29 April 2006

Footnotes to '4 Mis-Guided Tours'

'The problem of shopping' (facilitated by Cathy Turner)

The notion of 'making strange' may have been most comprehensively theorised by Socialists, but Capitalism has borrowed a few tricks. Supermarkets regularly rearrange the aisles so that we see a range of new goods for the first time. If we turn shopping into a drift, we may end up simply buying a different selection of tat.

On the other hand, shopping isn't just about shopping. India Knight has written about its connection with nurturing and, for many of us, it's a social activity. For women, it has often been a safe way of drifting, of being in the city alone.

So how do we make shopping into a drift without being caught up in its consumer flows? Our experience at the ICA suggested it's a little hit and miss, that there is also pleasure in drifting with a new current, designed for a different shopper. We exchanged shopping habits - two young men shopped for baby's clothes while I looked in vain for an Oxfam shop around Leicester Square. Some of us came across a supermarket where British food and London souvenirs were labelled and sold in Japanese. Eights months pregnant, I contemplated going into a dance shop and asking to try on a tutu, but did not quite dare. Like most drifts, time is probably needed to ease into it, find a sense of direction in the very lack of direction. We might have looked at shops as curiosities or museums. We might have tried standing still, without bag or purse, in a shopping mall. We might have tried leaving clothes in changing rooms and buying presents for the city.

We didn't crack the problem of shopping. In some ways we enjoy it too much. But there must be something creative here, I think, that we could disentangle from the media manipulation and hard sell. Perhaps an important rule for the 'situationist shopper': no money changes hands.

'Out of place' (facilitated by Stephen Hodge)

Outside the ICA, I play a poor quality recording, made on my PDA in the same spot a couple of weeks earlier. The recording is of a group of French students who had been waiting to embark on a guided tour of central London. My grasp of French is awful, and I'd hoped that someone would be able to translate the playful cries of the French children. 'Who can speak French?' I ask. No-one in the party, it seems.

As a warm-up, we walk to Trafalgar Square, looking for 'wormholes to elsewhere'. When we get there, we find that Nelson himself is elsewhere, completely wrapped Christo-like for cleaning or renovation.

The plan is to overlay a map of Paris (city of the artist-walker) onto a map of central London, and to look for coincidental references to Paris as we walk. To kick-start us, I distribute maps and suggest that we take an Waterloovian step, by superimposing the Cour Napoléon (which surrounds the pyramid outside the Louvre) over Nelson's column. We spend some time experimenting with tactics for rotating the maps, whilst keeping Napoléon on top of Nelson. One position results in an almost perfect match between the Avenue de l'Opéra and Charing Cross Road. Another allows us to flood Whitehall and Downing Street with the Seine. Another places the Pompidou Centre over Buckingham Palace. A further option lines up the Royal Academy of the Arts with the Musée d'Orsay.

We divide into two groups and head for the Musée d'Orsay, one group planning to cross the Seine on the Pont Royal, and the other on the Pont du Carrousel. Armed with chalk and an English-French dictionary, we agree to speak in French as we go...

[ This walk is blogged by Rodcorp here ]

'Scales' (facilitated by Simon Persighetti)

Using the SCALES walk from A Mis-Guide To Anywhere, the group of 15 participants began outside the ICA by measuring the outlines of their bodies with lengths of string that were then cut to the correct anatomical lengths and extended down The Mall to Admiralty Arch. The instruction to 'walk the dimensions of your body' was thus extended by sharing and walking the total dimensions of the whole group's body outlines.

The issue of scale extended our perceptions of the immediate environment, particularly in such a monumental and officially proscribed zone. St James' Park, for example, is a pleasure ground governed by a vast menu of prohibition. Even the taking of photographs of flowers is regarded with suspicion, as the whole park and its associative elements are officially regarded as the property of the crown.

The group later used the string to redraw their body outlines on the gravel arena of Horse Guard's Parade, a simple activity that quickly drew the attention of curious tourists and CCTV cameras.

'Masses' (facilitated by Phil Smith)

Five surprises becoming landscapes: a walk from the ICA

1/ Returning the day after the walk I watched the removal of the huge concrete security crash barriers from the border between Horse Guard's Parade and the back of Downing Street. The space gave up a utopian vision I hadn’t seen there until then. Every time I walked there, mumbling men passed by, grinning as if they had access to a wonderful secret.

2/ The photo of the unveiling of the statue of Captain Cook in The Mall shows a phantom shape to the cloth. The same simulacra-like process went on in my hand when Maryclare, to my surprise, asked me to hold her statue. On the gate Gunnery suckled a piece of artillery, Simon and I were amazed to find.

3/ The collective statue - everyone standing on the security bollards - made me wonder about how to share without leading. Meeting John and Jim for the first time, in both their cases after a couple of years of email contact, I wasn’t surprised, but was delighted, to find them as engaging and likeable in flesh as in text and virtuality. I realised, on reflection and to my surprise, that while on the one hand 'the hacienda must be built' on the other 'the machinoeki must be mobile' - this may change many things for me.

4/ When Maryclare strode toward an approaching policeman with his automatic rifle he told her of an 'ordinary family' in the garden of 10 Downing Street, a child kicking a football. It was a charming response given his artillery and our détournment of tourism. Later I remembered a scene from 'The Silence of the Lambs' where the mother of an abducted victim is guided to use her child’s name repeatedly on a TV appeal, to humanise what her abductor might see as an object. The day before, Simon and I had found cobblestones under the Horse Guard's gravel - one marked 'Q' the other 'R'. Did they mark the place where the Queen’s horse stands on the Official Birthday Parade? 'R' for Regina? Or 'Q' for Queen? What was the other for? A security guard at the admiralty had described the bunker, covered with budding red claws of Virginia Creeper, as a vantage point 'for marksmen'. Harold Wilson speculated on the damage disloyal troops might do from Horse Guard's in a coup. The place is crossed by phantom trajectories. It was always a relief to leave.

5/ To my surprise, Jim left his ectoplasmic soul in a union flag pencil case. Nearby twenty or so policemen with string legs relaxed on a shelf between affrays, a scene accidentally stumbled upon, a backstreet a few yards away from the ongoing riot on the boulevard.

With thanks to Vicky Theodoropoulou for her text (from Mis-Guided contributions #1):

[ This walk is blogged by John Davies here ]

18 April 2006

Pictures from ICA launch

07 April 2006

Anywhere on water

[spotted by Simon Persighetti of Wrights & Sites]

03 April 2006

Mis-Guided contributions #1

The first contributions to 'A Mis-Guided Blog' can be found below.

Do send us more mis-guided activities for us to post on-line.

'Do traditional Thai dancing in a modern city centre'

- from Parida Manomaiphibul (Bangkok, Thailand)

Psychic Powers & Surveillance: How can you enhance your extra-sensory perception?

- from Aaron Gach (picture taken in Stockton, California - about 85 miles east of San Francisco)

Bird games
#1 Hasta la vista pigeon:
make drawings on the square floor using bird feed as paint, watch the pigeons storming in, boldening, enlivening and then erasing your drawing.
#2 When I move you move, just like that:
play with the grey winged beauties as if you were on a gigantic chess board.
#3 Walk like bird, talk like a bird:
be one of the flock, scavenge for tiny seeds, swirl around unaware tourists, try to defecate whilst perched on a small stone edge.

Venice games
#1 Run around Venice getting continuously lost in the labyrinth of alleys.
#2 Walk as fast as you can amongst the crowded tourists alleys.
#3 In the middle of the night, drag some chairs from the closed cafes right and place them in the middle of St. Mark's square, facing the church, enjoy a drink in your sumptuous living room.

- from Dade Fasic (Nottingham Psychogeographical Unit)


- from Vicky Theodoropoulou (Athens, Greece)

The site of Ancient Cathures. Rottenrow, Glasgow.

['The artist is a map-maker. Poetry is a place.' - William Burroughs]

- from Jim Colquhoun (Glasgow)

Sydney, built by convicts, their soles still roam the city streets. Take a walk from the city to 'The Rocks' taking particular note of the heritage around you and visit the pubs!

- from Nivelo (Urban Explorer, Urbex)

- these pictures were taken by Pam Longobardi (Atlanta) in response to 'Commuter Belt', a page from A Mis-Guide To Anywhere.

02 April 2006

'A Mis-Guide To Anywhere' launch

A Mis-Guide To Anywhere will be launched at London's ICA on Saturday 8th April. Mindful of at least a few of the ironies, impossibilities, contradictions and perils present in its title, A Mis-Guide To Anywhere provides a number of provocations for reader-walkers to make their own exploratory journeys in whatever environment they choose: metropolis, home town, countryside, holiday destination... anywhere.

Three years in the making, and referencing walks undertaken in Shanghai, rural Zambia, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Manchester, Paris, the island of Herm, etc., A Mis-Guide To Anywhere provides an inspiration for destination-less travels, strategies for seeing the world in new ways through disrupted walking.

The launch at the ICA on 8th April is accompanied by '4 Mis-Guided Tours', led by the four members of Wrights & Sites. Each walk will last about 90 minutes, and will start and finish in the foyer of the ICA.

12.30pm - 'The problem of shopping'
Rearrange the dreams on sale by reading stories in window displays, sight-seeing shop assistants, shopping for a fictional 'you' or exploring shopping nostalgia.

12.45pm - 'Out of place'
A walk of coincidences, derived from overlaying a map of Paris onto London. What's where the Eiffel Tower should be? Where can we stop for a un Ricard?...

1.00pm - 'Scales'
In a park or open city space: walk the dimensions of a paving stone; walk the dimensions of your dwelling place; walk the dimensions of your body...

1.15pm - 'Masses'
A drift in search of spaces where the trivia becomes monumental and the monumental becomes cake decoration. A chance to give homage to the trinkets and fondle butchers in bronze.

For more information, please visit the ICA website.

01 April 2006

What is 'A Mis-Guided Blog'?

If you've ever stood, in the early hours of the morning, and watched a city fill with snow, you will know that the first walker changes everything. (Wrights & Sites, 2006)

We're Wrights & Sites, a group of walking artists based in Exeter (UK), who make work that engages with site and landscape across a range of media (such as performance, walks, maps and alternative guide books).

Since 1997, we've grown used to working in specific sites/landscapes with specific communities, but the publication of our new book, A Mis-Guide To Anywhere (April 2006), provides us with an opportunity to interact with a wider public.

This blog is intended as a virtual site where we can record these interactions and solicit material relating to our 'Mis-Guide Project' from people and places that are unfamiliar to or distant from us.

A Mis-Guide often takes the form of a guide book or a map. It suggests a series of walks and points of observation and contemplation within a particular town, city or landscape. Unlike an ordinary guide book, it is guided by the practice of mytho-geography, which places the fictional, fanciful, fragile and personal on equal terms with 'factual', municipal history. Author and walker become partners in ascribing significance to place. Wrights & Sites often work with the visual artist Tony Weaver to produce Mis-Guides.

Look at example pages from our published Mis-Guides:
Anywhere 1 ... Anywhere 2 ... Anywhere 3 ... Anywhere 4 ...
Exeter 1 ... Exeter 2 ... Exeter 3 ... Exeter 4 ... Exeter 5 ...
Courtauld 1 ... Courtauld 2

Send us your own mis-guided activity for us to post on-line.

Find out more about:

The Mis-Guide Project (in general)

A Mis-Guide To Anywhere (including how to buy a copy)

Wrights & Sites