Tag Archive | new cross

2014 mapmaking (part 8)

This is the 8th post 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 current socio-political mood, and the psychological impacts of it.

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

A collection of the 2014 maps can be found here.

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UK Weekend 15/16 November 2014

“Chilly, early evening, people gathered [for] slideshow projected onto building on Norfolk Street [Sheffield]. A homeless man, who I saw [asking for spare change] further down towards the station, shouts “yeah, nice pictures and nice music – that’s JUST what we need!” in a sarcastic tone as he walks past. [Even though my own art is featured in the projection] I can’t help thinking “he’s got a point.”

“Enterprise Zone/small industrial park next to junction [37]. Half-finished. Huge mound of excavated soil, overground and sinister-looking in the foggy night. A car pulls up, slowly, next to me, on this dead-end road. Can’t help feeling intimidated due to sinister connotations. However, I noticed they’ve pulled up to eat a chicken-based takeaway. Weekend salt and sugar fixes.”

161 16218 November 2014

“Feel slightly embarrassed (as if the all-seeing-social-media-eye is uploading my thoughts instantaneously) as I take a photograph of the word ‘Barnsley’ inscribed into the tombstone-like building, [that lists] the names of destinations outside Euston/London. If anything, I wish[ed] to express how it appears to have been built/engraved in an age when London respected the rest of the country, rather than dismissing if [maybe].”

“[At New Cross Gate Station] Talking at maniacal speed. Hyper-stimulated after being at a lecture where I went to study [once], in an environment I was in previously. It’s not a negative feeling, it’s a neurophysical rush. Yet within this state I become all-too-familiar with the reasons as to why I broke down when I tried to do my course here: the inability to have a ‘cut off point’ always leads to a crash. It’s a fact I can’t always come to terms with, and I know I’ll be depressed [later on] once I arrive on the ‘skeletal’ rail network of the north.”

163 164 165 166 167“[Row] of late 1990’s-early 2000’s-built houses, in the ‘deep Midlands’. When I think of the ‘noughties’, the Blair/Brown years, music by The Streets, the tail-end of the ‘binge-drinking era’, noughties ‘britpop’ [and the Iraq war as background noise], there is also an ideal-fitting location for it all, an era-fitting place. This is place is the Midlands of my mind. The North? No (still [older] terraces in my mind) London? No, [I think London is Now]. The Midlands. Perhaps it’s because the view from the train, with the exception of Leicester, seems to look out onto a landscape of [the last mass construction of – private – houses, in the boom years of New Labour]. The Midlands looks of younger housing stock. Perhaps it became the ‘filler’ for the necessary commutes in Thatcherite Britain[?].”

“Just as I’m about to leave the delayed train (at 12:30 am) at Darton, I notice the last remaining passenger, a young man, scrolling his Iphone screen. The moving images on the screen are clearly from sex-room, sex webcam sites. Perhaps the delayed train, alongside its emptiness, have made him ambivalent over privacy. Also, perhaps the anti-stimulating landscape of skeletal transport and life infrastructure of after-dark Northern towns have intensified his dependency on the endless ‘sugary’ stimulation that cyberspace makes always available for the inevitable depressive-pleasure-seeking occupiers of social space-made shit, up here. The fact that this just increases misogyny in real physical space is just the tip of the iceberg.”

168 london trip 18 nov (2) 170 171 17219 November 2014

Sheffield

174 175 176UK Weekend, 21, 22, 23 November

“[Sheffield Station] Water drips from Northern Rail Carriage, as everyone waits in haste for the doors to open. Two young men arrive in [sodden sports clothes]. [You can tell with some people that they’ve had a hard upbringing from their face-shape, their posture, and even their mannerisms]. They are drenched– only the poor get drenched in a rainy city. You never see the poor with umbrellas.”

“Peel Street often feels like the ‘Barnsley Badlands’. What I mean by this is that it feels like one of those locations where the fallout from welfare-eroding neoliberal economics [and the ideology it generates] is most acutely sensed. A one-time boulevard now in social disrepair – it almost feels more fitting to downtown America.”

177 178 179“The Only light given whilst walking alongside a road, lacking street lights, is from cars. yet this is what makes it so unpleasurable. Total darkness to total brightness makes me think about the [gaping] inconsistencies of modernisation.”

“Brightly-lit room, seen through bus window. A man sits alone (almost with a melancholic Edward Hopper solitude) staring at his electricity-guzzling aquisitions (giant fish tank and novelty lighting systems). It’s quite a sad scene.”

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Recent Mapmaking (2014 so far) part 4

This is the 4th post 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 current socio-political mood, and the psychological impacts of it.

The 1st post can be found here.

The 2nd here

The 3rd here

A collection of the 2014 maps can be found here.

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17 September 2014

“[The] train now grinds to an halt of the middle of nowhere [between Sheffield and Meadowhall]. Just sits. Cramped, and overpriced. Old, rickety, late trains – and the ticket conductor has the cheek to ask to inspect everyone’s tickets. Cheated is the feeling; for living outside London; for living in the UK; for living in a privatised world. One thing I do hope is that Scotland vote for independence, and show us how a rail system should be run.”

83. 17.09.2014.

20 September 2014

Wakefield to Leeds to Bradford to Halifax to Huddersfield to Leeds to Wakefield

Too tired to make notes…..

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24 September 2014

“Sat outside the flimsy, skeletal, Mary Celeste [as in, never-completed] structure. Talking about the gangsterism prevalent in a lot of small (and large) businesses, [makes] this entire area, much of it urban wasteland, take on an incredibly sinister feel. Bleak, dark, ominous – often a reflection on how the world feels on a whole right now. Men parked in flash cars, [dressed] in suits, suddenly [feel] threatening; like wraiths – guards of this injustice-drenched landscape.”

88. 24.09.2014

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90. P1010677

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29 September 2014“ [In London] Approaching the Brutalist success story ‘The Barbican’. New development (aiming at being incorporated under the Barbican success logo) has hoardings covered in grass imagery. As I look at the Brutalist skyscrapers, perhaps due to this age of incoming third world [level] poverty they conjure that that ‘deep Asian dystopia’ of dark towers hitting a smog-filled sky. The hoarding writing says [“creating Britain’s future”]. Yet this (the Barbican) was another era’s future! It feels stolen now – a future only for a very few.”

“Navigating the ‘tributary roads’, hoping they’ll take me to the torrent, over-capacitated, coastal river …The Old Kent Road (the new River Thames, making its way to Dover’s Europort).”

92. 29.09.2014

93 93a 94 95

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29 September 2014

“[In New Cross] Feel like if I sat in this once-temporary old haunt for much longer I wouldn’t be able to go up again [as if it was some sort of final resting place – the very strange sensation I got when I temporarily moved down here in the first place]. Trapped in a time bubble like the final episode of Sapphire and Steel.”

[Central London] “Everybody is exercising! [Everybody jogging!] Super Professionals – wired-up to capital. In these places capital has achieved its utopia. Bike shops (designer of course). [Even] exercise shops; toned bodies parading [like window mannequins].”

96. 29.09.201497

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London 18/19th June 2013: a quick recuperation of points of interest (and lack of)

I get it, but always forget it.

2:30pm, New Cross, 18/6/13. Back in South East London. But it doesn’t feel like I’m back in London. Yes, South East London’s atmosphere, look and attitude seem far removed from the areas seen as quintessentially London (North and West London), and New Cross often feels more familiar to those raised near Northern English cities, because it has a look of industrial decline to it. But this doesn’t account for why it doesn’t feel I’ve arrived 200 miles south of where I live! 

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It’s interesting to observe, when you return to a place that you once spent a certain time-span in, how we experience time in a very non-linear way; that, when you return to a given place after a lengthy gap, all periods of this reality seem to merge together seamlessly, as if every geographical space was instead a reality that you can just simply walk back into. Like time/space can be moved around, cut and pasted with a simplicity of editing tracks on a modern sound recording computer program.

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London, and especially New Cross now feels like one of a number of stage sets that make up the entirety of my mind, as if it were a building with different apartments/levels in. I don’t really mean ‘stage set’ in a sense that it feels like a simulation, that is, a place made Hyperreal; what I actually mean is that my mind is made of the many places, social and geographical spaces, that I can seemingly moved in and out of without really moving through time and space. Stage set as in the scene ends abruptly once I step out of the familiar zone.

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This sensation can often be quite discomforting, as it makes that task of keeping a grip on a reality that we know we must understand and abide by survive feel like trying to walk in a straight line whilst very intoxicated. 4pm, 18/6/2013, New Cross, the A2 trunk road. There’s noise volume and there’s noise volume. When I say that a road is noisy in Yorkshire, and that I can frequently hear Emergency service sirens, the words have much less weight to them than if I was to say the same whilst sat outside a cafe next to this section of the A2 trunk road that connects London to Dover.

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.The intensity of the noise volume here may be comparable to putting your ears next to a functioning pneumatic drill. The city is itself one big factory, even just through the likelihood that the noise volume damages one’s hearing like the old steel and cotton mills used to, before this world left the shores of these Islands in search for workers who could be paid less. Is it just a fitting analogy to conclude that with the internalisation of power during the final 3rd of the past 100 years (so that obedience to the designs placed on us by the system appear to emanate from ourselves), work itself has externalised/deteritorialised and spread itself onto everything, as public space (with the aid of the gradual increase of road traffic during the same period) has diminished under neoliberal privatisation logic? Thus the road is the factory; as are we.
7pm, Deptford. It often feels like London has stolen the Lion’s share of young adults (roughly aged between 20 to 35 years) from the rest of country (and other countries), leaving the remaining young adults to be massively outnumbered by other age groups, like Robinson Crusoes, shipwrecked, waiting to be rescued by a crew made up of people their own age.
And what exactly does London do to these people, once they enter this over-active stomach of humanity? Well, it seems to suck these ‘best years’ out of many, using up their youthful energies to fuel the ever increasingly flow of capital, that thrives on young naive juices; spitting them out, withered, pessimistic, faces old before their time (not the bodies; these are dutifully kept in trim), from where they discard themselves (like intelligent used crisp packets) on their home towns, settle down into the type of anti-social, middle England quagmire that breeds conservative thinking, and Fleet street Newspapers. …Just a thought, mind.

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10am, Crossing London Bridge, 19/6/13. I don’t dream any more. I have no investment in a graceful coming into being, I just get pissed up. It wouldn’t be so bad if drink didn’t act like chloroform on my constructive anger and scrutinising; the only things left for one who no longer dreams.

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10:30pm Central London, walking towards St Paul’s, 19/6/13. Seen as much discussion yesterday was over the internalisation of power (meaning systematic means for dominance work at a ‘neurophysical’ level), debating whether this is what the philosopher Michel Foucault specifically saw as biopower, I was now observing the more manicured, sleek/toned human being of the busy city districts through a biopolitical lens. There’s seemingly a connection between the importance of a geographical area to capital flows/their semiotic gravitational pull (as in their importance in the network of signs/information saturating society with capitalist dreams) and the pressure placed on human beings synchronised to these spaces to be ‘physically perfect’, because you cannot have success without being so within this current stage of capitalism.
As if a military fitness instructor is buried inside of me, out of view, I respond to the sight of seeing others who, to my eyes, are signifiers of ‘the beautiful people’, by tensing my muscles, grinding my stomach muscles, unconsciously trying to adapt, not the ‘the norm’, but to the expected/the accepted. Yes, this is an idiosyncratic reaction, but it has its cause in a culture-wide phenomenon.

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The internalisation of power doesn’t just mean that we are obeying codes to the benefit of the reproduction of capitalist relations the other side of our skin, it also means the automatic obeying of codes to the benefit of capitalist relations this side (I prod my stomach) of our skin; the ideal body, lifestyle, fashion, to adapt to social groups that are beneficial to this reproduction.

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Last Saturday I went to see a collaborative sound and video performance (two of the musicians were friends of mine) in Sheffield. The music was pure noise, machine-like, industrial and post-industrial. Picture then how this was juxtaposed with fitness videos, all VHS videos from the exuberant ‘new economy’ geist of the 1990’s. In the context of sounds that had a sinister tone, certainly a world away from the music from ITV’s Good Morning Television, the infamous fitness classes by ITV’S Mr Motivator look, if anything, totalitarian. Figures on our screens demanding that we follow their lead, and keep ourselves trim and healthy, a visual that here began to look scarily like the compulsory exercises 1984’s protagonist Winston Smith, and all the other constantly surveilled population of Airstrip 1 do every morning, whilst the gym teacher watches them on an all-seeing screen (1984, George Orwell).

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For whom are we keeping ourselves as ‘perfect specimens’ for? For power, for it’s reproduction of course. Power in Orwell’s 1984 and power in Mr Motivator’s (I’m using him as an exemplar) world function quite differently. Mr Motivator doesn’t make us do exercises through the promise of punishment if we don’t (Winston Smith is literally forced to join in with the exercise). Yes, Orwell’s 1984 did pick on power’s ability to invade our minds to control how we think, and although this was already occurring to some extent with the rise of nation state power in the early 20th century, 1984 was still ahead of its time. However, it was also a product of its time, and largely deals with the power’s dominant form in the first two thirds of the last century: external dominance, what Foucault called the ‘Discipline and Punishment’ society, where, using the architectural example of the panopticon (a structure built to allow total surveillance over the ‘inmate’s  to maintain order and control) showed how obedience to the codes beneficial to social reproduction worked.

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Mr Motivator, and his gang of flexible and toned young female adults, aren’t literally forcing us to to join his exercise regime, but we have, instead, an anxious feeling informing us that we really should do so! That, if we don’t join Mr Motivator, we should at least do something else to help us maintain a socially accepted human body. What was so scary whilst watching these videos under dark electronic noise waves, was realising the finesse of a totalitarian force that doesn’t need to shout at us and tell us what it will do to us if we don’t comply, because it’s already inside of us; it is part of us. Despite the increase of state/corporate surveillance in society, we don’t need to be watched to comply with the codes.

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But with 24 hour media making examples of the ‘best choices’ of how to live our lives (which are then internally digested into orders), thus bombarding us with a world of people, moving so fast that they begin to look like they aren’t moving, but are static/solidified into perfection, well isn’t it obvious why cases of psychological disorders relating to the body and obsessive compulsive disorders continue to rise? Isn’t this the malfunction of the human, unable to keep up with (or figure out) biopower’s ‘requirements’ of them?

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11:am, walk past St Paul’s Cathedral 19/6/13. “So What?!” I thought. I initially feel like a bit of a dead soul after I think this, because it is a self-defence mechanism against a discomfort due to being unable to find any emotional investment/intrigue in places deemed to be very important/iconic/”must see!” places. Whether it’s Victorian, Medieval, Roman or Dinosaur bone, it all leaves me with one overriding sensation; the awareness of my general indifference.

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But I have seen these buildings and famous streets countless times on Newspapers, Television and cinemas and train station billboards so many times that by the time I am stood in a place where I can view them with my own eyes, they don’t even seem real, and certainly don’t seem more important than another photograph of the place. It remains a picture, yet a picture my culture expects me to be moved by far more than any of the other pictures (this is why I have so little energy for traveling to destinations). I remember going past the Houses of Parliament on a bus last year and observing our unreal they looked; like I was looking at a photo or a model of the building, seeming no more of a genuine article than the photo masks of Kate Middleton in the tourist shop across the road.

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Of course, this is this hyperreal, where references to the original become more than the original, which ceases to exist because it is seen as just another reference to itself.  The philosopher Jean Baudrillard has already brought the concept of Hyperreal, but it is a process that still needs our full attention today because there is a continual process underway erasing the original ‘real world’ from which replicas must draw on. 30 minutes later I was walking past Westminster Cathedral, traffic islands were full of tourists with cameras taking more images. I just thought, “oh dear, the world is being made less real by the second” Every photo pumps a little more of the residues of an original away from its origin, until nothing but references to references can exist.

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Tourism and holidays often seem all so worthless to me, a feeling I struggle to ignore when ever I do these things. I’m no ‘killjoy’; I want to be happy, be fulfilled without the usual substitute for satisfaction, alcohol (or intense scrutinising/analysing of things – which usually tires one out, leading them again to a slight need for drink). But I just struggle to experience. I struggle to be convinced that others do when they tell me they do; often wondering whether in our times we just instantaneously reference the feelings of joy and satisfaction, rather than actually experiencing them. Is it not the most uncomfortable feeling when something truly upsetting has happened involving yourself and all you can think is that you’re referring a tragedy or series of tragedies you’ve seen references to before?

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11:20 am. Look out onto the Thames. There seems to be a crazy amount of skyscraper development along the Thames right now. Yes, buildings are always doomed to be in a cycle of construction and demolition, but the amount of concrete skeletons and cranes occupying the London skyline right now must surely not have been since the postwar construction boom. I can’t help thinking about something I heard once about how civilisations/or ruling system’s build some of their most pompously grand and powerful-looking architecture on the brink on their collapse. Is this a view one of extreme cultural denial then? That the dominant ideology is doing what most of us are individually doing; trying to cancel out the doubt that this whole way of life and the dreams that sustain it are about to collapse in on themselves, by believing in those dreams and this way of life more defiantly.

The Place of Dead Ends

The Place of Dead Ends (2013, biro and collage on paper, 120X100cm)

“In the last three decades of the [twentieth century] the utopian imagination was slowly overturned. and has been replaced by a Dystopian imagination” Franco Berardi (Bifo) – After the Future (2010)

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For some years now I’ve had this feeling that things cannot carry on in the manner in which they have been doing. Furthermore: that we are watching the slow collapse of our civilisation. The feeling is closer year by year. It’s a broad-reaching feeling that dampens/taints the appearance of the world. I cannot switch this feeling off; there are traces of it in every thought. The only world (reality) we know seems to have reached a dead end. And because it cannot allow us to move forward, the past (or rather its past) takes control; it’s darkest ghosts re-emerge as a reaction to the huge problems we face; the dead come to rule the living. We run to the past for protection from the darkeness unfolding in the 21st century – right into the arms of the archaic forces that rise amidst such confusion and threaten to drag everything down back down with them.

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The idea for The Place of Dead Ends fixed itself together whilst I was walking around the park-lands of Greenwich, London (a place saturated with popular history), in the autumn of 2012. I stumbled across the Queen Elizabeth [the 1st] Oak, a tree that the Tudor queen is said to have often taken refreshment under. Queen Elizabeth the 1st reigned over an historical period that played a crucial part in the formation of the British Empire, and (of course) the modern industrial world.

What I didn’t realise until then was that this tree had actually been dead for well over 100 years old. Yet the tree trunk remained; laying heavy upon the ground. Always having the gravity of the 21st century stalking my thoughts, I couldn’t help but see this dead relic as a metaphor for a world which is being ruled to ruin by ideas and beliefs that belong in the past; a result of a civilisation that is unable to look to the future.

In the past 5 years we have seen the massive failure of the neoliberal economic system (or global financial system);  yet, because we are unable to picture an alternative/unable to picture a future past the ‘end of history’ announced with the inauguration of global capitalism, ever-more extreme neoliberalism is being enforced onto the world. Neoliberalism is dead as a idea, nobody believes in it, yet it rules in an almost zombie-like manner (using thoughts expressed by Mark Fisher in his Visual Futures lecture). This bad medicine is being inflicted by a global elite structure whose dominance is beginning to be dangerously similar to the archaic feudal rule the kings and lords once had over the population. At the same time as this, we are made witness to scandal after scandal amidst the ranks of those  people, institutions and companies we used to see as the pillars of society,. The entire belief system has failed, but still governs us; we are ruled by the dead.

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In the drawing the pillars of (a) civilisation have fallen across the route, like dead trees blocking the path. In this landscape protests are being made by many who desperately want to change the world into a better, more just place, but these pillars have landed on the protests, trapping them, making them unable to move – unable to make a difference (the most well-know example of this would be the 2003 protests against the US/UK imperial war on Iraq, where millions filled the streets world-wide, and were utterly ignored by the decision makers). On the rotting of the tree-like pillars grows all the forces that feed off the death of a future; runaway finance with no grounding in theory, and jingoist patriotism that feeds off the fears of global uncertainty.

The rest of this blocked route is occupied by people who have given up on the belief of a better future, and have given up fighting ; they live in a never ending avoidance of truth and empty feeling, condemned to the pursuit of immediate pleasures (drugs, alcohol, sex), only to spend much time in stupors of dissatisfaction and depression. I am not excluded from such a scene; I am both the protester and the individual drunken and frustrated roaming the evening streets, trying to forget reality. Every figure is interchangeable in my drawings; no individual is solely to blame and yet everybody is complicit.

Place of deads ends_close (854x1280)Each side of the road are the barriers one faces when they try to think of a way out: the violence of the nation state, which becomes more ruthless and repressive the more it is threatened; and at the other side one faces the even worse plight of the poorer parts of the world, and the parts of the world already suffering greatly from changes to the global climate brought on by this governing system. There seems to be no way out. Clouds envelope preventing us from imagining another kind of world; they are both the very real human-made pollution we are failing to tackle, and the blotting out of imagining ourselves somewhere different; the clouds are full of the faces of ‘dead stars’, the icons of 20th century capitalism, who died and became immortalised in our collective hearts, having an ever greater ghostly presence that seeps onto the skins of us as we run backwards from the current world, in search of better times.

Drawing, for me is as much as a controlling (or management) of my darkest thoughts in which everything seems out of control. Yet, I hope my work can reveal the modern world to viewers in a way that is constructive to a collective demand for a better world. As much as I struggle to picture something more hopeful, the dead end is not the end of the world; only the end of a world, a world humanity surely must transcend in the 21st century else it may well be the end full stop.

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Mind maps. Recounting experience of walk, by mapping out the route.

To follow up yesterday’s post, regarding leaving London and having to return to my home town, an incredibly less busy and noisy place, I have posted two maps I drew of routes I have walked, in order to show my thoughts and experience of that area whilst walking through it. One map is of a walk from Shoreditch to New Cross in London, and one is from the Mapplewell to Darton, in my home town, Barnsley.My intention was to show that the thoughts in ones mind whilst walking through an area and experiencing it, can make interesting documentation wherever one happens to be; that whether one is in the heart of a metropolis or in scattered former mining villages, the internal running commentary that accompanies that walk can be just as revealing and conscious-awaking of our real material conditions.

This all related to the Mapping Capitalism course I began, but couldn’t complete, in London, and in particular theorist Fredric Jameson’s notion of cognitive mapping, as a modern means to class conciousness and awareness of our real material conditions, in the disorientating world under late capitalism. Informed by both the philosopher Althusser and the urbanist/town planner who used psychogeographical ideas to create better living environments, Kevin Lynch, Jameson argued that the “mental map of a city explored by Lynch can be extrapolated to that of the social and global totality we carry around in our heads in various garbled forms”

These maps are just the beginning of many I wish to make. I do lots of walking, but not so much leisurely walking (in the sense of a country side stroll), more like walking to town to town, village to village. I have attempted to draw these maps right afterwards, visually the area as I draw the route I walked, in order to remember my emotions and things I saw whilst walking.

If not to anyone else, I find this deeply informative to myself. It’s like when I look back on what I have written the landscape reveals its true identity to me; something an A-Z or Google map could never do. It also made me realise that there is something to be gained conceptually from any walk. Not just a walk through the most tourist-friendly spots on earth.

Map 1. Sunday 7th October 2012

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Map 2. Thursday 7th February, 2013

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Trying to understand the city: small writings of move to London

If my blogpage hit some kind of Timequake (to borrow the title of a Kurt Vonnegut novel) and this post was read by myself from any ‘blogging’ year other than 2012 I would be perplexed as to how I ended up in Britain’s only mega-city, London. As much as I have always been drawn to cities due their informing of my expressive output, this fascination is if anything one laden with scrutiny, thereby generally morbid; now and again the intensity of the city could prove to be too much. And this wasn’t just cities the size of London, but cities like Manchester and Leeds.As well as this, the last five years since I graduated from my art degree have been spent between a somewhat softened and elongated experience of seeing no clear future for myself – ‘being between a rock and a hard place’ – with the production of art/writing (and, in the past, music) serving as the only kind of guidance, which in turn was massively informed by the circumstances which were making me feel so dead end, around people who (appeared to) had their whole future’s mapped out; circumstances (such as the threat of climate breakdown, obsessive disorders, and the inability to find enjoyment in all around that was offered to me as the ‘goodness of life’) that would eventually make me want to return to study something that would allow me to understand what makes the capitalist society that I so struggle to accept.Usually the idea of returning to ‘school’ hasn’t appealed to me at all. But my position between this so-called ‘rock and a hard place’ was getting more dreary and stale by the month, whereas I used to be able to say “pushed into a corner, my creative output is my only method of retaliation” (taken from my ‘artist statement’) with confidence and energy to keep on doing so. The whole predicament was beginning to smother the only endeavours that have given me a purpose to segregate the alcohol endeavours; I found I was barely able to think creatively any more. Thus I have found myself able to do a little bit of manoeuvring around this ‘grey mist’ I see for a future, and just about manage to land myself one of the best places in the world to observe the intense flows of capitalism, whilst studying this: London; still one of the world’s financial capitals, and capital of the world’s first industrially capitalist nation, and possibly the largest human settlement until Moscow to the east and New York to the west. I don’t expect a ‘career’ out of this expedition, but I do feel it is essential I gain a more sound understanding of my critical interests, and circumstances may not keep on granting me this, in this age of certain uncertainties. I am beginning to learn that life is just one series of shimmies away from the pits/total dead ends, and I think this describes what I am doing here (although the intensification of uncertainty under global capitalism requires more shimmying of us). I don’t see opportunity, I see slight openings appearing in dead ends.

So here are the thoughts of one who is not yet accustomed with mega-city dwelling, as much as I still believe modern communications technology makes us all (virtual) urban dwellers. –
– (http://johnledger.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/momentarily-feeling-need-to-stand-my.html)

Updates promised/Delays expected

  • From the window of the landing I used to be able to see the hospital where I was born, now I can see Canary Wharf, one of the epicentres of the flows of forces that have probably had more control over my life than I have. I have spent the best part of a decade situating such all-powerful skyscrapers in art work that was trying to visual the world as it is: now I can see the little flashing lights on their roof with my own eyes.
  • From the window in my new room I can see the top of the new tallest building in Europe: ‘the Shard’. It is a spike-shaped building (to describe it to anybody who hasn’t been exposed to the Londonification of the media in preparation for the 2012 Olympics) or like a piece of flint sticking upwards, and monolithic to match that description. A city seemingly destined to be overlooked by such archaic blocks, begun with ‘the Gerkin’, if only to be symbolic of the archaic shift to a city of kings (in ‘Shardish’ penthouses) and lowly serfs. I expressed surprise at being able to see it from my window, but the surprise was short-lived due to learning that nearly everybody else in the city can see it from their windows too. Yes, this building almost appears to be intentionally conspicuous: a utopia in the sky for the very rich, when life is becoming more dystopian for those below by the month. Once utopia was planned for the people down the road in social housing, who are now slowly being turfed out as the area becomes gentrified (being a newcomer, such thoughts have been informed, on and off, by blogs such as The Elephant’s Backside and Random Blowe), now they are told be ‘realistic’ and that there is no other option but that of being pushed further into the mire. The Shard is symbolic of the unfairness of the system, which is now being shamelessly laid bare for all to see. Quite in contrast to the architectural gestures of the previous Blair government, who tried to hide the unfairness and exclusivity behind a smokescreen of inclusivity. At least it’s easier to see we’re being conned now. The Shard intentionally pierces the sky, yet (maybe because it hasn’t been fully completed yet) appears to open up at the tip, as if it letting the heavens in, yet whilst being symbolic of the trampling on dreams.
  • Still finding strange and slightly unnerving the tannoy announcement on the London underground that tells you how well the services are running at that time. The announcement is delivered in a calm, everyday manner, yet this is what makes it so strange and slightly unnerving to hear: its normalising of the underground part of London life, a setting still so unreal(subreal) to anyone not acclimatized to it (a scene of  hundreds and thousands of bodies walking and running toward each other like particles in a collider), that it almost has the resonance of a hourly forecast given to inhabitants of a city caught between a massive war, or a forecast given in an age where, what is thus far, unimaginable weather extremes have become the norm. Such a setting is only 100 years old, it is still a relatively new experience. Those not accustomed to the city who find these experiences new and frightening shouldn’t be dismissed; they may well be able to express sensations that most have become numb to.
  • Sat on a hill overlooking the city. Every five minutes a plane passes overhead, as if on a production line. Occasionally glance up, with instinctual surprise at being able to see the landscape of a massive city. The buildings are giants, and giants of giants, spread amongst a landscape. They are the rulers of that landscape; communicating the language of that which they rule by. Whereas the ancient forest or ancient mountain-range would have a huge impact, and gain the utmost respect from the human inhabitants of their landscape – with each giant tree/mountain being attributed anthropomorphic characteristics –  becoming representatives of the power of Earth/God, the giants, and giants of giants, of this landscape are the representatives to the power of money. Like how every church was built so that it was visible to another, and so forth, these buildings appear to be speaking to each other; the taller buildings having the most important place in the conversation; like the churches in the age when they were built, they are speaking the language of dominance. This is why one big skyscraper alone in a much smaller town seems to speak to nothing in its physical locality, and seems to communicate with far off buildings in the globally scattered financial epicentres. Like the king’s barons, allocated a patch of conquered land, the buildings bring the new world order to a conquered town. Yet, in the larger city, one sees a landscape of kings/rulers. Such a presence, like the cathedrals before them, has a huge impact on the citizens that scurry around below them. We owe so much to the nearby hills, as they allow us to get some perspective on the extent of the impact on ourselves down in the place where we scurry around.
  • From being an early riser from sleep in my home town, I now seriously struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I am convinced that having what seems like the whole world outside my window is what is causing this morning-malaise. Before, the world was still out there, but there was space and room for somebody in the fragile state of awaking from sleep to gather themselves before they went out to face the world. This even made it all seem more attractive, and made it seem like some kind of meaningfulness was outside, over there somewhere. Now everything feels like it is already being done; the planes are been flown, the trains are being driven, crimes are being committed; life is already fully alive, exerting all the energy it has got before you have even got out of bed. As everything is already going on, swirling around right above the bed, getting out of ones cocoon can seem incredibly daunting. At that time in the morning, what (to somebody used to hearing only a distance drone of a motorway and the odd dog bark) from his open bedroom window seems like the whole world outside their window and it seems too much to take on. Every muscle in your body convinces you to lie there, in silence.
  • On Embankment, waiting for a friend. I’m not sure whether it’s bemusement or sadness I have when I see public sculpture in the heart of a city, which was created and situated in its current location in an historically-seen-as more benevolent and socially progressive period. These are sculptures by the likes of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore (very famous 20th century sculptors). As well as taking into consideration the effect of having to work in a gallery with works from such sculptors for 5 years, my inability to gain feeling from them, for me, suggests more than anything that any potentialities they may have had have been smothered by the direction in which society has gone since then. When these sculptures were placed in the heart of the large cities up and down the country, these cities were undergoing mass redevelopment, large social projects and mass slum clearing, which, although these developments left a lot to be desired to say the least, were still plugged in to the notion of improving the lot of the society on a whole. There was more of an idea of a contract, and that things were generally going to improve. Now, I’m sure these sculptors would have had thoughts that once one world takes another’s place as time rolls on, their sculptures would become static lumps watching it all pass. Yet, as with the statues in every town in the country built to remember those who died in wars which are now grounded in another time/world where the very crimes of warfare are being shamelessly replayed on other battlefields, these sculptures look like a setting in concrete of a promise to build a better world for all, that has now been cheated out of existence, left to stand there as fossilised remnants of something now extinct. In a city where the source of so much of the illness of our age can be traced to certain locations of transactions, the sculptors look almost pathetic, like the burnt out tanks that remain of an army that was trounced by the victor. The emotional landscape of the postwar period, with all the good intentions and high hopes that a better world could be built after the wars (no matter how flawed and laden with hypocrisy) could not be more opposite to the world these sculptures now find themselves in, when society is fed a bitter pill, and it knows it is bitter, but is told that it must swallow it anyway, because, no matter how terrible it all is, “there is no other way”.

will add more soon