We are looking for contacts, local community groups, interested individuals, routes into funding, places to exhibit, support, volunteers, publicity and people to network with in order to develop our projects.
Please contact us by emailing milesanddacombe@virginmedia.com.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

It's underneath our feet

A couple of things coalesced for me last week.  More maps, walking, networks...
On Monday I had a great time walking around Snibston and finding the footpaths that lead in and out of the site.  (There is now a Facebook page for the Transform project at Snibston.)

I also met with Nick at the museum, who was fantastic and spent lots of time showing me the maps of the mining seams and how they had been mapped from the mid 1800s until the 1980s, a period of almost 150 years of mining in the area.

Walking back through the fields I had this astonishing sense of the mapped tunnels beneath my feet, layer upon layer of seams cut through the earth, like the floors of a building inverted.

On the maps you can see that the mining seams are absolutely vast, stretching out underneath the town and neighbouring villages.

The maps themselves are beautiful, and incredibly complex.  Spiderwebs of tunnels that radiate out, the drawn lines mapped on top of other maps of the surface - the underneath layered on top, a very strange sense of parallel worlds that exist simultaneously in the same place.

Lines and networks stretch out everywhere, below and above ground.

A couple of days later I attended the New Research Trajectories event in Nottingham.  Bringing together research students from across the region, the event had a small audience who were also participants in exploring Nottingham on a walk, where we  encountered and took part in art presentations and happenings in unusual places.  (There is a great write-up and photos of the event on Heather Connelly's blog, scroll down to NEW RESEARCH TRAJECTORIES - Navigation in the City and Online Space event, Nottingham, 15th December.)

I met Jackie Calderwood who has done some interesting work on exploring spaces and walking.  She led us in an exercise on "Clean Language", asking each other questions in a set format which revealed deep levels of thought about our own research interests as well as producing extremely concise words or short poems.

We had to write our results on a sticker and also use colour in a grid pattern to express our research interests.  We then had to find a place to "disseminate" our stickers.

We visited the incredible Nottingham tunnels, we also experienced work in an old theatre and finished in a room above the Surface Gallery currently being used as a LAB for an artists' collective, where they served us an excellent minestrone soup!

My disseminated sticker ended up with the words "It's underneath your feet".  The colours on the grid represented the natural and the urban, reflecting how suddenly, by walking, you can cross from a predominantly urban area into a green stretch of land and countryside.  I placed my sticker on the bottom of a scaffolding pole, a place being refurbished which, for me, made it a transitional space.

Lots of connections with my walk at Snibston.  And a very fascinating day.

Saturday 11 December 2010

The 2010 Social Networking Map

A humorous map of social networks by Flowtown, including the Sea of Personal Information and the Rising Island of Google Buzz.  I particularly like the island of Youtube which can be found in the Sea of Desperation!

Click here to see the whole map

Sunday 28 November 2010

New commissions and a little Coalville history

Carole and I have both got ourselves new commissions!

I will be working on my Myth Maps project at Snibston Colliery in Coalville.  Carole will be working on a project for Leicestershire Museums, which she has called The Held in the Hand Hoard.  I'll let her tell you more about that herself.

I am particularly pleased with my Myth Maps project as it draws together a number of things I have been thinking about, things I have been blogging about here and it links with this project.

Leicester & Swannington rail ticket
A little history...

The colliery at Coalville, as I blogged before (see Preservation and Persistence), includes the wonderful historic railway track.  A line was put down by George and Robert Stephenson for the Leicester to Swannington Railway (L&S), one of the first of England's railways, opened in 1832 to bring coal from pits in west Leicestershire (Whitwick, Ibstock and Bagworth) to Leicester.

The Leicester & Swannington Rail Line
Whitwick Colliery, 1926
George Stephenson was known as the "father of railways", having built the first public railway using steam locomotion (the Stockton and Darlington Railway).  His son, Robert,  worked with his father and developed the famous "Rocket".  Robert was the engineer for the Swannington line and George opened the Snibston colliery the following year.

Midland Railway Station in Coalville, 1889
Sidings at Bardon Hill quarry
So the history of Snibston colliery and the railways are intertwined.  It was the success of the railways to speed up the transportation of coal that enabled the coal industry from west Leicestershire to thrive, which enabled the opening of the pit at Snibston.

Coalville East Station
Thanks to the Coalville Heritage Society website for these pictures.  Also, they have a wonderful sound archive of Coalville dialects, called Covill Tork - click on the link if you want to find out what the following mean (and make sure you have your speakers on!):


Covill Tork 

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Turning towards tomorrow

In 2008, when Carole and I were working on the Fingerprints project, we wrote quite a lot of poetry.  Going through some of our musings the other day, I came across this that I wrote:

It seems that, in our collaboration, we had already started considering the links between time and travel.

Click here to see some of our other Musings from the project. 

We are definitely turning towards tomorrow now, and really just starting out on our project.  We have already had responses to our postcard, so thanks to those who have replied.  Responses have been enthusiastic and encouraging and there have been suggestions of other people we should contact, thus already expanding our Undiscovered Network!

Thursday 28 October 2010

Mood Mapping

I love this!  The Complexity and Social Networks Blog from Harvard University have a post with an animation of how they mapped the mood of the US by mapping people's happy and grumpy tweets on Twittter!  It's fascinating, as the blog says you can watch "the pulsating 24-hour twitter mood cycle of the United States", the moods appear to change in waves across the country.

Click here to take a look

Sunday 24 October 2010

Apples, Estates and Taking a Line For A Walk

Recently I went to meet a friend in Northampton, I’d just bought a bike and we were meeting up to explore the cycle track near her home. The weather was threatening and I wasn’t sure I’d get my bike in my car so we decided to meet for lunch and a catch-up instead. Predictably the weather cheered and after a lunch of home made bread, cheese and salad, we went for a walk instead.
I have always loved random rambles through ordinary streets and housing estates, as a child I walked our neighbour’s dog through the building sites that were becoming newer 1970’s council housing – at times I still have dreams of walking through the archways and enclosures, almost lost but always able to find my way home.
The estate we walked through was relatively new, yet the houses were old enough to have taken on some of the character of their occupiers. Gardens an assortment ranging through cared for, landscaped, allowed to run wild, one car, two cars, three, five, garages growing out of houses, obscuring windows, an assortment of windows, railings, porches and steps. Through a gap between some buildings my eye was taken with branches laden with apples, they were too well established to have been planted at the time of building. ‘How curious’ I thought and asked my friend if she knew anything about them.

Attraction - image from the Gravity Project - Carole Miles

She told me the trees had once been part of a farm and it was now a community orchard with trees that were 80 to 100 years old. She took me round to see them, it was almost like stepping into an Arthur Rackham picture, the trees made a low canopy of gnarled and twisted branches. The orchard dates from around 1916 with around 200 standard apple trees. The trees are mostly Bramley’s with some cherry, pear, plum, quince, medlar, hazelnut and walnut, elder and sloe trees.

There were an assortment of people re-cutting pathways through the orchard with a mower, others moving fallen branches and making things ready for their Apple Day events. A lovely man told us about the management of the orchard, how new trees were planted when an old tree finally died and how they had had to move the bee hives has some youngsters had been in and knocked one over. You can find out more about this wonderful place here there are opportunities to volunteer and a host of events to attend.
Newton's Apple - monoprint and pastel - Carole Miles
From the orchard you could hear the roar of the A 45 but there was still another small treasure to see before plunging back into the hustle and flow of modern life. At the orchard’s edge there is another field, some water, I’m not sure if it was a river or pond, with swans. We walked to try and find the entrance as it was or had been another community space. Upon reaching the gate we found it’s use had changed as was now being cultivated as part of the land share scheme, it’s a lovely spot, tucked away and there is still land available. You can find out more about Riverside land, off Mimosa Close, Northampton here
In Corby, where Jo and I have our studios, there has been much demolition and regeneration in the past 10 years and both the landscape and the community are constantly changing. Last year, as part of the Big Draw here we were asked by the Arts Development Team at Corby Borough Council to spend two days with the year 4 children at a brand new primary school on a brand new estate. We took the group out for a walk to draw and explore the nearby houses, asking the children to look at just what people placed in the windows or gardens to make their houses more individual. I took lots of photographs which were printed out as reference materials.
The children worked with pencils, pens and charcoal on the first day, drawing details from the houses they had seen on a variety of supports and in a number of sizes. On the second day they worked in pairs on large sheets of grey board and used oil pastels.

Jo and I were also asked to take part in a Corby Borough Council Big Draw event at the Kingswood Neighbourhood Centre along side author and illustrator Lynne Chapman
We covered the floor with sheets of grey board and invited families to come and draw with a wide variety of materials. There were several breaks in the day when Lynne read stories to a rapt audience. It was a wonderful day, with adults and children of all ages sitting and drawing, exploring colour and space, being creative and having fun together.
Sadly I haven’t been involved in any Big Draw activities this year but in September I did treat myself to a drawing day in Salcey Forest with the sculptor Linda Johns. We made rubbings, collected leaves, twigs and berries, made inks with mud and berry juice and drew with dry grass stalks. It was a delightful day, sometimes it’s really important to revisit our child-like delight in mark making.
Finally, if you get the chance check out episode 5 of Michael Woods’s Story of England which has some tantalizing images of maps which show the changing landscape in Kibworth and the changing fortunes of the community there. You can find out more about Kibworth here

Friday 22 October 2010

the eutechnical and chance-maps

I've taken to long-distance walking as a means of dissolving the mechanised matrix which compresses the space-time continuum, and decouples human from physical geography....As Emile Durkheim observed, a society's space-time perceptions are a function of its social rhythm and its territory. So, by walking to the meeting I have disrupted it just as surely as if I'd appeared stark naked with a peacock's tail fanning out from my buttocks while mouthing Symbolist poetry.
So wrote Will Self in his psychogeography column.

Image from The Journey public art project with Highfields School, Jo Dacombe

I have been revisiting his writing and lectures, and am rather taken with what he terms "Eutechnical" modes of travel - that is, the experience of travel anywhere before the machine took over (in about 1842, he says, when Stevenson's Rocket changed everything), which was a physical, bodily experience - in other words, walking.  Your body felt the physical effort of travelling, your muscles told you how far you had gone and if it had been uphill... in Self's view our non-eutechnical era of mechanised transport has divorced us from the physical experience of travelling.
...and so to our project, Undiscovered Networks.  What Carole and I are attempting to do is a weird fusion of the "derive" or "drift" of the French Situationists with a pre-mapped route of the railway:  but by selecting random places on the network, we are subverting the planned and scheduled function of the railway and trying to find an element of chance within it.  In the same way we are putting together two opposing notions:  the mechanised travel of the railway, which dissolves the awareness of distance travelled by doing it so quickly, but at the same time we are trying to make the experience an eotechnical or psychogeographic one, being more physically aware of what the experience of train travel will be and what will we find once we get to our randomly selected destinations....

The undiscovered element of the project is to see how all these opposing concepts will play out as we travel around and interact with places and their people.

Image from Thinkspace project, Kingswood, Jo Dacombe
...does anybody remember the game Dungeons and Dragons?  I think I was about 13 or 14 when it was a sudden craze, so sometime in the mid 80's.  The craze was mostly driven by the fantasy element - you had to imagine yourself as an elfin or dwarf-like character with special magical powers... however it wasn't the fantasy element that fascinated me.  It was the maps.

You had to travel through an imaginary world and map it as you went along.  This world only existed in your head and was built by the shake of a dice - each time you travelled north, south, east or west, you shook the dice to determine what the next piece of terrain would look like.  I remember spending hours drawing out these maps bit by bit, imagining the terrain, what I could see on each horizon, how to decide which way to travel next.  There was even an instance where if you shook a certain number the game would instruct that you had become disorientated and you would find the map you had drawn was wrong and you had to redraw it.

Map of a walk onto unmapped land, Paths of Desire project, Priors Hall, Jo Dacombe
This is what fascinated me about the game when I was 14, the exploration and discovery, the randomness of it... and that is what I still like about walking through unknown places and looking at maps of undiscovered sites.

Friday 15 October 2010

Moving on... and looking back Part 1

Our project is finally starting to move on and become real...

Corby Borough Council has committed seed funding to the project (thanks Corby!), we are sending out postcard invitations to various organisations to get involved, contacting Network Rail and sending off other completed applications for support.

It does seem to have taken a long time to get to this stage... but we have both been so busy over the last months!  So what have we both been up to?

For the last year Jo has been working as an Associate Artist at Nottingham Contemporary, which will celebrate its first birthday on 14th November!  Jo has been busy designing Resource packs for families to use when they visit the galleries, as well as running workshops at the gallery for visiting groups.

Results of a networks workshop at Nottingham Contemporary
She also ran a summer school for family groups based on the Diane Arbus photography exhibition, resulting in a stunning selection of black and white photographs currently on display at Nottingham Contemporary.  Well done to everybody involved!  Click here to visit the gallery.

(An early influence for Undiscovered Networks?)

Jo has also been working on a fantastic public art project with Highfields School in Wolverhampton.

Year 7s in Wolverhampton Town Centre
Year 7s are undertaking the project to learn about public art, explore and experiment with ideas, in order to eventually commission public art as part of their new buildings at the school.

On Wednesday Jo took 20 students out into Wolverhampton town centre where we interviewed members of the public, getting responses on what they think of public art.

We set up a table in the square and we built a Wishing Tree.

Year 7s surveying the public

The students were brilliant, very professional and we gathered a huge amount of interesting information about what people feel about public art.

Jo has also been working with a fantastic group of young people at Lutterworth Library since 2009.

Odd Socks in Lutterworth library as part of their summer activities
Calling themselves the Odd Socks, the group have been involved in all sorts of creative activities to encourage more children into the library.  We will be making Big Books this half term, between 2 and 5pm on Thursday 21st October at the library - come along and join us!

And then there was Paths of Desire!  But I've written about that before.  Click here to visit the webpage.

Read Part 2 to see what Carole has been up to...

Moving on... and looking back Part 2

Here are some of the projects Carole has been involved in just recently

Carole was commissioned by Corby Borough Council to work with Kingswood, Exeter, Oakley Vale and Beanfield Primary Schools to create a series of Story Chairs. Each child made an illustration to a given story e.g. The Tale of Robin Hood, first on paper, then with fabric, these were then applied to a beanbag chair and was an exercise in using visual art to stimulate interest in both reading and story telling.

Carole was asked to paint a mural to encourage the children of Priory Lower School in Bedford to eat their 5 fruits and vegetables a day. The mural was painted in a room not much larger than a cupboard and is now hanging outside the dining hall.

Between October 2009 and March 2010 Carole was Artist in Residence / coordinator on the Invisible Threads project for the group Back To Books. She facilitated workshops in silk painting, printmaking, felting and textiles for adults exploring family history and using it as a spring board for their creativity. Participants came from many different places and had a wide variety of material to draw upon.

Invisible Threads Participants looking at family photographs at West Glebe Park

Invisible Threads Textile Workshop in Litchborough Village Hall

Invisible Threads Screen printing day at Carole's studio

Carole liaised with author Kathy Page in Canada who ran an Online Writing Course and then joined Carole for the Residency at Sudborough Green Lodge Cottages in Fermyn Woods. They were challenged by the weather, the heating and the plumbing but managed to have many good walks and talks as well as some time to create their own work.

Kathy Page writing at Sudborough Green Lodge Cottages

Kathy also gave a reading at the Water Tower in Brigstock and you can see parts of the reading here and here

Kathy Page reading, photo by Kate Dyer

By sheer coincidence Carole discovered that Tasmanian Textile Artist Tara Badcock had relatives from Kettering (Carole's current home town) and persuaded Tara to take part in the project. Tara made three wonderful pieces celebrating her wonderful Aunts, Madge, Vi and Doris.

Tara working on her pieces for Invisible Threads in Tasmania

You can see a clip of the Invisible Threads Tea Towel Installation here

The collection later went to Leicester to become part of this year's Art Houses event which saw a host of artists showing work in houses in the Clarendon Park area of Leicester.

From September 2009 to May 2010 Carole worked for the Wellingborough Inter Faith Group and with the Women Have A Go group at the Victoria Centre in Wellingborough. She was asked to research and then design a table drape that the Inter Faith Group could use during their meetings. The design was then sewn by the WHAGs, Carole was on hand to advise during the course of the project and spent many happy sessions enjoying tales from many countries
( Russia, Poland, Rhodesia, Pakistan ........) and cakes from many countries too!

Carole continued her role as Artist in Residence at Priory Lower School and worked with Year 4 on large pastel drawing and paintings of flowers inspired by the work of Georgia O'Keefe. They looked at the O'Keefe Museum website and discussed the artist's work, each child choosing a painting and talking about what they liked about it. Carole discussed scale, use of colour and technique, then shared out the flowers both bought and from her Mum's garden, observation from nature made a huge difference to the work they produced. After the drawings were finished they looked and commented on each one, discussing the aspects that worked and the areas that could be improved, before a smaller group went on to make a series of paintings of their own.

In June Carole worked on a Creative Partnerships project at The Ferrers Specialist Arts College with artist Carol Jacobs. They used the self-portrait as their starting point and explored the theme using a variety of different techniques. Carole's students made an A2 line drawing which was divided into quarters, they then chose one quarter to translate into a mosaic panel. Each group had 3 sessions to complete the task.

Students work in progress

During the summer Carole worked with 4 groups of children at the Steelbacks and the Cobblers education centres in Northampton. The brief was to imagine that the Olympics were coming to Northampton and then to design banners to highlight what was special about the town. Each banner was made in a day!

and finally ....... Carole is just starting a mosaic project with the young people at Dreams Youth Club in Corby and will also be running evening art sessions to Beat the Winter Blues for 18 - 30 yr olds battling with stress at the Mixing Bowl in Kettering.