It’s been a couple of weeks now since I joined a group of mutual strangers in the middle of the concourse at Birmingham New Street station for a walk around Birmingham International Airport. The event formed part of the annual Still Walking festival, and was conceived by Bruno de Wachter, who had already organised walks around five other European airports. Bruno’s idea, looking at the way airports are represented on maps as blank white spaces, was that they are essentially ‘holes’ in the landscape — and how else to describe a hole but to circumnavigate it?
“Give me a boundary. I want to know when I’ve arrived.”
These words end Mitra Saboury’s Dry Wall, a short film in which the artist navigates, through words and crawling, floor-bound movements, an empty, dilapidated warehouse space. They articulate a need, pulsing through many of the films on show in her two-part Birmingham exhibition “Pulling Walls”, to investigate, to explore, to test, and to get to grips, in very literal ways, with the built environment around her, in order to know where she is in her own body.
I don’t think the report that the closest neighbouring star to the Sun has an Earth-sized planet around it has received the attention that it deserves. If all goes well, future timelines of human history will have this, not Brexit or economic crisis or the football transfer news, as its milestone for the early decades of the twenty-first century.
For about five years this blog had happily been powered by Habari, an open-source blogging engine. Sadly, Habari no longer seems to be in active development these days, which means things like security holes probably aren’t being fixed. So it was time to move to another platform.
I wanted something open-source, something with a strong community of developers that was likely to be maintained for a long time to come. And since we already use Wordpress over at Fluid Radio, I was in the mood to try something different. So eventually I went with Drupal.
I took the opportunity to have a go at creating a new theme, which I’m still tweaking. If you come across any glaring errors please let me know!
Another sound recording, this one made beneath Gravelly Hill Interchange, otherwise known as Spaghetti Junction. I was on a workshop led by Ian Rawes of the London Sound Survey, exploring the cavernous spaces where two rivers, three canals, and two trainlines intersect some twenty-five metres below a motorway junction.
Here are some sounds recorded in Birmingham’s Bull Ring markets I posted to radio aporee:
(Click on the red circle to start playback. Decent headphones or speakers recommended.)
radio aporee is a really great project run by Udo Noll. You can read more about the origins and philosophy of the project in my interview with Udo here.
It’s that feeling again, that nameless anxiety, the squeeze of the shoulders and tightness of the neck, the shallow breathing: shouldn’t I be doing something? Starting a campaign. Joining a political party. Writing erudite polemical rants for The Guardian. Almost anything other than what I’m doing now, in fact. Which is sitting on the sofa, listening to music.
The dérive was invented by the Letterist International in the 1950s, so it is said, though its roots go back much further, to Baudelaire’s notion of the flâneur and probably beyond. Pick an orientation, start walking; change direction on an impulse, an intuition, drawn by the name of a street, the shape of a traffic island, the forlornness of a tree. Be led by the city. This practice is central to Laura Oldfield Ford’s work as an artist, and the starting point of her new exhibition at Birmingham artist-run space Grand Union.
A friend recently asked me to dig something out of my archive for him, but somewhere amidst the years’ multiple computer and OS changes the fragment of writing he was looking for seems to have vanished. I did manage to find the following poem, which struck me as seeming particularly resonant in these uncertain days, hence the posting:
We tread carefully, dust clinging
to our feet; the clicking
Thoughts unpacking themselves.
Where we go there are no
footprints, only inverted shadows:
we can’t pronounce
the name of our country,
the nation to which
The sun charts our progress
with her sextant.
Windows open and close,
their frames glistening
like the surface of a lake
seen from below.