Richard White

explorations in place and time


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Bath: the plaqued and the unplaqued

Beagles in the basement, stopped and searched on Bath’s Royal Crescent, an elopement, plaques, parties and hollow pillars. A disenchanted walk across the city, rattling railings.
44AD humanity 2
Setting off from the gallery where the red glow room call to our humanity had yet to be illuminated, but already the question was there. Outside the theatre our first set of plaques that told us nothing about the origins of the wealth or where it went, did Bean Nash die of syphilis and did the woman really end her days in a tree. Good stories so why not? The harder truth was across the road where a casino will be built faux Georgian in the open space once the playground of a school and before that a clay pipe factory.
pipe factory site for casino
Tobacco. The first legacy of the day. The plantation economy produced addiction that generated wealth for Wills. Maybe pipes went down the river but surely the tobacco came up. A commodity worth exploring.

On to the signs that ward off the devil and a collector of watercolours, Mr Braikenridge. A ‘West India merchant’, a euphemism from the era of slavery. Slaveowner. Remembered as a man of letters who gathered picturesque images of the west country, do we view the collection differently, do we see that house on the corner of Queen Square differently? No plaque guides us or protective sign indicates wrongs committed. One lump or two Mr Beckford?
21 Queen Square Braikenridge
On the way up to our mans residence we walk the Royal Crescent, where West Indian merchants retired with their families and ‘servants’.  A story of a house party. A plaque to an elopement,  representing pride or shame or just a good story involving a once famous dramatist? No plaques for slaveowners here. Were they ashamed already? We do Pitman and shorthand but other plaques no general knowledge comes to our aid. Perhaps we should have asked passers by. A stop and search story from a walker brings us to the moment, and the second point of legacy for the day: institutional racism.

We continue up the hill stopping outside the one time residence of Nathaniel Wells, slaveowner, beneficiary of the compensation claims , did he get compensation on his mother, a house slave? Mixed race Mr Wells became Britains first black JP, first black Sheriff and the owner of Peircefield house. Its gardensonce an example of the picturesque, now in ruins on the edge of Chepstow racecourse.

To Beckford’s house we share the story and add our spin, his sexuality and huge slave generated wealth which with the compensation money last him a lifetime without working a day. A story that he bought the house next door to silence a dog barking, another dog further along the crescent popped into memory. Beagles in the basement in the former girls school kitchen. Former girls school once the home of slaveowner and slavery advocate. So we review the liberal myth of Bath. Legacy number three, a language of universal human rights.
18-20 Lansdown Cresecnet Beckford
Simon Barrow former Mayor of Bath, former Alderman and, in the footsteps of Beau Nash, Master of Ceremonies. One of Bath’s Last Legal Slaveowners. …. and Jewish. Stretching the mind to make sense it all, is this assimilation or corruption?
plaqued out Circus2.jpg
Down to the river chewing this over by way of the Circus where caught in the turgid tour guided crowds we reached peak plaque. Livingstone of Africa, Clive of India, where to begin with these Edwardian era celebrated but blood stained builders of Empire? As the good man Dabydeen says, at least with some truth, a disenchantment. At the river we stop to think of prisons, breweries and slaughterhouses. On the purity of water and what has dissolved in it. What is suspended.

Blood, sweat, tears. The bodies of those dumped overboard as rebels or damaged goods.

Finally to a consideration of the possibly not contemporaneous neighbours of Mr Wilberforce, he suitably plaque along with Hannah Moore across the street, the only woman plaque spotted on our journey. But no plaque for the Reverend Scott, The Reverend Scott on whose plantation 110 rebel slaves were executed  in a brutally repressed uprising. The Reverend Scott who received more than ten thousand pounds in compensation for the ‘release’ of his plantation slaves. Scott’s wife is supposed to have a memorial stone in the nearby church. Still looking for it.

Laura fountain7

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The Finest View in Europe.

“The road from the little village of Bath to the Fountain of the Medicinal Spring, is most horribly romantic, and partakes very much of those anticipations of the sublime of Nature, which, in his progress through particular vallies, the traveller cannot fail to have frequently experienced. The narrowness of the path, and the precipices upon one side, are to strangers somewhat alarming; but the beautiful scenery with which the journey is rewarded, affords some consolation.”

(Beckford W:  A descriptive account of the Island of Jamaica)

Join me on foot or online Saturday 28 May

Saturday, May 28 Bath School of Art and Design Sion Hill, Lansdown   BA1 5SF

Open the conversation. Meet at reception 11.00. Approx 3 mile walk. Return approx 13.00.

ud stepped logo small versionin conversation

Opening and closing on foot. Walk and talk. Listen. Sense. Consider the views.

A free and open conversation in which artists, writers, thinkers and anyone else who wants to join in can engage with themes that correspond with the best of our aspirations and the worst of our nightmares.

11.00 Open the conversation, stretch minds and legs on a networked walk to

The Finest View in Europe (but it may cost you to get in! Please fill in the contact form if you are coming and we can get a group discount)

Out of the enchanted city, over the fields, up the hill and back again down the road. Disenchanted.

 

1330 for 1400 – 1700   Lecture Theatre

Utopia, Dystopia and Catastrophe

Guest speakers include:

  • Kate Rigby, the newly appointed Professor of Environmental Humanities at Bath Spa University and author of Changing the Climate: Utopia, Dystopia and Catastrophe;
  • Linda Williams, a specialist on human-animal relations, climate change and mass species extinction; and
  • Rachel Withers, writer and critic, focussing on art and ideas.

17.00 Wayfaring in the Enchanted City

The conversation continues in the café, online and on foot walking through the heart of utopian Bath, approx 19.00 arriving at “Bath’s Artisan Quarter” for exhibitions and the utopian/dystopian pub, The Bell, in Walcot Street.

In the two walks opening and closing the day I hope you will join us, share thoughts and generate resonances on utopian/dystopian aspects of the city. Follow and contribute @walknowlive and #walknow #utopiadystopiaSomerly Beckford book title

more from this book by William Beckford of Somerly (our man’s cousin) here: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015065152442


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Relics of the River Crouch walk

At the end of the walk we assembled quietly on the bank of the river as the tide turned and the river began to flow again towards the sea. We collected out thoughts and reflected on the 8 days, remembering each one.end of walk 2

In the heat in the pub garden I showed and described a series of items into a cardboard container. Enumerating the  thoughts each had triggered on my walk:

Dried blue flowers from the beginning, seeds at the finish.

Items returned with love and memories for the next time.

  • A sprig of blue flowers from the sea wall at Bradwell, picked on the day our river pilgrimage began, their blue contrasting with the flag we walked between them.
  • A Mercedes badge resembling the Dengie windmills near where it was found, into the container with ruminations on this icon of conspicuous consumption
  • A spare coat button once in a small torn plastic bag found on the path, for my mum who further humiliated me when I lost a primary school playground fight.
  • An Apple ‘paperclip’ found on the ground out at the antiques emporium and b&b at Battlesbridge with amusement and irony on the location, and with respect to the equipment I am using
  • A 1988 2p piece found on the ground at the North Fambridge station rendezvous for love and community arts in Swindon
  • 2 cockle shells from a beach of shells bounded by the sea wall for the sea, Aphrodite and ancient pilgrims
  • Last, a baby conker found in the shade at the park by the river for the sun, shade, children’s poems and The Box of Crabs

All contained in a sortlifeout tube stuffed tightly with screwed up pages of the Daily Mail July 3 2015

Box of Crabs says

Cast into an ebbing tide on the River Crouch at Hullbridge on Saturday 4 July. The end of the walk.


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River Crouch Festival walk day 3 Burnham to Canewdon

Communicating across the river by land, air and water!

Pagelsham arrival

Our first complete connection across the river began appropriately with an early morning boat ride round to Pagelsham. Crossing the river and seeing from a different perspective where we had walked the day before, earth moving monsters still rearranging the cross rail mud on Wallasea. We chugged around the island and walked the rest, all the way to Canewdon.

Essex flatIn the mud, beached boats, rusting hulks and rotting wooden carcases, the blackened bones of huge dead fish, seals and their pups camouflaged, basking. For that is what seals do. Talking yachting with the ferry men, two brothers in conversation with the flag carrying walkers at the same time holding open with each other a discrete line of conversation on water hazards, tides and navigation. We were dropped off as if in a foreign country and walked up the jetty, the ferry turned and the set off back. We waved thankyou.

With no one we knew to meet us it felt strange, like a film set. Corrugated iron buildings with faded signs, the sound of motors and welding, various dodgy looking, suspicious, but eventually friendly, geezers came to check us out. “I work in the environment, I do” said one going on to describe the costly gear he had buried in the mud. Another said we looked like we had got lost on our way back from Glastonbury. The sun grew hot. A newspaper photographer showed up and we play acted for him. Stuart (local artist) arrived dripping with sweat on his bike to hand over the next code . Project Manager showed up stressed and cross that someone else had done the porterage which she had not wanted to do. And subsequently fired off another stroppy email. I needn’t have come this morning ,she said; as if it wasn’t expected that she should consider it to be part of her job to be at the start each day and see everyone off. At least the suitcases were not transported in a rib. The logistics safety net of the project is weak.

Paglesham flags1We walked on banners flying along the sea wall, all the way round to Canewdon. A tremendous walk if a bit hot and scorchify. Putting on a last burst of speed to get to the school only a few minutes late. After signing in not signing in…PM’s job?.. we found the whole school in the playground seated, expectantly, talking through their community flag. We appeared carrying three flags the gasps from children and grown ups was audible. Jo ( local artist) already on a roll as MC of the whole thing.

Canewdon church ribbon3The Canewdon flag was presented and four flags were carried, with children bearing the two sections of ribbon, to the church. As we arrived the bells started ringing. A tremendous touch, we later climbed the tower and heard the stories of the bells.We were all excited, parents dignitaries, teachers and the vicar looked on as Jo orchestrated the event. Proud children fed out the banner around the church and we were all astounded as it came around the other side and was ceremoniously tied up.

Here the children did seem to understand the gesture and the link, connecting with the history talk and the notion of the embrace of their village building. A real sense of community and pride. Perhaps something to do with getting them out of the school into the streets of their community. We had brought them something special from across the water.

Canewdon schoolIronically the act of running around the church is supposed to produce a presence at the church door. I wonder if that was a deep echo of the churches original pagan site. We later visited the pond where, the story goes, the ‘witches ‘ were drowned. A more respectable superstition was rolled out by the Christian priest, and just past the house called Nirvana a black cat ran across the road in front of us.


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Hamish Fulton. Walk On. Plymouth

Walking in Plymouth city centre. With Lorna Brunstein, visiting Walk On http://walkonplymouth.org/ exhibition over 4 different venues. From Francis Alys’s lost guardsmen walking the City of London and activating each other like daleks to tightrope walkers and Sarah Cullen’s automatic drawing pencil suspended in a box, held like a miners canary. Took part in a walk choreographed by Hamish Fulton, perfect timing for a mass silent communal walk,  it filled the pavement for an intense hour as Plymouth’s Christmas Market ground into gear with the pop canon full blast.

Hamish Fulton

Hamish Fulton explains Plymouth City Centre walk

Hamish Fulton walk steward

Steward gets walkers organised

Two lines of walkers about 50 in each line, facing each other alternatively on the cold grey square concrete paving slabs. We were to follow the lines of the paving, to choose and maintain our pace for exactly one hour walking back and forth across the narrow space. Without a call to start the line broke at 11.00. We walked back and forth. Some walked fast, some barely moved. I chose to walk methodically and not to tread on the cracks. 9 steps then turn, sometime 10 when I messed up on the annoying half stone at the green grass end. In front of me one way decaying 1970s corporation building with modernist reflecting pool and the other way official green space and the court.  Up the line, the Christmas market and diesel throbbing fund fair blasted out the songs of the seasonal spectacle. I drifted in and out. I counted 9 steps then turn, only 10 if I messed up on that annoying half stone. I breathed on each pace. I breathed for in for a whole crossing and out for the return.

9 steps then turn, only 10 if I messed up

I focused on my breath.

I focused on my feet.

I focused on the lines in the pavement.

It became a meditation.

I listened to my breath.

…..beyond the hissing in my ears I heard:

Christmas Songs:
John Lennon and Yoko still declaring that War is Over now from the funfair PA, made me feel sad, distant and alone.

Slade belting out their eternal Christmas song, once such a refreshing ripost to Bing and Dean now merging with them into the seasonal till ringing repertoire.

Over the roar of the generators I heard Hi ho Silver Lining and was thrown into long ago discos when walking was what you did to get anywhere, mainly to get back home. Then Mona Mona and I was back into bands and dances when rock and roll was not such a distant memory and even though I didn’t have a clue who Eddie Cochrane was I knew about the United Nations.

9 steps then turn, only 10  if I messed up

music fades and earliest memories float

The larch lap wall. Dark overlapped wood. Maybe moving along a path. Larch lap, I know it now.

9 steps then turn

Perfect walk, can’t mess up. Quality control
Don’t tread on the cracks. only 10 if I messed up
9 steps then turn

I could feel my body. I became my body with no sense of time. I could hear my breath. Aches in my back. Look up and forward and down to check those cracks at my toes.

 9 steps then turn, only 10 if I messed up

We were watched, I heard comments in the air:
“They could have picked a better space”
“Better if they took their clothes off”
“What’s this all about then”

I wanted to say where I was in all this and share but the pavement slabs were my discipline and its lines my control: my feet, my movement, my focus. Occasional furtive glances up the line, disappointed that it lacked the communal grace of other Fulton walks. Annoyed at a walker’s shoe crossing the edge line. Brushing shoulders with a fellow walker at the turn, brief moment of solidarity and then on, alone, as our chosen pace separated us again. Back into the measured space between my lines.

 9 steps then turn, only 10 if I messed up

Suddenly a shopper, a different kind of walker interrupts the line, I resent breaking my step.
Then another and this time aggressive presence, he bumps my shoulder, deliberate? A provocation? The space responds. Questions of purpose….

 9 steps then turn, only 10  if I messed up
Pacing like a caged beast in the spectacle.

The short walk of the internment cell. Ai Wei Wei. Stan
Prison cell walk. Smashing into the wall. Walking away.
9 steps.

I was so far away.

At 12.00 on the command of our iPhones the walking came to a halt. We turned and stood in silence for a moment. Acknowledging each other.  We connect from across the now shrinking space. Big smiles. Applause ripples up the line.


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Autumn Sound Walk

Portesham Sound Walk

honestyseeds4 copy

Up the hill out of Portesham

Rural icons,

church bells, ducks on the pond,

babbling brook already overflowing

With sounds

Is this the way to the Hell Stone?

remains of a lane

old apple tree dropping

small yellow fruit

crunching under my step

water tank rings to my kick

a gate sings in the wind

deadtrees4

Looking out over grey windy seas silver

Dive sites

Brittle stars

Swyre Ledges

Hardy’s monument looms out of the mist

A lost factory chimney.

keystone1768 copy

Roofless farmhouse former film set

The year 1768 cut in the front door keystone:

galvinise screeches in the wind

old dry stones scrabble, clatter, collapse. Dry.

slow relentless decay

slow relentless advance

a sapling grows through ancient iron wheels

agrmachine

and in rusting steel tubes

a tattoo slaps and beats

A huge fiberglass tank becomes

for a moment

my

big

bass

drum

Circular walk from Portesham to Hardys Monument and back October 2013

South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership, Dorset AONB, HLF funded project supported by WDDC
Download the sound walk autumn 2013 four track mix from DIVAcontemporary Radio


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Place and Time

AB digital natives

Struggling towards nailing down a PhD question I am here:

PhD Practice-led research

The earliest recorded expressions of humanity are about presence and place. In a time of enhanced connectivity, physical mobility and apparent dislocation from the land how do we express presence in a place? How do these factors affect perceptions of place? This future facing research is grounded in participatory artwork using both highly localised/physical and networked global/virtual engagement to articulate presence and place.

I am engaged with walking artists and want to work collaboratively using accessible tools, creating transformative experiences. I am making art that is accessible to many and is socially useful. I want to develop my work articulating what it means to be alive at a particular place, seeking to express creatively an understanding of identity in relation to place and time. I am fascinated in the development of pervasive computing and locative media, especially in the way that it is challenging our sense of who we are and where we are in the world. My interest is not so much on the technology, more on the impact it is having as it becomes more ubiquitous. I am developing a practice creating enhanced interpretations of places, performing the landscape, generating a profound, shared, immersive experience of place.

I am supporting the spread of digital media literacy, enabling wider participation in social networks and engagement with social media. I am interested in the intergenerational, insider/outsider communication of knowledge and understanding about place and technology that this will generate. I enjoy the interplay of notions of liveness and presence and I believe that these are key elements in making the work distinctive, meaningful and engaging. I want to make work that tests and explores those experiences

Through my PhD I will develop participatory strategies for effective virtual and physical engagement in such storytelling/memory rich, outdoor celebratory/heritage contexts. I want to make work that addresses the live performative phase and look at how I can combine online networked elements with locative elements to create that profound experience of place.

Freedome on mydoorstepwider

“Eerie! Never walked, not a step, yet now transported alongside those walking”  message in Walking Wiltshire’s White Horses visitors book August 2013