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Shed Summit

Shed Summit

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Published by Triarchy Press
One of a collection of 17accounts recording A Year of Walking by drifter, mythogeographer and crabman Phil Smith. The full set and a collection of other resources live at www.mythogeography.com
One of a collection of 17accounts recording A Year of Walking by drifter, mythogeographer and crabman Phil Smith. The full set and a collection of other resources live at www.mythogeography.com

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Published by: Triarchy Press on Dec 08, 2009
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12/08/2009

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Shed Summit

On a blistering hot day – 14th July - we went to explore the area around Welcombe Barton – recycling shed on our way in, then a long walk down to the Welcombe Mouth beach – “geology! The earth crushed together and rising – process the hut to the beach like Spanish penitents… – each of us wearing hut hats…” - failed to get to either Ronald Duncan’s or Rev. Stephen Hawker’s sheds – between two ignorances, the rocks of the combe shimmered in the heat. At his church in Welcombe, opium-soaked Hawker not only invented Harvest Festival he also introduced the practice of opening the North Door during baptisms in order to let out the Devil (brought in by the un-baptised child) and then locking the door and keeping it locked until the next baptism. Along the way to the beach and back again by a different route we found many locked sheds and huts, ready for weekend owners. During the Shed Summit the people were there, weekending, and in one case they invited us all into their garden to process about their shed, to present our shed to theirs, and to photograph them and us together with the sheds. I was overwhelmed with associations – The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis where, in a shed, the ape presents a donkey in a lion’s skin as Aslan – I hired a joke lion skin from Fantasy World on Fore Street (I couldn’t quite
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remember the name and I just looked it up in Raimi Gbadamosi’s The Dreamers’ Perambulator, couldn’t resist running over more pages, walking through names, most but not all commercial, no longer a directory, already ‘out of date’ when it was never ‘in’, but a route ‘in itself’). I brought along various clothes for Simon, to dress as the ape – but there was never a right moment to perform this. We saw an advertisement for a performance by the “amazing suicidal birdman” and I remembered I had written The Village Project while living in a shed; a play based on the life of Blaedudd, King Lear’s father, who tried to fly and died in the attempt. I remembered the dystopian shed in Ambitions, written for the same company – Gog Theatre, full of smoke from exploded pc’s, written twenty years ago, after visiting some early-days-ofpc-games designers. The difficulty of performance and the ease of ritual; parade, pseudo-pilgrimage stripped of belief. I was to ‘lead’ the parade with a staff made from pieces of the cut up shed. The best part was being able to hand the ‘staff’ over to various ‘pilgrims’. Stephen made a Schwitters-esque speaking scarecrow, Cathy made poetry with potting plants, Simon made a minished-gallery of shed imagery. I made mini-performances. I wrote with a piece of Cynheidre coal into soil, listening to a tape my friend the poet and former miner Mogg Williams sent me, recorded in his shed not so long before he died. On the
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tape he says something like: “maybe then it’s all been worth it, this time in the shed, the loneliness in the shed, if the poetry has been recognised…” It was odd at the Summit. I lay dozing with a candle, ‘Blaedud the Birdman’ book by the sheet I was under. There was a strange post-theory air about the talks I attended, a return to empirical nuts and bolts. Death of the theorist. Next to our shed within a shed a large shed was being constructed from pallets over two days. Rubbing hands Simon and me squashed raspberries (loganberry substitutes) into our hands, the robbers, beheaders of St Nectan. Inflatable buildings, smooth skins off which slid causality, all marks of manufacture disappear by expansion, empiricism stretched thin becoming flat and smooth and unquestionable, an a-skin. We were swamped in our shed early on by national and agency photographers sent by editors with a skewed impression of the event. Should we always refuse to pose? Discovered the North Cornwall mythos of St Nectan: how on his decapitation, at which he picked up his head and walked back to his shed, he lay his head on a stone, which remains stained. The church at Welcombe is dedicated to St Nectan. At the start of our walk I handed out pieces of modelling clay for the walkers to make little models of their own heads, to carry in their hand or pocket, to be aware of seeing things from more than one view point, to offset the self as the ‘only’ walking consciousness. Susan Blackmore concludes her Consciousness: An Introduction (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2003) with ‘waking up’ – she
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describes the poisoning of Douglas Harding by robbers. Waking he realised he had begun to see differently: “Past and future dropped away, and he just looked. ‘To look was enough. And what I found was khaki trouserlegs terminating downwards in a pair of brown shoes, khaki sleeves terminating sideways in a pair of pink hands, and a khaki shirtfront terminating upwards in – absolutely nothing whatever!’ We can all do what he did next. We can look where the head should be and find a whole world. Far from being nothing, the space where the head should be is filled with everything we can see… For Harding, this great world of mountains and trees was completely without ‘me’, and it felt like suddenly waking up from the sleep of ordinary sleep. It was a revelation of the perfectly obvious.” (p.408, Consciousness: An Introduction) Another saint beheaded – productively - by robbers. “I felt that the possibility of producing a culture which both articulates difference and lives with it could only be established on the basis of a non-sovereign notion of self… The fragmentation of identity is … a recognition of the importance of the alienation of the self in the construction of forms of solidarity.” (p.213, Homi Bhabha, The Third Space) “Only the visually self-disassembled body can explores the states of resistance to the digital city.” (p.158, Stephen Barber, projected cities) The a-violent version of this works through a mathematical and geometrical visuality rather than the surgeon’s knife and its nostalgic ripperology, instead a self-disassembly of granular visuality into grids, meshes, curves, probable or potential surfaces and deconstructed, conscious flowfields with their landmarks, simple variables and dynamic-triggers, all wedded to a mythogeographical ‘history’/geography/rumour.
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The man I recognised from Bristol wrapping and bandaging the damaged shed on the beach at Welcombe Mouth, so we could carry it, now salty from the Atlantic, back through the lanes, past the S&M holiday home with its thick curtains, someone limping now, everyone sweating under the sun cream, pleasurable weariness. The walker becomes an extended organism, a materiality of consciousness and everything else in dynamic process: eddying, consuming, digesting, two acids eating each other, two pans of seething oil melding and interacting. Two metaphors accumulating. A translucent, mobile, pocket scrapbook. Something that might explain the feeling of well being that a number of people have expressed the day after drifting thanks for monday's drift, Phil: had a fine old time of it, and felt very >> grounded and relaxed and happy on Monday evening and though I hesitate to begin down the way of medical explanations, I might very tentatively suggest that this resting of the overburdened meme-complex of discrete self has a psychological as well as a philosophical effect. I’m hesitant, not because I don’t think drifting can be a real, easing pleasure for people, but because I fear that there’s a petit-bourgeois junction not far down that route that leads to small-business and the closing
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down of the drifting meme’s uncontrollable wandering far and wide. I went to talk with Rev. Anthony Freeman at his house in Newton St Cyres. He is the editor of The Journal of Consciousness. He talked about how he took up painting when “a village parson” and how for six months he saw brighter colours and more distinct and striking shapes. The next day I go to speak with Dr. Chris Williams, a consultant at the Department of Clinical Psychology at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. We suddenly get into a discussion about the Debenhams building in the High Street after he has raised the question of educating the mind, programmed to appreciate and enjoy certain harmonic intervals and organisations of shape, to appreciate atonality and asymmetry. And I suddenly think, and this is a banal and obvious thought, that most people are out there suffering minor levels of trauma because no one has ever bothered to let them even know about the predominant atonal/asymmetry of the modernist environment. And that such a courtesy might help people who suffer more extreme traumas to create for themselves safe and enjoyable places along familiar routes. Chris explains that that is exactly what they do with patients, giving them the skills to create imaginary safe places if they are subject to a panic attack in public. Developing a mythogeographic appreciation of places - I explained to Chris how I had learnt to enjoy the generally disliked Debenhams building for its simple proportions and its sense of mass and because I know its basement was to be a nuclear war hospital – could give to people with problems about going outside, or into public or crowded places, an alternative map of safe and pleasurable space.

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As we approached the church of St Nectan I shouted ahead, the possibility arose for us to carry the shed through the North door, but I couldn’t grasp the idea of carrying it through or around the church (the audience walked three times round the deconsecrated church in Church), I couldn’t relate what we had been doing with a religious practice, even to its subversion.

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I felt by then we had floated free from the angel/devil binary. Laughter and hurting feet on the beach stones and the sweat of the hot day and the shocked hospitality of the shed people welcoming in thirty-plus visitors, the pseudo-ritual with nothing in the sedanshed-coffin to bury, nothing to put in the ocean but the shed itself: “we thought you’d brought a dead pet to bury”. We had floated into a cloud of associations larger than good and bad angels. Is that the place – the layer that meshes the angels and their shadows. Not the naughty boy/girl embrace of the devils and vampires, but the space that is neither haunted by pseudorevolt/pleasure in violence over others (the state in miniature) nor scared into submission to the big state’s ideologies. Able to fly in and among floated-free ideologies making a precarious play of themselves. When Stephen Barber proposes the memories of film as a means to “pierce” the city’s surface, evoking the ‘situationist’ image of a bottle thrown through a cinema screen in Howard Brenton’s Magnificence, he quantifies the effect as “to unsettle and revolutionize the city” (p.156, projected cities), underestimating the city’s capacity to repair points of disruption. Far harder for it to repair or expel are those disruptions which slide in, selfdisciplinedly two-dimensional. A flatland dissidence. A phantomic, diaphanous practice; self-organised, emergent. An a-violence ‘offering’ itself as a grid to mesh with. A quantum entanglement,
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androgynous, neither penetrative nor enfolding. A mathematicalisation of disruption. In Exeter and Exmouth there are still city centre, communal, comforting screens – in the brief years of this anomaly the digitalisation of action offers a bathing of space compatible with that of film – so cinema/space disappears, a disappearance and consequent bathing of the city for the dériviste dependent on the archaic presence of the Odeon and the Savoy. The discrete ‘self’ is eroded, by the geological/intellectual process of a neo-Symbolist floating-free and the synthesising of unlikes, setting in motion the explicit machinery of persuasion and deception and power, but dislocated from its material base, so that it becomes (if we avoid falling off either side of morality) our thing to play with, to aestheticise, the recovery of ‘art’ from the repetitive survivalism of everyday life for the purposes of détournement. Walking: into the city, into the rural landscape, into these already pre-conceived naturalities and artificialities, is released from these two eyes, offset by the consciousness of ‘nothing’ in the head, of ‘nothing’ behind the eyes, of eyes offset to one side – a seeing that already contains previous perceptions of the world, meme-soaked: for it seems that we are never able to see the world ‘fresh’ – our seeing is biologically enabled by electrical memories, and before that by hard-wired expectations of shapes and meanings, inheritances from our very meaningless luck of being here that we, legitimately and meaninglessly, grant all sorts of significance. “The appearance of ‘phosphenes’, colloquially called ‘seeing stars, is well known to everyone. On entering a completely darkened room, colour spots start to appear in the eye, once the eyes have
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become accustomed to the darkness… colour patterns and shapes appear which do not enter the eye in the normal way, but are produced within the eye and the brain… phosphenes originate all along the visual pathway and it is possible to stimulate visual areas in the brain to produce such phosphenes. Stimulations of this kind produce visual experiences of the past… patients who had been blind for a long time began to see phosphenes after similar treatment. It was not possible, however, to achieve such results with persons who had been blind since birth.” (p. 26-7, Art and Science Dolf Reiser, London: Studio Vista, 1972) “RODS – the DVD Jose Escamilla’s ground-breaking discovery of “critters” in our atmosphere! Includes “how-to-film” RODS around you. DVD $19.90” (ad in Paranoia magazine, Fall 2003) There were things I realised that I didn’t do in the Lost Tours fortnight: Skimmerton Riding, a hoax drift as wandering bishops, a pylons walk, a movie walk bathing the city in film sequences…

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