Saturday, 25 September 2010

Madame Psychogeography

The Ghost of Madame Psychogeography Still Haunts Armley Mills

The rumour is that the ghost of Madame Psychogeography still haunts Armley Mills, what is now the Leeds Industrial Museum. The story states that on mild damp early autumn days she can sometimes be seen moving around the museum site in a spectral fashion. It is believed she was a Victorian woman who wanders endlessly around the area looking for something. However, no-one knows for sure what she is looking for, and there are varied opinions on what this might be.

Some say that she spends many an hour looking up at one of the windows of the mill. It is said that her lover jumped from this window to his death after hearing rumours that she was intending to join the suffrage movement.

Others say that she is looking for the gear on the lock in which she caught her hair. The one that flung her to her death in the Aire, when she lent over the fence to pick a flower. But, many believe that she is looking for her bicycle because she knows she needs to get home for tea.

Madame Psychogeography was considered to be a frivolous woman, full of dreams and fantastical ideas about the world. Unable to engage in any productive way with life - as a woman of her status was expected to - she would spend many an hour wandering along the river, or riding her bicycle up and down Kirkstall Valley, her unfettered hair flowing behind her.

If you visit Armley Mills, look out for Madame Psychogeography. You may sense she is there, but before you turn around in the hope of catching sight of her, she will have moved on. The lucky ones can be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of her retreating shadow.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Armed for Armley - Part 2

Armed for Armley - Part 2
A Psychogeographers Aesthetic Response to the Leeds Industrial Museum Grounds

Armley Mills - Take 2

A friend and I set out around lunch-time on September 15th for my second visit to the museum. The sky was cloudy, the chilly air required an extra layer of clothing and rain was threatened. By the time we reached the museum the rain had arrived. Since I had planned to visit only the outside of the museum, I sat in the cafe with a coffee (which had gone up in price by 1/3 since my last visit, to the grand sum of £1) and hoped that the rain would abate. Here is a photo, from the cafe window, of a 'typical' dull and rainy Northern day:

This blog will be themed around particular types of imagery on and around the site of Armley Mills. Before I begin I would just like to say a little about the type of psychogeographical approach I take to urban space.

The signs in our environment, which appear in the form of urban d├ęcor, not only provoke an aesthetic response but also contain a history within them that may not be apparent on a superficial viewing. However, the Armley Mills is a good place to be introduced to notions of social history, because when the visitor is inside the museum the history of the struggle of the workers of the 'Industrial North' is laid out for you.

However, even postmodernity (the cultural period in which we now live) holds a history of social struggle that can be read off the topography: space as historical text. Here is an obvious example of this on the very grounds of the museum. It is a memorial that appears under a tree:

Graffiti Bridge

On approaching the museum from the same route taken on the last visit, you see some interesting graffiti. This route to the museum is far more aesthetically rich, from an industrial perspective, than the other route (which I have now discovered and mention towards the end of this blog), the 'official' one over the modern bridge that takes you straight onto the museum grounds.

Here are some images of the graffiti. I particularly like the second image, not just for the graffiti but for that lovely big pipe going into the two walls - and the arch and railings.

Danger Sub-Station and Fragile Roofs

When passing the lovely blue-green box on this second visit, I noticed that the ivy had come off in some places, leaving a mark of where it had been. I liked this because it looked like the trail on a map, a dashed line often representing a path.

I also then discovered that it has/had some electricity-based function at some point:

There were also many signs on a number of buildings warning visitors of the fragile roofs on these outbuildings. I only took photos of three, but there were many more:

Liminal Spaces

I, and other psychogeographers, are particularly interested in what are often called liminal spaces. These are spaces that generally go unnoticed and are threshold spaces that can be in between, or on the edge of, other spaces. These areas are difficult to define and can be ambiguous. Here is one that I took a photo of at the seaside resort of Hunstanton in Norfolk. While this may look like a garden, it is actually just off the promenade and is in between the crazy golf and the childrens' slide:

Hunstanton Promenade

The images below were taken at, or near, Armley Mills. The first one was taken on Kirkstall Industrial Estate, very close to the old bridge that takes you over to the museum. I would consider this one to be a good example of a liminal space. However, the other two are some steps on the museum grounds taken from the top and the bottom. I think they could be considered liminal spaces, especially because they are closed off to the public. What do you think?

Signs of the Times

Under this heading I am including both some commercial signage on the periphery of the museum site, and also some signage on the museum grounds.

The first image is taken on Kirkstall Rd and is for the Cardigan Fields leisure park which is connected to the museum via the new bridge. The second photo was taken just near the museum car park.

The following are all signs taken on the ground of the museum. I liked the red/black one the most, however the photo didn't come out very well. I also like the three different signs together in the same image:

A Design for Life

While this is a song by the Manic Street Preachers it is also the name of this section, as I have selected the following images because I think they offer up a design aesthetic in regards to form, colour or composition. I shall not make any reference to my own aesthetic response to them, nor explain what they are images of, because I think decontextualising them makes them more interesting:

Walking Home to Post Industrial

The last image I took on the grounds was the following one. It is the window of the maintenance shed. I guess that these are children's toys that have been left at the museum in the past. However, I'm not sure that a child would take a massive hobby horse to a museum, but you never know.

We went home via the 'proper' bridge that can be accessed through Cardigan Fields leisure park. If you head to the Vue Cinema, look for Frankie and Benny's restaurant, you will see the bridge which takes you directly into the museum grounds which is to the right of the restaurant:

However, I would recommend that you do take the route highlighted in the first blog at least once, exiting or entering the museum.

I have also taken another image of the Yorkshire Evening Post sign to provide the updated headlines:

Here is a link to the news in the Guardian:

Thousands of Leeds Council workers offered redundancy or early retirement

The Power of Representation

In The Burden of Representation (1988) John Tagg looks at photography in relation to its representation of history. Much of his text is concerned with how institutions enable certain photographic images to gain status when representing particular aspects of history. Representations become what Tagg describes as “discourses which themselves function as formidable tools of control and power, producing a new realm of objects both as their targets and as instrumentalities.” (1988: 70). Power produces the lived experience, what we consider to be 'reality'. This orients power in everyday gestures, actions and practices, at the same time naturalising it.

Tagg, John. 1988. The Burden of Representation (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan).