Saturday, 8 December 2007

Friday, 7 December 2007


I wrote the following review of the Cornford & Cross exhibition The Abolition of the Work?’ 29th September - 18th November – Newlyn Exchange

David Cross and Matthew Cornford met at St. Martins in 1987 and they have been working collaboratively ever since. ‘The Abolition of the Work?’ is their latest joint offering and is being shown at the Newlyn Gallery in Penzance. It is an exhibition which in some ways re-visits an earlier show with the same title back in 2004. ‘Where is the Work’ at The South London gallery consisted of a seemingly empty room. On closer examination and investigation canny visitors discovered Cornford & Cross’s Duchampian act, the artists removed an old floor grille from the heating vent from the floor of the South London Gallery and replaced it with a new one. Working with other craftpersons’ and creatives’ is central to the Cornford & Cross practice; product designers and forgers were engaged in an insightful and complex reverse engineering, model making and casting process. The old grille was preserved and entered into the galleries collection. This act and the documentary evidence of the act makes up the actual art, Cornford and Cross belong to the new relation aesthetics, a relatively new movement becoming increasing popular among artists like the 2004 Turner prize winner Jeremy Dellor. ‘Where is the Review?’ A review would spoil your experience and so this is more of a challenge, I dare you to visit explore and discover the interventions that have taken place in this beautiful part of the world. Matthew and David would implore you ‘take a walk’ around Penzance and Cornwall, meet the natives and visit this exhibition at Newlyn Exchange Gallery, Penzance. This type of art isn’t for all. At first glance the work might well be invisible or feel deeply conceptual but remember all the other people involved in the work behind the ‘Work.’

The article was published in ‘art of england’ November issue. Having read about the collaboration and their practice, I feel that in some respects that I share and enjoy some of the same ideas of working in collaboration with others, the love of the found object – readymade – using non traditional art materials, working with non-artists etc.

Also from the outset Matthew Cornford has made it quite clear he prefers to walk.


I would like to refer to a lecture by Dr. Arko Sen, Arko talked about the fold – something that we all latched onto during the lecture, The fold is that place where we are at our most creative and yet at our most destructive, the principle being as vessels we push out this creativity as far as we dare to push before folding the creative stream back within us, before harming ourselves or others around us. Arco insisted on separate time away from his wife whilst he was writing his PhD.

My fold occurs whilst I am writing. And so I have chosen to submit this essay as my answer to this semesters work.
I do not confess to be good at writing, on the contrary I confess to being poor, for instance, I often leave out commas and draw out long sentences when there is no need. Good luck.

1. START: West Park, teahouse. 52°35'19.56"N / 2° 8'25.22"W

Matthew took our MA group for a ‘walk’ out into Wolverhampton at the start of the semester. We rounded Molinuex, past the Spiritualist church and over to the park, around the park and into the botanical gardens, out and across to the teahouse.

Our briefing: Place a beaker down and draw a circle anywhere on a map of Wolverhampton, be automatic, don’t consider the act. (I did, but tried to make it look like I didn’t) Walk as closely to that circle as you can, jot notes, make sketches and take photographs, record the flow and data stream. Respond to your findings.

The brief was partly borrowed from an essay on psychogeography. This is the human interaction with geography. Think phrenology except that the act of walking is the feeling the bumps and lumps, practitioners absorb the built environment, analyse it, respond to it. Social history, art, literature and philosophy can exist in this singular exercise of just walking.

“Since I have given up smoking I drink tea, and I don’t go outside much.”

This statement doesn’t have the same post-modernist cool of Will Self and his reformed drug abuse or the drama of Guy Debord’s habitual drinking, none the less this is how I reflected whilst discussing the brief for our first project.

Guy Debord was a leading figure in The French Situationists of the 50’s, explains the dérive in his essay The Theory of the Derive:

‘One of the basic Situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.
In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.’

Guy Dubord wrote a book ‘the society of the spectacle in which he recognises the lack of orientation and the detachment of people within their urban environments. The Situationists saw work, home and consumerism as willed upon the masses by the powers that be. What I like about their rationale is this notion of Orwellian suppression and class-consciousness. In Self’s Google lecture he explains how the physical and human geography of Paris led to these derives, a well known fact about the re-design of Paris with the neo-classical columns and the long straight boulevards was for mobilisation of troops and the use of artillery – a Napoleonic town planning based on suppressing the mob. The derives were a protest by criss-crossing the straight boulevards they were destroying this system of town planning.

2. Wanderers
52°12'3.48"N / 2°13'16.10"W, Worcester.
52°35'20.56"N / 2° 7'45.14"W, Wolverhampton
40°42'41.26"N / 74° 0'41.83"W, Lower Manhattan.

I begin the project and I am already adamant I will not walk the encircled route. In fact I am already on ‘Google Earth’ looking down at the world from over 2 miles up. I was given the licence to do so by Google via Nasa via governments, using yesterdays satellites and yesterdays technology. All I have to do is check the box that says ‘I agree with the terms and conditions,’ which is a caveat that I always tick without heed. The devil should open a website construct a fun free download praying upon mine and 60 billion other souls.
(Note to self* create a Google hell looking up at the earth from 600m below)
So here I am some 600m up looking at Wolverhampton in some distant past on a summers day in late September. In an attempt to find the actual time portal I’m in, I zoom over the pond and I figure I must be in and around 2004/5 because they’ve cleared Ground Zero. They are making moves on the Daniel Liberskind politically charged competition project. I’m now back in Wolverhampton and looking at my beaker bound route. I’ll start at the Wolves stadium on the big mural of a football at the exit of the infamous subway. I open up a new window on my desktop. I Google Mollineux – Did you mean: molineux replies Google and I try to determine the sex and tone of this engine. I decide upon a mix between Hal* and Professor Hawking and am still left non the wiser.

The stadium began life as a couple of grassless muddy banks having moved from Dudley Road in 1888. The following year, in 89 Wolves missed out in an FA cup final. I think about this later when in a tutorial, a pier talks about a work-house for women; the atrocities of the Victorian age and a game of football going on just around the corner. Wolverhampton F.C was founded by a headmaster of a local school, St. Lukes, as a reward for good grades and achievement the students were presented with a football. A couple of years later they amalgamated with a football & cricket club called the Wanderers, a namesake because of the travelling by foot across Stafford and the West Mids in pursuit of these two codes of sport. It strikes me as appropriate that here I am at the home of a team who roamed and drifted across the Black Country, a psychogeographic footy team.
My satellite informs me that my first line of passage along the Steve Bull stand measures 260m where-upon I turn left and head along the North Stand.

As a starting point for this project I decide I would like to contact as many Wolves fans as possible. I plan to collect their photographs and their thoughts and to exhibit them as an archive. So I send out an email using all the links I can find from various searches and in turn I receive imagery and emails from many different supporters clubs. This act followed the avant-garde idea akin to relation aestectics, issues of authorship, displaying the work of others in response to my given circle of beaker-imposed drift. I even contacted the worlds most successful streaker (alleged,) Mark Roberts, he has his own website, in which he talks about his most successful streaks, I send him this email:

Hi Mark,
I'm an Art student studying at Wolverhampton University, I'm working on a project which focuses on the local surroundings of Wolverhampton, one location is the Molenuex stadium, home to Wolverhampton Wanderers. It was suggested to me that I should streak as a part of my project, however I am far to modest and wandered if you were planning to streak this particular venue any time soon And if not would you consider it?

Yours Cheekily


P.S How would you describe your profession, could you see yourself as an artist?

Not hearing back for a few days I search his website to find the latest news of a streak gone wrong in Tripoli, Whereby Mark was set upon by an angry mob, I have since learnt that this was a fictitious account donated by a fan, the article written as a fabricated newspaper account reads:

Prolific streaker Mark Roberts was today discharged from the Gadaffi Hospital in Libya, almost a week after his latest stunt went horribly wrong.
Roberts, 38, was seriously injured when the crowd turned against him as he ran naked at a military parade in Tripoli.
Roberts was in Tripoli to further bolster his reputation as "World Champion Streaker" by going stark-bollock jogging during the National Islamic Unity Day parade in Tripoli. The event was attended by Libya's top clerics and leader Colonel Gadaffi. Unfortunately, the stunt immediately turned to tragedy as a horde of more than 80,000 people set upon the naked Englishman. He was eventually rescued by government soldiers.
The hilarious exhibitionist - who was punched, kicked and buggered unconscious by the angry mob - made light of the situation as he left the hospital, asking reporters "How did Everton do at the weekend?" Doctors shook their heads in disbelief as he hobbled into a taxi for Gadaffi Airport, saying Roberts is "lucky to be alive".
Roberts is Britain's most notorious streaker. He has made over 150 side-splitting performances at public events, including the Wimbledon Finals and the European Champions League final. His sponsors include Marlboro and Channel Four Racing.
Speaking on his arrival back at Heathrow, Roberts said: "I don't think I'll return to Libya for some time. This experience has made me realise that British audiences really are the best in the world."

Here, I had walked of the remote-psychogeographic highway straight down a remote-psychogeographic blind alleyway. What is worse I told my entire group about this event taking it as Google gold. Worse still in my excitement to share this research I may well of upset the sensibilities of my group with my flippant re-urban-mythologizing of the fictional buggering. And then of course the world’s only international streaker got back to me with this reply:

Hi Nathan,
i'm afraid i'm under a football ban at the moment so i would'nt be able to perform at any Wolves game soon. As far as my profession is concerned i would class myself as a performance artist and entertainer (with belly that needs some liposuction!) Actually i was thinking about getting all the fat taken from my stomach and arse and injected into another part of my anatomy and then all i would need to do then was just stand in the middle of the pitch while everyone looked on in awe!!
I have always said that everyone should streak at least once in their life to experience the wonder you get after a good performance so i suggest that you overcome your fear and go for it! I promise you will always look back on that day with a smile on your face!
Cheers for now and please go for it!
Best wishes - Mark

I decided not to follow Mark’s advice. Although Mark’s antics may not fit into Debord’s Theory of the Dérive. I do think he would approve of the ‘ethics’ behind his irreverence for the laws governing indecent exposure.

More e-mails wandered in from near and far, traveling via some such wave through earthenet and stratosphere, bounced around in the vacuum of space before landing at my framed 13’ laptop. The search generated incoming posts from Sweden, Prague and Punjabi chapters of Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C fans. Although privileged to enter into someone else’s world it some how left me cold. In a following tutorial it was suggested I should write a fictional narrative based on the images, this idea also re-occurred to me later in a John Roberts theory lecture, when learning about Nadja, an Andre Breton surrealist novel. There is an incomplete fiction in the Appendix of this document.

2. 52°35'27.09"N / 2° 7'56.11"W, National Spiritualist Church, Wolverhampton
43° 3'4.78"N / 77° 5'50.62"W Hydesville N.Y
53° 4'6.63"N / 4° 4'33.99"W, Mt. Snowdon
51°31'23.83"N / 0° 9'25.21"W The Sherlock Holmes Museum, London

On Waterloo Rd as I round the Molinuex there is a Church. On the net there is a picture of the ornate entrance gates with the simple inscription National Spiritualist Church. You cannot tell it is a church from up on high and from 6 km it stands without spire, flat-roofed and boxy. If the spirits share my elevation with the clutter of spinning units of space trash, they wouldn’t know about this house of worship, unless he or she had like me joined their forum. This newish religion welcomes newish communications and features an interesting and well maintained internet chat room. In my continuing challenge to collect art and art documentary of the area for an archive I entered a call for artists onto their forum. My remote-psychogeography investigations drag me back to 1840 and to our colonial cousins. Hydesville N.Y. I wish Jules’s Verne’s imagination was not that of fiction and his satellite had been up there capturing the Wild West and early New York. I’m here to visit the Fox sisters.
The Fox sisters were the first among spiritualist mediums who discovered a resident spirit in their house. From here the trained ‘medium’ worked, preached and shared there practice among the English speaking countries of the world. I am reminded of my own religious position of which I won’t enter into here, except to say as a youth I was a member of a Christian group called icthus. It was probably the first and one of few derives of my life.
I was ill equipped, to say the least. I underestimated the walk ahead and driven on by our elders, myself and four friends of 14 years embarked on a days trek up Snowdon. Wearing shell suits and in my case white squash shoes, we drifted in the true sense of the derive. Our youth leaders led on from the front talking about the power of the lord. The weather turned sour, professional walkers were turning back. Rain turned to sleet, sleet turned to horizontal layers of ice. Even for Dubord the derive cannot take place during extreme weather conditions and yet our journey continued. We peaked and scaled the summit as we did so, as if as reward the clouds parted for the briefest of moments. However the abiding memory for me was on the descent along the train tracks, breaking ice in puddles and submerging my feet because it was somehow warmer on my frozen extremities?
Back to Wolverhampton, Google Earth doesn’t stream Wales with the same quality or resolution and I loose interest quickly. On the forum no one comes forward to offer art works however I have been invited to an art workshop on the 1st of December. (£15 for non members) This would be a breach of my remote-psychogeographic exclusion zone of 600m and I remain faithful to my practice.
More research leads to famous followers these include the lethario Randolph Valentino and Arthur Conan Doyle who died a Spiritualist, Google whisks me away to Baker Street.

3. West Park and a family interlude.
52°35'28.50"N / 2° 8'17.16"W West Park
50°18'56.76"N / 4°53'20.26"W Grampound, Cornwall

I move further down Waterloo Road and my remote investigations run cold, I rely on Google Earth. I turn right and cut down what looks like an alleyway. It runs past Drummond Street behind the church. I’m sure that the walls down here are adorned with graffiti in support of Wolves with a suitable amount of agitation aimed at the rivals West Bromwich Albion, or the baggies. The alleyway leads onto Dunkley St. The houses here are like those in most of our Midland towns; turn of the century Victorian villa type houses. The type of house estate agents refer to as ‘period’ a nice property in the ‘Victorian quarter.’ Houses that since the economic recovery of the 80’s have risen exponentially in price ever since. I think about conducting a search for house prices but instead I turn right again and out of my circle up Hampton Road East until Devon Road and on into West Park.

West Park is a favorite amongst local historians, and a light search reveals a rich 19th century history. I am becoming increasingly aware how many times I am dragged back to Victorian times. Even without feeling the streets under foot I am in Dickens, even the Yanky Spiritualists of the last chapter sucked me back to the 19th century to mid state New York. West Park is no different, from a little surfing on West Park history, I find the park was opened in 1881 and designed and billed as the People’s Park. In 1902 the Art and Industrial Exhibition was held in the park. Attractions included a water chute and swan-shaped rowing boats for the entertainment of the public. The Summer of 1902 was one of the worst in recorded history and the show was a faliure resulting in a loss of profit and revenue. It is perhaps not suprising that we here in the Midlands are so tied up with the epoch of the Victorian age, and the Industrial Revolution. It is during this search that I for the first time drawn to break the boundries of my self imposed walking embargo. I was born in Wordsley, my family are all from Smethwick, my father is an engineer and worked in the foundries of West-Bromich and Oldbury. My grandfathers and their fathers were house-builders they created the housing stock for the working stock. I am reminded how connected I am to this area. From here in Worcester I wish to bridge the dividing green and walk out into the Victorian landscape, feel the ridge from Kidderminster up onto the midland platau following in the wake of industry, through Stourbridge – Wall Heath – Dudley and arrive at this green and pleasant park in Wolverhampton.

As I am hatching this plan I am interupted and taken out of my micro-macro world and into that of my in-laws weekly visit. I try to explain what I’m doing, my father-in –law is purplexed by the project. He is a self-confessed ludite of new technology, he is however intregued by Google Earth. We pursue the usual suspects; his holidays to Ireland, I show him the school I worked at in New York (the reason I abandond his daughter for a year.) Our house, their house etc. Although a novice I am impressed by his navogational skills, it is suprisingly difficult to navigate from an arial view-point. I do it by imagining and picking points of reference and linking buildings, ponds or fields that I can visualise. David my father-in-law has an in-built map from many years as a camping / touring enthusiast. He is able to read the veins of roads from a photographic memory of Ordanance Survey or a Readers Digest Atlas. What happens next takes our whole family by surprise ‘I know lets go back to the farm’ he says. As with most family history, fortunes and circumstances change, he grew up in a farmstead in Cornwall – we head south. My Wife’s decendents were protestants in Ireland, they owned a large potato farm and were forced into exile, they returned and set up a farm in Cornwall. David was a farmhand and was educated at home. Unwilling to take control he is instructing me left and right and he takes me to the entrance of the farm. A grand driveway rolls past a walled orchard, an arboretum and a decorative garden. As if in an imaginary vintage car we stop on the circled front court outside a large Georgian manor house.

David is transended in time and space and revisits this distant past in outerspace. His wife and my wife saw where he came from for the first time. He was 14 when they sold the farm in a time of social upheaval in the failing cornish farming market . The industry was ravished by the loss of labour to the pull of the industrial cities and an over-reliance on labour intensive systems of working farms. We talk about the past and I am enriched and feel closer to my daughters grandfather.

4. Sexual tension and murder
52°35'14.39"N / 2° 7'58.87"W Waterloo Road no 34
21°19'29.33"N / 157°40'46.00"W Robin McMasters Estate

More frivulous ideas – Out of West Park and across the A449 there are some office buildings opposite the public baths, after a business search I find there are two separate private investigators working in the same office block. A mixture of bordom and my imagination follows a chronology of TV detectives; Sam Spade and Dick Tracy, with their two smoke filled cubicals, divided by frosted glass. Then I imagine The Rockford files and Columbo and onto Magnum. I search Hawaii. Or like Moonlighting the two P.I’s competeing in the same building – love, hate relationships, sexual tension and murders to be solved.


Earlier this year the millionaire Steven Fossett went missing in the Nevada moonscape. Richard Branson and others mobalised Google Earth and an Amazon technical search engine. The online search was organised using Amazon Mechanical Turk, a “human intelligence” tool created by Amazon. com, the online retailer. Mechanical Turk is named after a bogus chess-playing robot dating from the 18th century, whose creator had hidden a genuine chess master inside. The name refers to projects in which computers set the tasks for human beings to complete.
In this case, the mission is to work through satellite pictures newly taken for the Google Earth service. Those who sign up to help - already thought to number in the thousands - are asked to review individual frames and to look for foreign objects that resemble aircraft. They have found many unknown crash sites, but sadly non of them belong to Steve Forsett who was presumed dead this November 2007.

Google is now being used and mobilised by a number of different societies. In 2006 Google re-commissioned imagery of Dafur and a web community show search for the burnt out settlements to highlight the current atrocities.

We’ve all ‘surfed’ the Internet. We’ve Yahoo’d, Google’d and Ask’d, we facebook, reunite with friends and exhibit on Saatchi, I’ve even registered on ‘’ and yet this project has sent me places in a new cyber-drift akin to a Dubord derive. The walking has been replaced with typing, the sound of traffic with the click of the mouse.

My feet don’t hurt. I can travel back and forth in time instantaneously. I’ve made connections with Victorian England and links with my taught MA; theory of the Avant-Garde. I can cross the Atlantic, Pacific or the border-counties at the scroll of a mouse. I’m a Villain (Aston Villa supporter) in a Wolves den, a Spiritualist imposter, an artist-industrialist from the turn of the 19th century, a script writer and a collaborator and all this from the comfort of my Worcester home.

During a walk from London to New York, on seeing an advert advertising Sat Nav I can paraphrase Will Self’s sardonic comment ‘I need never inhabit the physical world’- ‘a blessed relief,’ After this ramble in cyberspace I am left in a post-modern quandary, I want to return to the Situationist temporal form of avant-garde, I want to walk, I want to inhabit the physical world so as a part of this work I am going to link my Worcester home-hub and my Wolverhampton bound circle with a walk along the trunk road A449. My father has agreed to meet me along the way to share a part of the journey.

I go back to the original briefing and conclude;

“I must get out more”

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

START: Longtitude 52°35'20.56"N / Latitude 2° 7'45.14"W – Walk 260m. STOP: 52°35'28.70"N / 2° 7'47.60"W turn left, walk 140m.STOP: 52°35'27.92"N / 2° 7'54.41"W turn left, walk 110m. STOP: 52°35'24.48"N / 2° 7'55.62"W turn right, walk 115m. STOP: 52°35'28.45"N / 2° 7'59.93"W turn left, walk 100m STOP: 52°35'26.33"N / 2° 8'4.03"W turn right, walk 230m STOP: 52°35'30.73"N / 2° 8'13.95"W turn left, walk 260m STOP: 52°35'24.64"N / 2° 8'23.37"W turn left, walk 380m STOP: 52°35'13.56"N / 2° 8'14.51"W turn left, walk 120m STOP: 52°35'16.36"N / 2° 8'9.80"W turn right, walk 170m STOP: 52°35'12.51"N / 2° 8'3.53"W turn left, walk 380m. STOP: 52°35'18.23"N / 2° 7'45.70"W turn left, walk 80m FINISH