Performance Fictions book launch

About 2 years ago I presented an introduction to Uncertain Eastside as part of Dr Sadie Plant’s contribution to the Performance Fictions event.

There’s a book launch tomorrow in London:

Invite for book-launch and talk

Book-launch and talk to mark the publication of five volumes from the art-writing-research series by Article Press.

Talk by John Cussans entitled ‘Télémaque in Marmalade’ – an illustrated lecture touching upon paranoid critical theory.

X Marks the Bökship, Unit 3, 210 Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 9NQ

Saturday 3rd December 2011, 6 – 8 pm, talk at 6.45 pm.

The five volumes address the relationship of art, performance, art writing and knowledge, as well as exploring art as counter-knowledge or a means to counter knowledge.

The volumes contain essays, art works, illustrations, documentation of performances and diagrams.

Performance Fictions‘ – edited by David Burrows with contributions from Sadie Plant, John Cussans, Simon O’Sullivan, Pil and Galia Kollectiv and David Burrows.

Barefoot in the Head‘ – edited by John Russell, Alun Rowlands and Mark Beasley with contributions from the editors.

Performing/Knowing‘ – edited by Gavin Butt with contributions from Aaron Williamson, Kate Love, Oreet Ashery and Hugo Glendinning, Adrian Heathfield & Tim Etchells.

Materiality of Theory‘ – contributions from Jonathan Lahey Dronsfield, Benoît Maire and Marcus Steinweg.

Who is this who is coming?‘ – edited by Maria Fusco with contributions from Alexandre Singh, Craig Martin, Jennifer Higgie, George Clark & Beatrice Gibson, Giles Eldridge and Maria Fusco.

Series editor David Burrows. Price £8.00. Books can be ordered from

Artist’s films, relating to the publications, will also be screened. For more info about the launch and talk contact or

Article Press, School of Art, BIAD, Birmingham City University, Margaret Street, B3 3BX.

The British Library’s Legal Deposit Office gets Document One

*glows with pride*


The Spotted Dog reference library gets Document One

The Spotted Dog pub on Warwick Street is home to John Tighe and an impressive collection of texts, maps, posters and other printed matter that get produced from locations unseen when relevant to the conversation. Interesting conversations have a habit of happening here…

Whilst not within the Eastside boundary I have been investigating, The Spotted Dog (and I know there are two in the area!) gets a mention both in Ben Waddington’s November 1st 1860 and and in Joe Holyoak’s Eastsiders. These are the texts in Uncertain Eastside – Document One

It seems only right and proper then that there is now a copy of Document One housed at The Spotted Dog. Feel free to pop in, have a browse and have a natter.

Should you wish to invest in a copy of your own, the publication is available to buy from here.

Uncertain Eastside – Document One: 2009

It’s a very great pleasure to be able to announce the release of my first publication.

Having a quick flick through the 112 pages.

As shown by the rather long list on the title page, other people have put loads of effort into this as well. Thank you to everyone who has supported this project.

Uncertain Eastside – Document One: 2009 brings together activity from my first year of investigating my relationship to BCC‘s ‘Eastside’ regeneration zone and logging the micro and macro changes in the landscape as time passes. It’s Eastside in three parts: past, present and future.

Bursting with goodness over three acts!

The book starts with a manufactured history contributed by the indescribable Ben Waddington: a day as seen from the perspective of a family living in Digbeth. Pay attention – this text is as much about the present day and October the 18th, 2009, as it is about November the 1st, 1860.

Next, now firmly in 2009, the book gives an overview of my alternative cartography of the regeneration zone’s perimeter and a selection of 83 lush colour photos selected from the 1000+ submitted by participants of the Walk and Talk event.

The book finishes off with a text from much-respected architect and urban designer Joe Holyoak and Tracey Fletcher from the Eastside Sustainability Advisory Group. Written 8 years ago it describes a day in the life of a family inhabiting an Eastside of the future. 2012 now seems both just around the corner and impossibly distant.

You can buy copies of Uncertain Eastside from where there is also a link that allows you to preview the book’s contents.

Magcloud are running a special offer until the end of the year that means you only pay $22.15 (≈£14) rather than $28.00 (≈£17.50). Your order is then printed up and delivered to you within about a week, so there’s time to get some as Christmas presents!

Again, a special thank you to everyone who has taken part in the making of this publication: Pete Ashton, Karen Cameron, Mike Cummins, Ida Deodathsingh, Emma (editorialgirl), Tracey Fletcher, Joanna Geary, Nicky Getgood, Michael Grimes, Marian Hall, Libby Heighway, Mark Hill (cybrum), Joe Holyoak, Alex Hughes, Nancy Langfeldt, Ben Mabbett, Steve Scott, Tim Stock, Chris Tomlinson, Ben Waddington and Simon Whitehouse.

Plans are afoot for Document Two. Watch this space…

Pete Ashton’s Living in the City presentation

Uncertain Eastside gets some seconds in Pete’s Pecha Kucha style presentation at the Landscape Institute:

Can’t remember what I was doing in that photo, but I think it involved someone’s hat…

Preparing to publish

A while ago I talked about getting closer to finishing the Uncertain Eastside publication triggered by my work in and around Birmingham City Council’s Eastside regeneration area.

In the intervening weeks I have registered as a publisher (under the name Present Position) and have been duly uniquely identified and allocated ISBN numbers etc etc. I have had adventures with barcodes, sent off for and received a proof print, and tweaked, augmented and improved the contents.

A quick flick through the first proof copy

Over the last few days I have shared the first proof with a handful of people and had some nice, encouraging responses in return. A good example was last night, chatting with Nicky Getgood and Digbeth publican John Tighe. (John’s pub, The Spotted Dog, is mentioned a couple of times in texts by Ben Waddington and Joe Holyoak, so I’d wanted to check a few details with him.)


As John had a good ol’ look through the proof, he came across the photo above by Mark Hill, one of the Walk and Talk participants. I’d wondered about the building in the background before, but never quite got around to finding out about it. Well thanks to Nicky I now know it was built by a breakaway (Catholic?) group who built their own building to worship in …but then made up with the main Church before it was put into use. As a result the building was never consecrated and is now full of tyres!

We’ve also established that my publication does not make Birmingham look like Barcelona…

A preview of Digbeth not looking like Barcelona

A preview of Digbeth not looking like Barcelona

I’ve just uploaded my modifications and am about to order what I hope will be the final proof.

All being well, Uncertain Eastside – Document One: 2009 should be available for purchase towards the end of next week.

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.

Preparing to publish Uncertain Eastside

I’ve given myself some time off from school projects etc to focus on getting to grips with pulling the Uncertain Eastside publication together.

Layout screenshot - Uncertain Eastside GPS drawing

Layout screenshot - Uncertain Eastside GPS drawing

One of the most challenging things has been to edit the 1000+ photos submitted by the Walk and Talk participants down to what is now a mere 84.

There have been some difficult decisions involved in trying to represent nearly 4 miles worth of varying landscape in a succinct collection of images. In very approximate terms we’re talking one photo per 75 metres. Is it possible to capture the essence of a place with so few photos? Well, I hope we have at least provided a few reference points by which the changes that will follow can be gauged.

Layout screenshot - Walk and Talk event photos

Layout screenshot - Walk and Talk event photos

I quite often drive on the ring road along the Watery Lane – Dartmouth Circus section of the Eastside perimeter and even in the one year since I started this project several buildings have been demolished and you can see multi-storey carparks going up not far away. Makes me wonder how fast things would have changed had we not have crunched our credit.

Layout screenshot - rear cover

Layout screenshot - rear cover

I’m nearly at the point where I can start sending off for proofs and ISBN numbers, so hopefully the publication will soon be ready to be released into the wild.

Uncertain Eastside at the Created in Birmingham shop

Yesterday I added some Uncertain Eastside limited edition prints to the stock of the Created in Birmingham shop in the Bullring shopping centre, Birmingham.

Uncertain Eastside in the CiB shop

Uncertain Eastside in the CiB shop

You can read more about the Created in Birmingham shop on their blog, although obviously it goes without saying that you should go and visit if you can. It’s a nice example of creative communities making use of what would otherwise be an empty retail unit.

Location: Bullring, Level 3 Upper Mall West
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 10am to 8pm. Sun 11am to 5pm

West Midlands Open at BMAG

Uncertain Eastside at the West Midlands Open

Uncertain Eastside at the West Midlands Open

Follow up to an earlier post. Verdict on the presentation: just the right amount of wonkiness.

The exhibition runs from 6th March to 2nd May and is at the Gas Hall. Entrance is free.

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