Sunday, 26 June 2011

a field student of maps reports

Field Study’s Man in E17 has ventured further into the spirit of community art locally by getting involved in the making of a group show at the Hornbeam, for the E17 Art Trail. 6 artists or more may participate this year under the exhibition title of, Here Local Further Afield. This is a working title so may change. The title is derived from the Hornbeam Café’s community notice board and initial discussions about the show have expressed an interest in Hornbeam as a social hub - or meeting place. He has composed and offered the temporary artist collective a few pithy texts for Hornbeam’s listing in the trail guide, an example of which is:
Hornbeam is a hub of creativity and this year hosts a group show which explores ideas about place and community and of course the café also offers visitors a delicious vegetarian and vegan menu….
Field Study’s Man is, perhaps necessarily fretting about the artistic content of his contribution to the group show having got his self snagged up in a thicket of whimsy; tethered to the ground by a strangely powerful variety of local bind weed; a rhizome fertilised by the diluted juices of contemporary culture. In this medium of spurious encounter is he capable of focussing on an idea (his mission) sufficiently well to make something worth reporting to the journal of Field Study International?
A reminder of the aims and objectives of the mission might be helpful. The aim is to map Walthamstow’s footpaths and other pedestrian ways, the objective being a map or series of maps and reports, to present to the E17 Art Trail, and further afield via the journal of Field Study International. We might liken, Field Study’s Man in E17 to John Doyley, the surveyor commissioned by Walthamstow’s vestry clerk, John Coe. The survey and mapping was undertaken in response to alleged tax avoidance by local land owners and Field Study’s Man in E17 has been conscious of the layers of meaning attributable to the term, ‘dark path’. Coe’s Map (1822), as it is known is available to view at Vestry House Museum, as is, or perhaps isn’t, Forbes Map (1699). Why is or isn’t - that polluted liminal zone again? Forbes map resides in a passageway dim lit to such an extent the map is barely visible - a conservational gloom. Most visible in this faded terrain are the cracks and creases where the subterranean backing fabrics appear as a more persistent and minute foundational grid. Flash photography is not permitted and reproduction of photographs permissible only with consent from the museum. Recently he listened to a radio programme in which, he believes, someone from Ordnance Survey explained sketching or drawing, even freehand, from OS maps, is a breach of copyright. Forbes Map was commissioned to record land belonging to Sir William Maynard, Baronet - a hereditary peer no less. The rest of the map is left blank; from what Field Study’s Man could make out Maynard owned a very large proportion of the area. It is, despite (and/or because of?) the gloom, clearly a map of power and Field Study’s Man in E17 mused on the persistence of this power and the regulations which enable this.
Field Study’s Man (FSM) has yet to arrange a viewing of London Borough of Waltham Forest’s definitive (and blank?) map and statement - a gross neglect of his bogus civic expedition. His excuse is he is afraid of the dark - especially blank darkness. FSM will endeavour to overcome some of his fears and map by 1:1 means (guided or influenced by Francis Alys) those outdoor paths and areas of Walthamstow which are exclusive to the pedestrian 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Taking or extending these criteria some public spaces are not public enough e.g. parks which close at night. Many pavements are too hazardously close to the encroachment of motor vehicles and considered to be too much of a liability. FSM has also wondered about the inclusion of paths which cross housing association estates - are they private?. How will the definitive map affect FSM’s walks?
Field Study’s Man has pictured himself as a night-watchman; there is also an image of one at Vestry House Museum and consistent to the trail of literary allusion, FSM has dipped into Jules Verne, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and, H G Wells, Country of the Blind to shed some light on the, some might say, blank darkness of his imagination. 

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