Thursday, 2 February 2012

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.   


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