Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Country Lanes & Travellers

At an early hour on a fine morning of August we bid adieu to the city, and proceed, by way of Cathcart, towards Eaglesham. ..The luxuriant wheat, a perfect wall of bread, with the first faint russet tinge of autumn, is waving on the fertile fields, and contrastng sweetly with the fresher verdure of the oat and the silken awns of the bearded bere. The potato ridges are blooming as if such a thing as the destructive aphis had never existed; while the bean, not yet denuded of its flowers, lends a honeyed fragrance to the passing winds. Every now and again a country girl with her sour-milk cart passes onward to the thirsty city; or "gangrel bodies," such as wandering dealers in delf, packmen, and votaries of the gaberlunzie profession, may be observed commencing their daily rounds among the scattered farms and villages. It is really astonishing to witness the numbers of these poor creatures who daily issue from our wynds and vennels to pick up a precarious living beyond the police boundaries, partly by charity and partly by the disposal of some humble description of merchandise. One-half the world in reality does not know, and perhaps does not much care, by what a variety of shifts the other half manages to gain its meagre subsistence.

'Rambles Around Glasgow' Hugh MacDonald
"Climb aboard my ship," Sun Ra instructed teen-agers assembled in Oakland, California. Met with incredulity he persisted, "you're in chains now here, space is the place."

For this artist, the map of the world as he saw it in the 1970s had no place called utopia. While extraordinary in every way, Sun Ra's is perhaps the purest and most profoundly motivated instance of what characterises the radical aspirations of the first sixty years of this century. Technological drive fuelled an impulse towards the archaic wherein space travel, machine music, glittering robes and majestic head gear pushed towards a nomadic future in the galaxy. The futurist answer to a futureless world was to leave it.

A few decades later, back here on earth, disenchantment pushes us again towards space. In Patrick Keiller's films, the space that we are being asked to reconsider however is the space around us. Much like the similarly disenchanted Epicureans, we turn now for our re-enchantment to the world of matter. Earth, water sky. Bricks, mortar, steel. Rivers, tracks, roads, and, best of all, bridges. These are the plastics that shape not just how we live, but consciousness itself. And then there are causeways that emanate from the earth's core through arduously constructed landscapes of stone fences, housing estates and factory chimneys right up to the clouds; taking us from the mythic to the mundane to the majestic, from birth to banality and back again. For yes, our landscape looks sordid and tawdry. From high voltage towers that litter the countryside through the suburban shopping mall to the crumbling cement of the city, a world of effaced relationships lies dormant. These relationships are, for each of us, by turns historical, political, autobiographical, archaic, and aesthetic. Thus our task is to enliven that which lies dormant, to stir the sentient springs that portend our awakening. I think of that dormant mass as the Archive of Natural History. Access to this momentous mix of myth, nature, history and sensation lies not behind the authority and classification systems of that other archive, but in the one before us.

Rachel Moore on Patrick Keiller
In Walkscapes: Walking as an Aesthetic Practice - a study of the
artistic practices of walking in the passage from Dada to Surrealism, Lettrism to Situationism, Minimalism to Land Art - Francesco Careri employs the metaphor of the sea to describe the transformed experience of the city realized by such experiments in human drift. «What the rovings of the artists discover», he suggests, «is a liquid city, an amniotic fluid where the spaces of the elsewhere take spontaneous form, an urban archipelago in which to navigate by drifting. A city in which the spaces of staying are the islands in the great sea formed by the spaces of going.»1 If Walter Benjamin considered the nineteenth-century stroller, or flâneur, to be «botanizing on the asphalt», Careri seems to suggest that the contemporary science of the aesthetic practice of walking is a kind of urban oceanography or, more precisely, a coastline cartography - where the littoral is simultaneously the liminal.2

'To the Lighthouse: walkscape, soundscape, seascape' Ross Birrell

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