Archive for the ‘Notes’ Category
It’s surprisingly busy in St Ives at the moment. The Seafood Cafe on Fore Street was full on Tuesday night. The taxi driver at the station (the one who took pity on me and gave me a lift from St Erth in the cold rain after the last branch line train had gone and her booking didn’t turn up) said she thinks there are a few coach trips. The two holiday flats in the square have been empty since I moved in, but the one across the way in Fore Street has had guests since last week.
There seem to be a lot of holiday lets around the Square. I couldn’t see anybody elses’s rubbish out when I put mine out to be collected last week. In some ways, this is a bit sad. It’s very quiet at night, and I can feel the emptiness. Sometimes it’s reassuring to know that there’s somebody, just though the wall. There are people who live over the arch into the square, as I’ve seen lights sometimes, but I haven’t seen them. I haven’t seen any lights on in the buildings that back on to my house. Although, I thought I heard a baby crying faintly through the wall in the early hours once. The emptiness is also a joyful thing; when I want to listen to my records loudly, I’m glad that I’m not bothering anyone. At least, I don’t think so. I’m sure someone will let me know.
It’s been a really busy week, with not much sleep owing to my apparently unfortunate luck with airbeds. After breaking the valve in the first one, and failing to fix it, I wearily bought a replacement airbed. Luckily, Colenso’s Hardware, run by the deputy Mayor, sells pretty much everything I can think of needing that isn’t edible or wearable. The new one was blissfully comfortable for almost a week. Then it also started to slowly go down in the night, eventually lowering me to the floor before six o’clock in the morning.
I only moved in two weeks and one day ago, but living here has had a surprisingly immediate effect on my research. As I’d been in to Colenso’s every day last week with my tales of airbed woe, requiring vegetable peelers, gaffer tape and tape measures, picture hooks and wire, I got chatting to Colin, the Deputy Mayor of St Ives. As well as running the shop for the last forty five years, and being Deputy Mayor, he also sits on the board of trade and commerce, of which his wife is chair, and he has a great deal of interesting things to say about the town. He also agreed to be interviewed, which I look forward to once I’ve pinned him down.
I went to Lanhams to drop off the spare keys that I’d borrowed to get a sofa delivered last Friday (a relief to have something other than the floor to sit on, which is a story in itself. The second-hand furniture shop in St Ives is run by extremely nice people) and lovely Bev, (Special Constable and lettings agent) had a long list of people that she suggested I interview. There followed much discussion on stories and gossip in St Ives, which was fascinating. I’m intrigued by the goings-on in Piazza-Barnaloft, and one-eyed Tony, and things I’m not going to repeat here. I imagine I may not be able to use some of these interviews for ethical reasons, but I’ll certainly enjoy the process of interviewing. It’s interesting to build up a picture, or diagram, of the connections (and disconnections) between people and places, the way that community works (and doesn’t work) here.
Now that I’ve finally moved to St Ives, living in town means that my research can be more autoethnographic, which means my subjective experience of everyday life also becomes a kind of social research method. Things like going to the local hardware shop (every day last week, for a vegetable peeler, gaffer tape, airbed, tape measure) start conversations about St Ives. This means more stories to record and discussions to have. Being part of the community I’m researching is, I think, really important to gaining a deeper understanding of place, its rhythms and narratives.
One of the delights of this is Feast Day. I overslept after not sleeping well, and was woken to the sound of drums along Fore Street as the procession made its way up to St Eia’s well (up the hill past Porthmeor, by the cemetery). I managed to have a shower and coffee in time to be outside my house to see the procession on its way back down Fore Street. The band were followed by the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, some other town officials (I’m never quite sure of their correct titles, I really should know after the Knill Ceremony), and school children dancing. They all wore ivy wreaths, and some wore Cornish tartan.
I took my coffee and wandered after the procession with the crowd, through the mild February drizzle towards the parish church gardens. This is where the Mayor begins the hurling at half past ten o’clock, by throwing a silver ball to the waiting children on the beach below.
Cornish hurling is something like quidditch, played without broomsticks. There is a silver ball, usually made of wood and covered in metal, which is probably quite painful if it hits you. The aim of the game is to return the ball to the Mayor at the Guildhall by twelve o’clock. The winner gets a silver coin. There don’t seem to be any other rules, really. The first boy to catch the ball ended up with his face shoved into the sand. In the melee that followed, those involved in a scrum of punching and wrestling were so busy fighting that they didn’t see one of the bigger girls take flight with the ball. After that, the children dispersed to hunt the ball around the town. They also have to avoid being fooled into chasing one of the decoy balls, usually an orange covered in silver foil.
There follows an hour and a half of children running through the streets, shouting that so-and-so has got the ball, or that so-and-so had given it to someone else. Tactics are planned weeks in advance, hiding places pre-planned.
Everyone gathers in front of the Guildhall to wait for the ball to come back. In between, the Western Hunt (who weren’t hunting owing to poor dog health) and some saboteurs dressed as foxes came and went in Royal Square, which I missed.
Apparently, the bigger children are supposed to give the ball to one of the smaller ones to give to the Mayor. This didn’t really happen. A group of pink-faced older boys, steaming and over-excitedly restless as race horses, appeared, waiting for midday. They managed to get to the steps of the Guildhall without losing their ball, and presented it to the Mayor, to much cheering and applause.
The Mayor, Deputy Mayor and others then appeared on the balcony to throw (according to Bev, specially polished) shiny pennies to the children waiting below. I was quite surprised at the excitement of twelve year-olds to falling pennies, but the police were there to keep public order and prevent any injuries.
After that, the crowd dispersed, and I went home to get on with the long list of things to-do this week.
So, in moving towards the idea of a post-digital world, what exactly does that mean? The reification of digital technologies seems to be a natural progression from on-screen to real life from other kinds of digital media.
The physicalization of the digital, like 3D cinema and TV, is a way of breaking out of the frame of the screen into the outside world. Examples of this can be seen in everything from craft practice, where 3D tools used on computers in 2D are being made physical to produce 3D objects (e.g Makerbot; Autonomatic’s 3D drawing machines at UCF); or in the transformation of the computer game from 2D/on-screen/inside to playing games like Slingshot’s city-wide zombie chase game 2.8 Hours later; to the gamification of social networking. The computer game, it appears, has somehow come to permit us to play again socially as adults.
Augmented Reality and pervasive media allow the internet to exist in physical spaces, creating hybrid spaces where invisible information creates another dimension, where we no longer need to dwell in virtual realms that are separated from our physical bodies but create spaces that are neither one or the other. Real life and digital lives are the same thing. Just living.
Museums, galleries and archives are no longer confined to their institutions but history litters the streets to be discovered. But also advertisers will also occupy these spaces, and this space will be as contested as much as any other.
The physicalization of the digital in craft making is produced by challenging and interrogating digital tools. What would have previously only been possible in 3D digital design on a 2D computer screen, developments in Rapid Prototyping and CNC allow objects to break out of the frame of the computer screen, creating new possibilities in making 3D objects that were previously only conceivable in 2D. Ultimately, as McCullough suggests, using digital technology is not about automation, or an anonymous computerised aesthetic, it is about intellectual investigation and creative manipulation, using hand and head to develop tools that give a new context to modes of production.
Once upon a time, there were people who liked to dress up as orcs and wizards and things and go out into the woods and shout a bit and play fight dragons with swords. And there were the historical re-enactors, who did similar things, but without the orcs and with authentic chain mail and swords.
People laughed a bit, and saw it as a bit geeky.
There were also the gamers. And first they would stay in their darkened bedrooms that perhaps smelt of Lynx and socks, on their own, or perhaps with friends. And then came the internet, and despite issues of lag, the gamers could play with and talk to anyone in the world, even if it was mostly about lag.
People worried a bit about violence and too much time indoors, and thought it was a bit geeky.
The zombie walk phenomenon has by this time spread throughout the world, with one day a year being dedicated to the celebration of the undead. On this day, people dress like rotting corpses and wander through major cities, horrifying the general public by threatening to eat their brains. The increasing popularity of zombies over the last ten years has undoubtedly been examined far better than I can do here, but it doesn’t take much imagination to see the zombie as a metaphor for the unthinking consumer culture, and the brain-dead powerlessness of the masses against the corruption of media and government.
All of these things were good, and fun.
And then, one day, someone thought, ‘why are we sitting inside being chased by zombies?’
‘Why don’t we all go outside, and play a massive zombie chase game? But without computers, just a map of the city and some fake blood.’
And this was a brilliant idea.
So, that’s what they did. And every year more and more people came to play, and they thought it was brilliant too.
People began to think this is normal.
With igfest, Hide & Seek, Slingshot and others, grown adults running around the streets being chased by other grown-ups has become an acceptable and practically mainstream activity.
I’m part of a generation who doesn’t remember a world without computers. My dad used to programme games for me and my sister on our ZX Spectrum.
It seems that this is part of a wider ‘ludic turn’, where we’ve become much more interested in the idea of play. It’s not just a way of extending ‘kidulthood’, but has wider implications. It’s probably not surprising that ideas of play and game theory are getting into everyday life.
Cold War game theory politics and Cold War military technology are programmed into us and into computer games; the first Gulf War is viewed in night-vision simulation; terrorism obsesses real-life and game-worlds.
So, is this ludic turn just another form of escapism, or could it be used as a powerful tool for collaboration? Technology separates, according to Guy Debord, and prevents any action against the dominant power. Is this a mass detournement where playful situationism becomes part of the everyday? Are games like 2.8 Hours Later a pre-cursor to the gamification of activism?
In a letter to the St. Ives Times & Echo, local genuine artist Tony Shiels writes of ‘the plight of the thirsty St. Ives artists and their ‘beat’ comrades in the cause’. In order to ‘clarify one or two points raised and clouded in the press recently’ he reiterates the point that the ‘St. Ives landlords have stated that they would never refuse to serve a drink to a genuine artist, and the trouble has been caused by bearded strangers whose occupation cannot, instantly, be “pinned down”. This of course could be solved by asking these landlords to sponsor a scheme whereby any artist, after a stiff examination, could purchase a large badge or license, to produce, if at any time, he felt like a quick quencher.’
“It doesn’t matter about the rest, they’re not artists do they have no right to dress like them, or drink with them!”
The fact is that people who have lived and drunk in this town for years are now being insulted and ejected by landlords who recognise them, but don’t want to know them any more!
To say that it is only strangers that are banned is completely untrue. I am a painter with a wife and family. I own a house here and pay rates, but during the past three or four weeks I have been turned away from more than half the “public” houses, with no reason given. Of course there is no reason; the whole affair is unreasonable!
I was more than a little annoyed the other day to read in two newspapers that Mr. Couch as chairman of the Penwith Society of Arts in Cornwall said that he fully sympathised with these landlords. He should rather sympathise with those members, like myself, who have had to suffer the annoyance…worst “beatnik,” so let us, please, have no more of it.’ [St. Ives Times & Echo, 21st April 1961]
And from Michael McCafferty, just below the Shiel’s letter, and under the header quote ‘The Gestapo didn’t like beards’:
‘Dear Sir, – I have always thought rather lightly of the occasional conflicts between those who regard the arts as an expression of their existence, and those to whom a conventional way of life appeals. Until now this conflict has always taken the form of little manifestations of differing temperaments, other than anything serious. When an individual objects to one because of dress or any other aspect of behaviour, it is quite easy, although the objection might be irritating, to take the broad view and allow them their personal predilection.
It is quite a different matter when a group of landlords, or any other group, take it upon themselves to object indiscriminately to any section of the community. It then becomes a question of conform or else.’ [St. Ives Times & Echo, 21st April 1961]
[...]Donovan was down in St Ives in 1962 or 63 – he was a friend of my sister Jane. I remember lending him a tent as he was living rough – a lot of his songs were inspired by St Ives. In autumn 1966 he returned with an ITV film crew to make a film. The hour long documentary was to be set half in London and half in St Ives, and Donovan sent the crew round to hire us all as extras. Eventually a dozen or so of us gathered on Porthminster beach with Don, his friend Gypsy Dave and also the American Folk Legend Derrol Adams who was travelling with the party. For three pounds a day, good money then, we were to play beatniks, sitting around a camp fire cooking mackerel and potatoes whilst Donovan mimed to a tape of his current hit record ‘Catch The Wind’. The props department rushed around town buying kettle, mugs, cutlery and rolls of tin foil, all of which were in mint condition and so we had to age it all with the aid of candle smoke. As for the mackerel, well there just weren’t any in St Ives on that day so the company had six driven over from Newlyn by taxi. Filming continued for a week, on the beach, in an old Second World War bunker above it and in the woods above the town where Don and his friends had camped first time round. The continuity girl would demand ‘who was smoking in the last shot’ all our hands would shoot up and we were tossed Senior Service cigarettes, a posh smoke that no self respecting beat would have been seen with in those days. In the end the film was actually quite good and clips from it turn up every now and again in ‘The Sounds of The Sixties’ series on T.V. – it really is quite strange seeing younger versions of us all after all these years.
For the rest of the article, see http://www.artcornwall.org/interview%20Martin%20Val%20Baker.htm
For whom is there no room at the inn?
One of the endearing things about St. Ives has been its comparative freedom from snobbishness and its tolerance of people who do not conform to the average middle class Englishman’s notions of respectability. The inns of St. Ives and especially The Sloop, must surely must surely have been for at least half a century among the least class-conscious meeting places in the world.
It is sad therefore that a deplorable and thoroughly untypical incident should have occurred recently at The Sloop to provide publicans with further justification for their growing disinclination to serve with drink young men and women who look as though they might qualify for the title “beatnik”.
A young German girl, a genuine art student who was enjoying the experience of visiting a town which can claim to be one of the world’s leading art centres, was an innocent cause, and one of the victims, of the ugly scene in which the licensee, Mr. Phil Rogers received a blow on the face with a water jug and a young man was ejected from the inn.
There will be sympathy too for Mr. Rogers and some sympathy too for the German girl who was deeply hurt and unable to understand why, in St. Ives of all places, she should be denied a drink in an inn infamous for its associations with art and artists. She was affecting the same style of dress and hair-do as many young people have adopted in Britain, America and on the continent – a form of dress which, as far as we know, has nowhere been declared illegal… or their employees and were not dressed like fishermen, postmen, bakers or bank clerks.
A licensee has a right to refuse service he thinks gives, has given or might give offence to himself or his customers. He has to consider the desires and even the prejudices, of his regular customers. There are few people in the licensed trade for purely altruistic reasons.
In recent years a growing number of young, shiftless and often dirty and unkempt young men and woman [sic] have discovered that St. Ives and other Cornish resorts can just about provide them with a living. They work through the holiday season and somehow linger on through the winter. None of them are artists but some of them have attached themselves to the fringe of the modern art movements.
They are a social problem, and probably happy to remain as such. There are not many of them in St. Ives and they cause a good deal less trouble than the militant type of teddy boy of whom St. Ives – let all its highly respectable citizens thank the lord – is mercifully free.
But there are no “spit and sawdust” bars in St. Ives. St. Ives inns make no provision for people who are unkempt and whose manners are offensive. Toleration cannot be expected to stretch that far.
Mistakes have been made. Perfectly respectable and wholesome people have been refused drinks in St. Ives – generally perhaps by mistake. The licensees say they have no intention of banning artists or art students or members of any other calling as long as they are clean and well behaved, but not unnaturally their feelings about beatniks have coloured their attitude towards all young people whose understandable aspirations towards freedom from the restraints imposed by antiquated conventions lead them to grow beards, wear their hair long and dress sloppy.
The conflicting identities of place St. Ives are amusingly reflected by an article in the Times & Echo from December 1960, which reports on the previous week’s BBC West Round-up programme. It demonstrates the way that people from outside of the town can have certain expectations of place, which often come literally from the pictures that are painted of St. Ives, and the written portrait of place from outside.
Seventy-six year old Baron Ernst Rudolph Ferdinand Julian Marie de Bertouch had come from Littlehampton in East Sussex to stay in St. Ives to paint in the winter of 1959-60, and had left ‘disillusioned’.
He’d thought that the St. Ives ‘colony’ and its artistic traditions would provide him with the right environment to paint, however, he told the radio interviewer that St. Ives was ‘full of Beatniks and would be Picassos’, who were of low intelligence and of ‘high smell value’.
‘St. Ives was not a bit as I expected; the place is full of stinking Beatniks who won’t wash.’
He was politely asked to leave one of the town’s galleries, reporting that:
‘I had the honour of being thrown out of an art gallery exhibiting this abstract work. Apparently they didn’t like some of the remarks I made about some of their paintings’. The Baron concluded that the ‘most serious painters in the colony live outside St. Ives’.
The Mayor said that he had met the Baron at the opening of a show of the St. Ives Society of Artists at the New Gallery, where ‘his publicly expressed opinions about St. Ives are totally opposite to what he said to me in conversation then. He seemed very well pleased with the town’.
[St. Ives Times & Echo, 16th December 1960]
A group of people living together in one place, esp. one practicing common ownership - a community of nuns
All the people living in a particular area or place - local communities
A particular area or place considered together with its inhabitants - a rural community
The people of a district or country considered collectively, esp. in the context of social values and responsibilities; society - preparing prisoners for life back in the community
Denoting a worker or resource designed to serve the people of a particular area - community health services
A group of people having a religion, race, profession, or other particular characteristic in common - Rhode Island’s Japanese community
- the scientific community
A body of nations or states unified by common interests - the European Community
A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals - the sense of community that organized religion can provide
A similarity or identity - writers who shared a community of interests
Joint ownership or liability - a commitment to the community of goods
A group of interdependent organisms of different species growing or living together in a specified habitat - communities of insectivorous birds
A set of species found in the same habitat or ecosystem at the same time
a group of people living in a particular local area; “the team is drawn from all parts of the community” common ownership; “they shared a community of possessions”
a group of nations having common interests; “they hoped to join the NATO community”
agreement as to goals; “the preachers and the bootleggers found they had a community of interests”
residential district: a district where people live; occupied primarily by private residences
(ecology) a group of interdependent organisms inhabiting the same region and interacting with each other
In biological terms, a community is a group of interacting organisms (or different species) sharing an environment. …
In ecology, a community is an assemblage of two or more populations of different species occupying the same geographical area.
The term Communion is derived from Latin communio (sharing in common). The corresponding term in Greek is κοινωνία, which is often translated as “fellowship”. …
Porthminster Beach still holds the memory of the steam trains that came in round Hawke’s Point to the old St Ives station, in the glory years of the railways. In 1882, one of those trains brought the Stephen family from London. Virginia Stephen, then a few months old, was about to spend her first summer in St Ives. Her father, the alpinist, philosopher and man of letters Leslie Stephen, had bought the lease of Talland House in order to provide a summer home in Cornwall for his growing family of step-children and children. Until Virginia Stephen was thirteen, she spent every summer at Talland House, but the lease was given up soon after her mother’s sudden death in 1895. Leslie Stephen could not endure revisiting the scene of past happiness, and seems not to have considered that a more gentle weaning might have been easier for his children than a sudden rupture of their passionate attachment to the place.
One of my most favourite books, which will, I’m sure, feature somewhere in my work.
For the rest of the introduction, see the Granta site.
This is an interesting discussion from this morning’s Today programme on Radio 4. Following the announcement yesterday that poet Wendy Cope‘s personal archive, including 40, 000 emails, has been sold to the British Library for £32, 000.
Are emails ‘damned unromantic’? I love a letter, but surely the medium isn’t the message, and content is more useful to a researcher than its aesthetics?
John Sutherland, professor of literature at University College London, and Richard Ovenden, of the Bodleian Library, consider whether emails really denote a digital form of art, and what impact the email will have for future literary research.
I’m fascinated by the use of emulators or original machines to access digital archives. Not only does this reproduce the idea of rummaging around looking for scraps of memory on paper, it reproduces, in a small way, the working environment of the author. Perhaps reading wordprocessed documents on a green and black screen appears to lack the romanticism of haptic engagement with actual paper, but in years to come I think this will hold as much fascination for researchers as an old diary. It’s tech-nostalgia. Just as an old typewritten document connects the reader to the typewriter, and to imaginings of a memory in a particular time, so will the sensuality of chunky click-clacking on the keys of a BBC Micro, or old Apple Macintosh. Paper and its ephemeral nature bestows a certain aura on the object, yet there is also a fragile ephemerality to these kinds of technology and their digital archives, and if they are not preserved then the loss is as great. In a century from now, researchers and archivists will encounter digital archives with as much of the excitement of discovery, and the magical quality of the object, that paper engenders today.
The past is not simply there in memory, but must be articulated to become memory. The fissure that opens up between experiencing an event and remembering it in representation is unavoidable. Rather than lamenting or ignoring it, this split should be understood as a powerful stimulant for cultural and artistic creativity. The temporal status of any act of memory is always the present and not, as some naïve epistemology would have it, the past itself, even though all memory in some ineradicable sense is dependent on some past event or experience. It is this tenuous fissure between past and present that constitutes memory, making it powerfully alive and distinct from the archive or any other mere system of storage and retrieval. [Huyssen 1995]
My aim is to explore this gap between an event happening, and remembering it in representation.
Working with Memory Bay and the St. Ives Archive, I am looking at ways of rethinking the history of the creative community in St. Ives, uncovering hidden networks and connections. To do this, I have been exploring ideas of what an archive is, and how it can be disseminated.
How can a creative exploration of the archive articulate narratives of memory, identity and place to communicate notions of what constitutes an art community? What exactly is an archive, and can the split between experience and remembering be used to creatively articulate ideas of individual and collective memory related to place? What is an ‘art community’? Is it shaped by and understood through memory and place?
My work aims to rethink notions of what an art community is from within the community, using the space between experience and memory to creatively examine narratives of history, place and identity. It draws on theories of individual and collective memory, cultural history, the phenomenology of memory, cultural geography and new media practices, and uses the Memory Bay archive in St Ives (a collaboration between UCF, Tate St. Ives, St. Ives Archive, Leach Pottery and Porthmeor Studios) as a case study to explore how art and cultural practice, past and present, connects individuals and communities, and how memory and identity is intertwined with and performed through space and place.
Using space, real or imaginary, as a tool for memory is an ancient idea. In medieval times, imaginary cathedrals were built by monks to remember theological ideas as an aid to contemplation. By attaching things to be remembered to peculiar and exotic icons placed around these cathedrals, they could then journey around this space in order to create narratives of devotion. This is the same technique used to perform feats of memory today, like remembering Pi to however many decimal places.
The archive contains memory. But it does not operate in the same way as the mind.
Our ineptitude in getting at the record is largely caused by the artificiality of systems of indexing… The human mind does not work that way. It operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain. It has other characteristics, of course; trails that are not frequently followed are prone to fade, items are not fully permanent, memory is transitory. Yet the speed of action, the intricacy of trails, the detail of mental pictures, is awe-inspiring beyond all else in nature. [Vannevar Bush, 1945]
So, is it possible to create an archive of the imagination, a kind of reified version of Borges’ Library of Babel, where memory can be encountered by association? Or perhaps an emotional archive, where memory can be accessed by feelings? Or, could memory be put back in place, relocating memory in space, reflecting Bachelard’s suggestion that ‘space contains compressed time. That is what space is for.’ [Bachelard, 1958]
Instead of a cathedral, in St. Ives we have the freedom of a whole town in which to place icons and attach memories. These memories, once placed, can ‘hyperlinked’ to be encountered by moving through space, creating intimate or collective narratives of place. From this point, anything is possible.
To make this possible, to create an invisible archive that litters the town with memory, I am exploring different kinds of technology. Pervasive media is a broad term that is defined by Bristol’s research centre, The Pervasive Media Studio defines it thus:
The simple explanation:
Pervasive Media is basically any experience that uses sensors and/or mobile/wireless networks to bring you content (film, music, images, a game…) that’s sensitive to your situation – which could be where you are, how you feel, or who you are with. Oyster Cards are a simple pervasive device: so are audio guides at tourist attractions, which can give you extra information according to where you are and which bits you’ve been to already.
The more complex explanation:
Pervasive Media is Digital Media delivered into the fabric of real life and based on the situational context at the moment of delivery
The two defining features of Pervasive Media are:
1. Uses technology to understand something about the situation and
respond based on that information;
2. Uses digital media to augment (bridge) the physical environment, and
The St. Ives Archive is housed [housed; where the memory lives; the dwelling place for the memories; where memory sleeps until it is disturbed and rearranged to become history] in the Upper Chapel Room, St. Andrew’s Street. If you walk along the seafront towards the train station, you’ll find the St. Ives Society of Artists clinging to the very edge between land and sea. If you walk the other way, past the cafes and shops, weaving in and out between the holiday-makers in the summer, or trying to escape the penetrating winds in the winter, you’ll find the 15th Century church, and the harbour, and beyond that, Porthmeor beach and Tate St. Ives.
The building itself is constructed in granite, its walls almost half a metre thick. The Upper Chapel Room is found by going through a small set of blue double doors at the side, ascending the steep carpeted staircase and at the top, turn right and go through the glazed wooden door off the small landing. The space itself reveals its construction, white-painted beams hold-up the Methodist‘s architectural simplicity, the attic-like space filled with light by the large windows at each end [three per wall, two small with four sections, two with eight panes, two with six, and a larger window in the between, three instead of two wide, and an extra row of two-by-six windows on top].
It’s not an very big space, neither is it small. The room is the whole of the floor, save for a small landing with a toilet and a cupboard, and at the far corner, a latch door leads to a little kitchen with its assortment of mugs, tea-bags and tea-towels, and a kettle that seems slow to boil [though not as slow as the one in the kitchen in the house in which I live].
At the kitchen end, is a computer that stores the oral history archive and slide-shows of photos, and next to it is the microfiche machine. Microfiche is still an esoteric thing of great mystery to me. I only partly understand it. We need to become better acquainted, the microfiche and I. Working clockwise around the room from the microfiche on the back wall next to the kitchen, there is the Family History Corner. This is for actual genealogy, rather than the genealogy of ideas or knowledge. Along the long wall that faces the door, are cupboard-topped shelves that reach from floor to ceiling, except because the roof is sloped, there is a gap. I’ve often thought it might be a good place to sleep [sleep with sleeping memories], rather than just daydreaming.
On the shelves are a rainbow of ring-binders, filed not quite according to their position on the spectrum. They are filed according to subject, and to each subject a colour is assigned. It starts with blue for Family History at the far end, then red for Buildings, purple for History, green for Maritime, and yellow, for sun, sand and Tourism. Black ringbinders are for the serious matter of the arts. Grey archive boxes contain monochrome memories in black and white photos. See-through plastic boxes hold precious glass plates and photographic negatives; look through to see.
Turning to face in the opposite direction is the other wall with the big windows which face the sea, with St. Eia’s Church to the left and the Society of Artists to the right. You can just see the see in the middle, between the rooftops opposite. You can also see Godrevy, dunes, sand, but no lighthouse. Along this wall are computers. These are necessary for lots of reasons, yet the data stored in the memory of the volunteers is far easier to access, and can be retrieved using simple voice activated commands. This is much more user friendly, and needs no special training to use. The search results are filtered, and come with intelligent metadata, and recommendations for further searches. Apparently, this is also how the Semantic web, or Web 3.0 will work. There are no accession numbers, or filing systems required. However, the system of memories is unique, sophisticated and individualised.
Turning again to the other long wall, there is a fireplace, not in use for fireside tales, with a sign above that says ‘THIS IS A DISUSED MINESHAFT it has been fenced for your protection PLEASE HELP TO KEEP IT SAFE’. Next to this there are three filing cabinets, two brownish beige and one royal blue. From left to right, they respectively contain administrative things, Artists and Sculptors and General Art (A-Z), and Volunteers and Displays and Writers and Poets. Next to filing cabinets is a dividing wall of desks and photocopier at ninety degrees to the wall, ending in a display table with local history books and postcards of local views for sale. The door to the stairs is on the other side of this half-wall. This divides the volunteer’s working area from the public’s working area. This separation is further defined by the difference between the assorted proper desks on the one side, and smaller tables, each with two assorted chairs, on the other. The visitors’ side tables, three of them, are an interwar shade of lemon syllabub. Modern red and black chairs sit in pairs with the lemony tables. The half-glazed door leads out on to the landing again, and on the landing is the cupboard where books are stored, and not unlike in Borges’ Library of Babel, the toilet.
But as Bachelard said, one never goes downstairs from the attic.
JOURNALS: New German Critique, No. 65, Cultural History/Cultural Studies (Spring – Summer, 1995), pp. 125-133
No. 65, Cultural History/Cultural Studies (Spring – Summer, 1995), pp. 125-133
In the third decade of this century, the sociologist Maurice Halbwachs and the art historian Aby Warburg independently developed’ two theo- ries of a ”collective” or “social memory.” Their otherwise fundamen- tally different approaches meet in a decisive dismissal of numerous turn- of-the-century attempts to conceive collective memory in biological terms as an inheritable or “racial memory,”2 a tendency which would still obtain, for instance, in C. G. Jung‘s theory of archetypes.3 Instead, both Warburg and Halbwachs shift the discourse concerning collective knowledge out of a biological framework into a cultural one.
We define the concept of cultural memory through a double delimitation that distinguishes it:
- from what we call “communicative” or “everyday memory,” which in the narrower sense of our usage lacks “cultural” characteristics;
- from science, which does not have the characteristics of memory as it relates to a collective self-image.
For the sake of brevity, we will leave aside this second delimitation which Halbwachs developed as the distinction between memory and history and limit ourselves to the first: the distinction between communicative and cultural memory.
[Through communicative] communication, each individual composes a memory which…is (a) socially mediated and (b) relates to a group. Every individual memory constitutes itself in communication with others. These “others,” however, are not just any set of people, rather they are groups who conceive their unity and peculiarity through a common image of their past. Every individual belongs to numerous…groups and therefore entertains numerous collective self-images and memories.
Through the practice of oral history, we have gained a more precise insight into the peculiar qualities of this everyday form of collective memory, which, with L. Niethammer, we will call communicative mem- ory. Its most important characteristic is its limited temporal horizon. As all oral history studies suggest, this horizon does not extend more than eighty to (at the very most) one hundred years into the past, which equals three or four generations or the Latin saeculum. This horizon shifts in direct relation to the passing of time. The communicative memory offers no fixed point which would bind it to the ever expanding past in the passing of time. Such fixity can only be achieved through a cul- tural formation and therefore lies outside of informal everyday memory.
[I]n the context of objectivized culture and of organized or ceremonial communication, a close connection to groups and their identity exists which is similar to that found in the case of everyday memory. We can refer to the structure of knowledge in this case as the “concretion of identity.” …[A] group bases its consciousness of unity and specificity upon this knowledge and derives formative and normative impulses from it, which allows the group to reproduce its identity. In this sense, objectivized culture has the structure of memory. Only in historicism, as Nietzsche perceptively and clairvoyantly remarked in “On the Advantage andDisadvantage of History for Life,” does this structure begin to dissolve.
Just as the communicative memory is characterized by its proximity to the everyday, cultural memory is characterized by its distance from the everyday. Distance from the everyday (transcendence) marks its temporal horizon. Cultural memory has its fixed point; its horizon does not change with the passing of time. These fixed points are fateful events of the past, whose memory is maintained through cultural formation (texts, rites, monuments) and institutional communication (recitation, practice, observance). We call these “figures of memory.” In the flow of everyday communications such festivals, rites, epics, poems, images, etc., form “islands of time,” islands of a completely different temporality suspended from time. In cultural memory, such islands of time expand into memory spaces of ”retrospective contemplativeness” [retrospective Besonnenheit]. This expression stems from Aby Warburg.
Concretion of identity…
Through such a concretion of identity evolves what Nietzsche has called the “constitution of horizons.” The supply of knowledge in the cultural memory is characterized by sharp distinctions made between those who belong and those who do not, i.e., between what appertains to oneself and what is foreign. Access to and transmission of this knowl- edge are not controlled by what Blumenberg calls “theoretical curios- ity,” but rather by a “need for identity” as described by Hans Mol.
Capacity to reconstruct…
No memory can preserve the past. What remains is only that “which society in each era can reconstruct within its contemporary frame of reference.”19 Cultural memory works by recon- structing, that is, it always relates its knowledge to an actual and contem- porary situation. True, it is fixed in immovable figures of memory and stores of knowledge, but every contemporary context relates to these dif- ferently, sometimes by appropriation, sometimes by criticism, sometimes by preservation or by transformation. Cultural memory exists in two modes: first in the mode of potentiality of the archive whose accumulated texts, images, and rules of conduct act as a total horizon, and second in the mode of actuality, whereby each contemporary context puts the objec- tivized meaning into its own perspective, giving it its own relevance.
The objectivation or crystallization of communicated meaning and collectively shared knowledge is a prerequisite of its transmission in the culturally institutionalized heritage of a society. ”Stable” formation is not dependent on a single medium such as writ- ing. Pictorial images and rituals can also function in the same way. One can speak of linguistic, pictorial, or ritual formation and thus arrives at the trinity of the Greek mysteries: legomenon, dromenon, and deiknymenon. As far as language is concerned, formation takes place long before the invention of writing. The distinction between the com- municative memory and the cultural memory is not identical with the distinction between oral and written language.
With this we mean a) the institutional buttressing of communication, e.g., through formulization of the communicative situa- tion in ceremony and b) the specialization of the bearers of cultural memory. The distribution and structure of participation in the communi- cative memory are diffuse. No specialists exist in this regard. Cultural memory, by contrast, always depends on a specialized practice, a kind of ”cultivation.”21 In special cases of written cultures with canonized texts, such cultivation can expand enormously and become extremely differentiated.
The relation to a normative self-image of the group engenders a clear system of values and differentiations in importance which structure the cultural supply of knowledge and the symbols. There are important and unimportant, central and peripheral, local and interlocal symbols, depending on how they function in the production, representation, and reproduction of this self-image. Historicism is positioned firmly against this perspectival evaluation of a heritage, which is centered on cultural identity.
The past is not simply there in memory, but must be articulated to become memory. The fissure that opens up between experiencing an event and remembering it in representation is unavoidable. Rather than lamenting or ignoring it, this split should be understood as a powerful stimulant for cultural and artistic creativity. The temporal status of any act of memory is always the present and not, as some naïve epistemology would have it, the past itself, even tho all memory in some ineradicable sense is dependent on some past event or experience. It is this tenuous fissure between past and present that constitutes memory, making it powerfully alive and distinct from the archive or any other mere system of storage and retrieval.
JOURNALS: New German Critique No. 65, Cultural History/Cultural Studies (Spring – Summer, 1995), pp. 19-36
No. 65, Cultural History/Cultural Studies (Spring – Summer, 1995), pp. 19-36
["Popular culture"] may suggest, in one anthropological inflexion which has been influential with social historians, an over-consensual view of this culture as “a system of shared meanings, attitudes and values, and the symbolic forms (performances, artifacts) in which they are embodied.” But a culture is also a pool of diverse resources, in which traffic passes between the literate and the oral, the superordi- nate and the subordinate, the village and the metropolis; it is an arena of conflictual elements, which requires some compelling pressure – as, for example, nationalism or prevalent religious orthodoxy or class consciousness – to take form as “system.” And, indeed, the very term “culture,” with its cozy invocation of consensus, may serve to distract attention from social and cultural contradictions, from the fractures and oppositions within the whole.
- Edward P. Thompson Customs in Common. Studies in Traditional Popular Cul- ture (New York: New P, 1993) 6
Here … is the outline of one significant line of thinking in Cultural Studies …. It stands opposed to the residual and merely reflective role assigned to “the cultural.” In its different ways, it conceptualizes culture as interwoven with all social practices; and those practices, in turn, as a common form of human activity: sensuous human praxis, the activity through which men and women make history. It is opposed to the base-superstructure way of formulating the relationship between ideal and material forces, especially where the “base” is defined as the determination by “the economic” in any simple sense. It defines “culture” as both the meanings and values which arise amongst distinctive groups and classes, on the basis of their given his- torical conditions and relationships, through which they “handle” and respond to the conditions of existence; and as the lived traditions and practices through which these “understandings” are expressed and in which they are embodied.
- Stuart Hall, ”Cultural Studies: Two Paradigms,” Culture/Power/History. A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory, eds. Nicholas B. Dirks, Geoff Eley, and Sherry B. Ortner (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993) 527
Foucault’s ideas have sensitized us to the subtle and complex interrelations between power and knowledge, particularly in the modalities of disciplinary and administra- tive organization of knowledge in a society. “Discourse” is a way of theo- rizing the internal rules and regularities of particular fields of knowledge in this sense (their “regimes of truth”), as well as the more general structures of ideas and assumptions that delimit what can and cannot be thought and said in particular contexts of place and time. Such an approach has challenged the historian’s usual assumptions about individ- ual and collective agency and their bases of interest and rationality, help- ing us to see instead how subjectivities are constructed and produced within and through languages of identification that lie beyond the volition and control of individuals in the classic Enlightenment sense.
JOURNALS: New German Critique No. 65, Cultural History/Cultural Studies (Spring – Summer, 1995), pp. 3-17
No. 65, Cultural History/Cultural Studies (Spring – Summer, 1995), pp. 3-17
[...] this event was characterized by sharply focused statements punctuated by intense and often passionately enga- ged debate. At a time when the term “cultural” has established itself as something like a master-trope in the humanities, preying on and displac- ing the notion of the “textual” as used in literary criticism and the “social” as in social history, a conference on cultural history, its past and present practices, and its relationship to the emerging field of cultural studies was certainly timely.
[...] lack of clearly defined disciplinary boundaries in cultural studies also carries its own risks. Interdisciplinary confer- ences in particular are often afflicted by what we might call a premature anti-disciplinarity. In the enthusiasm about crossing disciplinary thresh- olds, participants frequently forget to fully account for the position from which those crossings began. Thus for an undertaking like cultural his- tory it matters much if the point de ddpart is history, sociology, anthropo- logy, literary criticism or art history. If common goals can be articulated around issues of cultural representation, disciplinary practices will vary widely from the archival research of the historian to the participant obser- vation of the anthropologist; from the modelling of the sociologist to the textual or iconological criticism of the literary critic and the art historian. The less such differences in practice are articulated, the more they assert themselves in debate in the form of rancor, irritation, and frustration. In fact, the central controversy of the symposium was precisely over the claims of “disciplinarity” as opposed to the perceived amoand irreverent “boundary-crossing” practices of cultural studies.
Pre- mature anti-disciplinarity is a major problem when it leads to the aban- donment of the archive and the object, to ignoring traditional cultural forms, to the shunning of close reading, and to the forgetting of any- thing but the currently or formerly popular. We perceive this as a more important problem in cultural studies than the often heard accusation of hyper-politicization which simply resurrects the old chestnut of the man- datory separation of politics and culture. The reservations expressed (and often heard at the conference) by historians and literary critics who insist on some grounding in “disciplinarity” are not entirely inappropri- ate. Rather than problematizing and working through traditional dichoto- mies such as text/context, high culture/low culture, fact/fiction, or modernity/postmodernity, cultural studies all too often simply reverses the plus and minus signs in the name of transgression and subversion. Radical constructivists will ridicule the historian’s concern with factic- ity and will in turn be accused of relativism and nihilism. The focus on context will dissolve the text which no longer even has to be read care- fully.2 The triumphalism of the popular and mass cultural replaces the celebration of canonical high culture, but risks becoming equally canoni- cal and exclusionary. Postmodernity and its concerns with the important issues of gender, class, race, and sexuality is seen as a panacea while all the ills of the world are blamed on modernity and Eurocentrism.
The canon which helped stabilize cultural identity across generations by providing what Assmann refers to as a “concretization of identity” in “figures of memory” such as texts, monuments, and insti- tutional practices is now questioned by other cultural constructs focus- ing on gender, multiculturalism, race, and, in a cultural anthropological perspective that recurs to popular culture and the everyday, on once invisible aspects of everyday behavior and habitus.
[...] historicism: the search for quasi-biological organic unities linking philosophical doctrines, artistic styles, poetic expression, and quotidian artifacts. The historicist impulse was evident in the nineteenth-century obsession with musealization, monumentalization, with the “invention of tradition,” and with the quest for the sources of an active principle in the history of states. Cultural history, as Lamprecht defined it in 1896, was histoire totale: the epochal and morphologically constitutive elements of a nation’s collective biography.In contrast to an older tradition of cultural history that exhausted itself in the task of framing the motifs of nationalist discourse, the current revival of interest in cultural history is clearly conceived as a mode of resistance to universalizing, monumentalizing history.
macrohistory, close-ups Thus in the practices of cultural history, one can distinguish between the practitioners of everyday history, who often fall prey to a fetishization or poetization of their discrete multifarious objects, and the historical theorists whose overdetermining use of structural, teleological, or even apocalyptic perspectives on development and transformation loses sight of the fragments and obscured places in history [...]
[A]rchive [...] links the practice of cultural history to memory in a concrete way. [...][C]onceived as compilations of suppressed emotions and behaviors – iconographic repositories of psychological tropes “stored” in collections.Memory, as Benjamin understood it, was an eminently “practical” affair, combining a passion for collection with a sense of history as retrieval.
Christian Boltanski‘s “Missing House,” the Plotzensee Memorial, and “The Topograph of Terror” demonstrates how each of these commemorative sites demands the “empathetic engagement of an informed beholder in the contemplation of material, formal, and documentary configurations.” Particularly evident in the Boltanski work, the artist uses historical research and reconstruction in order to endow a concrete physical environment with the status of a site for memory, “a work of history as well as a work of art.”
[...] Huyssen introduced another complex of issues centered on the cultural contingencies of lived temporality and public memory. He described the inherent instability of all memory and the hybrid temporality emerging from the jumble of a non-synchronous condition of consciousness that is induced electronically by the flicker- ing images of popular culture in the new media. The obsession with memory as well as cultural amnesia, the waning of history in its teleo- logical incarnation and its simultaneous resurrections in the real and in multiple representations are some of the contradictory results of this manner of mediation, which is accompanied by the decline in the public impact of intellectuals and of traditional producers of cultural representations in literature and the arts. The public need for history and cultural memory seems to be real.
Huyssen’s recurrence to classic modernist formulations of memory eventually leads him to a positive formulation of public and pri- vate memory as a strategy to slow down information processing, to resist the dissolution of time in the synchronicity of the on-line archive, and to recover a mode of contemplation outside the universe of simula- tion. His conceptualization of memory tends toward what Warburg termed “retrospective contemplativeness” (retrospektive Besonnenheit: see Assmann, Diers, Weigel, Czaplicka) and what Benjamin meant by Eingedenken [remembrance], but the context of memory in the late twen- tieth century is a fundamentally different one. Thus the politics of mem- ory suggested by Huyssen abandons the emphatically contemplative and redemptive mode of memory that saves the import (not just the image or reconstruction) of the past itself by actualizing it in an active form of remembering and interpretation, in a kind of Vergegenwdrrtigung. That active remembering, as Czaplicka proposes, often involves figures of memory characterized by an openness or allusiveness that involves the contemplative subject in a concrete relation to history through documentation, site, and specificity.
Searching for possibilities of escaping our postmodern amnesia in the mediations of museal culture, Huyssen noted how museum objects may escape or even transcend the fetishization of commodities in the econom- ics of symbolic exchange. As Gottfried Korff suggested in his paper, especially common objects of everyday use, the residues of a former present, saved from history in museums and other collections provide a key to the historicity of everyday life, the sphere of culture which has most often been left in the dark by the grand narratives of cultural history.
From Tate Research.
Art museums, however, also need to engage with the increasingly diverse practices of contemporary artists, constructing new narratives from the complex and unresolved histories of contemporary culture. Their functions of collecting, conserving, displaying and interpreting art are now being reframed in the light of new art practices and a rapidly evolving vision of the relationship of art museums and their publics.
There has been a wealth of research into the nature, experience and expectations of museum audiences in recent decades, with attention focusing particularly on the complex relationships between culture, community, learning and identity, and on issues of enfranchisement and social inclusion. Tate Learning has a long and distinguished record in the field of gallery education. However, there remains a strong sense within museums that much more remains to be understood about the changing nature of visitor experience, learning and expectations, and about how to view the place and future of the art museum in relation to non-visitors. At the same time, visitors are increasingly seen to interpret material and construct meaning in their own way, and to hold conversations among themselves using social media, leaving museums with the challenge of finding new ways of connecting with a broad public.
Modernity & Nostalgia, the Domestic Exotic
Alec Walker’s print designs, based on his paintings of rural Cornwall, are unsentimental in their semi-abstracted appearance and brush-like strokes. The pastoral patterns are at once modern, familiar and feminine. With pattern names conjuring visions of West Cornwall, such as Godrevy, St. Michael’s Mount, Fairy Glade and Cornish Farm, the designs were naïvely abstracted visions of pastoral landmarks, real and imagined. Railway advertising had prompted a significant rise in the numbers of visitors to Cornwall after 1904, and the ‘Cornish Riviera’ was compared favourably with Italy, despite bearing virtually no resemblance to the Mediterranean. For the most part, ideas of the imagined geography of rural England tended to include only the southern and eastern counties, excluding the wilds of the far South West. The British art-loving public would have already been familiar with the paradigm of images of the Cornish domestic exotic, as perfectly expressed in terms of romantic otherness in a travel guide for west Cornwall from 1928:
If Penzance, St. Ives and the Land’s End were replicas of Blackpool, Yarmouth or Margate, it would be folly to expect anyone to travel so far for what can be obtained near at hand by residents of London, the Midlands and the great northern towns. To visit Cornwall is to travel beyond the pale of the commonplace, into practically another country. It is characteristic of all the county that though it is England it is not of it. It is often forgotten that Cornwall is practically an island […] the wide sweeping river Tamar cutting it off from the rest of England.
[…] Cornwall is a county of romance, and has been less touched by the commercial spirit of the age than any other part of England. Less than sixty years ago the old passenger-vans took nearly four days to reach Plymouth from Penzance, so that it was a rare thing to find visitors crossing the Tamar for the purpose of viewing the Cornish scenery, and thus Cornwall remained a terra incognita to the great majority of Englishmen.
It is England, ‘but not of it’. Cornwall is isolated and removed, ‘practically another country’, which inspires the spirit of adventure, a journey into the unknown, yet is also only half-a-day’s travel from London. Cornwall is England’s unknown county, like the wild primeval subconscious to the familiar conscious of rational England.
The countryside was a focus for illusion and imagination, which went through rapid change in the interwar period, where changes in taxation saw estates being sold off, the emergence of the professional farmer, and difficult economic times with high unemployment. Rural England could be alienating and disturbing, an unfamiliar confrontation with the ancient past, an encounter with the exotic, as Waugh describes in Scoop:
His knowledge of rural life was meagre. […] ‘The country,’ for him, meant what you saw in the train between Liverpool Street and Frinton. If a psychoanalyst, testing his associations, had suddenly said to Mr. Salter the word ‘farm,’ the surprising response would have been ‘Bang,’ for he had once been blown up and buried while sheltering in a farm in Flanders. It was his single intimate association with the soil. It had left him with the admittedly irrational belief that agriculture was something alien and highly dangerous. Normal life, as he saw it, consisted in regular journeys by electric train, monthly cheques, communal amusements and a cosy horizon of slates and chimneys; there was something unEnglish and not quite right about ‘the country’, with its solitude and self sufficiency, its bloody recreations, its darkness and silence and sudden, inexplicable noises; the kind of place where you never knew from one minute to the next that you might not be tossed by a bull or pitch-forked by a yokel or rolled over and broken up by a pack of hounds.
The idea of Cornwall develops as a series of binary oppositions which serve to emphasise the differences between rural and metropolitan, ancient and modern, savage and sophisticated, and serve to ‘reinforce a concept of Englishness that privileges the South East’. This alienation combines with the reification of a fictitious past to create Cornwall as ‘domestic exotic’.  Daphne du Maurier’s novel Jamaica Inn capitalises on this view of a Cornish other as an imagined place of romance and adventure, setting the pretty and domestic of Helford against the rugged wilds of Bodmin Moor, as the adventurous heroine remembers her childhood home in a moment of nostalgic reverie.
She thought of the lane that led to Helford village, how it twisted and turned and wound suddenly to the water’s edge, while the ducks paddled in the mud before the turn of the tide, and a man called to his cows from the field above.
Walker’s paintings and textile designs for Cryséde capture something of this dichotomy, the imagined pastoral ideal, with familiar motifs and tourist landmarks that appear to float within an abstracted landscape of fierce windswept trees and high waves, tiny lighthouses and uncannily disproportionate figures. Designs such as St. Hilary capture du Maurier’s romanticised vision of rural village life, with curved and sweeping lanes, little cottages and domestic animals, metonymic symbols of an idealised Cornwall. This contrasts with Margate, one of Clissold’s designs for Footprints, which features a seaside scene that is the opposite of the wild and deserted Cornish beaches. It is the strand at Margate, packed with daytrippers and holidaymakers, picnics and Punch and Judy, and provides a more familiar view of the domestic seaside resort that contrasts with the exotic emptiness of the west Cornwall coast.
Contemporary artists living and working in Cornwall, many of whom were friends of the Walker family, like the Procters and Harveys, took the same visual tropes of the Cornish landscape and rural life as subjects for painting.
 Chris Thomas, See Your Own Country First: The Geography of a Railway Landscape, Ella Westland, (Ed.), Cornwall: The Cultural Construction of Place, Patten Press, Penzance, 1997 pp. 107-128.
 St. Ives, Carbis Bay, Penzance, Land’s End, Illustrated Guide Book, Ward, Lock & Co. London 1928 pp. 27-28.
 Christopher Bailey, Progress and Preservation: The Role of Rural Industries in the Making of the Modern Image of the Countryside, Journal of Design History, Vol. 9, No. 1 (1996), p. 36.
 Evelyn Waugh, Scoop, Penguin London 2000, pp. 26-27.
 Helen Hughes, A Silent, Desolate Country: Images of Cornwall in Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, Ella Westland, (Ed.), Cornwall: The Cultural Construction of Place, Patten Press, Penzance 1997 p. 69.
 Chris Thomas, 1997 p.120
 Daphne du Maurier, Jamaica Inn, Arrow Books London 1992, p. 70.
The idea of the summer holiday was instilled in the middle-classes, with most employed getting a week or two of paid time off work, and as the train journey from Paddington to Penzance now took a reasonable six and a half hours, more and more middle class people were venturing as far as west Cornwall on holiday. Although ’s silks and gowns never functioned explicitly as souvenirs of the county, and thanks to an efficient distribution system, could be bought as far a field as Australia, without the need to ever travel to the wilds of west Cornwall, it could be argued that Walker’s designs represent a continued commodification of the region. They projected the image of a romanticised primitive retreat from modernity, which offered an escape to a simpler way of life separated from the speed of urban existence that begins with the painted representations of Cornish life by the original Newlyn School of artists in the dying years of the nineteenth century, and is continued both in the craft production of copper, pottery and enamel jewellery. Cultural products in turn produce an idea of culture, one bound up and reinforced by the site of production.
The world, along with the Empire, began to shrink for middle class women as travel abroad became more accessible and available. The bohemian and artistic circles attracted to the freedom offered by the wildness on the edges of the English Riviera began to travel with greater frequency to the French Riviera, which also offered golf, tennis and swimming, but also sunshine and glamour in greater quantities. The exotic beyond British shores became more familiar to the less glamorous and bohemian too, from society pages and novels, where even the ‘poor’ Mrs. Wilkins in The Enchanted April, wife of a thrifty solicitor, could save enough from her dress allowance to rent an Italian villa for a month. Equally, Agatha Christie’s characters travel widely. Light notes:
Travel books are not like travel guides intended for bona fide travellers – rather they are armchair romances for the stay-at-homes. Christie’s detective fiction, itself reading for leisure, must have been doubly appropriate for holiday reading.[...] From being a place known only as part of the empire, ‘abroad’ is amorphously exotic whilst at the same time being reassuringly familiarised. [...] Abroad was being imagined as a place for consumption and leisure, a home from home.
Cryséde’s catalogue for summer 1931 (see illustration 2.2) speaks to both the armchair traveller, and the visitor to the South of France in its promotion of hand-printed linen beachwear:
Printed by hand in original and very distinctive designs, Cryséde have again taken and kept the lead in these wonderful Linen Coats and Frocks. So very different and so unlike anything seen elsewhere, they have captured even the imagination of the French.
Seen last year in other designs along every water’s edge from Le Touquet to the Lido, they are proving more popular than ever in 1931.
This statement contains an interesting ambiguity, both declaring the class-based leisure activities of the imaginary Cryséde customer and a provocation to the aspirational buyer, whilst the use of ‘Lido’ – presumably the Venice Lido – could also be referring to the less glamorous popular outdoor bathing pools in Britain, of which several were built during the interwar period to meet the demands of modernist healthful ideals, such as the Jubilee Pool at Penzance in 1936. So the domestic exotic is available to the female consumer, whether she holidays in glamorous resorts of the continent or the poolside of the newly built lido. Cryséde is desired and admired even by the French, suggesting that Walker’s designs are so fashionable that they are equal to the designers of Paris.
The culture and politics of place are embodied in Cryséde’s fabric itself, in which intertextual threads of nostalgia and fictive history were printed on to the surfaces of silk. The designs serve to emphasise the site of production, creating a double-layered reification of place and identity. Motifs such as St. Michael’s Mount, Newlyn Harbour, and Godrevy Lighthouse, are specific and defined, metonymic representations of Cornwall. The Eiffel Tower, London’s Tower Bridge and Chinese junks signify affluence, adventure and travel, both domestic and exotic.
Susan Stewart asserts that:
[t]he double function of the souvenir is to authenticate a past or otherwise remote experience and, at the same time, to discredit the present. The present is either too impersonal, too looming, or too alienating compared to the intimate and direct experience of contact which the souvenir has as its referent. [...] The nostalgia of the souvenir plays in the distance between the present and an imagined, prelapsarian experience, experience as it might be ‘directly lived’. The location of authenticity becomes whatever is distant to the present time and space; hence we can see the souvenir as attached to the antique and the exotic.
The souvenir becomes a way of negotiating the complex present, mitigating alienation and taking refuge in nostalgia. Cryséde’s vibrant pastoral fabrics perform the function of the souvenir, a corporeal external display of modernity that allows the wearer to escape the alienating present and take refuge in the nostalgia of the intimate of the domestic exotic.
The pain of the past is sublimated by unsentimentality, diverting and deflecting real emotion and real appearances into an imagined pastoral that refuses to negotiate with modernity. It is not surprising that following a period of great loss, that the pastoral has such an appeal in exchange for the real past:
[i]t has often been said that the pastoral mode wins its reflective qualities only at the price of an inability to deal concretely with cultural reality, as the author takes refuge from complex cultural problems in evocations of an imagined, simpler realm.
It is the search for the authentic, the handmade, the exclusive craft object which favours Cryséde’s designs, like the adventurous tourist seeking an exotic and authentic adventure, the fashionable modern woman seeks to be different from her peers, yet not so unfamiliar that her appearance is alienating.
The catalogue of 1931 depicts on its front cover a full-page aerial photograph of St. Ives, the square white block of the Cryséde factory ringed for the benefit of the reader. The contrast between the ultramodern format of the image and its subject, a fishing village in a pastoral landscape, speaks concurrently of technology, modernity and speed, yet also crafts, tradition and slowness. Its concomitant text reinforces the dichotomy of the domestic exotic, echoing the narrative of du Maurier, of smuggling and salty seadogs, of a place on the periphery, at the edge of the world resting precariously between land and sea. The text extends an invitation for tourists to visit the factory, which by this time was running tours for visitors conducted by members of the factory’s staff.
St. Ives… Home of Cryséde Silks
St. Ives! What romance and history is associated with the name. The fishermen of this little port have always been famous for their seafaring skill and boldness; in bygone days even smuggling was not unheard of.
Many artists have transferred its beauties to canvas and so made it one of the best known parts of Cornwall. To many, St. Ives is linked with Cryséde Silks and it is fitting that such delightful materials should be produced in an old building, the latterly modernised, on the Island, St. Ives.
This building is enclosed in a white ring in the photograph above; bounded by the old harbour and the open sea.
We shall be pleased to welcome visitors to St. Ives at Cryséde, to show them examples of our work and some of the unique processes which Cryséde undergoes in order that it may attain its ultimate loveliness and charm.
The blend of the old and the new, tradition and modernity is described in the promotion of the catalogue’s copy, romanticising the factory and underlining an alternative function as a tourist destination, as if it were a craft workshop.
The mode of viewing from the air distances and separates, confines and controls the wild landscape. The patterns themselves speak of the domestic exotic in prints that are aerial views of Cornwall and further afield. The rusticity of Welsh Hill Farm is defined by its goat and traditional Welsh costume hat, London Pride by the image of London Bridge. Eiffel Tower is the essence of Paris in its most famous cultural landmark, and Chinese Junks shows the romance of the orient in a panoply of little boats. Again, these are representations of romanticised and essentialised notions of place, functioning to reduce landscapes to simple motifs, like picture postcards. Like the photograph on the cover of the catalogue, the prints take an aerial view of their subjects, reducing them to tiny cottages and miniature people. They are separated by the camera’s lens, distorted and compressed by distance, as if viewed from an aeroplane. In this way the ancient motifs of landscape and tradition are distanced and separated, framed by modernity. The domestic exotic landscape becomes the domesticated exotic, transformed by compression and miniaturisation.
According to Stewart, the transcendent viewpoint implied by the miniature ‘erases the productive possibilities of understanding through time. Its locus is thereby the nostalgic.’ Whilst she is referring here to the landscape of the amusement park or the historical reconstruction, it could be argued that Cornwall, in its role as tourist destination, functions as both, the landscape marking ‘nostalgic allusions to interiority and fictiveness.’ So the very modern aerial view by miniaturising the landscape paradoxically creates a nostalgic narrative of place which makes the modern more familiar.
Compared with the grounded and land based viewpoint taken by traditional toiles du Jouy, or Dufy’s prints, the viewpoint offered in Cryséde designs could be seen as a modern way of looking. It can be seen in many other designers’ work of this time. Footprints’ Welwyn Garden City gives a bird’s eye view of the patchwork urbanity, as does Ruth Reeves Metropolis, to which the miniaturisation of the suburban or the city is most appropriate to confine and familiarise the image of modernity. Technological advances in aerial photography made in the Great War led to cultural advances in image-making, in turn giving people a new way of seeing the world, a new viewpoint, which gives artists and makers a new creative eye.
The flattening of the picture (or pattern) plane and the style of the brushstrokes is suggestive also of the exotically fashionable orient, an anglicized version of Chinese or Japanese art, which had of course also been an influence on French design. This connotation creates an impression of layers of exoticism from the orient, via France, to England. (Walker never travelled abroad apart from Paris, so it is possible that prints such as Koyoko, Coral Island and Samoa, in addition to those already mentioned, were realised from copies of photographs. )
The tension between the domestic and exotic is evident also of Walker’s initial designs. Polly Walker relates the story of events of the evening of Walker’s return from Paris, as witnessed by her uncle. Having spent the trip sketching and encouraged by Dufy’s advice to create his own designs, Walker was so filled with creative vigour that upon seeing the table laid for dinner he refused to allow anyone to touch the food until he had completed a sketch of the scene. This became Lobster Supper, the lobster a signifier of luxury, affluence and exclusivity as well as representing lobster pots, fishermen and a middle-class view of rustic peasantry, and features in many of the St. Ives Society of Artists paintings. The lobster is at once a sign of continuity of tradition, of lack of change and the passage of time, and yet also of modernity, expensive and exclusive restaurants, momentary indulgence.
 Catherine Horwood, Keeping Up Appearances: Fashion and Class Between the Wars, Sutton, Stroud 2005 p.79.
 St. Ives, Carbis Bay, Penzance, Land’s End, Illustrated Guide Book, Ward, Lock & Co. London 1928, p. 12.
 Melbourne Argus, 2nd February 1921.
 Chris Thomas, 1997 p. 121.
 Elizabeth von Arnim, The Enchanted April, (Macmillan & Co. Ltd, 1922; Pocket Books Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1993) p. 77.
 Alison Light, 1991, p. 90.
 Spring Catalogue 1931, Cryséde Archive, Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro.
 Susan Stewart, On Longing, Duke University Press, Durham & London, 1993, p. 133.
 Glenn Adamson, Thinking Through Craft. Berg, New York 2008, p.104.
 Spring Catalogue 1931, Cryséde Archive, Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro.
 Susan Stewart, 1993 p. 60.
 Susan Stewart, 1993 p. 60.
 Lesley Jackson 2002 p. 74.
 Interview with Polly Walker, 17th February 2009, Penzance.
I was going to go for a walk around St. Ives today, and take pictures of things. However, it looked like this, and although I don’t mind getting wet, don’t think the new device would like it much.
Janet and Alban made another video on Friday. I’ll post about that as soon as it’s available. It’s an incredibly touching story from the archive.
This afternoon, Janet was kind enough to talk me on a tour of St. Ives. We wandered along Fore Street to the St. Ives Society of Artists in the old Mariner’s Church, then to Porthmeor Studios. We visited John Emmanuel’s studio at Number Two, which is a really incredible space. Built of stone and wood, its large windows look out over Porthmeor beach in the late afternoon December sun. The St. Ives School of Painting at the other end is currently being renovated, and when that’s finished, work will begin on the other studios. The higgledy piggledy studios used to be fish cellars and net lofts, bits built here and there, as required, at different times, making dating the building extremely complicated, although building along Porthmeor beach began around 1840. Ben Nicholson and Patrick Heron worked at Studio Number Five.
We continued along Back Road East, then Back Road West, down smaller lanes, surprising some cats and wandering into the nooks and crannies of the town to have a peek. These spaces are not quite public, but at the same time not private. Liminal spaces, the spaces in between.
We also met Alban, a film maker. He makes brilliant short films about the town, which you can find at here, at St. Ives TV.
As we carried on, I mentioned a video I’d seen of St. Ives following a fire in July 1970, and asked Janet where it was. She told me that it destroyed four restaurants and twelve flats on Fore Street, and showed me the newspaper clippings back at the archive, as well as a copy of the Fire Service’s report about the incident. The aerial photo showing the devastation was fascinating. As was the Daily Mirror’s take on the fire, Inferno at St Ives: Hippies raise alarm as fire sweeps resort.
As we walked back to the archive, Janet pointed out the Salvation Army building that was rebuilt in 1916 following a fire. At this point, Fore Street was still the main street through the town. Wharf Road was built in 1922; until then, the town ran down to the beach.
The desire for narratives of the past, for re-creations, re-readings, re-productions, seems boundless at every level of our culture. History in a certain canonological form may be delegitimized as far as its core pedagogical and philosophical mission is concerned, but the seduction of the archive and its trove of stories of human achievement and suffering has never been greater.
The history of the art colony is currently being written by historians and specialists such as David Tovey (2009), with his work on the art colony in Cornwall, Laura Newton’s (2007) research on the British art colonies, and Nina Lübbren’s (2001) work on artists’ colonies in Europe, and this project draws on and develops that material. Instead of examining the art colony in isolation (or connected geographically to other art colonies), however, I want to examine the notion of ‘creative community’, which better describes the links and disjunctions between creative practitioners and the communities – places and spaces – in which they operate. As Lübbren suggests, and as I discovered in my own MA research into Alec Walker and Crysede, in many cases it is the artists themselves who ‘escaped’ to Cornwall who conceptualised it as place of creative isolation, obscuring important networks and creative practice within local communities, even as they interacted with them.
This research aims to contribute to a reassessment of Cornwall’s art communities, past and present.
There is much still to be discovered at the St. Ives Archive, as director Janet Axten suggests. For example, her research looking at changes in the local population at the end of the 19th Century demonstrates a dramatic reduction in the numbers of people resident in the town, followed by a large number of incomers in the years immediately following. Women’s roles were also changing, shown in the census where women heads of households were no longer fishwives, but described themselves as landladies offering lodging to meet the increased demand. The St. Ives Directory published details of all visitors to the town and where they were staying, listing the increase in the number of visiting artists and tourists.
Guidebooks also reveal much about the creation of the identity of place. Whilst guidebooks from the late 19th Century suggest avoiding the squalid nastiness of the town altogether to those visiting the county, the repeated motif of books from only a few decades later is that of nostalgic regret at the decline of traditional fishing. It is this contrast that reveals most clearly that it was only with the decline of fishing that St. Ives becomes a more appealing place to visit, and that the romantic idea of the town’s prosperous fishing heyday is a myth.
My theoretical approach draws on theories of individual and collective memory, the phenomenology of memory, art history, and cultural geography. In particular, I’m interested in three or four dimensional theories that I feel reflect my subject matter, that offer a framework for the examination of space and time, together with memory and everyday life. Bachelard’s Poetics of Space gives a poetic reading of the phenomenology of intimate spaces, and The work of Foucault and Latour (2007) will help explore community, networks and connections, and the ideas of Radstone & Hodgkin and Huyssen on individual and collective memory will inform the project.
I’m looking at Actor Network Theory to explore how memory and identity is intertwined with and performed through space and place, and employed here as a theoretical framework I hope to reveal hidden networks. Nigel Thrift’s work on materiality of memory and performativity of space is also interested in its multidimensionality, where he states:
There is no such thing as a boundary. All spaces are porous to a greater or lesser degree. For example, bodies caught in freeze-frame might look like envelopes but, truth to tell, they are leaky bags of water, constantly sloughing off pieces of themselves, constantly leaving traces – effluent, memories, messages – through moments of good or bad encounter in which practices of organization and community and enmity are passed on, sometimes all but identically, sometimes bearing something new.
Lefebvre’s (1991) Rhythmanalysis and Production of Space, also offer interesting ways of analysing space and place and its power structures, which also has a playful nature to its methodology. that Lippard’s (2007) on the multiple meanings of space.
No matter how long or short a time we live in a place we inherit the responsibility for knowing about it, valuing it, working to keep it viable, and illuminating our dynamic cultural spaces and their underlying, often invisible meanings and uses — for those who don’t. If a local is someone who gives more than she takes, everybody is a candidate.
Huyssen’s work on collective memory is also important, and this quote in particular perhaps describes something of what I would like to achieve through my research as practice.
The past is not simply there in memory, but must be articulated to become memory. The fissure that opens up between experiencing an event and remembering it in representation is unavoidable. Rather than lamenting or ignoring it, this split should be understood as a powerful stimulant for cultural and artistic creativity.
I’m really interested in the performative aspects of memory. I think that oral history is a performance of memory, and I want to expand on this idea in order to explore how people encounter the archive outside of the museum. Pervasive and locative media and technologies are central to the context of the practice element of the research, so examining different work with sound, narrative and space, such as Bristol’s Pervasive Media Studio, Duncan Speakman’s subtlemobs, AntiVJ, Blast Theory and The Mixed Reality Research Lab at Nottingham University will be critical. Theories of gaming and movement will also be relevant in addressing how participants’ experience can be controlled moving through space, coming out of research by UWE, IgFest and Slingshot.
So, I’m a little late in posting this as there has been so much to take in in my first couple of weeks at the St. Ives Archive. Janet Axten and the archive’s volunteers have been really brilliant and helpful in introducing me to the archive, and I’ve even got my own badge, which I’m really pleased about.
The archive was set up in 1996 and has been developing steadily ever since. Currently based in the Upper Chapel Room in St. Andrew’s Street, there are plans for further development, and therefore it’s a very exciting time to get involved.
I’ve been introduced to so many interesting people, I’m creating new networks and connections and becoming part of the community here at the archive, as at the same time I begin to explore the historical connections of the creative community in St. Ives. I’m really starting to understand better what I’m trying to do, here, and how by extending my research networks I can extend my research. I’ve also been considering what John Hall has said about the autobiographical nature of research. Previously, I was aware that this research allows me to explore and combine my interests in education,cultural heritage and technology, but I think I realise now that my research is autobiographical on so many levels.
The town has got its own internet TV channel, St. Ives TV and the archive is hoping to produce one film a month on something from the town’s history, so I’m hoping to be able to get involved in that.
Mary has kindly invited me to the 91st anniversary meeting of the Old Cornwall Society in January. This will not only give me a chance to hear her speak in Cornish dialect, which she’s written several books on, but also hear some other talks.
Janet has suggested that I attend the meetings for the planning of the St. Ives Festival, which happens every September. This will be a great way of meeting people involved, and I hope to have a project to launch at the festival. I’m excited.
I am developing an obsession with guidebooks. I’m particularly fond of the little fold out maps. They contain opinions and advice on the nature of place and encounters with place.
The idea of sites for painting becoming sights for people to come and look at through the circulation and distribution of images is interesting. A site is somewhere artists come to paint, the site becomes a scene, tourists come to see the site of the scene, the scene becomes a picture postcard, more tourists come to see the sights/sites. This is something pointed out by Lubbren, that the art colony is a precursor to the holiday resort, where artists make a place known for its particular beauty, then the images of that place become known, which attracts people to visit. In turn also, the presence of the artists mean the development of facilities to meet their needs, which are developed further to accommodate the needs of tourists.
Thus that one scene, perhaps one moment, of local life, might be translated into a series of other moments, many of which would later be sent out into the world, to be hung in galleries, reproduced in books, and so on. And because of seeing those results, all kinds of people might be tempted to visit the place that inspired them.
Denys Val Baker, Britain’s Art Colony by the Sea 1959 p.22
So, back to the guidebooks. The images of Cornwall and St. Ives produced by artists which in turn attract other visitors are interesting, but a textual version of these images come in the form of the guidebook. The earliest one that I have stumbled across in a second-hand bookshop in London is Black’s Guide to Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. Published in 1877, its tenth edition, it pre-dates the first ideas of art colony in the county. The theory that it is indeed the artists which establish place as tourist site/sight, endowing a place beauty, making it attractive/attraction, is perhaps best illustrated by the short piece on St. Ives from Black’s:
The position of St. Ives, [...] is one of picturesque and uncommon beauty,; and it is to be regretted that the favourable impression which at first the tourist necessarily forms should be dissipated on his entrance into the town by its accumulation of nastiness. The streets are narrow and crooked; the shops mean and squalid; and everywhere pervades a fishy smell, “most tolerable, and not to be endured”.
Black’s Guide to Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, 1877
As David Tovey points out in his survey of early guides in St Ives Art Pre-1890: The Dawn of the Colony, visitor accounts refer to St. Ives as being disorderly and putrid-smelling, and some even recommend avoiding the town completely. 1877 is the year that the branch line is completed, during a decade which sees the beginning of a decline in the fishing and mining industries.
David Tovey’s book on the early years of art in St. Ives aims to cover a previously neglected era in the town’s history.
Prior to the ‘discovery’ of Cornwall by Edwin Harris and Walter Langley in 1882 and Whistler in 1884, Tovey’s research shows that the Bristol Academy for the Promotion of Fine Arts show catalogue notes perhaps a couple of Cornish scenes per year in the years to 1859. In 1860, there are fifteen.
Whilst paintings of the natural landscape begin to be seen and circulate, St. Ives still has a reputation as a ‘dirty fishing town’.
In the 1850s a number of guides to Cornwall began to be published, and they were less than complimentary about the town. Murray’s guide, for instance, having mentioned that the distant vista of the town, with ‘it’s old rickety houses… nestling on the very skirt of the sea’, was likely to make the visitor ‘draw rein’, for it formed a very pleasing picture, comparable with Grecian scenery, nevertheless warned that his admiration would be somewhat qualified on further inspection, as the town was ‘tainted with the effluvia of the pilchard cellars. Some of the open channels on the streets, down which the juices of the pressed pilchards were allowed to flow, can still be seen. Walter White, in 155, was even blunter, telling his readers not to disenchant themselves by going down into the town at all, for it ‘appears to be going through the process of of dilapidation and to have been built without any regard to order’. St. Ives was, accordingly, a dirty, noisy, stinking town that no artist was prepared to select as his home, whilst the scenic attractions of the town and its environs were significantly impaired.
In the 1870s, the mining industry collapses, resulting in mine closures and job losses. Shipbuilding and ropemaking were no longer viable industries, and fishing too was in decline. Efforts to introduce a branch line to the town had been going on since 1844, completely unsuccessfully. Tovey suggests that the only reason that the rail link to St. Ives was eventually built was that the town council was persuaded that the only way forwards for the town was in its reinvention as a holiday resort. Started in 1874, and completed in 1877:
An illustrated article in the Pictorial World in June 1877 proclaimed that St. Ives was ‘one of the most beautiful of our seaside resorts’ and offers equal attractions to the tourist, the artist and the invalid. The views are grand and extensive, comprising hills and vales, coast and sea, cliffs and gorge, sands and beach – the run of country differing entirely in appearance and fertility from east to west. For position and climate, here is all that is desirable to bring this port into popular favour, not only as a watering place, but as a health resort’. In truth, there was still much to be done to remove the ‘dirty fishing town’ tag from St. Ives and, for some years, the initiatives taken seem not to have worked.
Tovey goes on to tell how Sir Edward Hain suggests that the new railway line was only good for taking people away from the town in the years following its opening, a claim backed by Tovey’s census research.
The Theatre Sandbox Showcase came out of a series of workshops, which around 275 people attended. From this, a competitive process selected six different project proposals to participate in the Theatre Sandbox, funded by the Arts Council and supported by Watershed, iShed, Pervasive Media Studio.
What’s really struck me is that Bristol really seems to be a centre for all things pervasive. I’ve yet to find another central point, or network hub, that has creative links as extensive as those of the Pervasive Media Studio or Watershed. London is just too big and disparate, and few other places are lucky enough to have the facilities, investment, and most importantly, people and ways of connecting through place. UWE are obviously a big part of this too, and play a major part in both attracting and keeping a creative technology community in Bristol.
Interesting thing that Melanie Wilson pointed out: Children aren’t amazed by technology. Grown-ups might think that pervasive media is really interesting, but the kids are only really interested in the unicorns.
The technology is just a tool.
Local children participated in the design of this theatre project, which took place both inside and outside of the theatre, in the local High Street. The children learn that a unicorn has been caught in a huge storm, accidentally transporting it to this world. The children create a narrative through a journey, the aim of which is to send the unicorn back home.
Melanie described the project as challenging, mainly owing to finding ways of making pervasive media technologies achieve the desired effects. Tom Melamed of Calvium collaborated with Melanie and Ed to create the narrative, where bits of story are triggered when a child steps into a WiFi or GPS point in a specific location. A combination of methods was used in order for the parts of the story, like an enormous shadowy projection of a unicorn on a wall, to trigger at exactly the right time. In order for the experience to be truly immersive, the children were given minimal equipment, just headphones. All content was broadcast from a laptop in order for this to work.
Mind the Gap/Contact Manchester/Phil Stenton, Calvium/Theatre Sandbox Advisor
This project used relatively simple technology to achieve its aims, but was incredibly effective. Mid the Gap is a theatre company that gives people with physical and mental disabilities a chance to perform.
The company, with Phil’s help, created a sonic maze using mediascapes. Using the space outside the theatre, groups of five people all had headphones attached to one iPaq. Moving awkwardly and hesitantly, they shuffled about the car park, following audio instructions to move around. For instance, a wrong turn might mean hitting a sonic ‘wall’, and the reactions of the participants to and observer to this is really very funny, as if they had hit a real wall. The real genius of this piece is the emphasis on collaboration according to strengths and weaknesses within the group. Certain obstacles were on the frequency of 15-16 Hz, which meant that anyone over 25 was unable to hear (also, as an aside, a nice two fingers to the idea of the persecution of the young from the Mosquito). Other parts of the Sonic Maze could only be accessed through a sonic loop, requiring a hearing aid user to solve that part of the problem.
Interestingly, the issues in production concerned creativity that came out of misunderstanding. Theatre producers misunderstood the technology, and therefore created things that required Phil to find creative ways of using the technology creatively to achieve these goals.
Give Me Back My Broken Night
Speakman ventures away from the purely audio experience to add a visual dimension to his work in collaboration with Univited Guests. Where UG had previously worked with the Soho Theatre, this was a new experience for Speakman, who finally feels now that perhaps he really definitely actually is a producer of theatre.
The experience is small and intimate, with only a few players participating at any one time. Players are called on their mobiles, and given instructions. They carry tiny projectors around their necks, which project a map of Soho onto a piece of paper in front of them. In a departure from previous works, Speakman and UG are looking towards the future, rather than the past in their urban imaginary, asking their players to imagine what might be on this building site in twenty years time. What would it look like? What else would be there? What has changed?
In response to their descriptions, an artist is listening in on these conversations, drawing according to the players’ ideas. What he draws is visible on the projected map as the player is speaking, a vision of the future city.
The challenges faced during this project were mainly technological. The map idea, according to Speakman, started as a mistaken belief that a very new, thin, flexible material could be experimented with. However, as this was only available to the military, the paper/projection method was suggested instead.
Theatre Sandbox is produced by iShed http://www.ished.net in collaboration with Bristol Old Vic http://www.bristololdvic.org.uk , Soho Theatre http://www.sohotheatre.com , Lyric, Hammersmith http://www.lyric.co.uk, mac http://macarts.co.uk, Contact http://www.contact-theatre.org and The Junction http://junction.co.uk. It is funded by the National Lottery, through Arts Council, England.
Mobile Participatory Theatre?
Multimodal Partipatory Performance?
So, what exactly is this medium of performance? How do I describe it? Is it possible to come up with a term that describes its specificity, yet at the same time conveys the multiplicity of modes and levels of performance? To fall back on the term of ‘happening’ is vague and rather describes a historical moment in performance, and although this kind of participatory performance owes something to what has gone before, it is far removed from the somewhat chaotic and haphazard nature that the word suggests. ‘Participatory Theatre’ encompasses something of what is expected of the audience, placing an emphasis on the active mode of the ‘participant’ rather than passive role of the ‘spectator’.
I don’t think the title of mobile participatory theatre is really adequate. I think it is something more specific. ‘Subtlemob’ is a great term, but refers specifically to the mode in which Duncan Speakman/subtlemob works, a term belongs really only to them.
Interestingly, when you type ‘mobile participatory theatre’ into Google, subtlemob.com is the second link, after a somewhat dry article about the ethics of participatory theatre in higher education. Participatory theatre is just too blunt and simplistic a term, and is often used to describe performances in which the audience have little real involvement or impact, and is instead describing theatre events or performances simply where the mode of spectating is unusual rather than actually requiring the audience to actually interact.
I dislike the use of mobile, as I feel it is misleading, and the definition has to be qualified: is it mobile as in movement, or mobile as in device? Both are relevant, and it could mean either or both of those. As such, I think this is a problematic term, at least as far as specificity is concerned, and for the adequate communication of a set of ideas associated with that term. Perhaps that is part of the issue. Is it the format, the medium itself which is difficult to define? Perhaps it would be useful to establish a list of positive or negative attributes by which we might then attempt to better describe (in order to communicate, explain and share, rather than to define, exclude, confine) what this artform/medium is and isn’t.
There are members of the public.
There are performers.
Most or all of the performance is in real-time.
There is some kind of choreography or orchestration, game plan or controlling element that co-ordinates the movements of the participants.
There is a narrative.
Participatory defines the ‘player’s’ role as active, not passive, and suggests that they have agency and can influence outcomes.
Mixed reality suggests that there are virtual as well as real worlds.
Augmented reality is seeing the world through a virtual lens.
Mobile suggests both a device and a mode of performance.
Player is a better term than audience, participant etc. as it underlines their active role, and emphasises the ludic nature of the experience.
Participatory theatre/sound performance using headphones is a new language of performance that people are unfamiliar with, requiring more than a brief explanation to really get across how it works and what it feels like. This is also problematic when advertising a performance, to let people know what they’re letting themselves in for, without at the same time giving too much away.
We’re not sure if we know yet, but this is what we think it might be . . .
Imagine walking through a film, but it’s happening on the streets you live in
Subtlemobs usually happen in public spaces
This is music composed for those spaces
This is about trying to make films without cameras
It’s about integrating with a social or physical space, not taking it over
The audience listen on headphones, a mix of music, story and instructions
Sometimes they just watch, sometimes they perform scenes for each other
A subtlemob is not a flashmob
try to remain invisible . . .
I think the idea of the cinematic that suggested here is interesting. Watching and participating at the same time. It’s an immersive experience, and by being on headphones, separates the participant from their immediate surroundings. And yet, it also creates a hyper-awareness of present reality. It’s phenomenological, a stepping outside of reality whilst at the same time creating a more profound experience of that reality. Perhaps cineastic is a term that also describes the partipatory nature of making a performative experience.
The creation of narrative around the reality of immediate experience sets up a duality of time and space. The Player is immersed in two different realities, the ‘game’ or ‘narrative’ space, and real space, as well as the different time ‘zones’ of it being both now and ‘in the moment’. Guy Debord suggests that technology distances and separates, and people wearing headphones and replacing the dull drone of banality with a soundtrack is something that can be seen everyday on streets and trains and buses, people walking to the soundtracks of their own lives. but if as Debord suggests, ‘the spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images’, then Speakman’s subtlemobs create a social relation between people mediated by sound and narrative
To continue to examine this kind of performance in relation to Situationism,the Australia-based pvi collective describe themselves as a:
tactical media arts group who produce interdisciplinary artworks that are intent on the creative disruption of everyday life. every artwork aims to affect audiences on a personal and political level and is geared towards instigating tiny revolutions.
This is more of a detournement, an intervention in the everyday with an explicitly political intention. Their work is still scripted and choreographed, and necessarily organised, however, but as the particpants haven’t necessarily actively chosen to be involved it requires flexibility to react to the way in which people respond to the work.
Multimodal Mixed Reality performance?
Immersive Mixed Reality Experience
- Click for curtain-up: technology and theatre (guardian.co.uk)
- How can smaller companies do a Punchdrunk with their experimental theatre? (guardian.co.uk)
- Networked and participatory education (smlxtralarge.com)
- Learning, Teaching, and Scholarship in a Digital Age – EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER (edr.sagepub.com)
The cyclical originates in nature, and the linear from social practice and human activity.
Time and space, the cyclical and the linear, exert a reciprocal action: they measure themselves against one another; each one makes itself and is made a measuring measure; everything is cyclical repitition linear repetitions. A dialectical relation (unity in opposition) thus acquires meaning and import, which is to say generality. One reaches, by this road as by others, the depths of the dialectic.
Rhythm appears as regulated time, governed by rational laws, but in contact with what is least rational in human being: the lived, the carnal, the body.
Rhythms escape logic, and nevertheless contain logic,, a possible calculus of numbers and numerical relations.
One meaning of the research, a philosophical goal, is to be found here: the relation of the logical (logic) and the dialectical (dialectic), which is to say of the identical and the contradictory.
It was necessary to set up list of oppositions and dualities that enter into analysis by rejecting first the old comparison of dialogue (two voices) and dialectic (three terms).
Triadic nature of the dialectic, trinity etc. Lefebvre describes this tendency towards the dialectic in analysis of the relation or constitution of three terms which change according to circumstance, as mythomania, which ‘seeks to grasp a moving but determinate complexity (determination not entailing determinism).
The notion of rhythm brings with it or requires some complementary considerations: the implied but different notions of polyrhythmia, eurhythmia and arryhythmia. It elevates them to a theoretical level, starting from the lived. Polyrhythmia? It suffices to consult one’s body; thus the everyday reveals itself to be a polyrhythmia from the first listening. Eurythmia? Rhythms unite with one another in the state of health, in normal (which is to say normed!) everydayness; when they are discordant, there is suffering, a pathological state (of which arrhythmia is generally, at the same time, symptom, cause and effect). The discordance of rhythms brings previously eurhythmic organisations towards fatal disorder. Polyrhythmia analyses itself.
Across the country, people are worrying about their high street. Shops have closed, sites bought for regeneration sit empty while recession-shy developers wait for the right time, and people spend more timeat out-of-town retail parks or buying online.
But these empty spaces in town centres are still useful. They’re perfect places for short, temporary projects that embrace the meanwhile – the time between the last commercial activity and whatever comes next.
And a nation of meanwhile shopkeepers have been learning the skills to use these spaces, to be nimble and grab every opportunity while they can.
Western seaside resorts are multilayered places, redolent with meaning for the present and memory of the past.
Seaside architecture, combined with a multiplicity of images related to the seaside, define its meaning and consumption.
Discussion of arguments surrounding the perception and consumption of nature. Can nature be consumed? If not, how is it used, experienced, represented, perceived?
The visual sense was increasingly hegemonic in the sensing of the natural world, and nature, including the sea, was transformed in to an overridingly visual spectacle. In turn , the fundamental process of tourist consumption became capturing the gaze, each one of which could ‘literally take a split second’. Everything else in the tourist experience and tourist services was relegated as subsidiary.
Once the middle and working classes were able to holiday by the sea, one persistent conflict revolved around whether resorts were select and respectable or popular and open to all comers. … A higher social tone could be attempted, for example, by resisting the the freeing of restrictions on bathing, entertainment and transport that might lure working class visitors and opposing the development of facilities, including piers in the second half of the nineteenth century and holiday camps in the interwar period of the next century, thought to endanger a resort‘s reputation by making it more popular.
Buying a room in a hotel, a ticket for a seaside attraction or simply sunbathing on a beach [also] involves buying into a more general idea of the seaside or a particular resort. We consume a reality and an image, and the two may not match.
A really effective blend of oral history/life story interview and performance. Plays (literally) on the idea of memory as performance, and also that everyone’s lives are interesting.
These guys are my heros. They create audio-visual narratives projected on to 3D objects, using mapping.
The talk they gave on their work was really interesting. They showcased a piece created for a chateau in Nantes, as well as their up and coming indoor work that will be shown as part of One Dot Zero at the South Bank in London on the 13th November.
The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games. … Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts. … A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding. (Neuromancer, Gibson 1984 p.69)
Cyberspace is the abstract collective imaginary of humans, or cyborgs. The cyborg body is augmented with digital devices that collapse time and space, linked across the spatial and temporal through the imagined space. This is now normal, usual, expected. How can the cyborg body link to others not only through cyberspace, but by reconstructing the spatial and temporal, experiencing the real and the imaginary simultaneously? By linking real spaces and imagined spaces of memory and virtuality to augment space, and revealing layers of space, is it possible to reveal the complex networks that exist in space?
Tom and Dan gave a really useful and informative talk about indoor positioning at the Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol, as part of their series of Friday lunchtime talks.
GPS devices need to be able to ‘see’ the sky, and at least three satellites, in order to be able to accurately co-ordinate their location. So it’s pretty inaccurate indoors.
There is no perfect way of solving this problem, but as Tom demonstrated, there are several different methods that can be employed inside a building, such as RFID and WiFi packet sniffing, as well as proprietary device software such as Skyhook.