Sunday, February 22, 2015

islands : pause - new project begun

Another part of my Islands project - the series of artworks in various media which will be created throughout 2015 - is Islands : Pause.

Islands : Pause is a projected series of silent videoportraits. It begins with six minutes of me eating an apple and looking out of a window.

islands : wind available now

After maybe more than two months, I've finally got round to making a set of improvs I had in mind.

They're called Islands : Wind, part of my larger project of interconnected works in various media throughout 2015 called Islands.

You can download them free at Bandcamp. There is also an amount of supplementary material consisting of images and text. Or you can listen to the sample below before you go clicking anything:

The idea started over Christmas at my mother's house, when I was playing around with the thunder tube percussion instrument she has. Although it's a pretty limited instrument, there is more you can do with it than just make thunder noises. I ordered myself one and determined to record a set of tracks using just thunder tube and voice.

That recording only happened over the last three or four days, in three sessions. Several improvs were rejected because they weren't good enough, or were too similar to one another.

Which isn't to say it's a set of pristine and head-spinningly diverse tracks - some of the recordings are pretty grimy. Chase of full above because it was recorded with the gain turned right up, Sprill because it was recorded on mobile phone and has the sound of an impact on it, and the rest were recorded in the shower in a haze of standing waves.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

matt's big m60 walk - islands

I hope this will be the last of these for a while.

I've begun to clarify the art aspect of the walk in my head a little, and to tie it in with other things I'd like to do this year. There will be an overarching project called Islands [which now has a blog], the first manifestation of which I expect to be a series of sound pieces called Islands : Wind.

This has actually been several weeks in the planning, but there's been very little time to get on with any recording. A combination of family matters, and having to apply for work after my temporary contract came to an end has meant it's hard to find time to do the things I'd really like to. Nonetheless I hope to get the damn thing done pretty soon.

The walk will generate a set of linked works under the umbrella title Islands : Manchester across different media. This much can be found at the new page, Islands, at the walk's blog. More detail will be added as and when it becomes available, so keep checking back there.

The My Route page has just been updated - around half the circuit has now been planned, though one section needs revisiting to make sure the route's accurate and tighten up the timings.

Additionally the longest, and arguably most personal journal entry has been added - 15 February 2015.

Do keep checking back at the blog for the walk. The main activity is the journal - the dated blogposts found under Archives - but the My Route and Islands pages should be updated relatively regularly (My Route more so). You can also find links to the interactive maps at plotaroute.comthe twitter feed, and the JustGiving page. The latter two provide micro-updates on my progress - twitter mainly while I'm out planning the route, but also when I update the blog.

Getting back to Islands - it's not yet clear to me what (if anything) the common ground between each set of works will be. There seems to be an idea of constraints at work - a limited soundmaker and aural palette with Islands : Wind; glass jars, perhaps paint, and of course the linking theme of the walk and the motorway with Islands : Manchester.

I haven't yet quite decided whether my upcoming performance at Peter Barlow's Cigarette (yes, it's a Facebook link; yes, my account is still dormant; hell no, I'm never going back*) will be part of the Islands project.

Hey, maybe I might get back to normal service next time. Here's hoping.

*I'm a lot happier since I left. I'm less aware of events, which is kind of a drawback, but I'm no longer getting annoyed by friends and people I like.

Seriously, I hate the way people post there: unnecessarily aggressive, condescending and/or contrarian for the sake of it; verbose and lacking any substantial content; all caps OMG-gasms!; gullible reposting of wootastic horseshit that's been discredited over and over; and all of it attracting 'likes' like flies on shit. And when it comes to serious matters, disagreements get buried under echo-chambers of people often too lazy to read the comments, and sometimes downright bullying.

Fuck that shit. You see, even retrospectively it annoys me. Yeah, I'm never going back. And if you think any of those criticisms apply to your posts on Facebook I don't care. Maybe they do, maybe they don't; not my fucking problem anymore. But if they do, then congratulations, you're one of the people who helped make me feel unwelcome, alienated, ignored and isolated, and helped drive me off what had once been a valuable social tool, but felt increasingly hostile and inhospitable.

While I'm not going back, I don't really have anything to replace it, and I'm back where I was around 2008/9 - pretty socially isolated and out of the loop.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

matt's big m60 walk - planning the route

More on my walk around the M60 at the end of May covered in my last post.

I've started to use an online route planning tool to... well, plan my route. I intend to do a series of maps covering the route in sections (probably around 6 of them).

The first two are available now - Section one is complete, while section two is just a fragment at present - I'll finish it when I've plotted out the next part of the walk.

Along with a page on the walk's blog providing written directions, including street names, this should be everything you need to follow the route for yourself. Whether you do that at home on your computer, on the ground in sections, on the ground in its entirety, or even decide to join me for part of the walk is up to you.

Edit (and in previous post): I also now have a twitter for the project: @MattsBigM60Walk

Sunday, February 08, 2015

matt's big m60 walk

So, I'm planning to walk around the M60 on Saturday 30 May this year. At present I'm planning the route that will be taken; so far around 1 hour and 20 minutes of a projected 12 hours has been settled on.

While I will be raising money for charity the two real reasons for this walk are: first, I fancy the challenge; and second, I want to use the time to create some art. This is likely to be in the form of sound and video recordings, but honestly I don't really know.

In order to ensure I complete the walk the date has been set, a JustGiving page established, and a blog to track the progress of my preparations.

The JustGiving page is short, to the point, and easily digestible. There are regular updates, limited to 280 characters, you'll be pleased to hear. It's obviously also the page where people can donate.

For longer and more discursive posts, taking in autobiographical fragments, aesthetic reflections, and much more detail on my motivations, planning the route, and anything else which strikes me you can dip into Matt's big M60 walk blog.

If you'd like to donate, please visit the JustGiving page. If you'd like to join me for a section of my ridiculous endeavour then leave a message, or email me with the subject line Matt's big M60 walk query.

After the photo, my first journal entry from the blog.

Edit: I also now have a twitter for the project: @MattsBigM60Walk

A couple of weeks ago now I decided on a project that dates back at least a year. The intention is to walk around the M60, Manchester’s orbital motorway.

There are a lot of steps that led here, but one main cause. Before I get into that though I should note one important thing: I intend to undertake the walk barefoot (1).

That element of being barefoot dates back over a month to the first of the immediate causes of my decision to do this walk.

Inspired by an online video review of Gus Van Sant’s Gerry (2) – both the commentary and the clips chosen to illustrate it – I set out on a walk with the intention of filming my own feet at some stage. I’d probably been walking over an hour when I overcame my self-consciousness, and reached what I thought was reasonably diverse terrain. It was also a place where I knew I could get a good duration of filming done.

There’s not much to say about the filming – it went as you’d expect. I walked with the camcorder pointed at my feet, and after around 12 minutes I stopped recording. Although there was a happy accident when I reached the end of filming.

The intention was to find a place to stop, lift the camera across the river and up to the sky, and close with the sun blaring into the lens. Had I managed this it would have been hackneyed and uninteresting. Perhaps I would have edited it out, but as circumstances had it I didn’t need to.

The day was overcast, with the sun making only occasional appearances. At the point where I chose to stop there are a couple of built structures jutting out into the Mersey. I walked down on to one of them, , raised the camera past the reflections on the river, past the the opposite bank and into the sky. And there I had to settle on featureless cloud.

To my mind that made a far more satisfactorily anti-climactic end to the shot, and a better reflection of the day, the time of year, and the narrative of the piece. It was inconclusive and blank (3).

A week or so later, on Pomona Island I did another – more planned, and longer – walk, again filming my feet. This time barefoot. It took around 16 minutes and was cold, painful and wet. Even at such a short duration, and with only a short time on road and pavement, I walked slowly and gingerly. I was very happy to get my socks and shoes back on (4).

It’s clear that the near 60km walk around the M60 is going to require some training, and may turn out impossible to complete barefoot.

Aside from the damage to my feet, the biggest challenge I can see in the walk is organising it. I’m not very good at getting things done, and a previous endurance walk last year never got past the stage of being talked about.

At least this time I’ve managed to buy a map. And it shows both the whole M60, and the footpaths and other routes available. I have also started this diary in the hope that it will shame/motivate me into carrying through with the walk.

There remain a number of things to do, in particular to walk the route (5) in stages over the next few weeks. This will allow me to get used to reading the map, begin to familiarise myself with the route, work out how long it takes to walk the route in shoes (it will take longer barefoot), and identify anything that hasn’t occurred to me as a potential challenge yet (6).

Separately I need to start practicing barefoot walks, and building up how long I can walk that way. I should also use these walks to make an estimate of how long the full circuit is likely to take.

While doing the walk I plan to make art. Once again I haven’t yet decided quite how. Practicality suggests – since the walk even in shoes will take around 12 hours – that I’ll be better doing things that don’t require me to stop. So filming and audio recording rather than making objects, writing or drawing.

In fact I have a long history of making art while out walking. In my teens and early twenties, when I was still living in the countryside with my parents and siblings, it was common for me to create [in this way].

Most of the time it was the kind of thing most people probably wouldn’t regard as art. Namely making up poems and songs in my head, or more often conducting imaginary interviews with myself – usually out loud. I very rarely took a notepad with me, and when I did often forgot to write in it. And what I wrote while I walked, or wrote afterwards from memory, seemed clumsy and inert on the page, where it had sparkled at the moment of creation.

It didn’t occur to me until many years later that the problem wasn’t me, or the writing (or not always). Rather the problem was context. Many of the ideas – words, phrases, extended passages – were really performances, improvisations. They existed in and for that moment and situation. By writing them down, by trying to arrange them into conventional shapes, I was deforming and breaking them.

But it wasn’t just word. I used chalk or stones I’d found lying around, to draw on dark stone and slate. I drew in snow using my feet, sticks, or piss. I made small constructions of sticks. I arranged stones in circles, mazes and patterns. All of these were intended to wash away, or be kicked and dislodged leaving no trace behind.

(1) While this was the original intention, as of February I have doubts whether it’s possible. I’m training with the intention of walking barefoot, but it’s more important to me that I complete the walk – even if that’s in shoes.

(2) Despite the film being over 12 years old, and looking right up my arthouse alley, I still haven’t seen it. The review I’m referring to is here –

(3) The resulting video, Thoughts, is on my YouTube channel at –

(4) The video is called Place, and you can watch it at –

(5) So far as I’m aware there is no established route for such a walk, so I’m having to create my own. Part of the challenge is deciding whether to walk my circuit outside the M60 or inside, or perhaps straying between the two. At present I’m leaning toward the latter, a combination of walking inside and outside the orbital road.

(6) One potential problem is crossing the M60. I suffer from acrophobia, fear of heights, and I’d far rather find somewhere I can pass under the road than over the top of it, where there’s a need to cross. I already know that parts of Salford, and around Whitefield are problematic for me.