Articles

CONNECTING THE COAST

England Coast Path The England Coast Path – A project born out of years of Ramblers’ campaigning.

In the past days I was really excited to discover that the worlds longest continuos coastal trail will be opened in 2020, and further more that it is right on my doorstep in England. The final trail will be almost 3,000 miles long, and for the first time it gives the right of access to open coast allowing people to walk over access land to explore right up to the water’s edge. The England Coast Path will increase tourism, connect communities, boost rural economies, and allow opportunities for people to enjoy walking by the seaside. Natural England has been busy working with landowners, highway authorities and others to open up stretches of the path. With nine stretches now open and work underway on many more, it should be open in no time.

You can follow the ramblers on Facebook and Twitter or read more about the project here.

DEEP TOPOGRAPHY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNGskCNrBHY Here is an interesting documentary I came across online called The London Perambulator. It features Will Self, Iain Sinclair and Russell Brand alongside writer and researcher Nick Papadimitriou - a man whose life is dedicated to exploring and archiving the edgelands beyond the high street, the retail park and the suburban walkways.

WALK TUBE MAP

tubemap Transport bosses have unveiled the first official map showing the walking times between central London's Tube stations. The comprehensive plan highlights the time it takes to travel on foot between almost all of the stations on London’s Underground network. It is the first official one of its kind and was released following the popularity of other unofficial versions. Walking from Leicester Square to the markets of Covent Garden takes just four minutes, but many tourists make the longer journey by Tube. People can now use the new walking Tube map to navigate London above ground, while taking in its iconic sights.

Click here to see 8 tube journeys that are quicker by foot!

MAP6 UPDATE

MAP6logo It has been a busy few months for the photography collective MAP6, as we have been working on a new project together. The central theme of the project is HOME and each of our 6 new series will depict an individual response to this proposal. The work is nearing completion and we have began the process of putting an edit together. Like our Moscow Project, the new work will also take the form of a publication and an exhibition. On top of this, we have been busy planning our next trip abroad. Since the success of our trip to Moscow we have been itching to get away together again, to make new work. We are glad to announce that our next chosen location will be Vilnius in Lithuania. Furthermore, we will be updating our website with lots of new work, which you can visit here. There will be more news about our various projects soon, but for now you can keep up to date with what we are doing by liking our facebook page here. 2015 will be a busy year for MAP6, we are very excited.

PICS PROJECT

4PaulWalsh My series All Things Pass has been featured as part of David Boulogne's 2012 Pics Project. It is a collaborative project bringing together photographers that have captured the East End of London before and after the Olympic games. David Boulogne is the curator of the project and you can read his review of my work here. My work will also be featured as part of a show that David will be curating soon in the East End.

EDEN WALK

Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 16.01.46 Lately I came across this incredible project from writer Paul Salopek called the Out of Eden Walk. From 2013 to 2020 he is retracing on foot the migration of the first human beings from Ethiopia to Chile. Along the way he is engaging with issues such as climate change, mass migration and cultural survival. Check out the website here and there is also a crowdfunding campaign where you can help support the next leg of the journey here.

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All Images © Paul Salopek

A SINGLE STREET

IMG_0532 "But if you were to view a street differently - that is to say, not as a straight path but as an interlaced jumble of cavities that expand, stretch, branch off and mutate - then the horror of unfiltered fantasy begins to take place and you realise: streets are always larger from the inside than from the outside..."

And so reads the quote featured on the cover of issue 2, the winter 2013 edition of Flaneur magazine. I was recently introduced to this wonderful publication by fellow MAP6 member Mitch Karunaratne. Each issue promises to explore a single street, where a selection of artists interpret the area in a variety of different media. This issue explores Georg-Schwarz-Strasse in Leipzig.

The magazine is crammed with features that employ photographs, writing, drawings and digital art. In the written piece The Plakateers of Georg-Schwarz-Strasse, Giulia Pines follows in the tracks IMG_0540 of those responsible for putting up posters along the street during the early hours. The stories of three shopkeepers are told with photographs and written words by Malte Seidel and Grashina Gabelmann in Shop Life. There are even four operas composed by Fabian Saul, that were inspired by the city, where the sheet music has been beautifully laid out amongst colour photographs. My favourite piece however is Walking Intervention/Still no Empyre. It is a collaborative piece with words from Maruan Paschen and photographs from Michael Hoepfner. IMG_0548 Over 9 pages, we are shown numerous landscape photographs of a walk along the street. All of the photographs are in black and white and taken from a similar downward facing angle. The photographs have few remarkable details and seem to have been taken at regular intervals throughout the walk. We are shown the road works, paving, scaffolding and other obstacles the photographer has to navigate in order to reach the end of the street. The photographs seem to form a narrative of the walk from beginning to end, but at various intervals on the page there are blank spaces. They make us curious to know what happened during these unseen moments and question why there is no photograph.

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What works particularly well is the interplay between text and imagery. Placed beneath seemingly random images are sentences expressing the writer's thoughts, perhaps captured at the same time as the accompanying image. This mix of text and imagery provokes us to make connections between the two. The artists also seem to be making some sort of statement about the power of the imagination, amidst the mundanity of the black and white images and the colourfulness of the text. The piece is not only about the physical walk along the Georg-Schwarz-Strasse but also about how the process of walking and thinking becomes its own journey.

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Looking through the magazine is an intense but exciting experience and it's easy to see the amount of thought that has gone into the layout, presentation, and choice of paper. The magazine also comes with fold outs, pull outs and double leaved pages that add a sense of variety to the reading experience. I particularly like the purple tinted cityscapes that run throughout the publication, punctuating and contextualising the work. IMG_0547

Streets for most of us are simply transitory spaces that have the single purpose of enabling passage. But Flaneur encourages readers to take a closer look at these places and demonstrates that amongst these streets that we walk along everyday, there are many extraordinary stories waiting to be be discovered.

The next issue, spring-summer, will be in Montreal. You can find out more information and pre-order it here.

WALKING ECHOES

"If you undertake a walk, you are echoing the whole history of mankind, from the early migrations out of Africa on foot that took people all over the world. Despite the many traditions of walking – the landscape walker, the walking poet, the pilgrim – it is always possible to walk in new ways" Richard Long, "One Step Beyond", the Observer, May 10, 2009.

A NEW PAGE

paul_walsh1 Ordinarily I use this space to talk about photography and walking, but today I thought I would mention something slightly different, my visit to the new Library of Birmingham. I was incredibly excited to return back to my home city as there has been quite a buzz surrounding the opening of the library. The project has been in operation for a number of years and the local media has been following the progress of the building closely.

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The old central library, built in 1974, played a tremendously important part in my adolescence, as I spent many an afternoon looking through the library's collection of photography books. For some time the older building has looked tired, fitting in with a particular style reminiscent of the 60's post war architecture that has become synonymous with the of centre of Birmingham.

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In comparison the new library is much more opulent and impressive, marking an encouraging sense of direction for the redefining and modernisation of the city. The library appears to be much larger than its predecessor reaching upward for nine storeys. For me the new library is perhaps Birmingham's most spectacular architectural achievement in recent years.

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With more than three million visitors expected each year, one of the most exciting aspects of the library opening is the thought that it will be driving more people towards an educational space rather than a retail environment. Recently Birmingham has had an number of interesting and exciting redevelopments, the Bullring, the Cube and Selfridges spring to mind, but for me this marks a much more cultural venture, promoting Art and Education rather than the possibility of the ultimate retail experience.

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Each of the floors are strikingly decorated with blue neon and black. Escalators swiftly move visitors between floors and a glass lift transports visitors up to the top terraces. Looking upwards towards the roof brought the MoMA in New york to mind. What really blew me away about the building was the access to the two elevated garden terraces. When looking over the railing it dawned upon me that in all my years growing up in Birmingham I had never seen it from above, and here the views are extraordinary.

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The Library has various cafes and interactive media libraries as well as its impressive photographic collection. The old central library used to house its photographic book collection within glass cases, which made it frustratingly inconvenient to access the books. However they seem to have made steps to resolve this, as many of their photographic books are now on display. The Library of Birmingham also features a BFI Mediatheque, which provides free access to the National Film Archive.

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As well as exploring the building, I also wanted to visit the reference works exhibition at the library's new photographic gallery. For photographers based in the Midlands, this is a very exciting hub for exhibitions, commissions and artist talks. The gallery is a nice large space and the current exhibition was well curated and presented. Four photographers, Brian Griffin, Stuart Whipps, Andrew Lacon and Michael Collins, were commissioned to make a body of work in reference to the building. All of the work was beautifully printed and framed and each piece was given ample space for the work to take hold of the viewer. It's a triumphant first show from an inspiring and highly influential selection of photographers. For more on the exhibition, you can visit a dedicated site here.

Looking back on my visit to the library, I left feeling excited. Birmingham, being an important post industrial city, has gone through a massive transformation in recent years. It has become a busy retail environment that for me, at times, has lacked the cultural buzz you can find in other major British cities. However I think times are rapidly changing and Birmingham is fast becoming the place to visit in the Midlands, which is much richer in photography and the arts. The new library is symbolic of this rapid change and will help to make the city a distinctive and thriving place of cultural modernity. I was impressed and I highly recommend a visit.

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You can find out more information about The Library of Birmingham here.

EXERCISE #4

A dicewalk is a way of moving through an urban environment in a random way. The randomness allows for movement through areas that one would ordinarily not venture into. The basic premise is that you roll a die each time you come to an intersection or sidestreet. You must have a clear idea of what your options are before you roll. If the die brings you into someplace that you would rather not be, or if you are satisfied with your walk then put the die in your pocket and go home.

  1. You roll the die at every junction or side street.
  2. The less the number of a roll, the more you turn towards the left, counter clockwise.
  3. Going back is not considered an option, unless you come to a dead end.
  4. If the junction is a T, then 1, 2, and 3 means turn to the left, and 4, 5, and 6, mean turn to the right.
  5. A typical four way junction contains three options. If it is a three option decision, then 1 and 2 mean turn left, 3 and 4 mean go forward, and 5 and 6 mean turn right.
  6. A five-way junction is a four option decision, then 1 means first option, 2 means second option, 5 means third option and 6 means forth option. 3 and 4 means roll again.
  7. If it is a six way junction, than the numbers 1 to 5 correspond with the positions of the five optional ways. 6 means roll again.
  8. If there is a major side street on the left, then 1 and 2 mean turn left. 3, 4, 5 and 6 mean go forward. Likewise, the same applies if there is a major side street on the right.
  9. If there is a minor side street (smaller than the one you are on) then 1 means turn left. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 mean go forward. Likewise, the same applies if there is a minor side street on the right.
  10. No looping: you may not walk the same direction on the same place more than once. When you come to an intersection that you came to earlier during your dicewalk, you will not consider the path you already took to be an option. You may go the opposite way on the same path once.
  11. Every time you come across something striking, for example an object, street corner or person, then record it with your camera.
  12. To end a dicewalk, put the die away and proceed to another destination.

WALKING FABLES

Francis Alÿs is a Belgian artist currently based in Mexico City. His practice is difficult to define as he employs a broad range of media and adopts a number of different approaches. Having been influenced by Baudelaire’s Flaneur he also uses walking to make ephemeral works that draw attention to a social or political point of view. One aspect that makes Alÿs exceptional to other artists I have mentioned here previously is that he uses photography to document the temporary and performative aspects of his work. After the performance is over the photographs can then act as a document to be used to perpetuate the work in a gallery space. Below are a few examples of his work to show his unique, inventive and humorous approach to walking in the city. IMG_0358

LOS ZAPATOS MAGNETICOS, 1994, PHOTOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTATION OF AN ACTION

"During the 5th Havana Biennial, I put on my magnetic shoes and took daily walks through the streets, collecting scraps of metal lying in my path"

As Alÿs wonders around the city collecting detritus with his magnetic shoes, the shoes become a symbol of recycling as well as a meditation on the allure of objects as consumerist commodities.

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WALKING AND PAINTING, 2002/04, PHOTOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTATION OF AN ACTION

"A Painting is hung on a gallery wall. As the gallery opens its doors, the carrier takes the painting off the wall and walks it through the city. As night and closing time approach, the carrier brings the painting to the gallery, hangs it on the wall and covers it with a veil for the painting to sleep. The same action is repeated the following day."

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PARADOX OF PRAXIS 1, 1997, PHOTOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTATION OF AN ACTION

"Something making something leads to nothing."

Alÿs pushes a block of ice around the streets of Mexico City for six or seven hours until it melts. On the same streets, manual workers routinely spend their days pushing and pulling carts and boxes. The results are the same: nothing to show for all the hard work.

"Walking, in particular drifting, or strolling, is already - within the speed culture of our time - a kind of resistance. Paradoxically it's also the last private space, safe from the phone or e-mail. But it also happens to be a very immediate method for unfolding stories. It's an easy, cheap act to perform or to invite others to perform. The walk is simultaneously the material out of which to produce art and the modus operandi of the artistic transaction. And the city always offers the perfect setting for accidents to happen. There is no theory of walking, just a consciousness. But there can be a certain wisdom involved in the act of walking. It's more an attitude, and it is one that fits me all right. Its a state where you can be both alert to all that happens in your peripheral vision and hearing, and yet totally lost in your thought process."

(From an interview with Russell Ferguson found in the monograph Francis Alÿs)

THE NAKED CITY

spectaclePsychogeography – “The point where psychology and geography collide” (Merlin Coverley - Psychogeography)

As research for my photographic practice I am continually thinking about how others have adopted different approaches to walking. Previously I have mentioned Baudelaire and his highly influential notion of the Flaneur. The Situationists have also made an important contribution to the theoretical development of walking with Psychogeography.

The situationists were a group of avant-garde artists that came together in 1957, led by the Marxist Guy Debord. They desired a life free from the conditioning of the capitalist system, which they used as inspiration for their political and artistic undertakings.

Guy Debord wrote the situationists’ most influential manifesto of ideas under the title Society of the Spectacle (1967). The main concept behind the manifesto is that mass media and advertising create an artificial reality in which true everyday existence is hidden behind. This artificial reality Debord called the Spectacle. As a way of reacting to this dominance over society by the media, the situationists developed methods for everyday experimentation, the most notable being psychogeography. Guy Debord defined the term Psychogeography as “the study of the specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.”

It was an inventive method for exploring cities, aimed at helping pedestrians to sway from their predictable trajectory. The ideal outcome was that pedestrians would become more aware of their overlooked urban surroundings and would begin to see new possibilities of experiencing everyday life in the city. Perhaps Debord’s most remarkable concept within psychogeography was his notion of the dérive (the drift). The dérive was an unplanned walk through the urban landscape, which was navigated by the individual’s emotional reaction to the surrounding cityscape. It was a method of wandering, in which the subjects trajectory was determined by the city’s psychogeographical mapping.

THE NAKED CITY

The situationists also used maps, making alterations to them in order to help instigate unpredictable trajectories. Debord himself produced a map in 1957 under the title The Naked City. The plan of Paris is cut up and divided into 19 sections that are randomly placed back together. The users of the map choose their own route through the city by using a series of arrows that link parts of the city together. Other experiments with maps existed including one undertaken by a friend of Debord who wandered through a region of Germany whilst following directions from a map of London. The situationists encompassed other intellectual devices into their walks for example, when they were manoeuvring within the landscape they would try to be aware of how their surroundings could be used to draw them toward the past. Cities were seen as historical landscapes, whose structure and appearances were shaped by temporal events that were buried but never completely erased. The situationists’ notion of psychogeography managed to draw attention to the importance of maintaining a link with the cities’ historical past and enticed many to explore the city with a new perspective.