Realist film and television after Alan Clarke

An exciting project in the pipeline, that I’m pleased to be involved with: the University of York’s Centre for Modern Studies will be hosting a conference on the work and influence of the director Alan Clarke (1935-1990), who produced such provocative and visually powerful works as Scum (1979), Made in Britain (1982) and The Firm (1988). As 2014 is the 25th anniversary of Clarke’s Elephant (1989), the opportunity to reflect on Clarke’s influence connects with other independent and commercially successful filmmakers, including Danny Boyle, Paul Greengrass and – in America – Gus Van Sant. Van Sant’s Elephant (2003) (which won the Cannes Palm D’or) shares the stark visual style and temporal layering that would become characteristic in his ‘Death Trilogy’, marking the debt to Alan Clarke that this conference will explore.

I’ve been watching all of Van Sant’s work again, too. Like Clarke, he draws upon dramatic material and range that brings to mind the Shakespearean: in fact, he based My Own Private Idaho (1991) on Henry IV. As well as featuring big-name actors (famously, River Phoenix in the latter film), Van Sant innovates in the ‘Realist’ suggestion of using non-professional actors, and his recurrent use of a single urban location, explored in multiple iterations and perspectives.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch Clarke’s films, I highly recommend you do. Made for television, the location of these works in the communities marginalised in Thatcher’s Britain is not only, in turn, brutal and moving: it is vitally important for how we think about representations of ‘real’ urban and institutional spaces today.

Tim Roth in 'Made in Britain' (1982), his screen debut.

Tim Roth in ‘Made in Britain’ (1982), his screen debut.

The conference is planned for June 2014, and a Call for Papers will also appear on this site. For further information, see the link at the Centre for Modern Studies website below, or get in touch.

http://www.york.ac.uk/modernstudies/conferences/realist-film-and-tv-after-alan-clarke/

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Hungry Hill

Courtesy of Ordnance Survey & Bing Maps

I live in a strange landscape. Perhaps it’s more of a non-landscape: a topography chosen for its convenience for a defensible Roman fortification, and subsequently, its position at the junction of two rivers, fed by this wide vale. This flat-land was, not too long ago, the bottom of ‘Lake Pickering‘, the outflowing of northern ice that brought stones and earth to the terminal moraine that is now Siward’s Howe. The prehistory of our topography is almost always obscured, but exists in the faint lines of OS ‘Explorer’ maps, insisting on retaining the concentric circles that matter to the wearied walker, cyclist, or navigating traveller.

I could draw a box around any brief part of a map like this, and find an overlayering poem in its roads and hills. One prominent site in this vale is magnified by its distance from my house: six miles – far enough for a long mid-week training run – a fast foray down straight roads, to the high ground that bears a warm and desiring name: Hungry Hill. I can’t find the origin of the name, but it’s part of a line of high ground between York and the Wolds, 200-metre hills that form the eastern edge of the Vale of York. Hungry Hill only takes a minute or two to ascend, even at my gentle training pace, but from the high ground York Minster shines back in the sun: the city in miniature, home not so far even from the destination. From the top, the vista is accompanied by the rush of the descent, the wind around my shoulders, and the changing tide of returning.

Woods near ElvingtonHilltops raise the eye to their advantages of vantage: the distance, yet the ‘Explorer’ map draws the obscured neighbours of the prominence, with similarly curious names. ‘Cakies Wood’ is away from any track, and so exists as, before now, an anonymous line of trees. ‘Wire Field’ is the slope that extends off beyond as I run my circuit from Warthill. Like the ‘Common’ on the other side of the road,  its designation must extend back to previous maps: for the drain-builders, the villagers, those who worked and grew hungry. They spent days on this land, not hours. Their maps would include so many more names, filling those white spaces with the energy of their minds, inventing while their bodies worked. The straight lines marked on this map designate features that are less visible now: the Roman road on the other side of the hill, that traced its ambition of directness through the low ground. And the railway, now ‘Dismantled’, but part of a line that points as directly to the city: it cuts right through ‘Helmsley Hill’ – hill from hill, in a time when cleaving the landscape was a reassurance of civilising strength.

As I move through these spaces, I cut lines of a different sort: the cold seasons reveal trajectories through woodland to a house on the high ground beyond. Then, in Spring, new colours mark boxes against each other: shades that will hardly remain even from one visit to the next. The map facilitates movement through this landscape: but my eyes return me the wonder for which I return.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The First Yorkshire Marathon

WARNING: This post may appear to some, sentimental. It may even be a little gushy, at times. I’m not apologising for this, so much as taking time to say something about it. The standard mode is that it’s not okay to be too into something. ie. It’s good to be in love, but if you’re that in-love: please find a more understated way of demonstrating it. It seems to jar against something of what it means to be ‘British’. We wonder, with a frown, exactly what you’ve been seasoning your porridge with.

I accept that it is impossible for everyone to love running in quite the same way as I love running. And I’m sure we’re all glad that they don’t. But how did running and I become how we are? What if we’d never met? It might have something to do with my upbringing, or in my genes. My siblings have a tendency towards particularity of focus, especially when it comes to feats of exertion. If I wasn’t in this body, I might have loved other things. I have, by contrast, no love of tennis or chess, although I think I can appreciate those who do. I can’t be sure about the reasons I get this way when I talk about running.

But it keeps happening. I’m repeatedly reminded: shocked with whatever it is that happens when I run. The body flows in its billion-year-old mechanics: hips turn a few degrees, the leg swings out and the torso smoothly, quietly propelled over it. My weight, usually pushing me to ground, now hovers across a hundred and eighty brief flights every minute. The toe points up while airborne, then, in the last fragment of time, shifts to land in parallel on the tarmac. Some unconscious part of me controls this motion, and engineers the cumulative drive towards efficiency. Inside, the heart and liver switch modes, accelerating their provision. Tiny glands over the kidneys fire up like nitro in a combustion engine, turning me from a screen-watching, keyboard-pecking food sponge (‘ah-thank-yoo’) into something that can turn fuel into unaided motion.

And occasionally, when I feel like it, I push differently on my legs. I don’t know how or what changes, but now the hedges are roaring by, and my feet seem to touch the path even more briefly. Here, thought melts into rhythms: the regularity of breathing, and the automatic balancing adjustments of the arms, raised at my sides. In the city, I slide past traffic in gridlock. Beside fields, my trajectory crosses with the starlings and rabbits, apparently unbothered even by my day-glo yellow t-shirt.

 

 

A thousand journeys have one destination: the start-line on (let’s predict) a mildly chilly and calm Autumn morning in York. Thousands of the mindfully greased-up & kitted-out jog on the spot, stretching anxiously, mentally rehearsing. They chat occasionally, sharing best wishes. They have covered hundreds of miles alone, in the dark, rain and when exhausted. For the past week they have become slightly jittery, reminding themselves to rest: stay in, massage their calves, fuelled by endless variations of pasta and porridge.

They have felt joys, loves, yes: feelings that seem to leave the earth, however briefly, before planting them back into time. Their bodies have been filled and emptied until they have become something else. They have become adapted to perform this thing they call the race: so abstract, yet, so uniquely testing and suited to the limits of human strengths. ‘You can train for a marathon’, they’ve heard. Men in their nineties, people of a dazzling variety of sizes, shapes and adversities: they have all trained and succeeded at covering the twenty-six miles. Often, the ones who come back are the ones whose journey takes them furthest. At the start line, that journey is almost over.

In the next six hours, most runners will find that they must draw upon both their preparation, and an act of personal willpower to cover the final miles. That’s precisely why a marathon is so much more than a ‘race’, and more than a charity event for that strange (imaginary) species: ‘the runner’. It’s hard not to notice the universal suggestion of those movements, and those silent battles that spread across the faces of marathon photographs. When a city celebrates (yes, why not use that word for it?) the marathon, it invites a festival of place and community. The city pours out into its streets, and recognises the pageant of so much of the hardest and best of life in a human stream of coloured clothing. When each person commits to the far-off event, they know that it they have accepted an invitation to go searching, for the best within themselves. They meet on mist-veiled mornings in which they used to sleep. They laugh about mud-caked calves and frosted eyebrows. They smile at people they pass, filling the just-lit air with something they can’t name. On the start line, they know exactly how far away it is.

Twenty-six-point-two miles. On either side of the tape, we will run it together, on the returning smiles and best realisation of our homeland.

 

 

The first Yorkshire Marathon will be held on October 20th, 2013. Places are limited to 5000 (1000 gone already at time of writing), and can be booked at www.theyorkshiremarathon.com

Tagged , , , , ,

Maps and Movement

Following my last post on ‘Desire Lines’, a brief Twitter exchange with Dr Mick Pythian and Lisa (from York Stories) focussed my attention on an opposition at play with various kinds of mapping and movement. His concern was that walkers following their spontaneous whim may damage valuable property, and, specifically, crops that are produced on common or shared land. This conflict cuts back to a basic opposition that necessitates maps, and often dictates their content. Maps such as the OS Explorer series are about rights of way, but of course, the assumption underlying this is that, in general, a walker may not go where he or she likes on the land. There are prescribed routes that are an exception, and such maps are produced in order to protect land from trespassers.

I’ve admired the practise of the Parkour ‘traceur’ and ‘traceuse’, whose art works to reverse this assumption: they cross the dense urban landscape with physical strength and creative flexibility and ingenuity. In the best examples of Parkour or ‘Freerunning’ movement, this combination of skills is breathtaking and liberating to watch: I can only imagine how exhilarating it is to practise.

Yet cartography seems the furthest thing from the traceur’s art. They trace with their bodies, in process, a set of movements unrepeatable in detail. Like the Situationists, they are interested in the ‘moment’, a process of unfolding, rather than construction. The mapping projects of the French Empire in its colonies are unravelled in the immediacy of the body.

Parkour has hardly been without its critics, however. Like skateboarders and urban explorers who reclaim landscape for the individual, they are considered a public nuisance to many – a danger to themselves and an inconvenience to those whose liability requires them to secure dangerous land against those unaware of hidden hazards.

The map is tool serving these social interests – to protect things and, sometimes, people. Yet maps must be drawn to balance these interests against the dangers of too much protection. Our landscapes must embrace construction and process, safety and motion, in order to remain vital.

Like the rules of literary form, perhaps the greatest artists of space will memorise the maps, inhabit the extents of their lineaments, and then transform them through themselves, making meaning through crossing lines and connecting spaces.

Tagged , , , ,

The line of desire, Siward’s Howe

Geographical and cartographic projects are, most often, invested in inscribing desires and human movements of a particular kind: those that persist through the investment of material construction and administrative maintenance over time. Thus, the historical and cartographic persistence of the Roman site at Bootham Bar obliterates the Brigantian hub at Clifton Green, by virtue of it being a kind of geographical locus: in thrall to the ideal of universality and persistence. My interests continually move me away from these kinds of maps and views of spaces. After all, even the Roman sites have been in large part obliterated, forgotten and written-over. The long-term stability of any point or object on map is an anomaly, rather than the norm. Even the hills, if we zoom out on the chronological scale far enough, won’t stand still.

So, if a proper map becomes as large as its territory, we may as well go out into the territory to read human desire and movement: the traces of our psychologies onto landscape. The land contains many varieties of these traces: recognising them opens up new layers that connect a cartographic network of their own. One kind of trace, the ‘desire line’ across lawn, common land or mud, overflows the planner’s provision, cutting corners and making more efficient, direct or interesting routes from place to place. Often, these lines undo the supposedly ‘place-making’ strategies of architects, betraying our desire for rapid transit over curiosity, sociality or beauty. After pathways are overcome, railings follow.

Where lawns are less highly-prized, however, the desire-lines become more and more compressed, baked down in the sun and cracked after rainwater floods them and plants have given up the struggle. One such line, that I have used regularly over the last few years, seems to have become more used than the ‘official’ path: a rather dull arc beside regularly-speeding traffic, boringly called ‘University Road’ (Yes, it’s a road, leading to the University of York campus. Brilliant, you’ll agree.). On the other hand, the desire line (shown in red below) tracks a direct route from the road that leads in from the student suburb of Tang Hall, past grazing horses on a field that has views south on a clear day to three power-stations twenty miles away. At the far end of the trail, a giant fortress-like water tower stands on Siward’s Howe, the supposed burial-place of Siward of Northumbria, the 11th-century Earl  mentioned in Macbeth.

Courtesy of Bing Maps

The water tower (to the right of the photo above) is still an active site operated by Yorkshire Water, restricted with a few lines of slack barbed-wire at waist height beside the desire line. Protecting this site was perhaps part of the motivation in not constructing a pathway along this line. Still, after seasons of walkers taking the same route, a clear intersection at the beginning of University Road’s curve now marks the beginning of the desire line, increasing the traffic in turn along that route. Students, perhaps, are a key demographic for ‘cutting’ new desire lines: late for classes, or headed en-masse on foot for high-use sites like the University library. But in other places, even marked footpaths grow over with weeds and become impassable, especially in seasons of rain and sunshine like this summer. How do desire lines begin? There must be as many factors as there are pedestrians of desire, but the ‘official’ maps can, occasionally, provide an accidental impetus. Here’s the OS Explorer map for the area.

Courtesy of Ordnance Survey & Bing Maps

A cartographic near-overlap can lead to the first discovery of very direct desire lines, such as the one near Siward’s Howe. In the key of the Ordnance Survey ‘Explorer’ range, the similarity between the symbols for ‘Other Public Access’ routes and ‘Boundaries’ are similar. To the less attentive (darkness, hunger, or desperation) or colour-blind, a ‘Constituency’ boundary must have, many times, appeared as a ‘Permitted footpath’, a ‘Civil Parish’ boundary as a ‘Other route with public access’ (see key below). Yes, the ‘desire line’ from University Road to Siward’s How is marked on the Ordnance Survey maps: but as an administrative boundary, not a route for feet. I remember hearing a very funny account by Dominic Dromgoole of his walk along the 146-mile Shakespeare’s Way, which became even longer when he marched for miles along a freshly-ploughed field that should have been a footpath, only to discover, yes, that it was really a parish boundary line.

An accidental origin hardly discounts the psychological or sociological significance of the Siward’s Howe desire line, of course. Conversely, it suggests the ways in which one might draw any kind of line on an Ordnance Survey map, and through the combined work of a thousand feet (the first ankles having the hardest task, meeting the most nettles), a route will emerge, free of charge and without planning or construction costs. Maps are, as I have suggested on this blog, a way of orientating the self in relation to a landscape, that then opens up according to the conscious and unconscious forces of desire, necessity and the walker/runner/cyclist’s physical abilities. This ‘line’ that I have traced, is actually more various than its directness (sometimes as thin as a cycle tyre) suggests: in muddy weeks, other lines have opened up across the same field (visible in the aerial photo). At other times, the tethered circles of horses make walkers more likely to diverge into new routes. Even more than a line that renews every season from the long grass and weeds, this is a set of lines that can ebb and flow from week to week, like a river that splits and reinforces with a million invisible eddies, but leaves a trace of the forces that time has rerouted.

Mythology, plant and animal life, a twenty-mile sight-line, convenience, and the desire to keep one’s shoes unsoiled. In it its teeming confluence of life, this line overflows the applicability of a name. Rather than a ‘road’ or ‘trail’, it is, in the end, walked: its birth and continuance.

Siward's How Desire Line (left)

If you’d like to see the ‘line’ from the ground, you can view my photographic account on my Flickr set, here.

Tagged , , , , ,

Moving Consciousness

I started running exactly two years ago this week, as a way of doing my wandering in the countryside more quickly: to be able to continue accessing those modes of thought as part of a busy life. The ‘step’ from walking to running complicates this goal slightly – at different levels of exertion, I’ve found that my mind becomes more or less prone to connective and creative thought and awareness. Towards the end of long runs, I’ve even felt stretches of time pass away from thought, as the rhythms of the body take over. Running through a dark underpass, blotches of light appear in my vision like when I used to push on my eyeball as a child: the blood rerouted, the ultimate way to get out of your head.

Yet, at a gentle pace, running is like the walking that came before it: the mind ranges like the views across this thirty-mile Vale, and the clouds and (occasional) blue above me. Ideas come, along with a better perspective on problems and priorities. That kind of thought-space, or distance from the immediacy of important choices to be made, I think, is invaluable. Yesterday was the first twenty-mile run I’d done this year (a few eighteen-milers, and more sixteen, but still), and that temporal and spatial journey reminded me of the territory that is unique to such a distance. Any running over an hour feels different from shorter runs, and anything over two hours is a different world again. These runs are so important for my marathon training because the body responds differently when exertion extends over these continuous stretches: the carbs begin to fade in the muscle, and a switch in energy systems occurs – that you can feel – as more fat burns for fuel. The initial adrenaline of short, fast runs cannot continue for this length of time, so the body releases endorphins. The last hour of this kind of run is a warm, rich world, moving from from the discomfort between twelve or thirteen miles (the domain of the speedier half-marathon) and the fifteen or seventeen miles where a transition is complete, and the body moves in another mode entirely. Returning home feels different from my ‘medium-long’ midweek runs, too – unlike the jacked-up physiology of a shorter, faster distance, there’s a tiredness in my limbs. But with that, there’s a massive sense of restfulness when I sit down, after pints of water with sugar and whey, and later, a nourishing bowl of porridge. The next few hours are good time: an irresistible sense of well-being is the hangover.

At different phases in my running I’ve listened to music or audiobooks, and lately, have fallen in love with a set of podcasts that I listen to on my smartphone. Every night as I sleep they download, and the app I use plays them back to me at 150% speed, meaning that I can listen to upwards of four hours of high-quality material on a single run. I’ll write about it another time – but the quality of these podcasts (NYT Book Review, ‘Start the Week’ with Andrew Marr, Philosophy Bites and others) are as good as broadcast media gets. The experience I have when running to a podcast, as opposed to an audiobook, or music, is qualitatively different, and suited to different paces and geographies. Running on straight roads that I know and have run often before, the fast-paced music that drives me on to higher intensity running and adrenaline release works well. On trails I am less familiar with, I listened to all of Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, exploring strange imaginative and surrealistic worlds in mind as well as on foot. The podcast differs from both, as its concentrated subject and challenging (often Q&A/interview) format makes me run more slowly, and achieves a balance of thought and physicality that I don’t experience at faster speeds. Here, landscape is still active – I can still tell you where I was when I heard a particular segment or quotation – but it becomes more of a fabric, less dominant in my experience.

This palette of thought-landscapes accessible through running has become a resource that I draw on instinctively, when selecting listening material for a run. This is informed by the intellectual or physiological needs of the day – its strong capabilities can make up for gaps in my schedule, which seems particularly resistant to neat scheduling. This choice becomes a subconscious cartography, too – that escapes concrete necessities, towards greater flexibility and management of personal resources.

I will be running the Liverpool Marathon on 14th October in memory of my Granddad, Dennis Munzer, and to support the work of the Motor Neurone Disease Association, who work to help people and families affected by the illness that took his life. Please visit my JustGiving page if you’d like to learn more, or donate.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Gillygate-Bootham-St.Leonard’s Place, York: Part 3

This is the final post at this first intersection. Can I ever say the writing is done? The space opens up more trajectories and details as I approach the time for moving on, making my time here seem more preliminary, a frame that generates ever more desire within itself.

The confluence of driveable, walkable lines, with their parallel alleys and snickleways, their signs and historical significances, galleries and institutions: all of these participate in the experience of standing at this intersection, as I did last night, approaching the space again on foot, this time during the darkened hours. The hot summer’s evening turned people out from their houses and the pubs more easily, walking and conversing in the streets: so many of the buildings around the intersection swaying with lights and laughter. In the evening, roads, tourists, vistas: all fade into a softer world of spot-lamp, voice and distant music. The occasional breeze through the arch of the Bar gate, and the clarity of observation that comes from highlighting. Sweets in  one shop window, high-end audio systems in another – ironically, the perfect visual advertisement, during the hours of locked doors – the time of desire.

In this intersection of space and a particular time (and variety of time: night),  buildings cede their precedence to a world of men and women, more alive than in the hours of light, in a purer world. Perhaps we just notice each other more: the peripheral vision that evolved for the obstacle-rich intersection at Bootham, or a woodland landscape (‘Eboracum’ means ‘Place of Yews‘) that greeted the Romans who first built their defences here. History becomes less visible, as do the regulations and expectations of the working day. Through the gate on High Petergate, one of York’s most well-established Ghost Tours gathers its crowd, who accept a tall man in a top hat as a necessary guide. Strange stories rise up in the valencies and sections of darkness. Nocturnal maps emerge on the voice: more ably and dramatically than during the day.

Smells from a mobile snack van on Exhibition Square blow from one direction: a turn towards Gillygate, and the Chinese takeaway announces itself on a tide of air. The breezes lead us according to what we lack. As the Ghost Tour departs into other parts of the city, the maps that cross this intersection, tracked by thousands of feet, undo that ‘guiding’: they are not planned. The unconscious, the genes, instruct the direction of the feet, informed by and conforming to the temperature and ‘valley’ of these walls and buildings. From the intersection, we can see people leaving the Theatre, but we can’t see the building itself. The curve of St. Leonard’s Place sets it back from the opposite side of the Georgian Crescent, a glass, concrete and stone building of frames and lights. This theatre is built for the visual drama of evening, where the street becomes a stage, subject to spots and illuminations. Against the dark, such stories offer protection, comfort, and pass the time.

The intersection we stand on first provided a place of work for Roman sentinels, known as excubiae by day and the vigilae at night. They were an occupying army, sent in AD 71 to put down the confederation of tribes known as Brigantes. This little ‘Yorkshire Empire’, that controlled the North from coast to coast, was the subject of Guy Ragland Phillips’ book Brigantia: A Mysteriography (1976), which traced the sites and remnants of that culture, obscured much more than their conquerors. One of the most connective and crucial sites of interest, Phillips writes (and charts) lies a mile from the Gillygate intersection, directly up Bootham. There, from Clifton Green, the Brigantes people organised a system of ritually significant routes and alignments. From the road it faces, the gate at Bootham divides one culture, physically, against its precedents. The vast empire-building of the Romans replaced the Brigantes’ vast sight-lines in stone, and traversable roads. Walking, from York’s beginning, has been about construction: and from there, conquest.

This is York’s inception, and the beginning of this point in space, as a place. As I stand next to the gate, made from the stone coffins of Roman soldiers, facing Bootham, I exist as anyone else who ever stood here does. Narratives will exist here before and after me. At this juncture, by choosing to stand (though for such a relatively short time) I allow the lights to briefly illuminate this ground more than elsewhere, seeing, hearing and imagining maps of others, made in the same human affinities for space and story that exist within me. Then, without a thought beforehand, letting my feet lead the way preconsciously, I take off in another direction: pathway against foot, equal and opposite forces balancing and burning in the intercellular fulfilment of movement.

This was Part 3 of a 3-part piece on this ‘Intersection‘. Please feel welcome to add your views of this living space or spaces of this kind, in the comments below. 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Theorising Intersections: Things to do with an OS map

The most frequently used maps are made, most simply, to communicate progression through a series of intersections. In paper or digital form, they substitute for the local person, quizzed through the rolled-down car window: “Take the first left, then second right, go past the post office…” Thus, the most basic simplification of any map-use would be something like this: DEPARTURE POINT —-> TURN 1 —-> TURN 2 —-> DESTINATION . That’s not to say that agency disappears during the process: but it would begin a new version of the same thing. Returning to the map would constitute a new point of departure. The range of routes on maps represent something like ‘the life unlived‘, or, more accurately, the turns other people are taking. These other people, for whom the other forks of the intersection exist, are our fellow-travellers, but in urban spaces, they also make up the traffic jam. We may find ourselves oriented less than charitably towards them.

The same kind of map (cheap ‘Road Atlas’ from motorway services) could be something quite different, in a different context. For William Least-Heat Moon in his first book Blue Highways, the Rand McNally Atlas was just that: a guide to quiet, less-travelled roads, awaiting inscription by him as a writer, into a reversal of prominences. The brilliance of Blue Highways is precisely that it takes this most popular map and writes against its hierarchies into an act of ‘deep mapping’ beneath the homogenous surface. The two-dimensional map (like Google Street View, designed for extent and continuity) is rewritten with the rich connectivities of the textual work: in multiple dimensions.

A similar journey could be carried out today on British roads, although it would lack the timeliness of Heat-Moon’s mid-century America (and even this was a development from Kerouac and others: more cartographic). In Britain, the escape to the country on foot has some equivalence: a more concentrated and populated landscape of stiles and bridleways. The project of the Ordnance Survey ‘Explorer’ range (the only range to cover the UK entirely) is, according to their website, to design maps for ‘outdoor leisure pursuits, from walking to cycling’… and most other outdoor activities.’ Thus, the details on OS maps can appear somewhat arbitrary in their inclusion: near here, CYCLE HIRE, KARTING, LEISURE POOL, and alright, ‘Public House/s’ in rural locations. Nature reserves and Fishing locations might offer a more open, interpretable range of destinations, but none of the fishing spots I know of are marked, and the only one I spotted (in a city with two large rivers) is an odd collection of tiny rectangular man-made lakes on the other side of town. Where leisure sites are equated with businesses or institutions, they are invested with regulations, costs, prohibitions and (probably) marketing. For those who seek a landscape to interact with the depth of the psyche, these locations may be of little use.

These details of the OS Explorer range quickly become invisible to me as I use the maps in countryside locations: instead, the ‘topographic layer’ (purchasable from OS under their listed ‘business’ applications) and prominent physical landmarks (hills, pylons, rivers, roads) are most often the bearings by which I would locate myself in relation to landscape, and direct towards towns, woodland, views, and when I tire, a direct route home. Starting with this topographic ‘canvas’, how would a ‘deep map’ appropriate to our location (England, and even the Vale ofYork) proceed? In a sense, OS Explorer map 290 (‘York’) has already avoided the hegemonic focus on built urban channels that the Situationists might have identified as symptomatic of and contributing to our modern condition. The history of a place like York is so well-written into the land that the Council for British Archeology is based here in the city. Yet here, more than anywhere, our movements in space pose the challenge – available to all – to find a capacity in the landscape for remaking, that psychogeography aspired towards.

The topographic map is an index for physical movement: a guide for the relation between the traveller and landscape. Upon this index, a structure that can contain sense, impression and story must be appended. Experimentation in forms that allow this kind of inscription will follow here on The Chronotopian, but the ability to easily carry a digital device (smartphone) that can record sound, text and location accurately makes it a good candidate for use in such mapping. Such non-physical media for maps are, at present, an unfortunate aesthetic deficiency. Still, the internet compensates with new possibilities for the social imaginative mapping: ultimately the dérive itself is a process that enables generative access. It allows access to a more creative state of imagination, informed by the built environment, but also exceeding it. Maps of such a spatial practise must be designed around their capacity for inscribing these imaginative trajectories, or at least, locating the sites where such unfoldings are more likely.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,