Imagination is the power of appearing things, not of representing them. The LIfe of Lines. Tim Ingold.
As part of two covert FM transmissions from Fog Signal Building, Dungeness, and Knowles Farm. Isle of Wight (IOW), I ‘prepared’ an autoharp with plectrum of dismantled clock hands and a pocket-sized museum of nautical litter collected from walks along the shoreline (tangles of fishing line, pebbles, shells, nails, feathers). As the sea breezes over the shingle and harp, fragments of text cut from the International Code of Signals are scattered, music suddenly appears, melodies plucked from thin and salty air mingling with the atmospheric static of FM transmission.
In this ethereal concert of aeolian song, music is immediately composed in correspondence with the breeze, melodies occurring neither in the objects or strings, nor even in the weatherly air, but appearing in-between them.
I borrowed this compositional method for a new series of drawings of sound on paper. These drawings or Correspondences, seek not to represent sound but to allow sound to appear, to draw the ear, by way of the eye, toward the potentiality of sound.
From Correspondence no.1 / no.2.
To compose the drawings, a small cardboard box was lined with two sheets of paper, and ‘prepared’ with relics from the preparation of the harp, together with fragments of charcoal, pencil, and broken ball points. The box was then weighed, stamped, and posted home second class. Three days later, having been handled with varying degrees of care, the box returned and the drawings appeared.
Composed in correspondence with the systemised transit of her Majesty’s Royal Mail, the drawings are quiet, slight, and insignificant. Occasional dots, hesitant lines, and dusty corners stained with inky stillness, mark time, and motion, providing visible residues of sounds that occurred and ceased.
A Blink From Sonic Eyes, Drawings from the Fleeting Archive of Towards Sound at re:future Lab (Berlin), Installation Shot. Image courtesy Ruth Wiesenfeld.
The composer and curator Ruth Wiesenfeld teaches Awareness Through Movement, at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler, Berlin. Ruth initiated the project Toward Sound, which ‘collects visible traces of creative processes geared towards all sound-based arts exploring diverse approaches of rendering sonic imagination tangible.’ As part of Toward Sound, Ruth curates, The Fleeting Archive. This repository for visual ephemera of the compositional process, gathers: ‘Acts of drawing, sculpting, writing, filming, ordering, assembling and taking apart’, which ‘facilitate a deeper comprehension of ones imagined sound.’ Occasionally, selections from the Archive are exhibited in the guise of the ever-changing Rampant Wall.
I was delighted to have works accepted into the Archive, and subsequentlyapproached Ruth to see if she would be interested in taking part in a new Correspondence. The drawing would be composed in the space in-between us. I would prepare a drawing and post this to Ruth. On its arrival in Berlin, Ruth would listen to the appearance of the drawing as an appearing sound.
Correspondence no.4. 2022. (636 miles / 24 days) Winchester to Berlin
The lid of a small box was lined with grey sandpaper and its base with thick handmade watercolour paper. Inside I placed an ensemble of small sculptural instruments constructed especially for this transit, using marine selvedge from Dungeness and IOW combined with fragments of graphite, chalk, charcoal, and cardboard.
The correspondence was digitally tracked, leaving the UK on the 20th April and arriving in Niederaula, Germany on the 24th. It waited some time in non-EU customs for ‘preliminary import checks’, ‘processed’ and marked with a blue exclamation mark it arrived in Berlin on the 15th May. All instruments were broken in transit, but Ruth emailed:
‘I just opened the box, look what was drawn…a whole symphony. It will sit on my desk until sonic responses emerge.’
The shortlisted sound is one of a series of new works, which use words and the percussive palpitation of a typewriter to imagine sound [and silence] on paper. The typewriter used is a recently acquired and rather beautiful, cream/green 1959 Imperial No 5 “Good Companion”. The typewriter arrived, fitted with a brand-new ribbon; my words the first to be written in its uncoiling, ink-soaked line of thought.
In his book Gramophone, Film and Typewriter, Friedrich A. Kittler considers the typewriter “an innocuous device, an ‘intermediate’ thing, between a tool and a machine,” which ‘cannot conjure up anything imaginary’. But as a medium the typewriter corresponds with the silence of thought and noise of form, and in correspondence it dwells ‘at the cusp where thinking is on the point of settling into’ shape and form on paper.(Tim Ingold)
The noise of these words. 2022.
In this new series of sounds on paper, the action and restrictions of the typewriter become an inherent component of the work. The weight, vertical orientation and standardised A4 paper size, are regulated by the dimensions and habits of the machine, whilst the type is set in face and point: this Imperial No.5 types, in a rare Book Type Face, approximately 10 letters to the inch.
The typewriter’s mechanical carriage of language is noisy and visceral, words strike out rhythms of sound, whilst the gesture and movement of my digits are choreographed and back spaced in correspondence with the words being formed and the systemised array of the Qwerty keyboard.
In this physical correspondence with language, sounds are both audible and imagined, appearing then in the moment of being written and imagined now in the moment of being seen.
Silence on Loan. 2022. Performance broadcast live on Instagram
On the last Monday of January 2022, the annual performance of Silence on Loan, took place at Winchester School of Art Library. It was performed alone in the early morning before the library opened to the public and without an audience present. During the silence I wore industrial Ear Protectors, so even I could not hear the silence as it occurred.
The annual performance was announced in advance on social media and this blog, which included an invitation for people to not attend or listen. The performed silence was however, broadcast live (and mute) via Instagram, so that those who wished, might watch and not listen, together. The Instagram recording of the broadcast was unceremoniously deleted (by accident) immediately after the performance.
In order for those not listening to inform others of their lack of attention, a limited edition, I Am Not Listening, pin-badge, was available to purchase and wear on the day. The 1” pin sold out, adorning the lapels of people not listening, as far apart as New York and Keyhaven, Australia, Berlin and Wolverhampton.
This year, Silence on Loan was unheard by what could have been its largest audience to date. A big thank you to all those millions of people around the world, who were not listening.
Last year the annual performance of Silence on Loan, was postponed by the ‘silent epidemic’ of COVID. In January, I had hoped to perform a socially distanced version, completely alone in the Winchester School of Art Library, where the publication is held – a lonely withdrawn silence, performed but unheard. But lockdown restrictions meant that visiting the library was not permitted and the annual performance had to be rescheduled, eventually taking place in August 2021 – coincidently in the same week as the publication of my essay Withdrawn from use: silence, listening and undoing, in the journal Organised Sound 26/2 (Cambridge University Press).
This year silence has been recalibrated, returning the annual performance to January so as to synchronise with the original month of publication and the inclusion of Silence on Loan into the Artists’ Books Special Collection at WSA in 2019. But this year’s performance is different to the previous three. In remembrance, perhaps, of the socially distanced, isolated performance which never occurred, the 2022 performance will take place behind the closed magnetic gates of WSA library 2.
On Monday 31st January, around 8:30 am, before the library opens and without visitors or audience, the unpaginated spiral slither of Silence on Loan, will be taken from the shelf and placed on the turntable platter. The unheard audio cassette that has documented every silent anniversary will be rewound. Last year’s silence will be simultaneously erased and recorded over with this. I will keep vigil as silence rotates, my ears defended from it: silence occurring with no one there to hear.
There is strictly no admittance to this performed anniversary of Silence of Loan. But you are invited to not listen with me. You may not listen wherever you are, at home, at work, alone or in company. You may also watch but not listen via a live muted Instagram broadcast at @sebastiane_hegarty
Shh. Shush. Hush. Schtum. Silence is often something imposed, an instruction to refrain, to not participate, something we leave behind when we hold our tongue and keep mum. It seems appropriate that many of the silencing verbs, which are primarily directed toward a silencing of speech, are onomatopoeic in origin; pre-verbal imitations of sounds that hold voice back from language. Even the physical action of the verbs’ pronunciation requires a narrowing of the mouth, a gesture which in the mumble of closed lips and shushed tittle-tattle of tongue against teeth, mimes the physical restraint of utterance. But the refrain of silence need not be a negative imposition, it might be a positive choice, an elective, collective and possibly selective withdrawal from presence.
The above paragraph is from, Withdrawn from use: Silence, listening and undoing, a new article published in the latest issue of the journal Organised Sound26/2 (Cambridge University Press). Edited by the composer, musician and academic, Tullis Rennie the issue explores Socially Engaged Sound Practices. In his editorial Tullis introduces a collection of articles which are:
‘[…] decidedly diverse: in interpretations of ‘sociality’; and in addressing distinct areas and eras of sound practices – the contemporary, canonical and hereto less-heard. Considering this issue as a single entity, the authors thus become united in their aim to diversify the conversation, in decentralising theoretical approaches to the subject matter and in the positive inclusion of a wider variety of voices, experiences, sounding bodies and attitudes to listening.’
I am delighted to be amongst such a diverse and fascinating collection of articles and authors, which includes Catherine Clover, whose article, Oh! Ah ah pree trra trra, extends sociality beyond the human to ‘speculative and expansive interspecies encounters’, Sam Mackay who examines ‘The sonic politics of “Clap for Carers” […] as participative sonic arts practice’ and Chris J. H. Cook whose article, Trevurr: A dialogic composition on dementia, auraldiversity and companion listening, ‘documents important aspects of participatory practice with neurodiverse collaborators, told through the lens of a co-created sound work.’
Withdrawn from use: Silence, listening and undoing
In his book Giving Way, Steven Connor provides a list of unappreciated qualities. This list starts with a capitalised, ‘SILENCE’. Shyness, reserve, withdrawal and holding back accompany silence in a long sentence of qualities, which ‘tend to be marked with disapproval, sympathy or revulsion’, and some of which are, as Connor notes, ‘characterized as a mental disorder, in the form of social anxiety or social phobia’ (Connor 2019: 1).
Silence is often seen as a lack of agency, an anti-social and suspect unwillingness to participate. But as a sound artist working with field-recording, I am aware that silence, withdrawal and holding back can also be a form or method of participation and social practice. Since 2004, my sound work has included a series of physical and imagined silent releases. The article draws on these works and the writing of, amongst others, Steven Connor, Seán Street,Hamja Ahsan, Gaston Bachelard and Dylan Thomas, to explore silence as a potential, shared and communal space; an immediate composition that invites both listener and non-listener into its congress. Listening in on the conversation of telephone pauses and the closed paragraphs of library shelves, silence can be heard undoing purposeful agency, shyly engaging us in the anti-social practice of inaction, so that we might not participate, together.
I am grateful to the editor of Organised Sound, Prof Leigh Landy, Tullis Rennie, Jan Baiton and the peer reviewers for their critical guidance and support. Thank you as always Julia Hall for your insight and patient ear.
A new album ofseven Séances for air guitar hour hand and harp is now available on Bandcamp.
In a concert of paranormal music, notes are plucked from thin air as the haunted strum of votives, hour-hands, and the missing fingers of an amputated doll’s hand, play upon the strings of an electric guitar and abandoned autoharp . Divined in séance with the breeze and occasionally breaking through the interference of a faulty guitar socket, invisible melodies emerge, cluster and evaporate:
teasing […] sound out of
substance: the air paired fibrous with syllables:
Earth as Air. Gustaf Sobin
The ethereal music of aeolian instruments, has long been associated with other worlds and ghostly communication. In his poem, The Eolian Harp (1796), Coleridge refers to: ‘Such a soft floating witchery of sound’. For Coleridge music sleeps in the air:
Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air Is Music slumbering on her instrument.
William Jones, the 17th century natural philosopher, proposed that this ‘slumbering music’ originated not in the strings of the harp [or guitar], but in the air itself. The instrument operated as a ‘sound prism’ ‘[refracting] the wind,’ dividing [divining] and revealing ‘vibrations […] already present in the air.’
Séance for harp hour hand and bird song. 2021. Film still.
As a premonition of the album’s forthcoming release, a new short film made in correspondence with the piece Séance for harp hour hand and birdsong is available to view on Vimeo.
The full septet, Séance for air guitar hour hand and harp, is available as a digital download via Bandcamp. The album download includes a bonus track, Séance for stones radio mast hour hand and harp, recorded in 2021 at Knowles Farm on the Isle of Wight, and featuring the litho-telegraphy of a pebble tapped on a missing radio mast, choreographed and performed by the movement artist Julia S. Hall. As the former location of Marconi’s radio experimentation station, Knowles Farm was the site of the first ‘over the horizon’ wireless transmission to The Lizard Telegraphy Station, Cornwall in 1901. This track, which featured at the Helicotrema X festival of recorded audio (Venice, Barcelona, 2021) is also included with the hand-rendered, artist limited editions. These physical editions are available in three forms: 1. Artist edition audio cassette + album download; 2. Artist edition A6 Séance card + planchette + album download; 3. Very limited full set of, audio cassette + Séance Card + planchette + album download. Full details below.
Séance for air guitar hour hand and harp: Artist Ltd Edition Audio Cassette C40 Cassette + album download + bonus track Edition 6 An artist limited edition audio cassette. Hand rendered each cassette is individually numbered and signed/dated with an artist edition stamp. Designed and produced by the artist, the cover/insert is printed on tracing paper and each cassette and case hand labelled with individual letters and numbers referring to its position in the edition sequence. The cassette includes the bonus track, Séance for stones radio mast hour hand and harp, recorded in 2021 at Knowles Farm on the Isle of Wight.
Séance for air guitar hour hand and harp: Artist Ltd Edition Seance Card A6 Seance Card + planchette + album download + bonus track Edition 20 An original artist edition A6 postcard, printed on luxurious 600gsm superfine card, uncoated on both sides. This artist edition postcard has three visual variations (readings). Hand numbered, signed/dated with the artist edition stamp, each postcard is accompanied with a free album download and a rubber-stamped hand planchette, which may be used to hold séance with other worlds. The postcards have been shuffled and will be sent out in the order divined by the shuffle.
Séance for air guitar hour hand and harp: Full Set: Artist Ltd Edition Audio Cassetteand A6 Seance Card C40Audio Cassette + A6 Seance Card + planchette + album download + bonus track Edition 5 Combined artist limited edition of A6 postcard (with hand printed planchette), audio cassette and full album download including bonus track.
Please note: Cat is for scale purposes only and not included in package.
I am honoured and excited to have a new sound work included in Helicotrema X. On its tenth anniversary, the recorded audio festival takes place in Venice, with it’s long time partner and collaborator Palazzo Grassi/ Punta della Dogana, before moving to Prato hosted by Estuario, and concluding at Hangar in Barcelona – the first time the festival has taken place outside Italy.
third horizon, is a new soundscape based on field-recordings made during my covert residencies at the Lizard Wireless Telegraphy Station (where the first ‘over the horizon’ wireless transmission was received in 1901), Fog Signal Building on the edge of the shifting liminal spit of Dungeness, and my most recent occupation at Knowles Farm, Isle of Wight – once home to Marconi’s experimentation station from whence that original wireless signal was sent.
The horizon opens with the acoustic beacon of the Lizard Foghorn, sounding out place and providing a locational fix. As this signal begins a duet with the three-beep character of the Dungeness Foghorn, place begins to disperse and mingle. Travelling through air, place, time and substance, sound unveils a spectral landscape, where the geological chat of tapped pebbles, taps away at matter as it repeats Marconi’s Morse code test signal (the di-di-dit of the letter ‘s’). Rapping on the door of substance, this litho-telegraphy reveals and interrogates ]landscapes littered with the architectural revenants of listening and communication history: the hollow volumes of the Lizard Wireless Station, the abandoned echo of decommissioned radar rooms, the unearthed cold war shiver of a redacted subterranean nuclear listening station. of Marconi’s lost transmission mast. The apparition of all these ghostly raps associate with the aeolian hum of antenna, the oceanic loll of broken waves, and automatic morse of rain and loose wires. As the weather comes in and the rain comes down, the foghorns return, sounding a final lament and keeping an audible watch on the horizon as it closes and disappears. At Knowles Farm, the dance artist and maker, Julia Hall, taps out Marconi’s test signal on the hollowed concrete base of Marconi’s lost transmission mast. The apparition of all these ghostly raps associate with the aeolian hum of antenna, the oceanic loll of broken waves, and automatic morse of rain and loose wires. As the weather comes in and the rain comes down, the foghorns return, sounding a final lament and keeping an audible watch on the horizon as it closes and disappears.
Remains of the original Marconi transmission mast base at Knowles Farm, Isle of Wight
Around 4pm on Wednesday 25th August at Winchester School of Art Library 2, a slim slither of vinyl will be exhumed from between the hardbacks on the library shelf and placed on the platter of a portable turntable. Silence on Loan is an artist book published in the form of a 10″ vinyl dubplate, cut with a silent groove. [re]Turning at 33 revolutions per minute, silence will ‘play’ for just over 9 minutes and the performance will then be over.
This year the ‘performance’ will be prefaced by a short reading from a new essay discussing silence and listening as participation. The full essay, titled, ‘Withdrawn from use: Silence, listening and undoing, will be published in the forthcoming issue of Organised Sound (26/02).
As has become my habit, the performance will begin by rewinding the cassette recording of last years ‘event’, so that it might be taped over and erased (unplayed and unheard) by this year’s recording. Once silence is done, the tape player is stopped, the cassette put in its case and silence quietly returned to its position on the shelf at 741.64HEG.
Postponed due to Covid, the annual performance of Silence on Loan is free to attend, and this year will also be available live and socially distanced via Instagram: @sebastiane_hegarty
Thanks to Catherine Polly and all at WSA Library for their help and support.
a new work for framework: afield. Broadcast on Resonance FM Sunday 13.06.21 11:00-12:00. Listen live via Resonance FM
three horizons, a new work for framework: afield, will be aired on Resonance 104.4fm (London) this Sunday (13.06.21). The programme will subsequently be broadcast on a number of radio stations world-wide and also be available to hear on the framework radiowebsite.
Curated and hosted by Patrick McGinley, framework is a radio programme and listening community that has been broadcasting on the resonance 104.4fm since 2002. The show now airs on twelve radio stations around the world, with editions, streams and podcasts available from the framework website. ‘Consecrated to field recording and its use in composition’ framework acts as a creative frequency ‘a folk-tool in a new folk movement, a community driven exchange point for creators and listeners alike.’ The show operates in two formats, a regular edition curated and produced by Patrick, and framework:afield, ‘a guest-curated series produced by artists from all corners of the globe and based on their own themes, concepts or recordings.’ As an artist interested in the perceptual geographies of sound and listening, I began to tune in around 2005. In 2007, Patrick very kindly aired the 2nd edition of my collaborative project, mo[nu]ment – a 7” vinyl record of the silence held in memory of the Indian Ocean, earthquake, and Tsunami in 2004 (crudely recorded from my bedroom window in Winchester), which framework listeners were invited to re-record directly from the framework broadcast.
My sound-works have been included in several editions of framework since then – my mam recorded an intro for the show around 2006. But this year is the first time I have contributed to framework: afield. The new sound work is called three horizons andis based on my ongoing series of covert micro-FM transmissions at locations along the southerly listening coast. These transmissions began in 2017 with the first of two unofficial, covert residencies at the Lizard Wireless Telegraphy Station, Cornwall, where in 1901, the first wireless radio signal, sent by Marconi from his ‘experimental station’ at Knowles Farm on the Isle of Wight. Not only was this the furthest a wireless signal had travelled at that time, it was also the first ‘over-the horizon’ transmission. Prior to this, it was believed that ‘the operating range of wireless would be restricted to the [optical] horizon.’ But on the 23rd of January 1901, in what became known as ‘Marconi’s first great miracle’ the arrival of three dots, a simple dit-dit-dit, at The Lizard Wireless Station, signalled not only the letter ‘s’, but also an escape from the visible and concrete, a flight from the material into the airy immaterial and unknown.Isolated and remote, the Lizard Wireless Station is on the very periphery of the terrestrial. When the rain comes down and the fog comes in the horizon evaporates. At night everywhere disappears. Each residence concluded with a live micro-FM transmission: Tuned in through an array of portable radios, the broadcasts were based on field-recordings made in a local landscape haunted by the architectural and archeological remains of communication and listening technology.
Although based on field recordings the residencies began to bring sounds into the landscape, not only through transmission, but also in the fields of sound recorded. These fields include sounds hidden from audition and unavailable to human ears: the muted harmonic hum of antenna and automatic Morse of loose wires. But they also include instruments and technologies that might contribute to, and compose with the landscape. The air harp, a second-hand autoharp, prepared with the flotsam of things found and discarded, conspires to pluck voices from thin air, whilst the litho-telegraphy of pebbles collected from the localities of transmission, and used to tap out the dit-dit-dit of Marconi’s test signal. This geological intelligence tests substance and briefly brings into presence the absences of landscape. Sounding out and listening in, on abandoned radar rooms, the cracked silence of sound mirrors, and redacted subterranean hollows of cold war surveillance. On the Isle of Wight this palpitating tap, transmits the extinguished light of a 14th century lighthouse, once attached to St Catherine’s Oratory, whilst the rap of a pebble on the remains of a concrete base, lurking in the field behind Knowles Farm, summons forth the lost signals of Marconi’s transmission mast1.
The micro-FM transmitter has little power, and the signal is so weak that no one can tune into to hear. I am broadcasting to no one, and no one is listening. For Framework afield, I have re-composed three horizons from the four broadcasts. Appearing in reverse chronological order each horizon corresponds with the three sites of transmission, remembering signals received and sent through the landscapes of the Isle of Wight, Dungeness and Lizard peninsular. Beginning with extracts from this year’s micro-transmission from the room at Knowles Farm where Marconi had conducted his early wireless experiments, the first horizon appeared with the misplaced bellow of Lizard Lighthouse foghorn. In the original Knowles broadcast, I used this acoustic beacon as a focal point, to locate the broadcast frequency and tune in through an array of radios dispersed into the landscape of the room.
The sound of the foghorn is a lonely voice, in a lonely place, which seems to empty the landscape where it appears. In her fascinating recent book, The Foghorn’s Lament, Jennifer Lucy Allen, refers to Ray Bradbury’s ‘evocative and florid description of the foghorn’ as: ‘a voice that is like an empty bed beside you all night long, and like an empty house when you open the door and like trees in autumn with no leaves.’2 The audible hinge of a door opening into the first of horizon, welcomes in the empty loneliness of the misplaced Lizard foghorn, here haunted by the absent voice of the St Catherine’s Lighthouse foghorn, an instrument visible through the room’s window, but whose signal, ‘discontinued’ in 1987, remains now unheard3.
The three horizons are haunted by the apparition of places unseen and sounds unheard: on the Isle of Wight, at a disused radar station, rain taps catastrophic messages into the water of a cattle trough, beneath which lies the abandoned secret of a cold war listening station. Whilst in roughs above Hythe near Dungeness, a crumbling sound mirror, tapped out into presence, keeps an ear out, for sounds yet to arrive.
The Lizard foghorn looms and lows over the horizons, returning to close the second horizon, it opens the third in a brief characterful4 duet with the three electronic beeps of the Dungeness fog signal. This final horizon disappears in an echoic flutter of geological telegraphy, as pebbles tap out the acoustics of a derelict World War 2 radar room, and the Lizard foghorn returns to signal absence. Lost in an empty sea, this sonic beacon keeps vigil, calling out for a response that never comes. And in this lonely [depressive] position, sound remains, pining for the lost, forgotten, and unheard.
I would like to thank the dance artist, Julia Hall for her creative participation, choreographed telegraphy and critical ear. I wold also like to thank Patrick for providing this opportunity and his relentless commitment to field-recording and the listening community.
Post transmission at Knowles Farm, Isle of Wight, May 2021.
three horizons will be broadcast on framework: afield on Sunday 13.06.21 from 11:00-12:00. You can listen live via Resonance FM
You can also listen again via the frameworkwebsite
framework always needs support to continue its commitment to field recording audio. You can help by becoming a patron via: patreon.com
The wooden mast was rumoured to have been sold, cut and appropraitely repurposed as a ladder.
Allen, J.L. 2021. The Foghorn’s Lament. London: White Rabbit
The St Catherine’s Lighthouse foghorn has had several voices. In 1948, Aubrey de Selincourt, described its changing tones : ‘[…] formerly it was a sick bull’s iterated bellow; now it’s a ghoul-groan ending in a grunt.’ A sound he ‘bears’ because he ‘cannot forget the ships and the men on them … listening.’ Aubrey de Selincourt. 1948. Vision of England: Isle of Wight. London: Paul Elek Publishers.
Every foghorn signal, like every lighthouse beam is designed with a distinctive ‘character’, which enables it to be identified as belonging to a specific place. In fog signals this code is, the number of blasts and silent periods in each minute. The character of the Dungeness foghorn echoes Marconi’s test signal, with a succession of three quick blasts.
Piss Walk№ 6 is the first of my stained perambulations to be published in the form of a limited-edition set of 13 purchasable A6 postcards. Printed on uncoated 600gsm card and seamed in ‘sunny yellow’ the photographic sequence retraces the sixth of my early morning ‘lockdown’ walks, as I sniffed around the back streets of Winchester and along the river Itchen. Each card is rubber stamped on the reverse, with the date of the walk and numbered with its position in the sequence of damp patches encountered that day. As discussed in a previous post, my lockdown walks had no predetermined purpose other than a modicum of exercise and time away from the paralysis of Zoom. Rebecca Solnit notes that the casual acquaintance of a meandering stroll ‘allows you to find what you do not know you are looking for’. My meander, coupled with the quiet physical vacancy of the ante meridiem environment, acquainted me with the occasional and previously unnoticed, damp trails of urine left by the toilet of local hounds. It became my habit to follow and photographically collect these moist encounters. A habit that has resulted in the creation of an unintentional archive of (to date) thirteen Piss Walks.
On the leash of the dogs’ morning privy, I tail the stained criminal records of an intimate act in a public space: an evaporating souvenir of corporeal presence. The obsolete technology of the picture postcard would therefore seem to be an appropriately ephemeral method of recording and mapping these trails. Sent back to where we are not, addressing those we are apart from, the cheap, disposable souvenir of a postcard, announces presence whilst confirming absence. As it passes visibly through the public body of the Royal Mail, the postcard reveals a dysfunctional relationship with intimacy, a mischievous liaison, characterised by the saucy offence of seaside communique and an obsession with bodily function.
The 13 postcards of Piss Walk № 6 have now been sold and sent. Protected and concealed by the hard-backed buff of a manilla envelope, each postcard has passed modestly through the systemised transit of national (and international) mail. Extending the scent of canine territories from Winchester to Brighton to Bristol, Wolverhampton and beyond the sea to Canada, the postcards are a souvenir of an evaporated walk, a memory dispersed, fragmented and lost in the post.
In a second limited-edition, Piss Walk № 9 has been published as a complete set of ten postcards. Archived and preserved in an ironically acid free box, the postcards will remain enveloped and unsent as part of the Artists’ Book Collection at Winchester School of Art Library.
I am also delighted that the damp traces of Piss Walk № 4, have been included in Right Here Right Now, Observations, Speculations & Hallucinations; a new book gathering together the personal lockdown of numerous artists, designers and writers. Published by Book-Lab 2020 (isbn: 978-1-71680-539-4), designed and edited by Danny Aldred, RHRN is ‘a kind of visual atlas [providing] multiple perspectives of the same moment.’ There are plans to exhibit the book at the Design Transfer Gallery (Berlin) later this year.
I have thought I might ‘celebrate’ the end of the pandemic by offering a Piss Walk Tour of Winchester. In direct competition with English Heritage, Jane Austin’s House and the public tours of private education, the WinchesterPiss Walk Tour would meet beneath a plague flag on Water Lane and proceed along the river Itchen, through the Water Meadows, around the u-bend of Winchester College, before passing down the cloisters of Winchester Cathedral and finally through the Water Gate, past The Quaker Meeting House and back across the bridge to rejoin Water Lane. Along the way I would recount stories of infamous stains and perhaps leave a trail of Piss Walk postcards in our wake. DM to reserve your place.