Only Apparently Real, 21 August 2019

This is only apparently real. Its artifice goes beyond the usual manipulation of shadows and light and the rendering of three dimensional objects on a two dimensional surface. Its suspect representation of what can be seen through the lens, which is framed in a way that is impossible for the eye to achieve, goes beyond the filter applied to that many windowed building. In short, it brings together elements of landscapes separated by hundreds of miles in a way that could not be achieved without the application of photomontage techniques. In doing so, it breaks the rules that govern Sheffield Patrol Group photographic projects, which insist on adherence to the production of straight black and white images, altered only (if at all) by recourse to the most basic editing techniques (auto correct, minimal cropping and straightening). But these rules are not written and they do not need to be acted upon or submitted to. Sheffield Patrol Group does not exist to tyrannise itself through arbitrary diktat. And what is truth, anyway? And what is reality?

The conjunction of these elements from pre-existing photographs represents a truth that could not otherwise be achieved. It is a truth about boundaries and the curation of desire. It is a comment on the value of what external agencies, which can’t be identified with certainty, present to us as desirable, regardless of what we think and feel, and it suggests a response we might take to these unwanted intrusions into the collective unconscious. It says, if you don’t want to live in a bright shiny building that is destined to degenerate into a monstrous and empty shack-castle, then all you need to do is refuse it. It joins together that which did not exist until recently, but now imposes itself on the mindscape with numbing arrogance, and that which did exist until recently, but which has been supplanted by lowest common denominator street art, which is all the rage in the corporately endorsed, template driven, urban regeneration projects that have sprung up like the fungal emanations of hideous diseases throughout the length and breadth of the country.

Both the building and the art works I speak of are emissaries of the inane, a reality more spurious than the unreal vision that is presented here in all of its questionable falsehood. The building is the central feature of the view from the Channelsea Path towards Stratford High Street and the wall is a detail from the white painted exterior of the former Henderson’s Relish factory on Upper Hanover Street in Sheffield before it was tarnished by the pretty patterns of the so-called street artists commissioned to make with the blue and orange emulsion. Ooh! Look at the trees and the moon and the cranes! Isn’t it clever? No. It isn’t clever. It isn’t even funny.

Cathedral of Sewage. Abbey Mills Pumping Station, 2 July 2019

I visit Stratford quite often. I have a strong sense of the place. I’ve witnessed its transformation over the past 30 years, seen the rise of Nu-Stratford, a neoliberal nightmare of glass and steel, high rent apartments, fancy shopping centres, gentrified football stadiums and meaningless sculptures, and the fall of Old Stratford, marked by social cleansing, poor upkeep, deliberate drift into dereliction as part of some secret 20 year plan, ultraviolence and the destruction of an admittedly mythical East End working class community (the homeland of Alexander McQueen, not that anything’s made of the link; it’s downplayed to an even greater extent than the Gerard Manley Hopkins connection, which most people fail to register).

Despite my familiarity with the place, despite my knowledge of where to go for a pint of unremarkable real ale, or the memory of an authentic Chinese meal, or where to find its 18th century boundary stones or Sainsbury’s or Tesco or Morrison’s, despite being more than a stranger, my knowledge of the street names of Stratford doesn’t extend beyond Broadway, High Street and the Channelsea Path. Broadway and High Street are joined, and the Channelsea Path isn’t a street.

The Channelsea Path follows the route of a now hidden or non-existent waterway. By the look of the path, which is more or less straight, it must have been a canal or an attempt to tame or harness the power of a greater river. It’s bordered by verdant but low level vegetation. The profusion of small trees and large bushes means that it’s impossible to see very far along the route when you’re travelling it in summer. This gives the place an unnerving, claustrophobic feel, which is heightened by the tag based graffiti scrawled on the concrete bollards and tumbledown brick walls that emerge at infrequent intervals along the thoroughfare. The sense of danger, heightened by the reality based media construct of Stratford as a violent place, was a cause of considerable anxiety the first time I trod the path.

But the violent dogs and the violent gangs that existed in my mind understandably failed to materialise. The path leads from nowhere to nowhere. There’s a large housing estate at the High Street end but a vicious spiked iron fence separates the tower blocks from the path, and some sprawling industrial space at the other, which looks like it has something to do with public utilities – maybe it’s an enlarged water treatment facility, which succeeded the fabulous Cathedral of Sewage that features in this photograph. On the first occasion I went looking for the object of my desire, I encountered a total of two people on the Channelsea Path – one as I was going out and the other as I was returning. And neither of them had a dog. There were very few people on that first visit (and there have been very few people whenever I’ve returned) but there was a great profusion of midges, swarming in vast clouds, suggestive of the route’s previous watery manifestation.

On my first pilgrimage to the cathedral, I missed the turn off, because there is no sign offering directions to Abbey Mills Pumping Station, which is the place’s official name. I wandered around at a loss for a while before retracing my steps, deciding on an impulse to investigate where the turning towards the end of the path might lead to. I quickly encountered confirmation that I was on the right track, in the form of a row of impressive looking Victorian houses, which must have been constructed at the same time as the pumping station and probably accommodated several families of high status workers. But following this clue proved frustrating to begin with; the road that the houses were on led beneath a bridge and shortly after this I saw a large sign announcing the presence of the complex, but the site was surrounded by an impenetrable metal enclosure and nothing of the buildings could be seen.

Once again, I retraced my steps, and I noticed a wooden stairway, which I decided to ascend, although the steps were spongey and rotten and the smell of piss permeated the air. I struggled to the top of the flights of wooden steps and found myself on another path, better tended than the Channelsea Path, which I recognised as the recently developed walkway that runs between Stratford High Street towards Bromley-by-Bow and whatever its terminal point may be. I crossed this sand coloured path, descended into a small patch of greenery (long grass and low lying bushes) and feasted my eyes upon the glory that is pictured here.

Bye Bye. Ashmolean Museum, 15 April 2019

I have a great big hand. I have a hand whose enormity is beyond belief. I have a hand that has suffered through the ages; it stands before you devoid of thumb and forefinger, maimed in the fingers adjoining this absence, marked by the joint of the little finger.

This is the sound of one hand clapping.

I have a hand that is made of clay, inscribed with symbols evocative of infinity. It is gouged and marked but retains the trace of the plumpness of its palm and the integrity of its lower parts as it leads down to the wrist, which is shrouded in darkness.

My hand convinces through its enormity. The truncated confederacy of three fingers casts a shadow which serves to illuminate the core and the centre, which consists of a festival of circles, a containment that radiates outwards.

The outer round is intensified by an infinitude of triangles that counting could render discrete. Beyond this, three rotund furrows lie, hypnotising the viewer into the space that they contain. Radiate extensions call us deeper in, towards the centre, a diminishing expanse holding great strength and power. The heart is an absence containing everything that proceeds from it and does not escape it.

If we go in, we go out. If we got out, we go in. Outward and inward vacillate or oscillate. Who knows how that movement is best defined? A sun and a flower. A Sun Flower. The mark of a superman. An offence to the Taliban. Bomb fodder.

“I put my hand out. There was nothing there at all.”

Atkinson Walker, 8 September 2019

It’s hard to remember my motivation for taking many of my photographs. Some of them have a didactic purpose or serve as illustrations of predetermined themes; some of them mark notable occasions or fix and freeze time but many of them do not.

Often, I enter a photo-focused state, which is characterised by relaxation and alertness at the same time, and the images I am called to capture seem to emerge from the apparently unremarkable landscapes I walk through, as if they were asking me to rescue them from the obscurity in which they would otherwise reside.

I’m often surprised by what can be found in the photos when I review them months after they were first taken.

I recall that the main focus of this picture was the window in the top right corner – what can we see through the round window? … a symbol of the sun…  – and the relationship between this window and the traffic sign in the foreground emerges quite quickly and provides an interesting comment on the open and the closed, freedom and constraint, but I’ve only just clocked the logo of a circular saw adorned with a Union Jack pattern and the curious head of a creature (a swan? a snake?) to the left of the ‘Made in Sheffield England’ sign, which encodes a notion of quality associated with any object fashioned from steel in the city.

That diagonal line passing through the circular saw also underlines the relationship between the upper circles.

The questions I ask myself now are: what do we see of what we see? And what do we see later, and why?

Core Temple

I’ve been wandering around for years in a state of shock, not doing very much, trying to make myself feel better.

I think I might feel better if I could develop a programme to guide me.

Everything is grounded in the immediate experience of now. We are here and not elsewhere, and we act from where we are. The immediate experience of now reasserts itself as reality no matter how often it is denied.

That feels a bit better. That’s something to hang onto, something to guide me. Can I add anything to it – something that allows me to feel less foolish, something to elevate myself above my degradation, something that appears to possess the weight (or is it the lightness?) of truth, something to make me feel special?

There is no secret wisdom. Everything is provisional. Nothing is certain. There are no reliable authorities. All systems are arbitrary and only acquire meaning if their constituent elements are accepted as if they were true. All supposedly valid systems can be invalidated by the simple expedient of refusing their premises.

How can I assert my identity, or something that might develop into a coherent identity? How can I go beyond space and time without losing myself completely? How can I say, “Fuck you” to the Masters?

What people tell me I am is a fiction. I am beyond any definition given by the other. I am beyond any definition given by myself. I am beyond what I’m told I am. I begin nowhere. I end nowhere. I occupy a space between beginning and end, which is constant but seems to change. The mortal and corruptible body is absolutely linked to any notion of super sensible being with which it is associated. We have the necessary resources within us and we do not need instruction from elsewhere.

Things seem to be looking up. I’m happy. I’m breathing clean air. I’m a hero in the cause of truth. I’ve ascended and made a stab at revenge. I’m prepared. How can I move on from here?

Form is a treatment of unfettered imagination. The limited is a manifestation of the limitless. Limitless being exists in the context of finite being; the endless is known by that which knows a beginning and end. The end is in the beginning and the beginning is in the end. The beginning and the end differ by virtue of that which has passed between them.

That’s a beginning. How will it end?

I.C. Water: Ian Curtis Remembered

Ian Curtis 1

I phoned someone in Manchester and told them that I thought Ian was really going to try and kill himself and that they should get to him immediately at home or even call the local police or it might be too late. When I was challenged and asked how I knew, I said I just knew. It was a scary but overwhelming certainty that I was feeling. They basically ridiculed me telling me that Ian was always depressed and suicidal and miserable, that that’s just how he is. I felt helpless. They promised they’d do something anyway, even though they thought he’d just been winding me up…

Download:  IC Water

I WAS NOT THERE…WHO TOUCHED ME?

“And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.”

Life is best conceived of as a chaotic dynamic process without any stability or direction…

Behind all logic and its autocratic posturings stand valuations or, stated more clearly, physiological requirements for the preservation of a particular type of life. For example, that the determinate is worth more than the indeterminate, appearance worth less than the ‘truth’…

The human being is a diverse, hypocritical, artificial, and opaque animal, uncanny to other animals more because of his cunning and cleverness than his strength.

Download: I WAS NOT THERE…WHO TOUCHED ME