urban professionals – as if the river itself had stopped flowing in the ‘post industrial times’.”

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“I flare up inside at gawping [at me] passengers going around junction 38 [of the M1]. I realise that my year has been stained by bubbling anger. A deep frustrations with things that I cannot deny, but worry what will become of it as time moves on. Something must change. And maybe I’m not the only one harbouring this deep frustration with things?”

“A sharp turn in the road at the top of Woolley Edge serves as an analogy for a desperate need to change course in life – after a dead-end-style unenjoyable binge-drinking night in Barnsley, and my 31st on the horizon. But,as with every year, the question still remains “but to where?”.”

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