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.

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.

1 comment:

  1. We received this comment from Elaine who has just taken up knitting but is a Geography specialist!
    "you have inspired me to keep going with my team build quilt of Africa: what do I do for padding and backing though?"


Leave a comment