Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Kino Derive Report

The aim of this exercise was to see how a person could discover or re-imagine a townscape by being led by archive film clips transferred to their mobile phones.
Flickering on the town hall debating chamber plasma screens the archive films appear romantic, distant, beguiling. Bulletins from another world. The challenge is to find their locations and shoot a response on the 21st century technology of the mobile phone. The graininess and jump cuts should make the formats oddly compatible.

The clips are transferred by bluetooth onto my mobile and off I go aided by a series of cryptic clues. As unfamiliar as I am with Maidstone the first isn’t much of a challenge as it clearly shows the Fremlins Brewery from 1938 and Maidstone is very proud of its new shopping precinct Fremlin Walk. Finding the location was one thing, but finding the spirit was quite a bit harder. I log a shot of the one existing part of the old brewery building – a clock arch leading to steps up to the shops. But another viewing of the clip from Sonny Hanson’s film about the Medway, ‘The Watery Trail’, clearly shows the brewery’s relationship to the river and as I wander around the shops the river is nowhere to be seen. Gavin points out that the Medway should be somewhere behind Debenhams, a brick rebuke to the river that gave birth to the town. In we go wondering whether the waterfront heritage of the site has been incorporated into the design. In the end I am forced to nudge aside re-enforced bras in the lingerie section and pull back a heavy net curtain to find a glimpse of the ‘Watery Trail’ depicted in the archive clip. I record my response as quickly as I can fearful of being nabbed as a pervert by store security.

Searching for the Fancy Dress Parade clip from 1930 I’ll confess to inside knowledge. It’s Brenchley Gardens, that much I know, and I’d wandered that way of my own accord on my first proper look round town. But how can the archive clip stimulate a renewed vision of the site. How to capture the spirit of a line-up of local craftspeople in fancy dress out for the day? After indulging in the interesting geometry of one of the fallen spires of the Houses of Parliament that found its way here following the Blitz I become aware of the teenage tribes lounging on the grass and in the bandstand. Fancy dress of a kind – the EMOs, the Goths and (I hate the word but what else do you say) the Chavs. That’s my clip – we move on quickly before they turn on us like in some B horror movie.
The shots of the bridge being built over the Maidstone Bypass in 1960 are brilliant for their capturing of the sublime beauty of iron girders. The bypass is a way up the river, but just along from Brenchley Gardens an older iron bridge provides a more than adequate response. It takes several clips to do justice to its form and relationship to the river running below but after a train trundles past into Maidstone East I feel I’ve found my Medway bridge.

I now have to climb a steep hill heading away from the town to find the vantage point depicted in the archive clip showing a fleet of buses on their way to Madrid. The titles on the original 1922 film, ‘From Maidstone to Madrid’ read, “ Spanish Authorities order – in face of keen world competition – a fleet of British built Buses, for first Bus Service in the Capital”. I’m some way up before I get to the vantage point from where my 10-second clip was shot 85 years ago, but find what I think is the exact spot. In an odd reversal there appear to be more trees now than in 1922, only one building from the original view remains.

With my circuit complete I slope back into town collecting a waterside shot of my own on the way. I send one clip to the hub by MMS which greets my on the Maidstone Video Map as I enter the Council Chambers before ‘toothing’ my remaining video-phone topographical film to a laptop for upload into the map.

Self-authorship of the landscape: from the Phantom Ride to the Mobile Phone

“The modern avenue served as laboratory for the flâneur, while the contemporary street finds the neo- flâneur manipulating the mediating filters of technology in pursuit of new connections to the landscape.” Glenn Bach. Atlas Peripatetic (MFA Project Report).

<1> Film-maker Patrick Keiller has identified that a common feature of the early city films of late 19th and early 20th Century was that they tended to be “one to three minutes long, and consisted of one or very few unedited takes”. This format is again becoming popular with the using of online video-sharing, and self-broadcasting websites such as YouTube and Google Video. The development of portable devices such as mobile phones presents new opportunities for topographical film-makers as short clips can be shot on the move and sent directly from the location to a website, or another device, where they can be simultaneously viewed and commented upon.

<2> This also has implications for the time-space compression (David Harvey) as people can broadcast to a potentially large audience images of the landscape as they pass through it in real-time and experience moving image bulletins from the past in-situ. Like the early city films these clips or bulletins will necessarily be short and unedited.

<3> Our visions of the landscape can now be filtered through a digital interface. Collectively these visions form a snapshot of the townscape and the personal topographies of the auteurs. The exchange that takes place on a kino dérive between author and instigator/ provocateur transforms the personal into the shared experience of space and place, spanning past and present.
A video map is created, logging the journeys undertaken. This then enables us to explore the changes and tensions, highlight historic symmetries and developments.

<4> By viewing archive film images in situ what historical tensions emerge? When standing in Fremlin Walk looking at Sonny Hanson’s film showing Fremlins Brewery in 1938 it’s difficult not to become aware of the economic and cultural transformation that has occurred as we have moved from distinctive local industries to a homogenised shopping mall culture.

<5> Can this simple act of authoring our own representation of our environment somehow give us a link to collective sense of place beyond that defined by urban planning, the privatisation of public space and received notions of localness and belonging? Somehow enable access to what Nick Papadimitriou calls a kind of “regional memory” locked in the landscape. A route to a sense and spirit of place which is inclusive.

<6> With the traditional psychogeographical dérive or drift we seek to strip the city or town bare, to reveal its secrets, its mechanisms and motors. The motivations for engaging in such an activity vary as much as the outcomes. For the Situationists it was a reconnaisance mission for the revolution of everyday life that they sought to bring about. The fact that they moved on from drinking absinthe in Montmatre to being at the heart of the revolt of May ’68 that brought the French government to the brink of collapse suggests some use came from these “journeys outside the timetable.”

<7> With a kino dérive we don’t anticipate a revolution in the traditional sense to occur, although it would be nice. It is an experiencing of place through a simultaneous active engagement with moving image and the landscape.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Today's the day

Come down to the Town Hall today and join us. Download some archive clips to your phone, go and hunt for the locations around the town (or find something similar). Then come back and we'll load your clips into our video map.

If you can't come along today or next Saturday 23rd, you can still participate by sending us a clip of wherever you are and we'll send you an archive clip of Maidstone in return.
Send your clips by MMS to 07828 611700
email: reframem@googlemail.com

Friday, 1 June 2007

A Lunchtime Derive- Part 2

“ Let yourself be drawn to places, look up, down and note any encounters you make along the way be they architectural, human, flora or fauna. Pick up found objects. Take every interaction as an opportunity to feed into the record of your journey”.

A ‘lunchtime derive’. Maidstone. 11th May 2007. 12.30pm. Meeting Point: outside the Tourist Information office.

Walking to meet, Laura, Lou, Nina and Bill I had a sense of a coming together, a gathering. Four people arriving from different places around the town to walk and share their experience of Maidstone. This feeling was probably made more acute as I was travelling amongst a throng of shoppers, like a salmon swimming against the current.

Notepads handed out, cameras and camera phones. Instructions read and digested.

Below you will find the algorithm for your Dérive:
2nd Right
2nd Right
1st Left
Start from any point near the centre of town, ie. Outside the tourist information office and follow the algorithm above. Try to find a spot you are drawn to, make a note of it, and the reason you were drawn to that spot. If you come to a dead end return to a point where you can resume with the formula. Allow yourself to be drawn in new and interesting directions.
Make a note of the route you take and the various atmospheres and ambiences you experience. You may find that what constitutes the ‘2nd Right’ or 1st Left is sometimes open to interpretation. Make a note of these moments of indecision and the reason you choose the turning you do.

Have fun, the derive is a playful-constructive activity.

“Psychogeography was merely a preparation, a reconnaissance for the day when the city would be seized for real.” Simon Sadler, The Situationist City

The Beginning

Louise goes south, Nina east, Bill north and Laura west. My aim is to follow one and come across all at some point but this proves difficult and I end up drifting off my course. I become aware of being part of an act, a survey being carried out and something unknown being collected.

Pudding Lane

Hat in Earl Street

Salvation in Week Street laura

Forty minutes later we meet back where we started. One at a time they arrive at the start. Nina first.

First year video student from UCCA. Nina’s from Oslo and used to an urban town. She finds Maidstone small and has only been here since September. She regularly comes into town but follows a similar route each time. Over the bridge from Lockmeadow, up the High Street, into Fremlin Walk or through Market Buildings. Or up the high street and through the chequers centre to Sainsbury’s and then home. Back the same way. She started her derive in the opposite direction to where she normally walks. This is her account.

“Down Bank street with small shops and bars. Near Chicago Rock Café. Road work. Lots of construction noises (managed to loose derive instructions on the way). Turned 2nd right near Barclays Bank. Road on left hand. Turned 2nd right again after Drakes pub, up Medway street. Feels like a back alley without anything special. Old House at Home is in front of me. The whole building looks amazing so old, so cosy and next to it is the Tea Room with the same style. Turn 1st left onto Pudding Lane “Gates” to Fremlin Walk in front of me. Then I turn 1st left again just by a photography store (which sells lots of old, and new cameras and equipment). I come to a parking lot to “the courtyard”, which apparently is a service which helps out people with disabilities and psychological issues. But the whole building is just amazing. In front it looks really clean and “summery” with palm trees but on the side it looks old and very special with art."


Pudding Lane

Bank St

Bill arrives a couple of minutes later. Bill’s from Greece and is a 2nd year video student at UCCA.

“High Street: Beautiful, sunny day, Gabriels Hill full of people. Small path next to the hills entrance seems “neglected”, “unnoticed”. Interesting angles. Stairs. Dead End: A closed door leading to the Chequers Shopping Centre. Full of graffiti. I decide to take the first right instead of the second. Path leading to a lower level, behind the buildings. First left: Another dead end: A door leading to the inside of The Mall.

I decide to take the first right and follow my algorithm from the beginning.

Mysterious small street at the back of High Street’s building. Tranquillity. A man smoking/taking a break. The street leads straight to Grabriels Hill right in front of a Kebab Restaurant. It is a rather “voyeuristic” view.


I decide to move down Gabriel’s Hill, restarting the algorithm. Second right: At Maidstone’s main street, parallel to High Street. Second Right: Another small, tranquil street."

Bills photo

Bills photo

Bills photo


Bill really enjoyed the derive. He was amazed by the amount of alleyways and once taken the amazing quiet, leaving the buzz of street life behind.”

Laura and Louise have lived in Maidstone most of their lives.

Louise comes back first and is surprised that even though she knows the town well the experience threw up some interesting surprises. The fact that the algorithm kept taking her back to Fremlin Walk, even though she desperately wanted to go somewhere else. Even though she didn’t want to linger in Market Buildings as she felt she knew it well there were still things to draw her attention.

“High Street, Pudding Lane, buses, pollution, traffic.

Pudding Lane, lots of warning signs. Quaint T-shop.

Fremlin Walk – House of Fraser. Dead end. Corporate, clean. Plastic plants, brick walls shopping, lots of shopping. Souless.

Fremlin Walk. Drawn to open circular space. View of museum, people sitting/chatting. Framed architecture.

Back to route – officials – suits – purple/grey/beige

Back to Fremlin – don’t want to go back – turn back on steps towards Pudding Lane.

Medway street – rooftops and car parks.

Avis car hire – beautiful buildings, gated swamped by Fremlin Walk.

Fairmeadow – over lights to river – walk blocked by barrier. River to my right narrowing path – decide to take it – bit scared. Risked life crossing the road to aspects – new development oasis of tranquillity beside a dual carriageway!”

Fremlin Walk

Fremlin Walk

Pudding Lane

Laura followed.

"Windy street, bright sunlight.

1st picture – deadend 1st left gated entrance ended up in public toilets! Bizarre sign – “please don’t take the toilet seats”.

Deadend – alleyway took me into back of Yumm Yumm’s! Secret passageway – smelly drains! Looks from people, started filming. Drawn to one yellow brick painted on side of building. Started again at end of Rose Yard/Earl Street area. Through busy town up side road – quiet courtyard back of buildings – tree lined (James Court).

Turned up Union street, deadend. Church entrance. Drawn to ophthalmic. Sad building, lots of memories as a child."


We exchanged photos and videos, ate a sandwich and each departed in separate directions.

On the way home I found this sitting on a wall outside Kent CC offices.

home and away2

The Moon Over Maidstone

I was wandering back from the Druids after a meeting with AQQ editor Mark Hewitt and Mark Barnes, the 'worlds fourth greatest illustrator' his words, not mine - it was just getting dark and it occured to me that even in the most edgiest of places the romantic qualities of place can be found (or is that more like, after a couple of small sherrys the most romantic side of me emerges!) Perceptions of place - a constant quest.

This was my thought... kindly reworded by John...

"There was a crescent moon shining above the Methodist Church in Week Street. Opposite glowed the golden arches of new god of Mc Donald’s. Young lovers sat and super-sized themselves in their temple of fast food where once they swooned beneath the moon."

Sunday, 15 April 2007

The Maiden Stone and the Earth Grid

Maidtsone is a place of great antiquity. One reading of the name is that it is derived from ‘The Stone of the Maidens’. E.O. Gordon writes that "Maiden" is a corruption of the Sanskrit and Arabic term Maidan meaning "an open place of public meeting". The stone being the signifier of this place of gathering, possibly part of a large stone circle such as the Merry Maidens in Cornwall.

As such a place of antiquity it sits upon large concentrations of earth energy with a ley line running through the town. Some marginal Christian cults believe Maidstone to be part of the Earth Grid and “the bizarre lattice patterns of Satan. “ One such cult recently travelled through Kent tracing “the effects that prayer warfare has had on this area. “

“As we come through Maidstone we note that there is
quite a bit of activity through Maidstone. There is a
church to the south that is connected. You will notice
that there are many places of antiquity along these
lines too and different places like crossroads that
hold quite a activity of Satanic influences. You can
see too as we travel across a place called Godstone
the `stones' are quite relevant to the situation too.
One with `god' on it, obviously. “

Thursday, 12 April 2007

The Ghats of Doom

I was discussing the project and the idea of the Artists' Quarter with Rochester-based underground bookdealer Chris Berthoud. I mooted some ideas and asked for suggestions and he came up with this rivetting image:

"I suggest the setting up of vast ghats on the street corners, burning carcasses night and day (perhaps of executed child-killing pit bulls) to evoke the death wrought by the shipping built on the Medway around the globe... probably something to do with the slave trade. These palls of stinking black smoke would be very photogenic as they left their crematory stains on the buildings and obscured alleyways, suddenly revealing them as the wind changed, like Dickensian whores whipping up their petticoats. It would also provide an interesting commentry on global warming (I think the Ganges is drying up) and the English obsession with barbecues (they could be tended by men in "bra-and-knickers" plastic aprons.)"

We'd be keen to hear of other such visions for the Artists' Quarter for inclusion in a newsletter we will be publishing for Architecture Week.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

A Little Treasure

book cover

I cannot begin to describe how excited we were to find this book "Art and the built environment - a teacher's approach" by Eileen Adams and Colin Ward, pub.Longman Group Ltd 1982 tucked at the back of a blue plastic box in the Save the Children charity shop in Broadstairs - guide price 20p!! We paid a £1!! Not least because dear old Eileen is a bit of a goddess amongst art educators and she marked our degree at Chelsea. This is a real little treasure and on page 52 found this little snippet which really resonnates with what we're going on about - titled Serial Vision

..serial vision

"Gordon Cullen says that we understand space not merely by looking at it but by moving though it. Townscape, therefore, is not a collection of static tableaux: it is made up of a continuum of spatial awareness where our perceptions are influenced by what we have expeienced and what we expect to experience. Serial vision is a way of revealing this phenomenon." p52. ISBN:0 582 36195 8

Solitary, slow and wayward - SPB Mais on how to see England (proto-Situationist manifesto pt.2)

The great topographical writer SPB Mais, was thinking of how to explore England in general when he wrote the words below. But you can take them as a guide to how you might go about re-experiencing Maidstone.

You can no more see England from a main arterial road than you can see her from the air. What you can see from the newly constructed roads is a garish rash of scarlet, the unhealed wound of a land laid waste.

Hikers travel on foot, but they see nothing of England, for two reasons. They travel too fast, and they walk, as starlings fly, in multitudes.

It is not enough to travel on foot. You must learn to saunter as Charles II, Richard Jefferies, W.H. Hudson, and Edward Thomas sauntered, and you must learn to saunter alone.You travel alone, not because you are unsociable, but because you are sociable. In a crowd you just nod in passing to the shepherd or road-mender. When you are alone you make friends with every passer-by. All England talks to you.

You travel alone, secondly, to meet yourself. All the rest of the year you are part of the machine. You work with the herd, take your pleasures with the herd. But alone in the quietude of the country you find yourself. You are at last finding out your own tastes, testing your own unforced reactions.

So make up your mind to be bound by no programme, to travel with complete irresponsibility, to start nowhere in particular, and the odds are that you will catch a glimpse of England that is vouchsafed only to the privileged few.

What you are looking for is as elusive as the faery music of the piper at the gates of dawn. What you see may be incommunicable to others, but it will provide you with a vision that may well alter the whole of your outlook on life.

Solitary, slow, and wayward are the keywords.

In England you cannot go wrong so long as you keep to the unknown.

You and I are likely to go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green, but our ancestors lie buried in the long barrows that strew the banks of Minchinhampton. Where they are traces of earliest man there is beauty.

So if you would find loveliness, tread the ancient tracks that top the Wiltshire downlands. The smooth green undulations will soothe your harassed mind as nothing else can.

It is impossible in the hurly-burly of the market-place to acquire or to keep any values at all. Only when we are striding the high hills alone can we take stock of ourselves, our desires, and our relation to this world and the next.

Abridged from ‘England’s Character’, SPB Mais 1936, pgs. 14-22.
You can read Pt. 1 of SPB Mais' Proto Situationist Manifesto, Advice for Derivers (circa 1930), here

Saturday, 7 April 2007

An Experiment

The idea of the event is to experience place bodily and visually using moving image. So often we experience place through 2 dimensional representations. The challenge here is to create a 3 dimensional experience using past and present images of Maidstone. Heres an experiment using archive stills and present day video of Rose Yard - made specially for a mobile phone.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Chocolate Jelly Babies at The Kymera Coffee House

I made my first proper trip to Maidstone on Friday (Cathy lives in the town centre – she’s the ‘local’). All I had to guide me so far was a page in Harold P. Clunn’s ‘Face of the Home Counties’. "Maidstone, the name of which is a corruption of Medwaystown or of the Saxon Meddestane."

As soon as I hit the platform at Maidstone West Cathy sent me a picture message of a Tudor building with the instruction to meet her there, somewhere near the town hall. This was a pain as I was instinctively drawn to the Bishop’s Palace keen to seek out the cell that Wat Tyler had sprung ‘The Mad Priest of Kent’, Rev John Ball from at the start of the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381.

The building in Cathy’s MMS found me rather than me finding it. Once over the river and across the road you are sucked into Bank Street, a winding paved way that was the home of the town’s Gin distilleries. It retains a Hogarthian air in the architecture (and the street scenes after dark), dank alleys draw you aside between shops into disused yards revealing intriguing views of the backs of buildings. Bank Street is a good first reference point – there was nobody around too, on a busy Friday lunchtime, giving the requisite feel of an under-celebrated spot.

We viewed the council chambers where we’ll base ourselves for the June Architecture Week event. Apt that the home of the local democratic body will be given over to a people’s re-imaging of the town, a kind of civic mass-authoring of the visual Maidstone.

Then later we attended the launch of the Artists’ Quarter Quarterly a feisty new zine aimed at promoting the idea of a Maidstone artists’ quarter around Earl Street, Market Buildings, Bank Street, Rose Yard and Pudding Lane. With a bit of spin and imagination in a few years this will become a Kentish Left Bank, a Home Counties Hoxton, a Medway Greenwich Village. Things certainly kicked off in decadent fashion with a chocolate fountain at the Kymera Coffee House, but instead of the usual tame stuff to dip into the molten choc we had jelly babies, yep chocolate jelly babies at the Kymera Coffee House. Let Chatham Bard Pete Molinari celebrate that in song. In Paris in the 1920’s they got off their bonce on absinthe, in Maidstone we gorged on little multi-coloured people dipped in melted (organic fair-trade?) chocolate. In years to come pale art students will gather to recreate this moment with fondue sets and jelly babies and toast the Maidstone Movement who eventually overdid the E numbers.

I missed my train. Which gave me a chance to review some historical notes. The symmetries with Wycombe jumping off the page. In Wycombe we marked the presence of Dr Martin Lluelyn, the man who tended to Charles I on the scaffold and took the monarch's gloves as a keepsake. In Maidstone we have the figure of Andrew Broughton who read out the king’s death sentence at his trial. And of course there’s Disraeli, the man who tried and failed three times to get elected MP for Wycombe before taking the seat at Maidstone. And both towns were centres of paper-making and religious dissent.
All bodes well.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

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