Thursday, 21 July 2016

STEPZ II – Official Launch


STEPZ II: Between the Rollerama and the Junk Yard

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

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

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

We hope you enjoy it!


STEPZ II is an Urban Gerbil/Ally Standing Publication

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Firing Slits: Jerusalem Colportage


By Niall McDevitt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

Photo: Julie Goldsmith

Monday, 11 July 2016

The Ghost Walks in London


By Richard Brown

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Workerslunchtime


By Rob Kilner

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

You can see more of Rob’s work here.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Psychogeography News - July 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

STEPZ II – Extracts


STEPZ II: Between the Rollerama and the Junk Yard

STEPZ II will be launched on the 22nd July in time for the start of the Loitering With Intent exhibition at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. At the exhibition itself you will be able to pick up a limited edition hard copy of the John Cooper Clarke/Manchester inspired zine and see the accompanying artwork. On this blog I will make available a pdf for you to download for free. You can read the editors' letter here and read a bit more about the zine here. A free copy of STEPZ I can be downloaded here.

Here are a few extracts from the upcoming zine as a taster:

Umbrellas in the Port and Cottonopolis: A snapshot of Red Light Districts in Liverpool and Manchester
By Sarah Crewe

The streets that lay underneath Manchester Piccadilly station appear to be a nest of twigs, offshoots and debris that the town planning team forgot, or to add a twist of cynicism, decided to leave unturned in order to appease the sex tourists that the area is somewhat infamous for. It is very much the land that time forgot. The Star & Garter pub looks exactly the same from the outside as it did in the late ‘90s, when I was attempting to channel Gaye Advert as a bass player in a punk band. I recall even then that the pub was known as a refuge from the archetypal Mancunian drizzle for women who were in the sex trade. The grey, the rubble, and the reputation remain. The streets here seem to have the most ironic names: Fairfield Street, Temperance Street. While there are no working women out - and it is afternoon so perhaps not so much to be expected at this time of day – I am interested in how there is just so much symbolism here. This is clearly a zone charged with history and former expectation, the amount of red brick is testimony to that. Used for 19th century buildings with either industrial potential or sites for education. There are shattered windows, and the ghost site of a former railway station, Mayfield, closed to passengers in 1960 and yet still very much a presence in the city’s landscape.

“Quick as Lager Turns to Piss”: The Privatisation of the Smallest Public Space and a return to Victorian values
By David Dunnico

So in 2010, Manchester followed the example of other councils and launched a “City Loos scheme”. This aimed to persuade shops to take down their “Toilets are for the use of patrons only” signs and replace them with purple “You’re welcome to use our facilities” notices. At its launch, Councillor Pat Karney was pictured peering through a toilet seat, reckoning the scheme would eventually have “about a 100 toilets available”.6 They launched with eight and now have seven. One member, the Arndale Shopping Centre (once dubbed ‘superloo’ after its tiled facade) only stopped charging for their loos when the Trafford Centre opened and didn’t. Another ex-charger was the disastrous Triangle re-development of the Corn Exchange. Following its re-re-development as a posh version of the Arndale’s food court, they got rid of the public toilets altogether – although the Council still advertises them as being a member of the scheme. The participants are the places people have always nipped to if they needed the loo. All the City Loos scheme has done is confirm that the private sector will not provide a service if there is no profit to be made. Even meeting a basic human necessity involves spending a penny. We are more Dickensian than Victorian.

Ancoats and the Quiet Whispers of Change
By Lucy Sykes

It has been said before that Ancoats is to Manchester what Manchester is to England: the birth place of an industrial monster. It was the cog which churned and churned, eating resources, swallowing labour and spitting out enough textile garments to feed the world. It was an empire built out of red brick, where chimneys were seen as spires and smoke was seen as success. Productivity screamed from the streets as Manchester claimed its position in the global market. Economic decline and neoliberal outsourcing was, however, to deal this kingdom a cruel blow. The 20th Century saw Ancoats chopped and changed. Mills became redundant to new economic demands, boundaries were redrawn, and the place become void of activity as population catastrophically dropped. Less able to brag about its commercial success, Ancoats withdrew behind its high and mighty walls.

There’s Something in the Water…
By Morag Rose

In Castlefield we keep an admiring but respectful distance from geese protecting their young families. We decide to head towards the pub for a convivial post dérive pint, documenting the towpaths mundane flotsam and jetsam on the way. It’s beautiful here but people leave traces: footprints, desire lines and oceans of litter. Shoes, keys, marbles, wrappers, an ancient lamppost, a hundred parties worth of bottles. There’s a demon dog buried under the bridge between Salford and Manchester. We are safe for 999 years but which side of the river will it emerge from? A loiterer told me about a beautiful ice maiden, trapped under frozen water, becoming a celebrity amongst ghoulish thrill seekers. Broadsheets and folk singers lamented Manchester’s Ophelia but she wasn’t a myth. She had a name. She was Miss Lavinia Robinson who went missing after an argument with her fiancée on December 6th 1813. A personal tragedy turned into entertainment; dead girls sell papers, especially if they are pretty and ‘good’. Water keeps flowing, some things don’t change, although routes are lost, culverted, twisted and diverted. Once we traced the River Tib and all the water we saw was in puddles or expensive bottles.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

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


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

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

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