Manual for Marginal Places is the inaugural publication commissioned by closeandremote (Sophie Mellor and Simon Poulter). The publication brings together my recent text, ‘Making Room for Manoeuvre; or Ways of Operating Along the Margins’, with text and images from artist, Sophie Mellor. Manual for Marginal Places was launched on 14 May 2011, as part of the event, Just Do(ing) It: Artist-led and self-organised cultural activity as resistance to Capitalism (see here). Manual for Marginal Places can be purchased on Amazon here.
Manual for Marginal Places is explored by David Berridge in his blog post ‘ART WRITING LANDSCAPE: WALKING (S)MILES THEREFORE AHM MARGINAL SOUND POET THEREFORE’. In this post Berridge proposed to interrogate, “Four art writing projects (that) unfold relationships and possibilities of, for and about landscape. Strategies for observing then recording the results, or maybe the other way around; scores for intervention; missives for those in the field right now or chair- bed- page confined explorers of type/ book/ screen (e)scapes. Handbooks for weaving together art as life life as art art and life, or as yet un-thought combinations of neither.”
Extract from Berridge's post:
“I’m still absorbed in MANUAL FOR MARGINAL PLACES, which I also presented as part of the ART CRITICISM NOW event in Dublin, and whose notion of manual has also been generative for this blog since. A source book, then, documenting (1) letters sent by Sophie Mellor to Emma Cocker whilst the former was spending a short time living without money in Cumbrian towns and countryside; (2) Cocker’s replies in the form of a series of prose texts/ poems on marginality. A dialogue, then, but one open to its breaches as much as its connections.
Initially, MANUAL reads as epistolary novel, with Emma and Sophie’s texts alternating, although Sophie’s soon disappear, and Emma unfolds her prose sequence solely in relation to (Sophies) images. This structure reflect’s how Sophie’s project (she was also a co-curator of the project) was itself a test to generate a set of ideas and practices for future work. It demonstrates the tricky status of such activities (briefly living rough as a funded artist), where art is both deprivation and privilege, the act itself both pretense and very real.
I wonder if these tensions – which are part of the project’s energy, not a critique of something it is unaware of – are also apparent in the text itself. Here is No.12 – Drift. I offer it here, out of context, as an example of a text that has drifted into this new context and location here, curious how in doing so it maintains or loses a sense of MANUAL:
Wandering operates tangentially; it detours, dallies, takes its time. To wander is to drift, becoming a little aimless or unanchored; it is a tactic for getting lost. Its disorientation subjects the commonplace or unnoticed elements of one’s familiar environment to the estrange scrutiny of a stranger’s glance. Navigational aids and maps might be misused for wilful disorientation; guidebooks become tools for defamiliarization and mis-direction as much for finding one’s way. Drifting is a mode of attention that lags behind the trajectory of more purposeful thought, yet other knowledge(s) become revealed in the slipstream of intention, in its shadows and asides. To catch the drift is to gauge the tenor of the subtext, to become attuned to what is left out or unspoken, to what is said in what remains unsaid. Become practiced in the art of wandering and of drifting thought. Follow in the footsteps of others who have wandered from the beaten track. Yet, remember too, that wandering necessarily wanders; its restlessness wills against the delimitation of any single genealogy or definitive theory of its dérive. To wander wills towards remaining unfixed, towards the condition of unbelonging. (40)
Sophie’s texts are reproduced handwritten notes sent from the field. Cocker’s are printed blocks of text on a white page, but their sense of removal is also evident in how their propositional nature removes particulars of person and place, even as it explores a landscape that is both a physical chronicle of nature’s edgelands and a conceptual territory indebted to certain histories of art practice and theory/ philosophy.
Some of Emma’s texts have the feel of a list turning towards litany. The absence of gender or identity for the speaker or addressee, but their simultaneous confidence and stridency, allows a phantom “we” and “us” – maybe “I-thou” – to form alongside the text, one which may also seem absurd and with which we may disagree.
In other sections this subject is not “he” or ”she” but “one”, a subjectivity that is everyone and no one, self and other, confession and avoidance, a deliberate anachronism. Part of the texts own frame and music, it moves uncertainly beyond it, another way these paragraphs fold back into themselves to better propose themselves as objects of use." David Berridge, 2011, http://verysmallkitchen.com