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.
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