Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 meets the Foul Enchanter of Wood Street

Wood Street is full of surprises and fantastic surprises at that what with this day being February 29th. This evening Wood Street did not disappoint a rambling field student of E17s supernatural phenomena.

Change is afoot in Wood Street and the field student has been tracking some of the changes, looking out for the various paw marks that belong to some of the instigators of the changes. He has encountered pink bears and flesh eating ghosts and obviously survived to tell the tales. On the evening of this one in one thousand eight hundred and twenty six days rarity he believed his chances of encountering more mythical phenomena were greatly improved.

Acting on intelligence gleaned from his reading of 'Electric Eden, Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music' (Rob Young) he set out to track down Wood Street's resident 'beastly depraved woodland denizen who uses sweet intoxicating music and 'well placed words of glozing courtesy' to charm and incapacitate his victims', namely, Comus.

Equipped with an ipod Field Study's Man in E17 jigged about in peripatetic abandon, losing himself to the sonic strains of late 1960s /early 1970s psychedelic folk. Delicately blossomed trees, sentinels of Spring, lightened his steps. For a moment all was well in the night garden of Field Study's Man in E17, despite the ominous chance of foul enchantment. Ah, but the sirens, and the songs they sing in (the) harmony of emergency service, are enough to darken any bucolic vision.

Wood Street is a site of many auras and hazes, even more so since the creatmospheric intervention of flourescent municipal regeneration; and this coupled with Nature's own powers of renewal! Field Study's Man in E17 was caught in a reverie, enchanted by pink and blue tinted blossom, such was the liquorice sweet synaesthetic intoxication in which he danced to all the colours of darkness.

One of the problems of imbibing music via a personal stereo is the blissful ignorance of what is going on around you. Field Study's Man in E17 had all but lost sight of his mission to track down Comus but Comus had not lost sight of Field Study's Man in E17. Surely there was a rumble or quake that forewarned of the dreadful apparition? He, FSMiE17, was wrenched from his pink blue haze by the awful sight of Comus erupting from a lair deep within the decommissioned public convenience at the Forest Road end of Wood Street. There Comus stood, a terrible looming assemblage of splintered wood, crushed brick, twisted metal pipe and smashed ceramic latrines.

Had someone at the council mistakenly thought the erection of hoarding around the defunct convenience would contain the odours of discontent past?

What can a field student of E17 do in such a gut wrenching predicament? To avoid the fate of being bound 'to a marble venomed seat with gums of glutinous heat' (Rob Young and a bit of Milton) he resorted to what little remained of his reality; a rattle bag of defences against witchcraft and sorcery, created after a visit to Vestry House Museum's current exhibition, Witch Hunt. Phew, thank goodness for the foresight of the London Borough of Waltham Forest's leisure and culture services. He fumbled through his collection of bellarmine jugs, holed stones, horse shoes, mandrake roots, salts and nails, shoes, owls, animal bones and glass bottles - for that which would dispel the vision of grotesque debauchery towering over him. It was a stuffed owl, held up along with the proclamation, 'get thee gone, Comus!', that saw the depraved assemblage collapse, and remarkably so, within the confines of the hoarding.

What amazed Field Study's Man in E17 was how so many people carried on as if nothing had happened. As the video clip shows, some ran by Comus' lair, but others walked as if without a care. Perhaps they had also been to the VHM exhibition and were equipped with reassuring talismans.

Now why has Lost and Found in E17 resorted to Field Study's Man in E17 in the third person? Rumour has it the ghost of Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder General, is in town. Watch out.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 is on the trail of the flesh eating ghosts of Wood Street

I hadn't expected it to take me so long to recover from that tall tale spin although it would not be wholly unreasonable to say it was a truly dire plummet into the shallows of my psycho-terrain; so much so it was a near dearth experience. Boom boom bump bump.

Recently I have been grounded behind the Turnaround internet scenes slavishly applying my two typing fingers to the service of art and communality. A walk is a fine antidote to the sometimes stupor inducing effects of this seemingly unrelenting digital tap dance upon my laptop keyboard. It was consternation I felt (perhaps a contradiction in terms) when I realised the consequences of losing a dot and the letter l from an important email address; a mistake I had replicated far too many times. I overcame the paralysis and took my dismay for a walk along and around Wood Street in the hope my spirits would revive. Something was afoot and if it was not my spirits being revived then may be other spirits were.

At least this is what I think happened. I have just started reading John Wyndham, The Seeds of Time and so I may have been in a chronoclasmic state. Incidentally, I found 'The Seeds of Time' in one of the second hand book stalls in Wood Street Indoor Market; my purchase of the book being another personal contribution to the Wood St effort.

While various other websites and blogs (I am involved in) are for serious and sensible contributions to the community, Lost and Found in E17 errs more towards the spurious, fatuous and ridiculous. This is not to say LaFiE17 cannot accommodate some sensibleness e.g. the question, what has Wood St got to offer? A sensible question is unlikely to find an equally sensible answer in Lost and Found in E17.    

I found myself at the plaza on Wood Street. In my chronoclasmic state I wondered if this is, in fact and/or fiction, a burial ground. Are those seats sarcophagi, there in a weirdly blank, grey and vacant vista overlooked by trees paradoxically amputated by the partial adornment of lights? Who or what is buried in the sheer cut and polished dolmen? Digging up the roots of the word, 'sarcophagus', does not bring much in the way of reassurance and comfort; from the Greek, sarkophagus 'flesh consuming', sark- flesh, -phagos '-eating'. Cold comfort!

I broke into a cold sweat when I realised my brash artyological psycho-exhumations had stirred the consciousness of a dark chthonic entity; a chilling subterranean glow at my feet gave me cause to whimper pathetically. What is this place? Traces of other visitors were all around in the form of excretions and secretions of various bodily fluids. It was then I lost myself (I think) to a moment of sheer terror as it occurred to me what I had assumed to be paint splats defacing some of the surrounding shop fronts were, in my mind, the splats of liquefied flesh.

I have some reason and much more unreason to believe the image below represents all that is left of a visitor to Wood Street Plaza. You may rationalise and say this is all that a visitor left but that is just the splitting of a semantic hair.  

Below, is that all that is left of another visitor to one of Wood Street's sites of renewal? Were - are - flesh eating ghosts afoot in Wood Street?

As I hurriedly left the plaza I passed close to one of the illuminated trees. I could not believe it. If you think you are looking at a photograph of a tree partially dressed with light bulbs then you are mistaken. Those spots of light are genetically modified glow in the dark fungal spores devouring the tree. It may look pretty but it really isn't.

This place wants to eat me!

What a disaster. My walks are supposed to be reviving constitutionals and yet by the time I got home I was in a state of absolute raggedy nervousness - hardly one in which to return to the exactitude's of online curatorial responsibility. I resorted to another consolation, reading, in the hope of more success. I picked up my copy of Electric Eden (Rob Young) and dived straight into Chapter 15, Paradise Enclosed.

Strangely, the chapter begins with the analysis of the word, 'weird'. Mr Young writes, 'for all its current over-use as a signifier of oddity, the word 'weird' derives its power from ancient Germanic roots. 'Wurthis' meant 'to turn' or 'wind'; the words inherent sense of movement led to the modern German 'werden', 'to become' (literally, 'to turn into'). From 'werden', Old English derived the word 'wyrd', meaning 'destiny' or 'fate': in other words, the condition to which your becoming brings you'.

Was it my fate to be tree food and in turn to become a source of light? Is Wood Street plaza a new site for devotion to the myth of Yggdrasil ? Rob Young's enclosed Paradise recalls Utopia's various remakes in English fields, starting in the 'concentration of the latter day 'weird Albion' that is Glastonbury and more specifically, Worthy Farm's fields at Pilton - home to Glastonbury Festival.
Could Wood Street be a newly discovered site of Avalonian energies - a place, to quote Andrew Kerr ( a co founder of Glastonbury Festival), to 'stimulate the Earth's nervous system with joy, appreciation and happiness'?

It is a shame the tree of Wood Street plaza before is no longer with us - for it would have been the ideal tree around which to dance a merry dance of cosmic invigoration and celebration of the inevitable.

Lucas Cranach the Elder - The Golden Age, 1530

Monday, 13 February 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 finds himself in a right old tale spin on Wood Street

 Waltham Forest Arts Club Pop Up Gallery
Wood St Indoor Market (photo: Julie Caves)

Waltham Forest Arts Club
Turnaround Programme (design: Julie Caves)

A while I go I saw a very old man with enormous wings. I did. I did. Ok so he wasn't a real very old man with enormous wings but rather he or it was a puppet in a play courtesy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Kneehigh Theatre and the magical Little Angel Theatre. I know the difference between suspended disbelief and reality; how sad is that? Get lost and maintain your grip on fantasy is my current dictum for the purposes of psycho well being. However I am not sure I am managing to get my five full wholesome fantasies a day and perhaps the recent infrequency of posts on Lost and Found in E17 is a symptom of this. Psycho geographer's constipation (PGC) is, some might say, a condition that is of some benefit to the well being of others - if not the host. I hope you will excuse me for letting a little go. What, for nowhere's sake, brought about this miraculous shift? 

In the play, the very old winged man descends on a run down fishing village and brings, initially, the benefits of certain healing powers. All in the village are briefly well and better until various entrepreneurial opportunities are seized upon and the poor old man is incarcerated, fed on a meagre diet of potato peelings and his healing powers exploited.

So was it a winged man who cured me of PGC? No. Wood St, as one of the islands in the Archipelago, has instead been visited by a very pink bear, with ever so slightly enormous bunches of flowers, who kisses unsuspecting ladies. It is a creature with similar healing powers to that of the very old man with enormous wings. I rubbed my eyes and blinked, turned around a full 360 degrees and feasted my psycho gaze on the big pink one. With a tell tale rumble and the inklings of a tall tale I just knew I had been magically cured of my PGC.

If Marquez gave us a cautionary tale rendered in magical realist style then we must not repeat the mistakes of the villagers in feeding our magical friend potato peelings nor confine it to the whimsy above. Yes, if this bear doesn't get a balanced diet of wholesome fantasies, it's magic can create some peculiar side effects. I have not dared look at myself in the mirror since feasting my eyes upon the considerable pinkness. Look at this photographic evidence of pink bear malnutrition.

The lady there appears totally transfixed by the pink. Little does she realise some joker has just offered the pink a bowl of potato peelings. Just a few minutes later I discovered the pretty gruesome effects of malnourished pink bear magic

Is this another person afflicted by potato peeling fed pink bear magic? These faces may look pretty however closer inspection reveals some disturbing features you might wish to confine to an odd bad dream time on a cold winter's night.

Masks - Marie Louise Plum (photos: J Beere)

As a co-curator of Waltham Forest Arts Club pop up gallery I have a shared duty of care to our artists and gallery visitors. I have  had cause to advise, in no uncertain terms, participating arts club members not to feed vegetable peelings to the pink bear. No scraps. We are talking about a spirit of fellowship and neighbourliness in here you know.

Oh dear. An email has just arrived in my inbox that sheds a different sort of fluorescence on the pink beary fluffiness. Field Study Art archaeologists or field artaeologists have been scraping away at the layers of Julian Beere's everyday ignorance, indifference and familiarity to expose this modernist extra mural apparition

Surely not? The email states there is studied field intelligence to indicate the pink bear is a scout  for a Mayan inspired alien invasion of planet Walthamstow - and the uplit trees and cool Dan Flavinesque lights recently installed by Creatmosphere have unwittingly (?) created a guided and lit landing strip of Wood St for an alien spacecraft. Heck.

Confused? You won't be after the next post.


Monday, 6 February 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 loses himself in an upside down and back to front world only to find a snowy unicorn

Well I had an inkling something was not quite right when I ventured out into the snow-time of E17 this afternoon. The soft, moist and slippery terrain slowed walking (and falling) time sufficiently to make it susceptible to the tricks of the season or rather, calender. Was every slip and step a groundhog moment?

An inkling became a discon-certainty when I found myself completely lost in front of an upside down and back to front clear channel advertisement at the truly very Crooked Billet roundabout. Damn that was was weird! I shook my head vigorously, several times, to dispel the foggery of this ad no man's land. Completely lost? I like to think I am not so easily duped by such attention seeking techniques. A whistle via a sharp intake of breath through the gaps of me teeth was enough to disempower the discombobulating spells of wanton seduction.

I had to reconnect with down upside front to back reality and decided a retreat to Aveling Park might suit this need; the promise of a park of sculpted snowmen - sorry, snowpeople - adding to the appeal.

Alas, twilight was setting in and innocence had departed. A maurauding hoard of lads had set about the field smashing the snow-folk to pieces. It was a gruesome spectacle to witness. One by one, our snowbally friends were mercilessly erased by means of flurries of flying kicks, punches, dives and beatings with sticks. The hoots of unbridled pleasure in the slushy carnage echoed chillingly about the field.

I set about summoning my snow thing, ever watchful of the vandals going about their grisly business. Was this a responsible thing to do, to bring a snow thing into the world and abandon it to a mob? I drew on my powers of hippy dippy fantasy and found this unicorn in the snow - distinctly knobbled and replete with 4 legs, a tail and most importantly, a horn. Would this creature charm the wickedness out of the lads or freak them out and chase them around and out of the field?

Good luck snowy Unicorn, I said as I began walking away. Two spotty specimens of laddish adolescence trotted by me towards the mythical snow creature. I turned around and expected to see a flurry of snowy unicorn pieces however to my amazement the lads had halted, circling my snowflaky friend in what might have been charmed appreciation. Alas they were but wolves circling their prey for soon they were joined by the rest of the rapacious pack.  

A slobbering dog stepped in and broke the horn from the head and whooped with joy and gamboled about the field, pursued by the rest of the pack. A brief respite from the ravages of this adolescent attention was to be had - for the pack set about devouring a once fine upstanding snow figure close by. Three maidens tended to the dehorned snowy 'corn, soothing the wound, but the prowl of wolfish growls set them on their way.  The last I saw of this unicorn was as a burst and whirl of snowflakes returning to the night sky.  

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 frottages reflexively

Photographic detail from Work Book 1994

While on a pilgrimage of sorts in 1994, I witnessed a car strike a bird. The unfortunate creature had no chance and tumbled dead to the ground close to where I walked. The bird was still warm when I picked it up, wrapped it in a tissue, put it my pocket and continued my journey.

Later I set about making a visual diary of the journey in the form of a collage to a fellow mail artist. One element of the collage is a 'frottage' - after a technique explored by the surrealist, Max Ernst. I made a photocopy of the hat I wore while making that walk and placed it on the outstretched corpse of the bird, the joints of which had all ready, just a few hours later, begun to set to rigor mortis.

Taking a scouring pad I gently rubbed at the photocopied paper to gradually reveal the skeletal remains and perhaps spirit of the little creature. I then treated the frottage with vegetable oil rubbing it firmly and sparingly into the paper. The bird brain image formed part of an attempt at a darkly comic homage.   

Field Study's Man in E17 is afraid of the dark paths

Detail of heraldic family tree - Walthamstow Central Library 

Yes I may be afraid of the dark paths of Walthamstow however I have certainly been missing them while attempting to muster interest and participation in Waltham Forest Arts Club's contribution to the regeneration of Wood St Indoor Market. This task, in collaboration with several others, has seen me in the de facto confinement of online communication - sending, and responding to, numerous emails concerning the hows and whens of our Arts Club pop up gallery space that will host a series of exhibitions under the banner title, 'Turnaround'.

Here I am though making a diversion into Lost and Found in E17, to indulge myself in the literal sculpting of a pretty impressive set of piles - which, not wishing to confuse art and real life, could be cast and exhibited in that programme of shows. Well, perhaps not; there are technical challenges involved which are beyond me and there might be curatorial issues.

Recently I have been losing myself in 'Electric Eden - Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music' (Rob Young). This is a wonderfully rambling account of the folk revival of the mid to late 20th Century, revealling the myriad connections and contexts that brought the revival into being. I was fascinated by Rob Young's account of the connection between John Ireland (composer) and Arthur Machen (writer). I have not yet read anything by Arthur Machen. I became aware of him and his importance in the formation of 'psychogeography' via Merlin Coverley's introduction to the practice.

According to Rob Young, Ireland, having discovered by chance a novel by Machen, went on to be highly influenced by Machen's occult literary concoctions - replete with fairy lore, spell workings, witchcraft, the supernatural, sex magic (or magick) and, very importantly, a vivid sense of place. Machen's place is London. Ireland retreated to more pastoral locales, 'biologically' tuning into the spirit of place(s). Machen and Ireland corresponded, sharing accounts of sightings of sprites. In the quest for field studious relevance in E17 I have searched for recordings of John Ireland made at Walthamstow Assembly Hall - to unite the ghosts of the two; Machen wending his way to Freezywater, via Walthamstow Marshes (?) and Ireland providing a decorative 'Moon Glade'. Perhaps Archipelago of Truth knows of a Walthamstow/Ireland recording?  

I have not yet found a recording. Perhaps tomorrow night I will venture fearfully into the E17 darkness and catch a glimpse of Machen's fairy-like ghost dancing to a long lost drifting melody by Ireland.

Gareth Rees 'Psychogeography' has a link to a review of a reissue of Arthur Machen's, The White People and other Weird Stories. Tim Cummings review takes issue with Stephen Hawkin's perception of god and faith as "fairy tales for people afraid of the dark" suggesting the tales teach us to fear the dark but not escape it. Cummings sees followers of Machen, 'walking the streets of the capital, turning the loam of their imagination over to happenstance, coincidence, illumination, inevitability - the supernatural forces of the everyday that Machen saw more clearly than most, poised to spring open like a razor at any moment'.

Rob Young's appraisal of Machen's London populated by 'beings from extreme antiquity' combined with Cummings' poised supernatural razors sets a disturbing or disturbed psychogeographic scene into which I shall walk. I'll need a musical spell to ward off the wicked fairies.