Monday, 29 November 2010

The Seaside in Winter

Anyone who has visited the seaside in the winter knows what a different place it is compared to the height of summer. One of the things that is most noticeable are the local people who live there all year round. In the summer, when these seaside towns are brimming with visitors, it is easy to forget that the space we occupy as tourists is actually the home of many of the people who we do not tend to notice as a visitor. Many old people retire to the seaside. Hunstanton in Norfolk, is one of these coastal towns. Quite a few of the elderly who live there have buggies. Below is a photo of three buggies outside the Union Church, where they have a coffee morning and bring-and-buy on a Wednesday:

In order to get a sense of winter-time at the seaside and to experience what it is like to move about town on a buggy, I decided to take one out on a psychogeographical expedition. These buggies are slightly counter intuitive to use if you are used to driving a car, as there is no break. Instead you release the accelerator when you want to stop and it comes to a gradual standstill in a few feet. Hence you have to plan ahead - there is no emergency stop! Below is a short film of me taking the buggy onto the promenade...

Related seaside blog: Reading the Arcades/Reading the Promenades

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Scene of Teaching

This was the "Scene of Teaching" at the University of Leeds on Wednesday November 24th 2010:

I shot this video outside the Parkinson Steps. I think the students were coming up from the other institutions south of Leeds uni - Leeds Metropolitan University and also the other colleges on the edge of the city - to tie up with the University of Leeds students.

When I entered the Ziff building I overheard a security guard saying a building had been occupied. While we were in there, a lock-down started and after finishing our coffee we had to leave via the fire exit which was manned by campus security.

The "Scene of Teaching" reference above is from a chapter on Bill Readings 1996 book The University in Ruins. This is part of the opening of the chapter:

The replacement of culture by the discourse of excellence is the University's response to 1968. In the face of student critiques of the contradiction between the University's claim to be a guardian of culture and its growing commitment to bureaucracy, the University has progressively abandoned its cultural claim. Forced to describe itself as either a bureaucratic-administrative or an idealistic institution, it chose the former. And consequently there is no way back to 1968: a repetition of the radical postures of the late 1960s is not adequate to resist the discourse of excellence. This is because the discourse of excellence can incorporate campus radicalism as proof of the excellence of campus life or of student commitment...

Well, I hope Readings is wrong, but I feel he's probably right. Capitalisms skill in re-routing desires back into the main system has historically been the sign of its success.

Relates websites:
The University of Leeds
May 1968
The University in Ruins

Saturday, 20 November 2010

You Were Here!

This is an ongoing project that takes place on the University of Leeds campus and was started in November 2010. I am taking photos of found objects, not rubbish, although I appreciate that they may look like that. The objects I am interested in are the ones that could have conceivably been dropped accidentally. These items may well be classified as rubbish at the point they hit the ground, but the objects that intrigue me are those that could have possibly been lost, and at that moment in time, could have been attributed some value by the owner.

These items will be listed chronologically with the most recent at the top of the blog. They will be indexed temporally and spatially. I will be uploading them in batches corresponding to the relevant expeditions, and will be interspersing them with texts that relate to the themes of this blog.


Ref: #17
Description: cotton tea towel
Date/time indexed: Wednesday 20th April 2011, 11.14am
Location: Lifton Place


Ref: #16
Description: half-pint beer glass
Date/time indexed: Wednesday 20th April 2011, 11.111am
Location: Clarendon Place


Ref: #15
Description: man's black shoe
Date/time indexed: Wednesday 20th April 2011, 11.08am
Location: Clarendon Place


Ref: #14
Description: pencil attached to string
Date/time indexed: Monday 18th April 2011, 11.36am
Location: the back of the Brotherton (west floor)


Ref: #13
Description: kirby grip
Date/time indexed: Monday 18th April 2011, 11.04am
Location: on the stairs outside Mathematics (leading to Roger Stevens)


Ref: #12
Description: lens from glasses
Date/time indexed: Monday 18th April 2011, 11.01am
Location: next to the building that is under the plaza outside Roger Stevens


I found this really interesting abstract for an article on the found object: 'From trashed to treasured: A grounded theory analysis of the found object' by Paul M. Camic. This is what the abstract says:
Both research and applied psychologists pay surprisingly little attention to the material objects encountered in day-to-day living, even though the significance of these objects in human development has been profound. Drawing on literature from the visual arts, consumer behavior, anthropology, psychology, art therapy, and museum studies, this is the first known article to examine the psychological, social, and aesthetic factors involved in found and second-hand object use. A survey design employing a qualitative questionnaire, analyzed by grounded theory, was given to 65 people from 8 countries. Results identified a found object process that involves the interaction of aesthetic, cognitive, emotive, mnemonic, ecological, and creative factors in the seeking, discovery, and utilization of found objects. This has potential implications for the use of material objects within health care by applied psychologists and allied professionals.


Ref: #11
Description: pencil
Date/time indexed: Saturday 29th January 2011, 11.59am
Location: outside the Student Union.


Ref: #10
Description: black hair scrunchy
Date/time indexed: Saturday 29th January 2011, 11.57am
Location: near the cut-through between sociology and the Ziff building.


Ref: #9
Description: contact lens case (unused lens still intact)
Date/time indexed: Saturday 29th January 2011, 11.55am
Location: near the wall outside the Henry Price halls of residence on Clarendon Road.


Ref: #8
Description: red feather
Date/time indexed: Saturday 29th January 2011, 11.51am
Location: outside the Brotherton Library (west floor).


Ref: #7
Description: black biro (with ink)
Date/time indexed: Saturday 29th January 2011, 11.47am
Location: outside the Brotherton Library (west floor).


Ref: #6
Description: cycle luggage strap (?)
Date/time indexed: Saturday 29th January 2011, 11.40am
Location: outside the casting room at the back of the Old Mining Building.

“The found object shares with the readymade a lack of obvious aesthetic quality and little intervention on the part of the artist beyond putting the object in circulation, but in almost every other respect it is dissimilar. The difference is attributable to Breton’s positioning of the found object in a different space – the space of the unconscious.”

Iversen, Margaret. “Readymade, Found Object, Photograph,” Art Journal, Summer 2004, 48.

I consider these objects to be both found and lost. Because I only select those that could have been dropped unintentionally, and therefore could be thought of not as rubbish, I think they do reflect the unconscious of the individual that owned them. One could also make a good argument for them reflecting the unconscious of the person finding them too.


Ref: #5
Description: lip balm
Date/time indexed: Saturday 20th November 2010, 12.35pm
Location: near the wall outside the Henry Price halls of residence on Clarendon Road.


Ref: #4
Description: black woollen glove
Date/time indexed: Saturday 20th November 2010, 11.45am
Location: on the cut-through between the fire exit of the Old Bar and Sociology.


Ref: #3
Description: eye-liner
Date/time indexed: Saturday 20th November 2010, 11.37am
Location: on the piazza outside the Union.


Ref: #2
Description: green feathers
Date/time indexed: Saturday 20th November 2010, 11.33am
Location: on the wall next to the ramp near the Michael Sadler building.


Ref: #1
Description: orange silk flower
Date/time indexed: Saturday 20th November 2010, 11.30am
Location: disabled parking bay, between the Baines Wing and the Michael Sadler building.

The above objects are the first five I found on my first expedition. They were not as easy to spot as you might expect, as you had to look for them amongst 'real' rubbish, which, even though the campus is very tidy, there is a lot of in terms of very small items. There are a number of things I like about these items. They enable you to pose such questions as:
At what point does something become rubbish? When it leaves the hand, when it touches the ground? Couldn't something that is accidentally dropped be considered a lost object, rather than rubbish?
These items become an index of a journey. The amount of green feathers I found, when looking carefully, was incredible. There were many, and they weren't just located in the region of the one I photographed. These objects tell you something about the owner. The information may be limited, but it tells a story. It says: I WAS HERE!

The Headingley Arndale Centre: Today and Yesterday

I took this image of the Arndale Centre in Headingley, Leeds on a foggy morning this November in the rush hour. The shopping centre was refurbished in 2009, when part of the frontage was painted this terracotta red colour.

Here is an old photograph of the Headingley Arndale Centre, taken circa 1967. I scanned it from the book Leeds: The Heart of Yorkshire. It doesn't say who took the photo, so I am assuming it was the author: John Waddington Feather. Apologies for the poor quality, I think it's my scanner. Note the Woolworths. What I found particularly interesting was the different shape of the office block at the far end of the centre.

According to wikipedia, the Arndale Centres were "the first American-style malls to be opened in the United Kingdom.". The first one was opened in 1961. Apparently, one of the reasons they were criticised was because many Victorian buildings were demolished in order to erect them. My own first recollection was hearing about them in Squeeze's song It's Not Cricket (an ironic title considering Headingley's connection to cricket), from their Cool for Cats album (1979). The lyrics are rather sexist, but that wasn't hugely unusual in the 1970s:

She went with all the tossers who kick about a ball
They say their club's the greatest and she has kissed them all
At the Arndale Centre, she's up against the wall

In the 1996 IRA bombing of Manchester, the Arndale Centre was damaged and later rebuilt. The links below show the bomb-damaged Arndale, and the current one:

Bombed Manchester Arndale Centre
Manchester Arndale Centre Today

I shall close this blog with a paragraph from an A' Level essay I wrote and just rediscovered. It's quite polemic, and also funny to read after such a long time, especially with the italicised words which I obviously must have included to add emphasis. Even though it is about the shopping mall, rather than a shopping centre, the sentiment is there. :

As a side effect of the process of consumerism a form of communion has become available. We no longer need to attend a church service on Sunday when we have available to us every day the opportunity to commune with like-minded people and purchase at the same time. And, as with a church service, there is not even a requirement for us to socially engage. We may simply attend and temporarily share in the experience of the collective consciousness.

Relates websites:
Headingley Development Trust
Signs of a Lost Eternity
Cool for Cats

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A Journey Around My Church

This appeared in the Lynn News on June 18th 1870:

After much consideration it has been determined by a few Christians resident in the neighbourhood to erect a chapel with schoolrooms at Hunstanton, a pleasant village and bathing place on the North Norfolk Coast...Up to the present time no place has been erected for Nonconformist Worship in Hunstanton or within easy walking distance...The Lord of the manor has very kindly granted a most eligible site for the proposed building, and plans have been prepared to secure accommodation for 300 persons in the chapel, and for 200 children in the classroom, at a cost of £1000.

Could you do a psychogeographical blog on our church, please?

A few weeks ago Rev. David Hulse asked me to do a blog, along the lines of those I usually do on Hunstanton for the Reading the Arcades/Reading the Promenades project, on the Union Church. As a psychogeographer, I usually look at outside space, so I decided that I would simply treat this project as if I were walking in an urban area and take photos of the objects I normally do: notices, interesting patterns, curious phenomenon, and the types of objects that often go unnoticed.

I have named this blog after the book by Xavier de Maistre A Journey Around My Room (1794). While the Union Church isn't really my church, it is the nearest to a church that I have and I always visit the Wednesday coffee morning when I stay in Hunstanton:

I/You/We Were Here

One of the experiences of walking in the town or city is that you are able to see the traces of those who have previously passed through. There are objects in space that are attached to people who have taken a journey. For example, a discarded bus ticket would be an obvious record of a journey that has been temporally and spatially indexed. However, objects often get left accidentally. Here are two umbrellas hanging in the church. The chances are that the day they were left it was raining upon arrival at the church and not on departure.

Also, on the coat hanger I found a hat (the one on the right) - "Is it David's?", I wondered at the time. So, I took off my own hat and placed it on there too and took a photo. The photo now tells a tale and remains as a sign of the day that I went to the church to do this blog: it says "I was here".

David let me go into his office; so, I took a photo of the items on his windowsill. I don't know what the item second from the left is, but it looks interesting.

Repeating Patterns
I took the following photos because I like to look for patterns that are formed by decontextualising objects from their space. Below is Complete Mission Praise, the hymn book used at the church, and also the Christmas presents that the church collects, assembles and sends abroad to children who are not fortunate enough to receive presents.

Human beings look for patterns in their environment. Historically it has been one of the qualities that has enabled us to evolve and survive, for example by recognising human faces, or quickly spotting fruit hanging in trees. When urban walking, I like to look for patterns in discarded objects or find interesting textures in space. See the blog below for more of these images:

The Cootie Catcher Derive or A Walk With Some Really Interesting Dutch Chaps

Religious Accoutrements

Another thing I like to do with psychogeography is find an interesting object, photograph it, and when I am home do some research to find out more about it. In the image below you can see the bible is open on '2 Chronicles'. While most people know the Book of Chronicles is a section of the bible - and, I'm sure many know it includes a history of King Solomon's reign and information on the Babylonian Exile - however it is also the name that many musicians have used for their albums, including Jon and Vangelis, and Rush (which I'm sure you prog rockers out there also know).

I didn't know what these were, so had to ask David. Apparently they are offering bags and are used in the Sunday Services for collecting money for the maintenance of the church. Four people pass the bags around the congregation and return them to the bowl where they are accepted by David with thanks in the form of a prayer.

I also liked this Prayer Requests book. I'm not sure if it is meant for people requesting a particular prayer or for asking for a prayer for a specific person.


One of the things that psychogeographers often photograph are the notices in urban space. The Oxford English Dictionary says that a 'notice' is: "The act of imparting information, and related senses. Intimation, information, intelligence; a piece of point out to, mention specially to, inform...". Here are some of those in the church:

An Interesting Banner and Flag

This is what David told me when I asked about the above handmade banner:

When I first went to my last Church (Owton Manor Baptist Church), a lady, Mrs Valerie Carr, asked me if she could put up the banner on the occasions when her husband conducted services of Infant Blessing. I took over the duty, but asked her if she would kindly leave the banner in place. She made the banner, which reflects the Bible story of Jesus blessing the children. Val sadly died in 2000. I acquired the banner for Hunstanton Union Church when the Church in Hartlepool had a change of banners.

The above flag is for the Brownies who meet in the church hall. The Brownie organisation was set up by Lord Baden-Powell in 1914 in order to fully represent both genders and all age groups. They were originally called Rosebuds.

Here is some recent information on the Hunstanton Brownies:

Union Church - Brownies Section
Hunstanton Rainbows, Brownies and Guides - Report August 2010

Traces of the Past

While my walk around the church was a rather unconventional psychogeographical trip, I attempted as much as possible to bring a different experience to the space, in the same way that I do when operating in the outdoors of the town or city. Space holds a social history which reflects the lives of people who have lived and worked there. It is easy, when you move through the same space on a regular basis, to not notice some of the d├ęcor. This is both because the space has become familiar to us, but it can also be for other reasons.

I hope I have brought a different flavour of the Union Church due to my wanderings. I shall leave you with this final image because it represents what it is that I find interesting about the objects we find in space. These toys are a trace of the lives of children. What it is that I like is the questions that are posed by them: Who did the toys belong to? Were they toys of local children? What are the children doing now?

Relates websites:

The Union Church, Hunstanton
Hunstanton Churches
History and Heritage of Hunstanton