Sunday, 11 November 2012

Visible tracking

I've written before about my project Paths of Desire that started in 2004, a fascination with how people choose to move across a landscape and the trails that they leave. The idea resurfaces as a project every now and then, or perhaps never really leaves me.

When Anne-Marie Culhane asked me to lead a walk as part of her Back to Back series for the Fruit Routes project, the idea of Paths of Desire was strong. Anne-Marie had created a map of a route that leads to where a number of fruit trees and berried hedgerows can be found around the Loughborough campus, and this seemed like a path for those that desire the sweet tastes and juicy bounty. However, in response to the project, the original idea of Paths of Desire developed a new turn.

The notion behind the Back to Back series is that different artists and others (ecologists, historians, poets etc.) lead walks which respond to each others' walk, taking the walk before as a lead but also diverging away from it. The walk before mine was by artist/poet Paul Conneally and ecologist Ed Darby.

Paul and Ed had started thinking about the other users of the Fruit Routes, the fauna. Through their project they wanted to give the fauna a voice, by creating "Twoots", or non-digital Tweets - like using the format of Twitter, writing in only 140 characters, but writing it down and hanging it from a tree as a way of disseminating the words.

Taking this as a lead, I wondered about the paths of desire of the fauna. (This notion had been hanging in the air for a while - as I wrote in the February post Snow Tracks and Secret Lives) How different would they be to the paths laid down by humans, which generally form a straight line from point of origination (A) to point of destination(B)?

Certainly when I am foraging I begin to move through a landscape in a different way, zigzagging across pathways, scouring edges, looking over hedgerows. How were the birds, animals and insects moving around, foraging their way through nature's bounty? What lines do their paths make?

The track of Eduardo the magpie
So I started to track creatures. I would watch a bird or animal from a distance, noting the movements that they made until they disappeared out of site, and then marking that movement on the ground with string. The movements began to suggest thought processes: birds seemed to always close a circle of movement, returning to where they started from; a magpie seemed to cover an area of ground from one side to another methodically to scour every bit of grass; a midge flew from left to right in a figure eight as it climbed into the air.

Paul thought the idea followed the non-digital idea too, he described my pictures of tracks as non-digital geopositioning, using string and cocktail sticks.

What I was discovering about the behaviour of creatures was fascinating to me, so for my Fruit Routes walk I decided to introduce the idea of tracking creatures to the group of walkers.

We had a great response, around 20 people turned up for the walk. I had made small tracking bags with lo-tech kit in them for tracking: string, pegs, a pencil and a label. I explained how to track things and sent them off in small teams to see what they could find.

The path of a bumble bee

An ant walking a leaf
The group fully embraced the idea and created patterns of string beautifully around the orchard. They tracked wasps, a bumble bee, a magpie (that they named Eduardo) and an ant.

Wasps in flight
By marking the movements of creatures, we made visible the patterns of their tracks and revealed something about their nature that we couldn't previously see.

Following on from this idea of moving differently, Anne-Marie then asked the groups to lead each other blindfolded through the trees.

I watched them as they wandered around, crisscrossing the path so that they could find things to touch and smell. Had we tracked the blindfold-walkers paths I think they would have been surprised how much ground they covered!

Eventually we all found our way back to the Fruit Routes shed to eat soup and drink apple juice freshly made in the press.

I loved the tracking day and I will have to do this again. Thanks very much to Anne-Marie for asking me to be a part of it.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Slow Walking

It was great to spend some time with artist Anne-Marie Culhane last week, when I took part in the Fruit Routes project.

Anne-Marie is involved in many interesting projects and I was intrigued by her description of her practice as a slow walker. She has learned to walk incredibly slowly and feels this changes her perception of the environments through which she walks, altering her sense of time and the present moment and connecting with her internal self. This resonates with some of the thoughts I have had recently on walking as a meditational practice (I have been intending to write some blog posts on this idea, I promise I will do that soon!).

I found the link below to a project Anne-Marie completed in collaboration with Bob Levene, which further illuminates the slow walking practice. In The Blink of An Eye was recently shown at the National Media Museum in Bradford.


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Eat Your Campus!

Join Fruit Routes and Landscape & Gardening Group for

Apple Pressing and Harvest Celebration

Friday 26th October

1pm-2pm: Back to Back lunchtime walk. Walk the new Fruit Route with ecologist Ed Darby & artist/poet Paul Connelly – meet at the Shed, Car Park 5, Loughborough University Campus

3.30pm: Apple pressing at the The Shed, Car Park 5. The community group Transition Town Loughborough will be on campus with its wooden apple press. Have a go at pressing apples we have collected on Campus and make fresh juice to take away or make into cider. Free hot soup!

Saturday 27th October

1pm-2pm: Back to Back Walk the new Fruit Route with artists Jo Dacombe & Anne-Marie Culhane – meet at the Shed, Car Park 5, Loughborough University Campus

2pm: Apple pressing, making a scarecrow, pumpkin carving, toffee apples, music etc.

4pm: Morris Dancing Workshop.

5pm: Ending the day with a Bonfire, BBQ, Live Music, Food, Apple Juice and Cider!

all at LAGS Garden, The Shed, Car Park 5
Loughborough University Campus

Seasonal Exchange: You may want to bring along something seasonal to the event – a poem, some fruit or veg, chutney, jam, cake or anything you wish to share.

to find out more:
fruitroutes blog

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Touching stone

In 2009-10 I took part in a wonderful project by Charles Monkhouse called Companion Stones.

I worked with 2 poets to create stones that would be placed in the Peak District, as a companion to the existing guide stoops that have been located there for 300 years. This made part of a network of 12 new stones created by artists and poets.

Charles recently sent me this photograph of one of the stones, that I created with poet John Sewell.

When the stone was first made, it was a beautiful, clean, pale pink limestone that slightly glittered when the sun hit it. However, the paleness of the stone, though lovely, meant it was hard to read the words that John had written due to the lack of contrast. We were interested to see how it would weather.

Two years on, the stone has become embellished with colours; the action of running water has allowed moss or lichen of various greens to grow over its surface, not touching the sides though, they remain the original pink. It has begun to embed itself into the landscape in the way that stone will, as the original guide stoop (located just opposite across the road) has done.

What I absolutely love about this photograph is the evidence of hands rubbing away the green in order to read the words. The words are carved across a spiralling line that works its way into the stone, forming a slight dish in the stone that draws you into the centre. This idea was to echo John's words, "go inward". It seems that people have been drawn into the stone and rubbed at it to reveal the beautiful words, which are now more readable as they have been filled by the green.

Rock climbing is something I do and I love the touch of hand upon rock, the coolness and the sense of timeless solidity of ancient stone. I have climbed a number or gritstone and limestone climbs in the Peak District, each of which are listed in guidebooks with dates of the first time they were climbed, some back to the 1800s. Climbers over the centuries repeat these same climbs, hands touching the same part of rock, making a connection with long gone climbers through the eternity of the stone.

Our Companion Stone also entices numerous hands to touch it, rub at the words, and be drawn inwards into John's beautiful poem. A connection with others, a companion stone.

You can read John's wonderful explanation of his thoughts when he wrote this poem, where to find (and touch) the stones and about all the other Companion Stones, by clicking here.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Starting at the Green Patch

I start my residency at the Green Patch community allotments in Kettering on Monday.

It's a beautiful site.  Artist Carole Miles and I will be working in the summer house which we put up on Friday. Nestled into a corner of what is the newly planted orchard, our new base already looks quite at home!

It couldn't have come at a better time. Both Carole and I had to move out of our studios in Corby this month, where we have been for 6 years. We could have felt a little lost after all the disruption that has caused. The studios have been a mixed blessing for over that time: a fantastic large space each in our own building with twenty four hour access, yet the building has gradually been deteriorating and the owners have given it little attention, and eventually started to use the central room as a storage area, which was beginning to make us feel unwelcome. Being there has also resulted in Carole and I nurturing our collaborative practice, which could have come adrift once we no longer had a shared building.

So when, only a week after we finally vacated the last items from our old studio spaces, we moved into our collaborative residency at the Green Patch, the move felt positive rather than a wrench. We both feel really excited about this project and the people at the Green Patch seem excited too, making us feel very welcome to invade their space!

We will be working fairly intensely at the allotments for the first two weeks, welcoming local people to come and join us in creating things as well as making our own work inspired by the site. The intention is to create work for the site itself, and for the summer house, which will remain there after we have gone. We will stay in residence for a while longer, into September, and hope to have a celebratory event to finish.

What we will make is very open at this point. We want our work to be in response to the site itself and let it direct our work, so we didn't want to have any preconceived ideas. It will be interesting to see how things unfold; Carole and I are quite different as artists, but we have crossovers of interests and we seem to work well together, so who knows what this three-way collaboration will result in - three ways being me, Carole and the Green Patch itself!

We will be blogging regularly on our collaborative project blog at so please visit us there.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The footsteps of pilgrims

I'm planning a trip to northern Spain and France, which brought me to read about the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, or The Pilgrim Trail.

Two recent interests connect me to this route: walking and the Achurch scallops.

I've been developing a book of drawings and thoughts about walking since January. As I write and draw the book, the ideas of walking as a symbolic action have become quite prominent. The idea of the pilgrim, walking a route that thousands of others have walked over centuries, as a personal journey, as a statement, but also as a physical accomplishment of travelling under one's own steam. The physical nature of walking is what really interests me and is always hardest to convey through drawings and writing, it is the sensory experience of a walk, being out in the elements and feeling the terrain under your feet, that makes walking an especially profound way of travelling, for me.

I've just started reading Robert Macfarlane's lovely book The Old Ways. The idea of routes that have been trodden by others over thousands of years, like the Camino de Santiago, inspires a strange connection with strangers one will never meet, and a sense of being a part of the continuum of history, through the simple act of treading of paths. Macfarlane writes that his guiding spirit for his book is Edward Thomas, poet and essayist, and the first chapter looks at Tracks and this idea of walking over history:
"To Thomas, paths connected real places but they also led outwards to metaphysics, backwards to history and inwards to the self."
The reason for a pilgrim to walk a route rather than merely travel it is fundamental to the experience described in that sentence.

The other interest is the scallop, or rather one particular scallop. Whilst creating the river map for Rosalind Stoddart last year (which I have written about in a number of previous posts, including Reaching Conclusions and Riverlands ), I walked with the two other Jos (Jo Bell and Jo Blake-Cave) along the River Nene to the church in the village of Achurch. Attached to a post just outside the church I found a scallop, the one I sketched for the map and shown above, with the words PILGRIM TRAIL and a cross painted on it in red. A little further along in the hedgerows I found another one.

I don't know who put them there, but it did inspire me to read about the scallop as a symbol for the Pilgrim's Trail.

The scallop seems to have two meanings. One relates to the idea of things washing up on the shore, the way that individual shells might travel, taken by the ocean, and all eventually ending up on the same coast, attracted to the shore by the very rhythms of nature (or God?).

The other meaning is symbolised by the grooves in the scallop. Each of the grooves represent the different paths that pilgrims take, but all converge at the point of the shell, like pilgrims from around the world all ending up in the same place such as Santiago de Compostela.

The history of the Santiago de Compostela and how it became such a revered site (the city became the third most holy site in Christendom after Jerusalem and Rome) is also fascinating and based mainly on unsubstantiated rumour and legend! But we all know that faith does not need facts to be real.

The Sainthood of James is worryingly tied up with bloody tales of faith wars and division, but the more innocent symbol of the scallop still intrigues me. The idea that modern Christians still walk the same paths as those people so many centuries ago, who had very different beliefs and understanding of the world than we do today, and still converge onto the same point as they did, is fascinating to me. And even though I am not a follower of a particular religion, I could also follow those footsteps, see the same sights and feel the weight of history, and see what the path might reveal to me.

Well worn track to the River Nene
To the see the whole of my map of the River Nene, click here.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Smell of Bread

Here is the text that introduces the Smell of Bread exhibition, on throughout June, 1st floor Nottingham Central Library.

‘The Smell of Bread’ is a simple phrase that binds many of us together. It carries with it the ideas of sustenance and comfort. For some, especially those who may be a long way from the country of their birth, it evokes a strong memory of home.
This and the other phrases, images and models in the exhibition have been created by ‘the international group’, a wonderful group of people from places as diverse as Syria, Palestine, China, Swaziland, Poland, Italy, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Turkey and of course Nottingham.
Through a series of highly inspiring workshops led by artists Jo Dacombe and Gillian Brent, participants explored the themes within the Thomas Demand and Decolonizing Architecture exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary.
The group discussed, debated and created artistic responses to the ideas of architecture and how the spaces in which we live can affect the ways in which we live. How do we create places that make us feel secure? How do changing boundaries impact on our lives? How do we begin to imagine and create shared spaces in which we are all equal?
The workshops also supported the group engaging more deeply with contemporary art, improving their artistic skills as well as their spoken and written English. We also hope that the project brought a new set of people together to begin to imagine a better world.
We would like to thank Sam Abbas, Zubeda Rasul, Dudu Bhembe, Tammy Tchi, Allan Njanji, Faisal Ballan, Shaista Khaliq, Banu Ozveri, Hoda Alfake, Samreen Zia, Edyta Frackowiak, Teresa Napiorkowska, and Dwain Bent for all their thoughtful contributions and artists Jo Dacombe and Gillian Brent for supporting and shaping their contributions all the way.
Working with Nottingham Contemporary   

Gill and I will be running workshops as part of a celebration to launch Refugee Week on 16th June at Nottingham Contemporary, drop in between 12 and 5pm.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Dream Walking book published

I am very pleased to announce that our little book, Dream Walking: a Sidelong walk in Nottingham, is now available!

The book is 20 pages of writing and images by LJ and me about our first project collaborating as Sidelong. We wanted to record some of the ideas and thoughts behind the night walk we staged in Nottingham, so we decided to make this book, describing our influences, how we put the walk together and some of the ideas we had discussed as a collaboration. You can preview the book online here.

LJ and I have some more ideas about further walks we hope to stage together and we're talking right now about how to make them happen. I'm really excited about this, not only do I find LJ's ideas and enthusiasm refreshing, I am also discovering a lot more about Nottingham. Follow this blog, our Sidelong blog or follow the Sidelong Facebook page for updates on our future adventures! You can subscribe to this blog by email at the top left of this page to keep you informed of new posts.

We are interested in creating walks further afield than Nottingham too and have had a few interesting conversations over the past few months with people about possibilities, but so far this has not come to anything. If you know of somewhere interesting that we could explore for a walk, or would like to invite us to be part of an event, please get in touch or leave a comment below. We'd love to hear your ideas.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Smell of bread and little houses

Working towards the exhibition as a result of my work with my International Group at Nottingham Contemporary. We are calling the exhibition Smell of Bread, taken from something that one of the group wrote on their architectural piece.

The International Group have been wonderful to work with. Originating from places as diverse as Syria, Zimbabwe, Poland, China, India, Palestine, Georgia and more, the group have been working with me and another artist Gillian Brent for eight weeks.

We started by being inspired by the exhibitions at Nottingham Contemporary, at the time one of them was the Decolonizing Architecture exhibition that I've written about in two previous posts (Exploring Common Ground and Dividing Lines) Gill had an idea about using little wooden houses to create village layouts. I tried this with the group in one of our sessions.

With my interest in urban planning and social spaces I found this activity brilliant for generating debate and discussion about how we use spaces, how we build spaces and how those spaces then affect us.

We split into three groups and each group was given a set of wooden houses and a word. I asked them to create a village inspired by that word. Each group had similar sets of houses, but different words. The words were Secure, Shared and Nature.

Having created their villages, we then looked at each group's in turn. This simple activity turned into an hour and a half of debate and discussion about how we live: how space is shared, can we force people to share, can we police ourselves or do we always need an authority to make decisions? By building a secure space do we create elitism and exclude others? The shared space had similarities to the secure space - the shared space was only shared within the village and still excluded those outside the village, and the secure space was surrounded by a wall but still needed a shared space in the middle. Contact with the outside was made by the creation of a railway.

In contrast, the space created by the nature group was chaotic and anarchic, requiring constant negotiation between neighbours about who could use a space. At first this seemed attractive to many of us, but on closer inspection would this result in survival of the fittest? (or the most brutal?)

As discussions continued, people tried to re-order elements of their villages. Should civic buildings be central or on the outskirts? Could we have a space for shared faiths?

The theme for our project had been "Building a better future", and this activity really got deep into the issues about peoples living and sharing together as well as how we build.

Only a week later I came across a brilliant report of a lecture by Richard Sennett at Harvard, "The Architecture of Cooperation", discussing how people co-operate in spaces and how the spaces we plan affect this. He spoke about edges and boundaries, something our group has also talked a lot about.  Sennett suggested the need for a "membrane approach":
"In many planning classes, they say that when there is a rigid separation between two communities, classes, or functions, the best thing you can do is erase these divisions. This is an error. We need to mark space, and space has to have some quality of protection as well as opening to the outside: a membrane condition."
This inspired me to pick up a book on my bookshelf again, "The Social Logic of Space" by Hillier and Hanson, discussing "global-to-local logic", and the ideas of Durkheim who distinguished two types of social cohesion, or solidarity: organic and mechanical. Organic solidarity is based on the interdependence of peoples through difference, for example through the division of labour. Mechanical solidarity is based on integration through similarities such as belief and group structure.

These two types of social function require different types of space. Organic requires dense space, whereas mechanical organisations require segregated spaces.

Thinking all this through, I come back to the idea that we can plan our spaces to correspond to the way a society is working, however what happens when planners try to orchestrate the behaviour or social function of people by the way they plan the environment? I am reminded of my work some years ago for my Thinkspace project, when I met with architects of new school buildings who were trying to "design out" bad behaviour, and town planners who were redesigning housing areas that had disintegrated socially. At the time I made a speech as part of Architecture Week and I am reminded by the opening of the speech where I quoted Churchill:
"We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us."
Yes, and the spaces between them too.

The Smell of Bread exhibition will be on show at Nottingham Central Library throughout June and a special celebration event will take place at Nottingham Contemporary on 16th June.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Winter into Spring


If you have been following my project to make a drawing each month, tracking the changes of nature by drawing the plants that I see on my walks, you will have noticed that there were no drawings for March.

Ah ha, given up already! you thought. Well, no, the drawings continued in March, but something had changed. It became Spring!

I was seduced by the snowdrops' tiny bowing heads, the early tree blossom, the blue of the hyacinths. Colour began to appear in scattered dots amongst the brown twigs. It was beautiful, promising, awakening and I loved it! But...

...the drawings stopped working. Depicting pretty spring flowers just wasn't doing it for me, it seemed too much like I was trying to be a botanical artist - which I'm not - rather than to do what I'm interested in. It took me the month of March to figure it out.

The drawings in winter worked because of the lack of colour. Lacking leaves or the softness of petals, the winter twigs topped with rose hips and the cones hanging like tarnished earrings from the hazel were all about structure and line. I had written the previous autumn (when walking by the river) about the architecture of plants, resulting in my drawings of teasel, thistle and hawthorn berries. This was what was missing in the drawings in March.

Too much colour, pretty flowers, blousey petals - I was seduced by them and lost the idea of the structures. I had to rethink.

In May, I made a drawing of a bunch of pink blossom from a tree lining a road near where I live. A remarkable colour, but I needed another approach. Having made a drawing in pencil, I realised that for a long time I had really loved the linear quality of the drawings, and this was part of the tracing of the shapes. With the blossom, the linear drawing was about working out how the petals, stamen and stem all fitted together. I decided to go further with the linear quality and make the drawing as a linocut.

I carved the lines detailed and thin into the lino, to give the impression of the delicate quality of the blossom, but also to emphasise the intricate linear quality of the drawing that I loved. Printing the image in pale pink onto a grey paper kept the subtlety and prettyness of the blossom, but revealed the thread-like lines of the structure.

It feels like I'm back on track. It will be interesting to see how these develop throughout the year as the seasons change and throw up new challenges for me! But for now I will keep pursuing that linear quality and see where it takes me.

It's also interesting how, having decided to focus on line and structure, my perception of the world has shifted slightly too. I'm noticing more of the linear qualities around me, not just in nature but in other things too: cracks in walls, snail trails across slabs, the rhythms of fencing. What we see feeds the art and the art feeds what we see.

I'm collecting some of the drawings and prints in my shop, click here to see them.

Also, you can now follow me on my new Facebook page.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Riverlands and Spires

The premiere of Riverlands, a performance by Jo Bell and Jo Blake Cave, took place at Aldwincle All Saints Church in Northamptonshire, with the artwork by me and Kate Dyer on display.

Photo by Kate Dyer
The event was mesmerising, the venue magical, lit by technician Andy Eathorne to create gently rippling coloured light across the columns, evoking the animation of light on water.

The performance was rich with romance, humour, characters and birds. The audience (sold out on the first night!) were riveted from start to finish, not a sound or a stir until the double encore at the end.

I had worked with Kate Dyer to create artwork that incorporated my maps and drawings with Kate's photographs from the river. This had been a challenge as my drawings are linear and delicate with limited colour, whereas Kate's images were rich in colour and texture. Making them work together on one piece was a challenge! However, once I struck on the idea that the map was all about the shape of the river rather than the elements around it, this resulted in Kate's images also working with the shape of the river and creating the impressions of colour and texture that you experience on the banks.

I included my sketches and notes from the river on the reverse of the map. The drawings were received really well and I had some great feedback from the audience. This is particularly encouraging as I have just launched my shop of drawings for a personal project I have been doing, originally inspired by this commission.

I created an extra addition to the project, the Church Spires cutouts. My sense of travelling on the river was punctuated by the appearance of church spires slicing into the sky, so surprising when juxtaposed with the horizontal planes of the river. The spires along this stretch of river were significant to my experience and I wanted to find a way to include them.

The Church Spires cutouts is a set of unfolded spires, a selection of the shapes that I saw from the river. The spires are an A4 sheet of quality card laser cut to produce 5 shapes. When pressed out and folded, the shapes create miniature spire shapes.

These were really popular at the event and I sold quite a few. It's the first time I have worked with laser cutting and I was delighted with the results. Folded paper, paper forms and working with 2D into 3D is something that has interested me for a long time, so I will definitely be doing more laser cut paper sculptures in the future.

To see the map, drawings and Church Spires cutouts in more detail, click here.

Riverlands and the River map were commissioned by Rosalind Stoddart, Cultural Engineer.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Psychogeography of Standing Stones

Having returned from a week walking on Dartmoor, which included a number of visits to standing stones, I am once again reminded of the very specific sitings that ancient standing stones have.

Whether  you believe in things like ley lines or geographical vortices of power or not, there is definitely something about the locations that the ancients chose for their standing stones which inspire in us an imaginative power and mystery.

Dartmoor is spectacular, particularly in our overcrowded little island, as a place of miles of nothingness... one can walk for several leagues without meeting a road or building or, indeed, another person. It is always in these places, it seems to me, that birds take over as the dominant species - remove humans and birds move right in, coming and going in their flux of settlement and migration. Buzzards whirled overhead, appearing and reappearing day by day. A peregrine swooped below us as we stood on one of the high tors. A kestrel hanging in the air, that distinctive shape, before making his dive. Crows wheeling everywhere.

Beardown Man is a menhir, isolated, twice as tall as a man, that stands between the tors. He appears to be surveying the hills. His vertical presence on the endless horizontal planes of the moor is remarkable, and seems to draw attention to the horizons. You can see the weather coming towards you from all points of the compass. His presence seems to draw you to consider your surroundings.

It is quite a walk to Beardown Man, as there is only one road that really crosses Dartmoor, so to get anywhere you have to go by foot across boggy, grass tufted land. Many standing stones in Britain are more accessible now, but there are still a number like this that require effort to reach. Often high up on hills, isolated, placed in the centre of open, empty landscapes, the stones require a sort of pilgrimage to reach them. This must be how the ancients intended them to be, before we built roads to access pretty much everything. The effort of reaching the stones adds to their singularity.

Did they wish to place a stone and so sought the right place for it? Or did being in the place itself suggest a stone should be uprighted there.

It made me wonder, where would we place standing stones today? And what would they mean now, given our changed and constantly altering landscape, how would the surroundings interact imaginatively with that extraordinary presence?

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Dividing lines

Friday was a big celebration day at Nottingham Contemporary, showcasing the work of 12 schools that have been working with the Associate Artists over the last year.

Inspired by the DAAR exhibition, I have been working with Heathfield Primary School. As part of our project they held a "Line Day" - they drew a line right through the school for one day, with masking tape, and then hung newspaper streamers above it, appearing like an 8 foot wall towering above them.

Some of the children became trapped on one side of the wall, some trapped on the other side. They had to stay like this all day, without crossing the line.

At the end of the day they made a film about the experience, which was shown at the celebration event. How had the line made them feel?

DAAR's exhibition is all about borders and territory, a study of architecture in Israel / Palestine where borders are contested and the exhibition tries to imagine different futures for the building and territories there. The Line Day at the school helped the children to understand the reality of this kind of conflict. This is experiential art, where the children have an experience about an idea, rather than passively looking at representations of an idea in a gallery. The results were profound.

For the film each child's face appears for a brief moment, cropped close and staring at the viewer directly, the line hanging behind them. There is something about these serious, sincere faces of children that are incredibly engaging. The children each say a few words, sometimes only one word, to describe their reflections of the event. "Despondent", "depressed", followed by shouting, "angry", "frustrated!" "It's splitting up friendships", "it's just not fair" says a boy. "But I've done nothing wrong!" pleads a girl.

This simple act created a film that I found incredibly moving. These children expressed deep understanding of the results of conflicting borders on peoples. It was also courageous of the school to take on the experiment, often so difficult for schools to step outside their own constraints of the curriculum.

750 school children visited the exhibition on Friday, and it stayed open today for the general public. I'm really proud of everything they have achieved. All 12 schools had made remarkable and thought provoking work.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

New connections unfolding...

It was great to meet Brian Lewis at Sates of Independence today, a free book fair of independent publishers, held in Leicester.

Brian is editor and publisher of Longbarrow Press. His stall attracted me immediately, layed out with numerous handmade pamphlets and CDs of a variety of formats. More like artist's books than publications, each one is hand crafted by Brian and produced on beautiful papers, the whole stall given an elegant and understated look of neutral colours, greys, browns, creams, with paper textures a delight to hold between your fingers. I talked for a long time with Brian about our mutual interests. As Longbarrow state on their website:

The ethos governing the output of the press is that the poem should dictate the format of publication. The resulting objects – matchboxes, acetates, maps – allow poet and publisher to explore alternatives to the book without resorting to gimmickry.

This is so apparent in the resulting work. Brian showed me a matchbox he had made which opens to reveal 56 pages of a poem concertinaed into the box. He had CDs covered with brown paper, half the size of the usual CD. Their surprising smallness was delightful. I particularly liked "Edgelands", a publication printed in a long, thin format, about the size of a bookmark.

I went to the event on the suggestion of Mark Goodwin, a poet published by Longbarrow. Mark and I have been talking recently about possible collaborative work. I worked with Mark once before on the Companion Stones project. We created a stone together, with Mark's words and my form, and from the outset we were interested in how the words and the form could work together. Mark's words evoked the sense of horizons in the site where the stone now stands, in the Peak District. My design was two blocks, one on top of the other, but one twisted away, to give the impression of the stones turning. Mark's words are carved into the edges of the stones, splitting the words at the corners, so that they can be read in different ways - as a full poem, if you read it by walking around and around the 'turning' stones, or as broken words and fragments on the faces of the stone. (See the stone and its location here.)
Model of St Peters & St Andrews Church, Corby

Talking to Brian about the form of the publication being inspired by the poem, I was reminded of the Companion Stones project and also of my interest in creating forms from paper. My current project, for the River Nene (see Riverlands event), also involves the use of folded paper forms. I created a number of forms as part of my project with St Peter's and St Andrew's Church a few years ago (working with artist Carole Miles, and that collaboration now continues in a new form as undiscoverednetworks!). As I was exploring the architecture of the church, I began to make models of the church hall and its distinctive use of the tetrahedron for its spires. I was fascinated by the shapes created when the architecture was unfolded back into a flat piece of paper. I wanted to make the church from one sheet, so it unfolded and folded like a box.

I still really like the flat and then three dimensional possibilities of paper, and I think working with Mark, poetry and paper shapes will be worthy of more exploration.

One of the results of our exploration of the tetrahedrol architecture of St Peters and St Andrews Church is currently on display as part of the Corby Open, until 31st March, click here for details.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012


Riverlands - a journey on the Nene
Saturday, April 21, 2012 from 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Sunday, April 22, 2012 from 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm

All Saints Church, Thorpe Road, Aldwincle, NN14 3EA


Riverlands - a journey on the Nene - Rosalind Stoddart

The national premiere of a performance by poet Jo Bell and storyteller Jo Blake Cave.
Inspired by their journey along the Nene in the footsteps of nature writer BB, this hour-long performance brings you atmosphere, mesmerising stories, humour and humanity.

This evening will also mark the first availability of:
A visual response to our journey on the Nene by Jo Dacombe ad Kate Dyer.
A limited edition will be for sale at this performance.

General Admission: £10
Concessions (senior citizens, students and unemployed): £8
(includes £2 donation to The Churches Conservation Trust)
If event is not sold out, tickets will be available on the door.

For further information please contact:
Rosalind Stoddart
01536 370108

Supporters of Riverlands project - Rosalind Stoddart

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Busy writing...

I have been busy writing blog posts for Creative Nottingham, I've listed the latest ones below.

I've also started putting some of my favourite photographs from my various walks on a new page, click on the Photographs link above.

And I've started work on two new books about walking - coming soon!

Creative Nottingham Guest Blog - Photographing Architecture

Creative Nottingham Guest Blog - A Sidelong walk along the canal