Thursday, September 11, 2003

Glasgow is riddled with tunnels, here are a few . . .

There's a good one running from Balcarres Avenue in Kelvindale right under the hill to Lismore Rd. It comes out under a pub just off Gt Western Rd that I cant remember the name of. Last time I tried it, it had been closed off. But these things have a way of opening right back up again (funny that).

An interesting one can be seen from Maryhill. (climbing involved) Go to the shopping centre and follow your (railway-sensitive) nose. Near the canal you can find a dramatic cutting, an amazing feat of engineering. This can be entered from Ruchill golf course. (worth seeing from above though) the cuttings/tunnels at the golf course are great too, but a bit wet underfoot.

You can wander about underneath Hyndland Station. Go to Clarence Drive and find the (obvious) railway cutting. follow it into the tree's. There is a bit of climbing and squeezing involved but its worth it. there is an interesting structure in there.

Another one goes under the M8 up near Dobbies Loan. there's a lot of new building going on around here so access is difficult. This tunnel is blocked half way through but again its worth the effort. (yes there is something in there too)

Unconfirmed soundings: underneath Trongate lies a fallout shelter / mineshafts under Glasgow University / passageways below Royal Exchange square / the escape tunnel from the City Chambers / the streets beneath Union St and below Central / the cuttings near Barrack St and Charlotte St in the East End.

Psychogeography is now an idea that many more people will be familiar with than they were even five years ago. How do you feel about your involvement with it?

In its classic sense I don't think I had anything to do with it. But the whole term has been dusted down and reinvented and re-used by people like Stewart Home and The London Psychogeographical Association. There was a kind of strategy to this rebranding, I was quite happy to run with it as a franchise, as a way of talking about doing the things I'd always done and providing a useful description that could be discussed in public. It became a bit of a monster on the back of that.

Do you remember when the word itself began to creep into your work?

I don't know, certainly by Lights Out For the Territory, I think it may have started coming in earlier, then out again.

Were you ever interested in the Situationists or Lettrists?

In passing, certainly, and I read about them as it was going on in the '60s. But it never particularly obsessed me. I was more interested in Louis Aragon, the Surrealist dérive and all of that. I liked the notion of it, but it wasn't exactly what I was doing. I liked their notion of finding strange parks at the edge of the city, of creating a walk that would allow you to enter into a fiction, which again sounds like Arthur Machen to me. Is he a psychogeographer?

By the time I was using the term it was more like a psychotic geographer! It was much less philosophically subtle than some of the previous attempts, more of a raging bull journey against the energies of the city.

How influenced were you by the Earth Mysteries school, popularised particularly by John Michell in the '60s?

Ley lines and all of that was much more part of the project for me all the time. My book Ludd Heat was totally ley line orientated. Although I was reading John Michell, it was more to do with EO (Elizabeth) Gordon's Prehistoric London. I found that book around that time and saw that, although it was written by a nutty Christian, it gave you a series of metaphors you could use about the linking of sites in the London landscape. Once you saw it in that way, you could see how all the Hawksmoor churches linked up to give you all those paths and energies. From that everything else derived.

John Michell's ideas are theoretically based in sacred geometry and Platonism, whereas the other side of it is more do to with quite random and extraordinary things like walking shapes or words or symbols into the map. Bill Drummond walked his own name across London and found himself finishing up outside a gallery where there was this image that he goes in and buys, of somewhere in Iceland. But these impulses are nothing to do with eternal verities or sacred notions of place and space.

Stewart Home says that the LPA deliberately mystified and irrationalised their psychogeograhical ideas in order to prevent them from being academicised in the future. But they inevitably will be because Stewart himself is a sort of rogue academic, so it's self-contradictory in some ways. By doing it, it becomes part of this machinery in talks and interviews. The franchise rolls on for future generations.

The density of information to be gathered from these lines in a city must be far greater than in the countryside.

In the city you are nominating song lines as a way of simplifying the story. If you only keep to one path, you've got a certain amount of material, but if you just go anywhere, you're completely swamped, lost. It's a good way of imposing a structure on the chaos. I do feel that as you walk, certain ways do link and put you into certain narratives. Funnily enough, the site where Llandor's Tower starts is where Alfred Watkins had his original vision, though I wasn't aware of this at the time. I'd picked it for other reasons to do with Kilvert and a particular quoit up there. It was only going back to Watkins that I realised where it was.

How do you think ideas of sacred space apply to cities today?

Well it's certainly applied to any city I've known - it has to. Over periods of time, by repetition or by design. Things that work survive, and things that don't won't.

Iain Sinclair interviewed in Fortean Times

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

TOWARDS SOUTH STREET September the 9th, 2003

Left the centre going parallel to the river. Endless light-industry, with hotel/leisure/lifestyle on the side.
Found myself in a vast warehouse space browsing through fire prevention equipment.
Acres of car park and swirling, grinding traffic later I found South St, a long long road, beginning with the cannibalised innards of the Meadowside Granary. The behemoth that dominated the Glasgow skyline is gone. (See www.hiddenglasgow.com for details.) In its place there will arise the aforementioned hotel/leisure/lifestyle.

By this time my legs were beginning to groan. No sign of the river a couple of hundred yards to my left. Just giant piles of rubble glimpsed beyond fencing. The rain is coming over in waves, not too heavy, but already the path is turning to mush. Was this endless street with its lack of toilet facilities, al fresco or otherwise, beginning to make me delirious? Was this becoming a Vipassana (walking) meditation?

The endless shuffle of M.O.T. and number plates While-U-Wait emporia conspired to have me imagine shifty deals done by men in car coats. (Except nobody wears those anymore.)
A bar called ‘The Big Joint’ and a place known as ‘The Wicker Man’ conspired together to populate this place with dope-smoking crims addicted to cult movies. A glimpse of a fleet of decommissioned ice cream vans only served to confirm the connection. (Glasgow’s ice cream vans were formerly used as a cover to provide their patrons with something a little bit ‘harder’. That is, until they started fire bombing each other in a turf war.)
The buildings on the left were beginning to get bigger. These were actual shipyards. Endangered animals in this part of the world.
Luckily this signalled the end of South St, which meant me and my bladder could jump a bus and go home.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Compulsory attendance at the education mill, where the recieved theories and notions of the time are presented to the innocent as established facts, encourages such totally false impressions of the past, that it becomes hardly possible to understand the present or to foresee the future. With every approach to knowledge guarded by a formidable array of experts and bibliographies, the aspirant must possess sharp wits and unnaturally developed scepticism if he is not to fall victim to one or other of the rival schools of dogma, secular and ecclesiastical, which, though mutually exclusive, unite instinctively to frustrate any attempt to avoid altogether the established orthodoxies, defined by Einstein as 'a collection of prejudices which are fed to us with a porridge spoon before our eighteenth year'. Nowhere is this tyranny of the pedant more evident than in the study of human origins and sacred history. Most books about the remote past rely for their authority on nothing more substantial than the preconceptions of their authors, inevitably influenced by the misapplied theories of Marx, Freud or Darwin and the corrupt traditions of the Christian Church. We are thus conditioned at an early age to accept a narrow, linear view of history, according to which civilisation is a recent and unique development, now for the first time becoming universally established...

From the introduction to 'City of Revelation' by John Michell (1972)

A good rant from the grand old man of sacred geometry. Whether you buy into the whole ley line / dragon path / gematria shenanigans or not, what he says has merit. It is becoming clear that the actual 'reality ' or otherwise, of the aforementioned is less important than their ability to rupture the consensus reality of 21st Century free market capital.

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