Friday, 21 December 2012

Robinsonnage

"In 1894 Joris-Karl Huysman wrote Against Nature (the novel that inspired Oscar Wilde to write A Picture of Dorian Grey) at one point, the Parisian hero of Huysman's tale, fascinated by the novels of Charles Dickens, orders a taxi and visits an English pub in Paris, before embarking on his trip to London.

Except...he finds himself unable to complete the journey and returns home.

Whereupon he realises that the imaginary experience is more than a preferable substitute for the real thing."


A robinsonner is a traveller who does not travel. A cousin of the flâneur, the robinsonner takes their name from the character of Robinson Crusoe. Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe without ever having visited a desert island himself, or indeed having ever left Europe. Defoe has a special place in the history of psychogeography, with Merlin Coverley claiming that his 1722 novel  A Journal of the Plague Year represents the beginning of the psychogeographic tradition. Patrick Keiller, of course, references this in his character of Robinson, who's (adopted) name is also a reference to his being 'marooned' in Britain. 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

More selected poems and images.

The work ploughs on, with some major tweaks in the overall content and layout which I shall hopefully be able to go in to more detail about later. In order to keep things moving here, here's a selection of some of the more recent poems and images from the book.


Thursday, 13 December 2012

I Dream of Colour Music

One of the most important unifying elements of Vectis is colour. Building on the ideas set out in this post I have designed a colour scheme that gives each season, each month and each journey its own colour.


Each of these three colour schemes form a progression, a spectrum, and could be linked up into wheels to reinforce the circular structure of the book.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Patrick Keiller - 'London'

"It is a journey to the end of the world"

'London' is the first entry in what has become a trilogy of films by British film-maker Patrick Keiller. London is of particular importance to Vectis, more than the other films ('Robinson in Space' and 'Robinson in Ruins') as it was after attending a screening of that film as an undergraduate that I first began thinking of the idea that would eventually become Vectis, and because of its tighter geographic focus. I also feel that, for a number of reasons, London is the most successful of the trilogy; the focus on a more particular area gives the film more depth, more space to explore poetic digressions; visual themes have more time to develop, and the use of sound and music is, to my mind, more interesting. Though I have partly reacted against the work of Keiller (at least in the sense that he represents part of a tradition which sees London as a focus of Britain, though his later films soften this somewhat) I have great respect for his work, and rank him highly. Some of the particular methods he employs (or appears to employ) are similiar to my own. It has been a pleasure to rewatch what I consider his best work in order to make some observations on it.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

5 Styles of Book Design?

During the course of my MA I have been doing a lot of thinking on the subject of books and book design. One thing I have noticed, throughout this thinking is there seems to be a relatively small number of styles or end-goals of book design. All books strive (or fail), it seems to me, to achieve quality based on one or more of these competing metrics. I present five possible metrics, with the above diagram notes common ways they might intersect in the form of a Euler diagram. Of course, these are not prescriptive, nor are they the only such system one might come up with. By changing the definitions, and the borders between definitions, an infinite variety of categorisations are possible.

The Book Beautiful

This style of design is often said to have found its ultimate expression in the work of William Morris's Kelmscott Press (example). It emphasises the aesthetic qualities of the book as a thing of beauty, to be enjoyed as much (or more) as the text and images within. Often more masterpieces of the bookbinder's and printer's craft skills than the book designer's considered aesthetics, the book beautiful may be seen as an old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy sort of concept, evoking marbled endpapers, hand-sewn bindings, tooled leather covers, gilt-edged pages and meticulous printing, perhaps referencing early incunabula and other medieval books. This is not necessarily true, however; the concept of the book beautiful extends to even mass-market paperbacks, where particular attention has been paid to the aesthetics of the book as an object and, crucially, these aesthetics could be said to assume equal (or greater) importance compared to the contents of the book.

The Book Functional

This style of design is that championed by technical masters such as Jan Tschichold, and draws heavily on Beatrice Ward's Crystal Goblet metaphor. In this style of design, the book is treated chiefly as a container, an object for presenting a text, or images. Decoration is minimal or non-existent and the number of typefaces is kept to a minimum. Margins and the overall size are considered from the perspective of ergonomics as much as aesthetic beauty. Indeed, proponents of this style claim that the most functional book will be the most beautiful book. This is linked to enlightenment ideals, and will often lead them to sweeping, absolutist pronouncements, never examining the cultural parochialism of such a view. Not all examples of the Book Functional are of the same type: textbooks come under this heading.

The Book Frugal

This is a sort of book where the entire design is dictated by economic considerations. Paper stock, binding, cover designs; all are chosen to be as cheap and inviting as possible. This type of book may superficially appear to be similiar to the Book Functional, but ignores many of the ergonomic, aesthetic, durability and other concerns that may appear in this category. The Book Frugal covers a huge swathe of the modern book industry. The vast majority of mass-market paperbacks fall into this type; pulp fiction indeed.

The Book Grotesque

A special case, this rare form of book can be thought of as the absolute opposite of the Book Beautiful, and perhaps could be thought of as a subset of the Book Visual. The Book Grotesque does not necessarily aim at ugliness as it's explicit goal, but it achieves it, for whatever reason. Perhaps it is an artist's book, or the product of some small, incompetent press, or an example of art brut? There will always be some people, of course, who claim that the grotesque is beautiful, and others who claim that the beautiful is grotesque. This will always necessitate the need for the existence of this classification.

The Book Visual

 The book visual represents the bulk of artist's books, but also many other sorts of books; atlases, books of aerial photographs, and so on. The Book Visual considers the book in terms of aesthetics. Its design is not simply as a structure for presenting other information (as in the Book Functional) nor is it decorative (as in the Book Beautiful). The Book Visual is the masterwork of the designer. It's end goal is not necessarily beauty (or some concept analogous to beauty such as richness, cool etc.) but it might be beautiful to some people's eyes. It has a style that is not necessarily aimed at presenting information in the most efficient way, though it may achieve a high standard of presentation.

Vectis is a Book Visual.


Monday, 10 December 2012

The Test Book arrives!

The test book arrived on Friday morning. What with my birthday and other matters, I haven't been able to get a post together till now.





Saturday, 8 December 2012

Island Occultism

The idea of a Ley Line network on the Island is not something that only I have been interested in. There's always strange things to be found in the occult corners of the internet. Here's a few little things that my researches have thrown up.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Judging a Book: The cover

Yesterday, I sent an incomplete version of Vectis off to lulu.com for a test printing. Particularly, I am interested in seeing if the bleeds work and all text remains readable at paper sizes. This marks an important point for Vectis; all the structure of the book is now in place, waiting only to be filled with joyous words and images. Much is already filled. All the photography for Summer and Autumn is done, and Autumn is about three quarters finished in every sense. But until this weekend, one task remained completely untackled.

In order to have the book printed, you see, it needs a cover.

Covers are an interesting element of book design. Many producers of artists books treat the cover as a completely integral part of the whole work, continuing themes from the inside to the outside. For me, however, the cover has a slightly different feel. The way I see it is as a frame; the frame is important to a work of art, and the frame should be appropriate (no elaborate gold-leafed rococo on the Kandinsky, please!), but it is not part of the work. It is slightly seperate from it. You can change the cover and still have the same book, in the way I see it anyway. 

Friday, 30 November 2012

This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land

When making art that plays on geography, on ideas of space, place and landscape, it is perhaps impossible to avoid the subject of Land Art.

Land art appears only fleetingly in Vectis, in a couple of the images of the visual essay, 'On the Shoulders of Giants...' in the Spring section. Although not actually at odds with pscyhogeography, land art takes things a step further. It is a deliberate intervention in the landscape, an attempt to change it, to add to or subvert its meaning. For rural psychogeography it is the equivalent of architecture in urban psychogeography. This places land art beyond the scope of my personal project, which is one that attempts to understand the island as it currently is, rather than to change it.


Completed spreads

It's time to give a peek inside the book. I'm very close to being in a position where I can send a version off for test printing, and I've taken a few screenshots of some two page spreads, with a couple to show recent changes.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

History essay: As If There Were No Other Island

It is finished! At last...or at least, a first draft is finished. In other news, I have made a (to my mind) major change to the book, excising the third walk from the Autumn section and expanding the space given to the two remaining walks in size, in order to create something a little more cohesive. If I wasn't so enamoured of the lovely landscape pages in this section, I would consider running both walks together in parallel, one on the right hand page of a spread and one on the left. We'll see if there isn't some possible solution along those lines. But anyway, time now to delve into the past...

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Progress report

The blog remains somewhat dark. For this, I aplogise; I have reached a stage of the project where it feels that working on the blog would be a distraction from the book; my current main focus is to have the entire book laid out in design terms, using placeholders and boilerplate text, in order that I can send a test off for printing next week (hopefully on Wednesday), in order to work out if there are any problems with the bleeds, the cover etc. I'll try and put together a post in the next few days that'll talk a bit in depth about some of the design decisions I've been making, particularly with regards to colour and the use of the book format. I'll also offer a sneak peek at some completed pages and spreads.

The second autumn walk was only half completed, due to inclement weather. Looking at the forecast, it may be next week before I can get out again; this is the one aspect of the project that really keeps me up at night, but it is not yet time to compromise.

In other news, I am made anxious by and am utterly perplexed to note that my blog has been linked to by the Guardian, probably due to the quotes from Oliver Rackham's History of the countryside. I note, with shame, that in that article, posted a month and a half ago, I suggested that I would have the history essay written 'within the next few weeks'. In fact, it still fails stubbornly to coalesce in any final form. Partly this is because my writing energies have been diverted by the essay on methodology and the poetry. I want to get at least one of these done before I send the book off though, so I've scheduled in a writing blitz in the university library for Tuesday, that's normally an environment that gets me going.

In the meantime, here's a nice picture.


I really should write about the Castle at some point, huh?

Monday, 19 November 2012

Some more poetry

This week gone has been mostly about writing, and a bit of drawing. The poetry for the Autumn section is becoming very interesting, allowing me to make associations that I have been struggling to make otherwise.



The Channel

The channel surges like a bellows
Pumping daily oceans;
The heartbeat of the earth
Artery clogged, failing.
Calcification, ancient lands submerged
Sunken bells tolling and toiling
Dunwich, Lyonesse, Blackgang
Disappearing world…
Floating world…
Donated by the grateful people of Japan.

See then this:
A great wave
Rolling across the infinite Atlantic
The distant tropical drumming;
Wireless communication.

Cliffs like teeth.
The wires running through them
Ready to be pulled
Out, taut, off.
The bones of time revealed.

Expanding outward
The circle, the centre
Contracting inwards,
The centre, the circle
Wheel and web
Coast and network;

A boundary of nothing.
A house on the borderland.
A gate on the bridge.
A line in the sand.
But still, the great wave

Tomorrow I shall be making the second of the autumn section walks. This will mark the completion of more than half of the photography.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Iain Sinclair - London Orbital

First, I should like to note that, although as with Keiller I have apparently rubbished the concerns of Sinclair several times, I hold him no actual malice. On the contrary, I actually like him quite a lot both for his qualities as a writer and for his qualities as a person that appear to be revealed through his writing. In fact, I haven't really got anything bad to say about any of the London psychogeographers, except Stewart Home, who I have disliked for years for reasons unrelated to his work as a psychogeographer. My verbal assaults against London are largely a rhetorical device, and, in fact, many of them are echoed in Sinclair's work. What I have objected to, mainly, is the focus on London as if it is the most interesting thing in the UK. Sinclair's take on this is interesting, simultaneously defining London as a microcosm and as something special and apart from the rest of the world (suggesting several times that everywhere beyond the M25 is 'nowhere') whilst simultaneously acknowledging that the road he is studying is an engine that drives this solipsism. He says of the motorway:

"By the time you've driven it...you should be way out in another eco-system, another culture: Newport (Mon.), or Nottingham, or Yeovil. The journey must mean something. Not a wearied return, hobbled, to the point of origin."


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Big Sky, Lorry Depot

A couple of new images. I've been a bit sparse with these lately but I don't want to post up everything I'm doing. Here's a couple of recent ones.


This one might need to be muted a bit. One of the biggest tweaks I've made recently to the structure is the idea of, rather than concentrating entirely on portrait format images, I've been looking at including more landscape format images, which will be stretched across two pages in the book. In the Summer walks, there will only be one landscape image per walk, which will occupy the centre two pages (each walk, apart from the title page and map, takes up 28 pages), and will signal a switchover, from the image being on the right side of a spread to the left side of a spread. This will help give the book a little more rhythm, I hope. In the Autumn walks (which are starting finally to come together), landscape images will be interespersed with the portrait ones in a more fluid rhythmic pattern. The decision on how to bring all this in to the Winter section is still pending.


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Gone Walkabout: Flânerie

I have actually been pretty hard at work, despite the lack of updates. One of the problems with this project, and with creative endeavors generally, is how much of the work is 'invisible'; the processes of conception and refinement which it is almost impossible to document. With Vectis this particularly comes down to the walking.

I am on to the longer walks now, Section 2 and Section 3. These walks require more logistical forethought than the other walks, particularly now the days have closed in so much. Rather than being loops that start and end at my house (as the walks are in section 1) the walks require bus travel at either one or both ends. This places a new financial strain on me as well; bus travel on the Island is regrettably expensive.

So, since I've been doing a good deal of walking, I think it's probably time to talk about Flânerie. The first question we have to answer is: why the French? How do we justify the pretension, isn't there some equally adequate anglo-saxon expression for what we're getting at? Flânerie translates as something like "strolling", "sauntering" or "loafing", but none of these really provide a full meaning. The word evokes a literary and cultural tradition, particularly associated with 19th century Paris, of the man (always a man, it seems) of leisure who draws inspiration from the matter of everyday life, observed on strolls that have no purpose except observation. The Flâneur is simultaneously apart from and integrated with the urban environment during the process of walking through it; the Parisian literary critic Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve described it as “the very opposite of doing nothing." It implies a form of non-passive observance that is a great model for artistic practice and for psychogeographic walking. The body as recorder moves along streets like the needle on a record, scratching away an infinitesimal amount of new material each time, subtly altering the song that it sings.

Obviously, when I talk about using Flânerie in my work, I am removing it from an urban context. I am also breaking, quite deliberately, the concept of moving with and observing other people in crowds. This is quite necessary, of course, as there are no crowds on my walks (though there are people, who are not entirely absent from my images and observations). So why don't I adopt a rural term, such as rambling? First, Flânerie has strong associations with psychogeographic practice that I wish to evoke, and for good reasons. A rambler moves over the landscape, and leaves it as they find it. The 'countryside code' states that the walker should endeavor to 'Leave Gates & Property as You Find Them'. But this is not appropriate for psychogeography, nor is it really an accurate description of what walking through the countryside means. On un-metalled highways and holloways more than anywhere else, walking on a path reinforces the path, carves it, and helps create new paths. The walker moves not across but through the landscape, helping to carve the interface between space and time that we have already mentioned.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Portaits

Not much concrete to report, slow and frustrating progress over the last week or so. For the moment, here's some portraits of four famous people associated with the Isle of Wight in the 18th and 19th century, a possible illustration for the section on Isle of Wight history that is rapidly nearing completion. Not 100% sure about the style (Perhaps I should make it more graphic?*) or some of the decisions.






 Clockwise from top left: Karl Marx, Julia Margaret Cameron, Queen Victoria and John Keats. Together, these figures tie the island into many of the most important political and artistic developments of the last 200 years. Marx visited the Island for health reasons three times in the last decade of his life; though he had already written the books that would make him immortal. Julia Margaret Cameron kept her studio here, and helped advance the art of photography which has so transformed the world. From Osbourne House, Queen Victoria entertained her dynasty; a friend of mine has an anecdote from his grandfather of seeing Edward VII, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicholas II walking together during Cowes Week sometime in the 1900's. The war between their empires would eventually lay waste the whole world, birthing both World Wars. And it was whilst staying at Carisbrooke, gazing upon the castle ruins, that Keats wrote "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever"

*EDIT: Something like this perhaps?

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Worth a Hundred Pictures?

In the 'Autumn' section of Vectis words will be entwined (more on this to come) with the images I've gathered. I have come to decide that the text in the second section should be in the form of poetry that returns to and explores in other ways the themes developed throughout the other written sections of the book. I am writing the poems as a cycle, jotting down various phrases and images, trying to assemble something. Here is a first taster:



Under This Bridge

The world is browning
Where once it was blue and green
Soon it will be time for sacrifices
To recall the sun to the earth
But the memory of its warmth
Lingers still

And yes, it was under this bridge I sat
Sun to my face, Circle a to my back
And smoked in another life
Reading the signs in the ground
Knowing I was not the first
And sure I would not be the last

Is that not where happiness aims?
Is that not faith?
Not to be the first or last
No glory or tragedy
But quiet persistence
Cyclic law, and the mystery of the word

Friday, 2 November 2012

Worth a Thousand Words: Text and Images



One concern that, as I assemble the book,  is becoming obviously very important to Vectis is the way text and images interact within the structure of a book, and withn a 2D medium (the individual page) generally. Thankfully, I can lay claim to knowing at least a little of what I’m talking about with both subjects: the first being one of the main focuses of my previous MA unit, and the second being the subject of my BA dissertation, I am already well grounded in both. I am also helped by the fact that each subject has a (to my mind) clearly written and definitive book on the subject. These are Keith Smith’s The Structure of the Visual Book and Simon Morley’s Writing on the Wall: Word and Image in Modern Art, which have both been of immense help to me.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Magick Without Tears

It’s time to return to the subject of the occult, a topic I dealt with all too briefly first time.

Particularly, I want to talk about the concept of Ley Lines. Leys are an idea with a wonderfully strange intellectual history. By the time they reach the milieu within which I am conducting business they have gone from archaeological theory to new age belief system to psychogeographic metaphor, via Atlantis, Glastonbury and other places between. Although when talking about the occult and psychogeography it might at first seem that we should be looking at the secondary evolutions of Leys (into great, world-encompassing mystic energy currents; more on that in a bit), but actually in many ways the use of Leys by figures such as Iain Sinclair signals a return to the origins of the concept.

The theory of Leys first finds expression in a frankly quite charming little book called The Old Straight Track, written (and illustrated) by travelling salesman, photographic pioneer, naturalist and amateur archaeologist Alfred Watkins. ‘Ley’ was a neologism that he developed from the philological component of his ideas, and his theory (put very simply) was this: that the stone age peoples of Great Britain travelled around and organised themselves based around a network of straight pathways, marked by stones, arrangements of trees and notches cut out of the tops of hills and ridges. Watkins developed this theory during his career as a travelling salesman, from prolonged personal contact with the landscape of his native Herefordshire. It seems he first came up with the idea in a flash of inspiration, when reading a map and noticing chance alignments between church towers, standing stones and notches in the skyline. He went on to develop his idea painstakingly, trying to work out the position and purpose of various leys, and marshalling a body of evidence to support his ideas from various sources; place names, intricate maps, photographs. The Old Straight Track is obviously the culmination of several years of diligent and careful work, a fascinating record of one man’s obsession.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Maps for the first section

Are finally finished, and only a day late too! Unfortunately, Bayimg appears to be going through one of it's temporary blips, so I'll have to use up some of my precious Blogger storage space. Images after the cut.


Saturday, 20 October 2012

A slow week.

Posts to this blog have been rather sparse over the last week. Partly that is to do with other drains on my time; mostly it is to do with the kind of work I have been doing for the book, much of which is tedious and unspectacular. I have set myself a small task list for the week, which I have mostly accomplished. By close of play tomorrow, ideally, I will have:-

  • Organised all the files for the project on my computer, and made multiple back-ups (this is done)
  • Finished the excel spreadsheet laying out the book and laid out the skeleton of the book in Adobe Indesign (this is done)
  • Have all the primary photography for the first section completed (this is almost done)
  • Have 10% of the book in a completed or almost completed state (this will amount to 37 pages, and will probably be done)
 The last part has been hampered a little by my choice of what to tackle. Mostly this week, apart from doing the above tasks and chipping away more at some of the written portions of the book, I have been at work on the final versions of the maps that will accompany each of the walks in the first section. I hope to have all of these finished by this time tomorrow; I should have realised from the time it took me to create the large Isle of Wight map that these would be time consuming, but the results will, I think, be pleasing. I have also been working on a number of other images, much helped by the fact that I have made provisional choices for base photographs for all of the first walk. One image is complete so far:


Overall, I am feeling much less anxious about the final deadline than I was this time last week.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Digital image making in the field

I recieved a significant equipment upgrade recently, and now have a laptop that will actually run photoshop. This has allowed me to do something I've wanted to try for a while; take my graphics tablet away from my desk and actually sketch some scenes from like. I was out on the first walk today, taking supplementary photographs, and I took the laptop along as well and made a couple of images, more as an experiment than anything else (the photographic basis of the majority of the images in Vectis is fairly locked down). The results of my first little foray are below.

Blog illustration

A little aside now on that picture from the Romanticism post below. I took the rather unusual step of making an illustration to fit a blog post. I was in a rut with other things creatively at the time, and that seemed to be what I needed to do; it won't happen too often (any further ballooning of the huge amount of work I still have to do for this project is to be definitely avoided). Actually, I made three different possible illustrations, all along a similiar theme. The one I chose was a bit of an experiment that I might take further at some point in the future. It is not, as it might first appear, either a doctored photograph or a hyperrealistic drawing, but a combination of digital painting and digital collage; it's actually made from about ten different photographs of trees and wooded areas, mixed together and overpainted. I came at the idea whilst trying to assemble a reference image to draw from, and I think it's quite effective. A more rigorous approach, carefully cutting out sections of trees and limbs and foliage and layering them up, might be something to try another time. Below the jump are the other two, unselected, Romanticism pictures; a treated photograph with some text and a straight up fantasy woodland nightscape digital painting, which was great fun to do but doesn't have that much relevance to the issue at hand, although it might be interesting in light of the next post.

Romanticism


 It's a dirty word to some people, 'Romanticism'. It conjures all sorts of bad images; airy, shallow, irrational, wooly thinking, schmalzy. It can even carry dangerous political connotations; a reek of nationalism hangs over it. Deep England, and all the problems that entails. Much of this, I feel, has to do with a lack of general understanding about what Romanticism actually entails. It doesn't have anything to do with Romans, and it doesn't have anything to do with love...

"Romanticism has very little to do with things popularly thought of as "romantic," although love may occasionally be the subject of Romantic art. Rather, it is an international artistic and philosophical movement that redefined the fundamental ways in which people in Western cultures thought about themselves and about their world." - source


Thursday, 11 October 2012

An image from the first walk, Autumn

Today's been one of those days that frustate you when you're engaged on a creative endeavour, when nothing seems to click and everything is a frustrating dead end. I was hoping to have a new blog post on Romanticism and some more solid progress on the book itself, but alas, nothing has really come together. Unfortunately, I'm going to be away all weekend, starting tomorrow afternoon, so this will probably be the last opportunity for a blog post for a few days. With that in mind, here are a couple of images to be going away with, after the jump.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Record of Tutorial: 8/10/2012

This blog is, as I have mentioned before, a piece of work that I plan to submit as part of my MA in Fine Art; if I am to make it a complete submission there are certain requirements that must be fulfilled. One of these is to discuss and reflect upon tutorials. I have been going back and forth as to whether to add these to the blog, and have finally made my decision. I have backdated this post to the time when I wrote it.

Although my course continued technically unbroken over summer, there has not been much face-to-face contact with my supervisor, Prof. Stephanie James. This tutorial was really not much more than a catch-up session. We talked mainly about this blog, and about how the general structure of the project was progressing. Overall, the feedback was positive. Steph suggested that I look in to broadening the online presence of the project, finding a way to display the raw photographs online through a picture sharing service such as Pinterest or Flickr. We also discussed the possibility of putting elements of the project in to action locally; we talked about the possibility of taking people on the walks as guided tours, and about the possibily of selling prints and books through local art galleries. Overall, the feedback was very positive. The second year will be more hands-off, especially with this blog in place. The tutorial left me feeling very confident as to the direction in which this unit is heading, though I still worry a little about timing.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Hidden in Plain Sight: Occultism

It is impossible to get too far in to the matter of modern psychogeography without dealing with what we might call the occult, or the esoteric. More or less directly, many psychogeographers (particularly the London school) have tapped in to a variety of concepts common to various traditions of western mysticism; hermeticism, alchemy and gnosticism, via modern occultism. Particularly important (as they are, framed differently, in much modern art practice) are ideas of symbolism and correspondence. Alchemists believe that an object can be manipulated through its reflection or image; hermeticists believe in the direct correspondence between the microcosm and the macrocosm ('as above, so below') and gnostics believe that the reality we perceive is simply a deceptive projection, a curtain pulled across our eyes. In occult psychogeographic writing, the landscape and the individual become reflections of each other; the landscape becomes the medium through which wider social forces shape the individual, and vice versa. It also becomes the point of interaction between the real past, the past-as-myth and various conceptions of the present. Place here is not simply the banal reality of physical geography, but an imaginative (and imagined) space. The very use of occult language (as opposed to what can often be equivalent artistic jargon) is employed deliberately, to create an air of mysticism. The landscape, whether urban or rural, is a place of secrets and a battleground for interpretations. The occult psychogeographers employ their mystical methods in order to reinforce their own interpretation, without necessarily seeking to make any claims towards truth.


Some possible page layouts.

Playing around with Lorem Ipsum, showing four possible layout ideas. The way I've been planning things out at the moment I've been keeping text and image basically separated on to different pages (except where images contain textual elements), but it's not beyond the bounds of possibility to put some images in-line.


Sunday, 7 October 2012

Oliver Rackham - 'The History of the Countryside'

For the past week or so my attention, when I have the time to read, has been turned to the rather fascinationg 'The History of the Countryside' by Oliver Rackham. Rackham is a landscape archaeologist, who writes on the subject of the history of the use of the British landscape with considerable vigour and authority, and, when he touches on the subject of conservation, not a little genuine pathos;

"There are four kinds of loss...there is the loss of beauty, especially that exquisite beauty of the small and complex and unexpected, of frog-orchids or sundews or dragonflies. There is the loss of freedom, of high-ways and open spaces...There is the loss of historic vegetation, most of which once gone is lost forever...I am specially concerned with the loss of meaning. The landscape is a record of our roots and the growth of our civilization. Each individual historic wood, heath, etc. is uniquely different from every other, and each has something to tell us."

Thursday, 4 October 2012

A map and a picture

Not much to show, still putting together the page by page plan of the contents. I realised I would need a good map of the island, almost before anything else, so I put this together, which took a lot longer than I expected:



Thursday, 27 September 2012

Some experimental images.

Working towards a style for the images in the summer section, particularly. I've used a variety of scanned images of hand-made textures, scanned in to the computer, combined with heavily manipulated photographs and over-drawing. Images after the jump.


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Recording a Walk

I have decided to use three different methods to record the walks in Vectis. I could have chosen any of a huge variety of others, but I am constrained somewhat by the considerations of the medium. The method must fit into a book; so, for example, audio or video recordings would not be appropriate (although I have taken audio notes, and may incorporate audio somehow; perhaps a soundtrack to listen to whilst reading the book? A download perhaps; it needs some thought). 

The method I've been thinking of for the third section (the coastal walk) is of taking photographs facing along the coast in opposite directions (so that one is in the direction of the walk, one looking back), and placing these photographs on opposite pages. To explore this concept, I decided to employ it to rccord one of the shorter walks, from my house to Carisbrooke Castle and back. I decided to take a photograph every 70 paces, as this was roughly the length of the path from my back gate to the road. 

Monday, 24 September 2012

Spring, season colours

A spring picture, based on a new photograph; and an idea towards a unified colour scheme for the four seasonal sections. Perhaps a little twee? Perhaps there should be something more counterintuitive at work?




Sunday, 23 September 2012

Processional I: First printing

The first copy of Processional I arrived yesterday morning.


Mostly, I am very satisfied with the quality, the colours and so on; unfortunately, the bleed has not worked properly, as can be seen in the following picture:


There are only at most a millimetre or so white margin, and only on some pages. The width of the margin changes as the book goes on, indicating that the problem might be to do with the printing process rather than my settings. I am rather at a loss, as I followed the instructions online exactly; however, I shall try setting the bleeds a little wider and send the book off again when I have some more money. The main purpose of Processional I, remember, is to sort out colour, bleed and paper quality for Vectis itself. I will also be looking at creating another book to test out the higher quality paper, which is only available in certain limited, non-ISO standard sizes.

Do You Think Culture is Order?

There is a tendency in western thought towards categorisation as the default mode for understanding reality that is, I think, inescapable. I certainly know I'm guilty of it; in fact, I greatly enjoy categorising and sorting things; making playlists of songs based on genre, for example, or identifying and discussing movements in art, which inevitably becomes a discussion, at least in part, of which artists should be included under a certain heading, which typify it, and so on. What is not as often acknowledged is that this mania for classification grows out of, and is related to, a more sinister fetish for dualism.

This may seem to be a bit absurd. After all, dualism is by definition the idea that if something is either one of two things, so how does it relate to situations where we have a whole range of choices about how to categorise something? What it is key to remember here is that an object or an idea isn't merely affected by one dualism. Deconstructing a categorisation choice into a range of binary dualisms is pretty easy. Say we have a ball that can be either red, blue or yellow. What we have to remember is that we can also say that the ball is not red, not blue or not yellow. That is to say, rather than think of a triple choice, we can also choose to say that it is affected by three dualisms, that of red/not red, blue/not blue, yellow/not yellow.

Of course, in the real world, things are a little more difficult. For a start, real world dualisms are generally not constructed logically. They impose a structure on the world, rather than arising out of the existing structure of the world. In a mathemetical or logical model, our above example works, but in reality there are an astonishing range of percievable colours, and perception of colour is bounded by different cultural and scientific models, not to mention differences in human biology. To call a certain range of hues 'red' or 'yellow' is a social construction, nothing more. This is the danger of categories. At their best, they can give us a linguistic or scientific model for discussing the world. At their worst, they offer a form of pantomime rationality, an attempt to crudely hammer the fabulous complexity of world into a preconcieved model. Dualisms, with their starkness, are particularly terrible at this.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Idle Toil

Idle Toil is the name of my 'publishing house', the entity through which my books are published. You will have seen the Idle Toil logo if you looked at the PDF in the last post. Currently, it looks like the example to the right. The idea that the name could be split up in this way was part of the thinking behind it's choosing; it came when I was doodling the logo and the name simultaneously in my sketch book. It has some obvious reasoning behind it. There is the similiarity of the second syllables allowing (with a little poetic license) the remixed words to be pronounced as homophones. There is also the fact that each couplet of letters is a word (in some language). I also liked the fact that the logo works well as a design element on a page; it is a solid block, broadly symettrical, and has a strong vertical presence. However, there is no reason to just accept the logo (which is after all essentially a first design) as a fait accompli, and there's something a little unsatisfactory about the logo as it currently stands. So, I've tried a few redesigns. I am rather fancying the one in the bottom left.

Processional I

Not much to put on the blog over the past few days; I've been working, but more on visual matters. I've also been at work on a physical model of Vectis, despite my vow not to engage in any physical bookbinding. It's wonderfully addictive work, unfortunately, and, as always when you're thinking something out practically, there have been a few false starts. Expect something nice to look at in the not-too-distant future. Until then, here's a little 'side project' book, Processional I:


It's a very simple idea; it's simply a procession or sequence, bounded by the letters of the alphabet, cycling back round through a circle in opposite directions (I was thinking about the year-based structure of Vectis). Actually, the real purpose of this book is not as an artistic expression (shock, horror) but more as a way to test out the capabilities of lulu.com, the print-on-demand publishing service which I have chosen to employ, for the moment, to produce my books. Particularly, I have not yet ordered a book from then in colour, nor have I done a book with full edge bleeds. I actually sent the order through yesterday morning (I've simply had no time to post since then) and I'll update with some pictures of the finished product when it arrives.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Seasons Don't Fear the Reaper

The idea of structuring the book around the seasons has suggested to me the possibility of using the year as a model for the book. 2012 is a leap year, consisting of 366 days; since the majority of the work takes place in this year, It would make for a book of that many pages, plus a number of extra pages at the beginning (pre-numbering) for contents and so forth; say 7, if we're going for calendar correspondences.

The book shall therefore be divided into four sections. I'll work based on the periods between solstices and equinoxes:

Spring: 21st March - June 20th:  91 days

Summer: June 21st - 20th September: 91 days.

Autumn:  21st September-20th December: 90 days.

Winter: 21st December-20th March (Including 29th Feb): 90 days.

I have been trying to set the structure out in various text files and in indesign, but I think I'll have to make a physical model of the book in order to be able to get a real sense of how this all pans out, whether this is a good idea and whether any fudging will be necessary

I will also need to pick up the pace a little on the first section, though I have photographs, sound recordings and notes on all three of the first walks; the season draws to a close. One of the interesting things about the actual making of Vectis is that, due to the writing and other considerations, the first section shall probably take the longest to produce in terms of post-production, though I already have almost all the material I need on hand. I shall be walking all three routes again in the next few days, before moving out.  Already autumn's chill is in the air. The 21st is the first day of autumn, and will be time to begin considering the longer range walks.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Prison Islands

 Another IM conversation with 'the other', that brings up some points I will write more about in the future.



Thursday, 13 September 2012

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Society of the Spectacularly Crass

I was going to make my next post on the subject of the prison; in fact, I've begun writing that post. It's beginning to turn rather political (I think unavoidably) and maybe that's got me into a mood. I was just over the shops, and perused todays newspapers, the front covers of which are united in celebrating the orgy of self-congratulation that, I sincerely hope, marks the final, irrevocable end of the olympics.

I have touched already on my problems with the olympics in the version of the introduction I posted, but I'd like to tie that a little more in to a specific point about the Island, and also to illustrate the thinking behind some of what I have already written. The point is this: That the olympics are a fascist spectacle, and that one of the most fundamental differences between London and the Isle of Wight is that it is impossible for the olympics (or similar events) to occur in the latter.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Iconic Progression, Summer

A couple of different images, one dealing with the coastline of the Wight, and the other an idea towards representing the seasonal progression embodied in the three stages of walks.

Pop?

Another conversation, had a few days back in regards to the earlier posts, and only approved for publication just recently, with another friend.



Islands & Icons

So, the Isle of Wight.

First, some notes on terminology. These are terms I shall be using throughout the rest of the proceedings, that I have touched on before. The Isle of Wight is always, by it's residents, simply called "The Island". The rest of the UK is "The mainland". People who were born on the Isle of Wight (and, depending on the level of severity in play, had both their parents also born on the Isle of Wight) are 'Caulkheads'. The origins of this term (like so many) are unclear, but probably have something to do with the traditional local industry of caulking the seams in wooden ships. Other long-term residents, especially those who grew up here, are 'Islanders', people who have moved over from the mainland more recently, or are over here on business, are 'Overners' (short for 'Overlanders'). Tourists are 'Grockles'. The difference in respect accorded to an overner vs. a grockle is probably distinct just from the sound of the two words.

So, what is the Island? Where is it? Why is it?* 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Some Early Images

Now that I have a graphics tablet, work can begin in earnest on making images. First, here's a couple of images I made a few weeks back based off of an early morning photoshoot of which you've seen one photograph already (as this blog becomes more established, I will upload all the work, except perhaps the vast bulk of raw photographs, I have so far done for this project, reformatting it as necessary). 

As you can see, images  are probably the area that needs the most work...

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Walks & Walking: an outline

So, Vectis is an artistic project. Its final outcome is intended to be a book. The subject of this book is the Isle of Wight. The methodology is psychogeography and the method is writing, drawing, photography and walking. 

I've always had a suspicion that it's a bit dodgy to talk about 'methodology' when you're creating something purely artistic. It seems to have a whiff of a mis-appropriation of scientific terminology, implying something more rigorous than you ever really end up with in art. The term I would personally like to use in its stead is 'motive'; since methodology is the 'why' (opposed to the 'how' of method). Motive, to my mind, implies that even if the project is a failure, there might have been something interesting in its conception. It also allows you to potentially draw more terminology from the world of crime. Walking is part of my modus operandi.

A Tagging System

I've been thinking about a good tagging/labelling system for this blog over the past few days, and I am still not sure. I've been toying around with the idea of categories, and I've got these main ones:

About - posts that are about the Vectis Psychogeography blog itself
Form - posts that are about issues relating to the design and aesthetics of Vectis
Content - posts that are about the contents and concepts of Vectis 
Asides - posts that are not directly related to the form or content of Vectis (research, digressions, notes on books, whatever).
Conversations - IM or email exchanges involving relevant information.

On top of this, I'll also tag posts with key words that are relevant to them. So this post's tags will be

About, tags

A tag about tags? Now how's that for metatextuality? Let's see how it works out.

Precious Materials

Finally, I have my new graphics tablet.


it is...precious to me


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Thinking With Portals

First things first, know that I cannot resist the opportunity for a pop culture reference or a quick pun. Is this a failure or an asset? Personal stuff, art.

Whilst the conceptual and verbal development of Vectis continues apace, one area where things just haven't been moving forward much is the visual sphere. The main reason for this is the tragic demise of my trusty old graphics tablet. Despite being knocking around the family for 11 years, it's only in the past year or so that I've really come to use and now, I realise, rely on the device. The particular style of illustration that I want to incorporate into Vectis (clean, bold yet also somewhat subtle) relies pretty much on the use of such a device. Thankfully, I will have saved up enough money to purchase a new one by...tomorrow. So that's alright then. 

In the mean-time, I have been laying the groundwork for the illustration by taking photographs and doing sketches along the walking routes I have planned (I haven't talked about these yet, I think, in any concrete detail, and should pencil that in as a topic for a post pretty soon). Looking through these photographs just now, I have begun to notice a small fascination developing with a particular visual theme (photographs after jump):

Monday, 3 September 2012

Mukhtalif

 One great advantage of posting work online is the possibilities it brings about for dialogue. I linked the previous post to a friend, and she related a little critcism to me. The tone of the discussion is informal, but I thought the story she related was interesting and wanted to include it in my notes. I have anonymised this IM conversation, editing some parts out and renaming the participants 'the artist' (myself) and 'the other' (her).


Book introduction: Every Black'ning Church Appalls

This is the current draught of the first chapter/introduction of Vectis, as it stands at the moment. It is not the absolute first draught, of course. It retreads, somewhat more airily, themes discussed in my last post, and may be significantly re-written before the project is finished. I am still not sure about such apparently important matters as tone. It is the longest non-fragmentary piece of writing currently extant, however, and will probably be one of the longest passages that does not closely inter-relate with visual imagery.

The Origins of the Project

Vectis is a multimedia art project, designed to be finally realised in the form of a book containing images and words. This book will be produced in the tradition of the artist's book, that is to say, the physical structure of the book (pages etc.) and it's overall design will be conceptually important features of the final product. What this means is that, if all goes to plan, Vectis will not properly be able to be understood in any format but the book as I have designed and realised it. Any other presentation format will be a record of the work rather than the work itself, much as a photograph of a painting or a recording of a concert. 

The purpose of the book, as previously stated, is to explore the psychogeography of the Isle of Wight. Psychogeography is a fairly nebulous term, which I have deliberately avoided attempting a precise definition of. Literally it just means "mental geography", but the word carries all sorts of interesting associations. It sounds like 'psychology', but also a bit like 'psychopathy'; it would seem to be a word that describes a science, yet psychogeography is not really a scientific practice in the least. It is, as much as it is anything, a crystallisation of an intellectual tradition that Merlin Coverley, in his only slightly breathless introduction to the subject fittingly entitled 'Psychogeography', identifies as stretching back to British literary luminaries including Defoe and Blake, going on down the years to include such diverse figures as Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Baudelaire, Guy Debord, Alan Moore and Iain Sinclair. Coverley explicitly identifies psychogeography, through these and other writiers, with the experience of two particular cities; London and Paris. This is, to my mind, problematic. Leaving out the fact that Coverley notably fails to identify any writers that are not white men*, he also explicitly aligns his view of psychogeography with a strain of urbanist thinking that is, in it's essence, utopian.

I should clarify here that when I say that a train of thought is utopian, what I mean specifically is it comes from a tradition of western thought that recognises the possibility of utopia in a hazily (or, worryingly precisely) defined future, rather than that it assumes that the present day city is a utopian place. A continuous theme that pervades all the way through from the mysticism of Blake to the post-Marxism of the Situationist International  (via Chartism, Das Kapital, the Paris Commune etc. etc.) is the essentially Christian idea that history is a process that will lead first to tribulation and decay, and then to a better and more glorious world. In London/Paris centric psychogeography this finds itself expressed in the idea that the city (these two cities in particular) are great cultural engines that have either failed to start or are winding down because of the machinations of often nebulous systematic oppressors, expressed through modifications to and restrictions on the architecure and physical geography of the cities themselves. If the workers could be liberated, if the 'mind-forged manacles' could be shattered, if the zoning laws could be abolished, ah, what then? What better and more glorious world might we build?

My problem with this intellectual tradition is, I will admit, largely a political one. I believe, essentially, that the majority of the London/Paris writers have, whilst in many cases particularly in the 20th century espousing radical left wing views, failed to confront an essential parochialism at the core of their being. In one short, vulgar phrase, what is it that makes their homes so fucking important? It can hardly be a coincidence that London and Paris are cities that have sat at the centre of two of the vastest and, frankly, most unpleasant empires in the history of the world. Focusing particularly on the London tradition, which is more relevant to my studies, it seems obvious to me that much of the writing identified as psychogeography forms part of a tradition of small-minded intellectual imperialism that exists even within (indeed, especially within) the UK itself, where London becomes the centre of all things and a yardstick by which to measure all other places by. Part of my intention with Vectis, then, is to redress the balance a little by using the methodology of psychogeography (particularly as developed by Iain Sinclair and the admittedly broader-thinking Patrick Keiller) to deal with a much more marginal place.

The name Vectis comes from 'Insula Vectis', the Latin name for the Isle of Wight; this is the subject of the project. The island is an interesting place both because of what it is and what it is not; and this is a subject I shall expand upon in future posts. It is difficult to summarise, but I shall mention one, perhaps rather esoteric sounding point. The surface of the earth is a (rough) sphere. In euclidean geometry, this can be represented as a plane in which all straight lines become circular paths leading back to their point of origin. The centre of this plane, and thus the centre of the world, can be anywhere. We should also note, again perhaps somewhat occultly, that an island, unlike a city, has a discrete physical existence within defined geographical boundaries (its coastline) rather than defined political boundaries; that it is a product of nature rather than a product of man but is still invested with the same significance of being a distinct place we give to cities. 

Yes, I know I'm waffling.

That will probably be all for today; I have some errands to run. I am loath to set a schedule for updates to occur on certain days, as I tend to work unevenly (some days I can achieve nothing, other days I end up staying up all night hammering away). I will say, however, that I hope the updates can at least be frequent; hopefully, they will also be interesting.






*And pretty much all white heterosexual men to boot. I can do something about that at least.

Statement of intent

Welcome.

I am a post-graduate student at the Arts University College at Bournemouth, studying part-time for my MA in Fine Art. This blog is designed to be a record of and exposition of my current project, which is a book called Vectis, dealing with the psychogeography of the Isle of Wight (which is where I am from). Unfortunately, the creation of this blog does not coincide with the beginning of the project; I have been working on Vectis for three months or so now, but it does coincide with a major ramping up in the creative process. It seems at this juncture simultaneously like much has been done and nothing has been done. Really, the hardest part, for me, is over; I know the basic form and layout of the book, and thus I know the tasks I have to complete, and I have a fairly good idea of the order in which I will complete them. This blog will  document the creative process and act as a repository of writing and critical self-analysis. What I want to do is not to create an online version of the final book, but to create a document which is supplementary to. This blog will also fulfill an academic purpose as well as an artistic one, being at least an element of my submission for the Professional Development Portfolio portion of my second unit, if not the entire submission (we'll have to see how it goes, eh?). 

What you can expect to find here will be drawings, photographs and other visual artworks related to or in preparation for the final product; design sketches and proofs for the book itself; thoughts and comments on the creative process and general writings which will probably form the basis for some parts of the book.