Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Here is Where

reading the paper this morning I came across an article about this project, which is cool, I think...

Saturday, 27 June 2009

principles of uncertainty

I'm so glad you and jess got something from the maira kalman. Here's a link to the most recent book of hers, which I love a lot... (I think she is currently working on a book about American democracy of which the jefferson essay is one section: if you look on the times website there are links to others in that series...)

maira kalman

It's beautiful! And Jess thinks so too. She says: are there any books that Maira K. has done in that style? There are, I think, but are there any you recommend?

Friday, 26 June 2009

time wastes too fast

nothing to do with the River Trip or Archives of Exile directly, but what a piece of work Maira Kalman did here (you remember I showed you some of her work when we met in the winter?)

wow. somehow I want you to have this, richard...

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Where do I live?

I read your post on the River Project blog and I found it moving - a perfectly economical account of your motives in undertaking the journey. A few thoughts, not organised and offered just as they occur to me:

  • There is a beautiful paradox in the idea that to find out where you live you have to leave home. This seems to me entirely true and yet strangely riddle-like.

  • The statement that we live in 'a land of road markers and guide posts' through which 'every man must still find his own way' expresses a tension that I also think is powerfully real.

  • When I join you for the first part of the journey, I won't exactly be finding out where I live because I will come to the US as a foreigner. (Unless one thinks in terms of living in the world or the west, but that isn't quite the point, I think.) What is interesting, though, is that in Doing Documentary Work Robert Coles consistently connects James Agee - one of the archetypal American figures in the documentary tradition as he conceives it - with George Orwell. And I find it difficult to think of anyone more British than Orwell. This is an interesting idea to me. I think I'm going to read The Road to Wigan Pier or Down and Out in Paris and London in the next few days.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

from Made Flesh

(not related to the river for a change!) but reading this I thought of your photos in istanbul and of the posters in different languages in the train station:

Here on the last puzzle-piece of wall
the plaster's molded in designs
of knots and tangles like the graffiti tags
scribbled in quick unbroken strokes
across bridges and subway cars
They are your heart stutters to see
the letters of another alphabet
a vast lace of calligraphy
a hundred thousand characters of praise

When you look up the wind has changed
as sudden as the twisting of a lens
back into focus everywhere you look
seems otherwise you no longer
see yourself over your own shoulder
in the second person you have snapped
back into your body

Oh my god
where have I been To pay the world
so much attention Where have I been
To be your own puppet Where
have I been To fall and let yourself
be caught Where have I been To god and back

Craig Arnold
from Mistral, from Made Flesh, p. 42

it doesn't start here

This is from the beginning of Lake Wobegon Days and it made me smile:
The lake is 678.2 acres, a little more than a section, fed by cold springs and drained from the southeast by a creek, the Lake Wobegon River, which flows to the Sauk, which joins the Mississippi. In 1836, an Italian count waded up the creek, towing his canoe, and camped on the lake shore, where he imagined for a moment that he was the hero who had found the true headwaters of the Mississippi. Then something about the place made him decide he was wrong. He was right, we're not the headwaters, but what made him jump to that conclusion? What has made so many others look at us and think, It doesn't start here!?

Actually, there's something about this that I *really* like. I'll have to find some way to use it :o)

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

more equipment

Just to let you know that I've now received spare memory cards for the video camera and an edirol audio recorder for me to use. Exciting stuff!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

two places at once

from a review of Colm Toibin's new novel, Brooklyn, in The New Yorker, 1 June 2009:

"Toibin leaves us with a renewed understanding that to emigrate is to become a foreigner in two places at once."

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

video equipment

Just to let you know that the equipment I ordered is beginning to arrive. So far I've received:

  • the waterproof video camera

  • a tripod

  • two battery packs

  • an external hard-drive with one terabyte of storage

Will keep you informed!

Monday, 15 June 2009


Many congratulations on getting your river blog set up! I think it's a good idea to send everything you post there to this one but not vice versa. That feels the right kind of dynamic.

Mike Pidd - from our Humanities Research Institute - is currently building the site for the 'archive of exile' project, and I'm hoping that will be in place by the time we get together on July 17/18. There will also be a blog on that site but I think the best thing would be to select material from your river blog to post there and I can also put stuff up there as and when I want to. (We probably don't want quite as much posting there as on our other blogs because it should be balanced by stuff from Jess/Pam and Frances/Hannah. And perhaps also from 'friends' of the project, i.e. people you'll meet when you're over here in July.) I'm not sure how easy it will to post on the 'archive of exile' blog remotely but hopefully this will become clear fairly soon, so we can make appropriate plans.

Glad you like the idea of reading together! Yes, it would be good to put together an interesting selection of material. Perhaps shorter pieces and excerpts so that there's some variety as we go along? I'll open a folder and start putting things in it :o)

Sunday, 14 June 2009

River Blog set up...

with the help of my beloved friend Corey Dargel, I've now got a blog structure set up for my River Project, which of course includes our part of the Archives of Exile project... all very confusing, and I'm feeling that confusion today as real in a new way, because I don't know how to think about where to post what!

anyway, I spent many hours yesterday making widgets that play both my music related to the project and a selection of music by other people: hopefully, updating those things won't be so time-consuming!

and I think I will copy some of our posts and links from this blog to that one. maybe I should also set up an automatic rss feed of that blog to this one, but not vice versa? since that is the more public blog and this the more private? we'll see how it feels over the next few weeks, okay?

anyway, I also wanted to comment on your idea of reading texts together: I LOVE that idea, and hope we can come up with a fun list of things to read together that way!

more soon!


Thursday, 11 June 2009

Methods #1

I've been thinking a lot about what kind of record to make as we undertake the river journey. This is still very much an open question but I'll write a little about it here, trying to avoid presenting my thoughts as more integrated than they actually are:

  • I like the idea of keeping a book of notes and sketches. Not that I draw particularly well, but I'd like my written notes to interact with evocations of the space in another form (sketch maps, diagrams, drawings, etc). I'd also like to make my own recordings as we go. So, I'm effectively talking about documenting the journey in three media: text, image, audio. [It strikes me that this formulation is oddly reminiscent of Roland Barthes' title - Image-Music-Text, which wasn't in my mind at all when I started writing today:o)]

  • When I talk about written notes *interacting* with images (or, indeed, notes with images and images with audio), certain processes come to mind: annotation, cataloguing, illustration, and so forth. These have their own histories and philosophies and I'd like my practice to pay some kind of attention to them. After all, annotation, cataloguing, illustration etc, are constituent processes of the overall practice of making an archive.

  • I don't want to be too prescriptive about *what* I document or record. Serendipity is important. At the same time, I think I need to keep in touch with a certain point of reference, namely the complex that i think of in terms of VOICE-SPEECH-LANGUAGE.

  • I want to treat Voice-Speech-Language as a very open-ended category. It might include such things as:

    • transcriptions of texts seen in the environment: memorials, signs, graffiti
    • notes on placenames, which are, in themselves, short texts

    • traces of languages other than English in whatever form

    • notes on overheard conversations

    • more formal recordings of interviews to be transcribed later

    • historical texts read in 'significant' places (e.g. the Eastmans at Fort Snelling)

    • new texts discovered en route

    • my own writing as a response to place

  • My idea of reading historical texts in 'significant' locations is one that will need some preparation. I shall have to get a file of materials together in advance. It would appeal to me to do this collectively - read the stuff *to* each other - but if that doesn't seem an attractive proposition, it isn't a problem :o)

  • Back when we thought we might use recordings of our own families, we wrote about the connection between past, present, and future. In particular, we talked about the limitations of a nostalgic focus on the past or an entirely future-directed kind of attention. I want to bear these things in mind as I make my document. I think it's easy to slip into a sort of romanticising mode as one writes, sketches, records, and I want at least to be aware of that.

  • This romanticising dynamic seems to me particularly likely to assert itself in that first month of the journey precisely because of the nature of the terrain. The early stretches of the Mississippi pass through what are, by all accounts, areas of extraordinary natural beauty. It will be tempting to see them through the lens of the picturesque.

I'm going to stop for the moment. More later, perhaps...

Monday, 1 June 2009

Satchmo's Archive

Perhaps you already know about this but I found some interesting stuff about Louis Armstrong's self-archiving on WFMU's 'Beware of the Blog':
[A] lesser-known fact about Armstrong is that, along with the medicinal supplements stowed in his carry-on, he toted reel-to-reel recording decks with him everywhere. With them he committed to tape concerts, conversations, his own playing and talking, audio flotsam from the Satchmo Universe. Even more impressive, Armstrong adorned the audio tape boxes with alluring and vivid Romare Bearden–esque collages layering photos, news clippings, concert programs, handwritten captions and other graphic elements. Armed with scotch tape and scissors, Armstrong spent countless hours entertaining himself, squirreled away in the den of his home in Corona, Queens, making visual music.
The collages are great - do click on the link and take a look :o)