Traverse Me and me

Today I was completely fortuitous in stumbling across Jeremy Wood‘s Traverse Me GPS drawing project at Warwick University and the walk and talk event being run this afternoon.

Detail from Traverse Me

Detail from Traverse Me

I hit send on the email I had been writing, jumped in the car …and managed to get to the Mead Gallery minutes after the group had departed! Luckily though, I located a “tall man with a beard” just outside and managed to join the walk. It’s safe to say that if I hadn’t have spotted them then, then I would never have found them.

Jeremy’s walk took us behind carparks, through hedges and across fields, revealing both the hidden-away secret places and the huge extent of the land owned by the university.

Having spent the last week or two working on another round of walking Eastside using GPS data to map the extent to which the landscape has been built upon, Wood’s work and the discussion around it was great for making me consider my own work.

A central concern of his project (238 miles walked over 17 days) seems to have been to fill in space; casting a network of lines over that which could be walked. Wood says he “responded to the structure of each location and avoided walking along roads and paths when possible”. The resulting mapdrawing – complete with scale mark, title and signature – is covered in swirls, contour-like lines, pictures and spirals.

The white tooth sticking out from the heavier line in the top left of the map corresponds to the copse. The spiral just below it and to the left originates from the highest point and spreads out over the field.

The white "tooth" sticking out from the heavier line on the top left of the map corresponds to the copse. The spiral just below it and to the left originates from the highest point - to the left of where I am stood - and spreads out over the fields.

By contrast, the Eastside walks I’m doing are very much dictated by road layout. As previously observed, Birmingham’s regeneration zone is very much defined by the road boundaries around its edges (c.f. Southampton‘s cluster of relevant cultural organisations).

The more recent work I’ve done to document the development in the Curzon Street area is also very road-centric, using them as a natural (man-made) grid by which to, well, traverse the area I’m investigating. Since I’m interested in measuring change, I need a certain amount of consistency so I can walk the same route in the years to come. Changes in my route have to come from changes in the built environment.


It was nice to hear of similarities in Wood’s experience of recording GPS trails to mine. The way you balance confidence as you stride about an area with deference to the possible intrusions you are causing to the people living and working there; the way you can be intent on following a predetermined route, but can savour the contrivances of circumstance that throw you off your course.

I asked Wood about his thoughts on how he felt the act of carrying a GPS receiver legitimised his erratic behaviour whilst out walking. I’m very aware of how in projects of mine such as Sites of Potentiality Guidebooks, Invigilator and Uncertain Eastside the objects I am carrying or wearing greatly add to my feeling that I have a right to behave a little bit strangely…

I may not want to draw a lot of attention to the fact that I’m holding two PDAs in my hands, but I want them to be visible so people know I am Doing An Art Project.

iPAQs and gum

Having recently also been working on the first Uncertain Eastside publication, I was also curious about the need for telling the stories of the things we see and encounter whilst out on our, largely solitary, walks. The traces from the GPS data are all well and good, but I also want people to know about the security guard at the halls of residence who jokingly asked me if I was counting my steps as I veered around outside his office, or the rain-heavy rhododendron bushes that cause particular squiggles on my drawings.

Today walking and talking events are seeming increasingly important to me as a means to transmit the story of the work.

Above is a slideshow of a few photos I took on the walk. This post includes some GPS traces I made too.