Drawing the path 01

Prototype drawing device on Oxfordshire path

I took a prototype drawing device to Oxfordshire at the weekend. I wanted to walk down a path I knew well with the device and film it working.

This path starts at the top of the lane where we used to live when I was a small child. It’s a very significant place for me, which I wrote about on my Wayfaring blog a while ago. I wanted to revisit a path that I know well, so that my focus would be on the thing I was making rather than on the path itself.

It was odd making this drawing. I’ve made drawings like this many times before and I’m not sure how to take this work forward. Just making yet another drawing doesn’t seem like a particularly productive thing to do. On the other hand, I do love watching these drawings get made.

It was interesting filming it and I think this might be who I want the drawings to be shown. I’m still exploring that idea, but I have some concerns about making paper based drawings – it’s just more stuff in the world you know?

4. Listen.

I am slowly, deeply and intentionally breathing into Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ book ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’

Turquoise Book cover entitled ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’ by Alexis Pauline Gumbs
‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’ by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

I have a lot to process and it feels important to: Listen.

Hand of artist Rebekah Ubuntu holds open Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ book ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’ on a page titled 'Listen'
Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ book ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’. Chapter title: ‘Listen’

“Listening is not only about the normative ability to hear, it is a transformative and revolutionary resource that requires quieting down and tuning in.”

“…opening a space to uplift the practice of listening even more than the practices of showing and proving and speaking up…”

Extract from ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’ by Alexis Pauline Gumbs’, Chapter: ‘Rest’

Defining the path – 02

dew covered brambles growing across a muddy, narrow path on a cold winters day
Winter path – …kruse 2021

When Little Red Riding Hood went into the forest did she follow a path all the way to her Grandmother’s house? Hansel and Gretel hand in hand, woke up in a part of the forest they didn’t know and it was a path, not a road that took them to the witch. Robert Frost followed the, ‘road less taken,’ but I think he was being a little grandiose there, the ‘two roads’ were in a wood and both were grassed over, so were these really roads Robert, or merely paths?
There are a great many stories and poems about roads, Edward Thomas,’ ‘Now all roads lead to France,’ is full of sadness and menace, A.E Houseman, Kipling, Walt Whitman, G.K Chesterton, all write of roads. Roads may be grand, they may be dusty, they may take you on to the hell of a war or be the same road refugees flee along seeking safety.
Roads were built for armies, and after the wars those roads remained for commerce. Trade maintained the old battle-roads, and the grandest routes still exist, cutting across continents and centuries.
Back in the day, in England, travellers were charged to keep on the ‘king’s road,’ stepping off it into the wood was trespass and punishable. But then, back in the day, the dark woods or lonely moors beside the road were the hunting places of bears, wolves and dangerous men, so staying on the road was safer anyway.
Following the road is always easier than stepping off it, especially if the road is tarmacked, a smooth skin over the mess and inconvenience of nature. And everyone knows where the road comes from and where the road goes, even if they never travel along it themselves. On the road you are in community, you follow its laws, you follow its route, on the road you are seen, on the road you are known, you are part of the crowd and that brings with it both safety and danger. Safety in numbers? Maybe (has that ever been true?). Safety from dangers lurking beside the road. Safety in that the road will bring you to food, a bed, shelter. All roads do that eventually. But there is danger on the road too, danger in being so visible, danger in following a well travelled way.

“Stay off the road,” warns Gandalf to Frodo in Lord of the Rings, knowing that it is on the road that Frodo’s enemy will seek him. Frodo takes a path through the woods, a path across open country too, but the fickle paths lead him astray. Through the woods the path changes direction and eventually it fades away altogether. This is the danger of paths. Paths are wild things. You follow a path at your peril.

A path will take you into nature, brambles snatching at your hair, mud in winter, adders in the grass, no surety of direction, no certainty of food or shelter ahead. A path invites you to have faith, someone came this way once, that’s why the path is here. It’s not community on a path, the others are too far ahead or behind for that, but there is a kind of fellowship, others have been here, once, and your solitude is a little less lonely because of them.
A path is a quiet thing. It exists because other beings have trod the way, but only a season or two without passersby and the path returns to the wild, disappears into the grass and wild flowers. A path stays open because it is wanted.

3. Resting.

I am slowly, deeply and intentionally breathing into Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ book ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’

Turquoise Book cover entitled ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’ by Alexis Pauline Gumbs
‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’ by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

I have a lot to process and it feels important to: Rest

Hand of artist Rebekah Ubuntu holds open Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ book ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’ on a page titled 'Rest'
Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ book ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’. Chapter title: ‘Rest’

“I have heard people praised over and over again as “tireless,” right through their exhaustion and death. I myself have forgotten to eat.”

“…And we deserve space to reflect on what we made…”

Extract from ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’ by Alexis Pauline Gumbs’, Chapter: ‘Rest’

Twine and maps

I attended a really interesting Art & Tech workshop on Interactive fiction last night given by Dan Hett, hosted by BOM.
I’m really pleased to see that Interactive fiction is having a bit of a renaissance at the moment, not that it ever went away, but when everyone got seriously into VR the humble hypertext driven interactive narrative got a bit pushed to one side.

I really like the simplicity of interactive, hypertext fiction. It’s an invitation to the writer to get creative with storytelling, without too much tech getting in the way. I think one of the failings of VR is that the ‘magic’ of it, the glamour of such clever tech, can sometimes cover up poor game play with all VR’s bells and whistles.

Twine ticks a lot of happy boxes for me, it’s pretty simple to use, (I can use it!) but is flexible enough that if your coding skill-set is pretty good, you can do some fun things with it. It’s Open Source, which I love and it is free, which is also a huge plus point. Also you can use it right in your browser and files are saved as HTML so it’s really easy for anyone to download and play your creation.

I used twine to create Gurus of the Apocalypse last year, my first attempt at interactive fiction. In the end I couldn’t figure out how to get the Blogger site I was using to accept the HTML code for the story, so I ended up doing hard links to each page which was a pain (Blogger is not the platform it once was, sadly, but that’s another story).

One thing that Dan pointed out yesterday was that Twine is created for ‘mapping.’ He meant that in terms of mapping the story mainly, as Twine has a graphic interface that makes it very easy to see how items link to each other. He also mentioned this mapping capability for things like organising Role Play events, and mapping tasks for projects. But my brain immediately went to the main definition of mapping = mapping!
Map-ing.

I’m exploring my relationship to paths here and I’m thinking about that all the time. I now have a vague idea swirling around in my head which links Twine to a map of a path…is this a way I can write a story? Is this a way I can develop this project? I’m fumbling here but there is definitely a connection happening inside my cerebral cortex. Twine and maps. Interesting…..

This is a path

I have created a gallery of 6 coloured photographs, inspired by the Ladybird reading books I had as a child. The colours are very saturated.

Image 1 was taken in my local park and shows a short path under a group of birch trees growing on a bank next to the access road to the park. The image caption reads ‘This is a path.’

Image 2 is a photograph of a tarmack path leading up a short hill between a row of elder people’s bungalows and a grassy verge with trees. There is no road, it is a footpath and accessible only to pedestrians. The image caption reads ‘This is a path.’

Image 3 shows a very narrow path, probably made by people and dogs, winding through some long grass and under trees at the edge of a park. It shows where people want to walk, making a path where one did not exist before. The image caption reads ‘This is a path.’

Image 4 is similar to 3, it is a photograph of a path made by people walking across the grass, under trees, in my local park. The path, which is simply a line of earth where people have trod away the grass, is wider than the path in image 3. The image caption reads ‘This is a path.’

Image 5 is a photograph of a suburban pavement running between people’s homes and a road. There are a few trees between the pavement and the road. In the near distance the back of a van can be seen jutting out from a driveway, half blocking the pavement. The image caption reads ‘This is not a path.’

Image 6 is a photograph of the access road and pavement leading to a park. A bright yellow height barrier can be seen blocking access to tall vehicles. Two cars and two small vans can be seen in the photograph, they are all parked on the pavement on the far side of the barrier. The image caption reads ‘This is a pavement. It is blocked.’

2. Permission. (Video + Text)

I am granting myself permission.

Video 1: my reflections unfold in realtime.

video 2: my reflections are voiced.

My reflections – full text – below

I am contemplating my blog posts on this platform.

I am wanting to grant myself PERMISSION to use this blog space for REFLECTION. 

In order to REFLECT I feel I need some SLOWING DOWN, RESTING, PAUSING time…to ALLOW my mind, heart, body etc. to RELAX, LET GO + BE. 

And to do that I need to grant myself PERMISSION…

  • I need to grant myself PERMISSION…
  • I need to grant myself PERMISSION…
  • I need to grant myself PERMISSION…

I hereby grant Rebekah Ubuntu, (aka me, myself and I), permission to…

  • SLOW DOWN, REST, PAUSE… 

I hereby grant Rebekah Ubuntu, (aka me, myself and I), permission to…

  • ALLOW  my mind, heart, body etc. to RELAX, LET GO + BE. 

I think a lot about how resting, reflecting and repose are all about permission.

I feel conflicted about work and rest. Like the two oppose each other and lead to a sense of dissatisfaction.

To reflect, requires repose, pause, slowing down.

Yet, the pace with which I have been enculturated, I’d say from the age of five or so, is so fast. It’s a constant busy-ness for the sake of busy-ness type feeling. And it has shaped the way I conceive of most, if not all things, including my own sense of intrinsic value.

The issue I am already confronting (for the sake of this residency) is:

I don’t know HOW to really REST if it isn’t about SLEEPING, NAPPING or RESTING to RECOVER from an illness or fatigue. I don’t feel a sense of embodied understanding around a NATURAL STATE of REST.

For example, I am always thinkingabout what’s next. What’s next for this blog, what’s next for this project or that, what’s next for my career, what’s next for my life…

I am choosing to free write – and record it as it’s happening. I guess I want to remove my tendencies towards PERFECTIONISM which I think is linked to this sense I have of NEEDING PERMISSION to REST.

Like I need PERMISSION to SLOW DOWN.

So recording myself write this, removes the self-censoring, self-editing, self-criticism and allows for an acceptance of what is.

Perhaps that’s what REST allows too…a sense of ACCEPTANCE.

I immediately feel inclined towards GRATITUDE also as an ANTIDOTE to the BUSY-NESS…

How to carry a drawing device?

Diagram sketch
Rough sketches exploring how to carry a drawing device
Another rough sketch exploring how to carry a drawing device

I did some rough sketches this morning to help me figure out how I might carry a drawing device. In the past, I’ve carried the devices hidden in a rucksack, or held in front of me and I also put devices inside paper shopping bags that other people could carry.

I think how you carry something affects your relationship with/to the thing. I usually have a rucksack on my back, so carrying a drawing device that way feels commonplace. Carrying anything in my rucksack is an ordinary everyday thing.
Holding the device in my hands changes how I think of it. Firstly the device is visible to others so the drawing it is making is a public drawing. Inside the rucksack it is a secret thing. Holding the device with two hands alters my balance as I am walking, alters my gait. The drawing is the drawing of my walk and a drawing of how I am holding the device.

What if I attached the device to my arm, or my leg? How would that feel? Would it alter the way the drawing looks from say, putting it in a rucksack?

Carrying the device like a handbag or shopping bag seems somehow neglectful, again a sort of commonplace, everyday thing.

Carrying the device cradled in my arms feels very different. Again, it would alter my gait, but it would also feel, I think, reverent.

Wearing the devices strapped to my body might make me feel very embarressed unless I disguised it in some way. I nearly always wear a dress when I am walking, so I could possibly hide it it I wanted to. Do I want to?

Defining the path – 01

Dictionary definitions for ‘path:’
1. a way or track laid down for walking or made by continual treading.
2. the course or direction in which a person or thing is moving.
3. a course of action or way of achieving a specified result.

For this residency I am particularly interested in the first definition, though I have a feeling that the other two definitions are going to be relevant too.

My personal definition (and there are no doubt many holes in my reasoning) is that a path is a line through a landscape along which a person or group of people can travel, generally on foot or in wheelchairs.
Once a vehicle is used, a cycle or car for instance, I think a path becomes a road. However, a track can be a path and it may be used by vehicles or pedestrians.
Then there are ‘ways’ which can also be tracks and may fall into the definition of a road. Ways are generally ancient and are used by foot traffic as well as horse drawn vehicles, for instance bridleways.. (I really like the term ‘way’ to describe a path. Both path and way have multiple meanings, and those meanings include the spiritual and esoteric).

Here I must acknowledge that how I think and write about paths, tracks and ways is totally defined by my ethnic and cultural heritage and the country in which I have lived for most of my life. I’m white British, a mix of Irish, English and a smattering of Scottish and Scandinavian. I grew up in the countryside and do not feel comfortable in urban environments, though I do currently live in a suburb of Birmingham.
My relationship to paths and ways comes from walking or living in the Cotswolds, Wales, the Midlands, Yorkshire and the West and East coast of Britain. I’m not a wild path walker, I’m a traveller of farmland and gentle hills. I’m a hobbit in all the ways that matter.

I vehemently dislike the suburbs, despite my current living situation. I get no joy walking the endless pavements around my home patch. For me, for some reason I’m struggling to define, a pavement is not a path. I mean technically, it is, but it doesn’t feel like a path. Why is that?
There is something about the feeling of containment that a path has, that a pavement doesn’t have. A pavement is an edge, a border. A pavement is a designated space alongside a road built for motor vehicles. It is conceded to pedestrians and can be taken from them at any moment, despite laws meant to protect us. Pavements might be cut by access routes and driveways, blocked by delivery vehicles and cars, used by speedy cyclists as well as those on foot or in chairs. Pavements are contested, disrespected spaces, sometimes aggressively so.

Thinking about pavements and how problematical using them can be, I realise that the paths I walk in the city or suburb are imaginary paths. I regularly follow certain routes around my home, to the shops, to a favourite park, to the bus stop or train station. These routes can be along pavements, down alleyways, across parkland, over roads. There is no physical path on the ground that I am following when I walk these routes, but there is a path inside my head. It’s more like the route marked out on a paper map where it is the pencil line that becomes the path, that makes a path across the symbolic space, where a physical path may not exist.

In conclusion and for the purposes of the work I am exploring during this residency, my definitions of a path are:
1. a path is for people, not motor vehicles.
2. a path is a line through a landscape and this line can be a physical or a conceptual path created by following a route on the ground.
3. path is not a pavement, but a conceptual path may include the use of a pavement

1. Residency Intention: Slowing Down.

To get me started in this residency space I am slowly, deeply and intentionally breathing into Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ book Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’

Turquoise Book cover entitled ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’ by Alexis Pauline Gumbs
‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’ by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

I have a lot to process and it feels important to:

Slow Down

Hand of artist Rebekah Ubuntu holds open Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ book ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’ on a page titled 'slow down'
Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ book ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’. Chapter title: ‘Slow Down’

What if we could release ourselves from an internalised time clock and remember that slow is efficient, slow is effective, slow is beautiful?

Extract from ‘Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals’ by Alexis Pauline Gumbs’, Chapter: ‘Slow Down’

“…slow is efficient, slow is effective, slow is beautiful…”

Dirt path

It’s not a straight path,
tarmacked and hot under sun,
it’s a dirt path,
meandering
under the oaks.

The path is
freckled with shadows,
as I am freckled.
It’s a redhead’s path,
one for
forest beings,
those who
value
concealment.

It’s a path for
being quiet on.
For walking,
softly,
with silent
footsteps.
Neatly,
along the brown, bare earth.

Dirt Path (audio version)

Curious nostalgia

It’s strange to be a visitor in a city you used to call home.
There are places; shops, cafes, buildings, whole streets that I once felt affection for, my university, my favourite cafe, the library and bookshop where I worked, all places that made this city feel like home for a while.
Walking through here today has been very odd. It’s not home any more and the old affections seem to have morphed into something closer to… curiosity? It’s hard to identify the emotion, but I feel an unexpected emotional distance from places that once evoked strong feelings.

The paths however are a different story. This city is a very busy tourist destination, and as a local I walked through it on the hunt, seeking out the quietest streets, dodging through the crowds, avoiding the tourist traps.
I, a being who is almost pathological in my desire to avoid humans, mentally mapped a whole network of quiet paths, roads, streets, snickleways and alleys to get myself through the city by the least busy, least crowded routes. I rarely took the shortest way to my destination, if a longer route was human free, or relatively so.
I can’t recall those routes just by thinking of them, I have a terrible mental memory, but coming here and re-walking them, some 13 years later, I discover that my body memory is superb. My body knows where to go, which turn to take. Even as my mind struggles to recall what is down that alley, around that corner. My body knows.

Weirdly, I feel as if the paths know me too. Buildings, attractions, shops, those things are mere curiosities now, and they care nothing for me, but the routes, the paths I walk again here, they feel welcoming, embracing.
‘Walk there, cross this road here, come down this alley, yes take that corner,’ I feel welcomed back to the old paths, welcomed into this place, this landscape…

Booklist

I’m using this space as a place to list everything I am/plan to read for this residency.

In Praise of Paths by Torbjorn Ekelund (translated by Becky L. Crook)
published by Greystone Books, Canada 2020
EAN: 9781771644952

The Old Straight Track by Alfred Watkins (Kindle edition)
published by Heritage Hunter 2017

The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane
published by Penguin books 2013
EAN: 9780141030586

The Book of Trespass: Crossing the Lines that Divide Us by Nick Hayes
published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC 2021
EAN: 9781526604729

Interview with artist …kruse

Jamie Wyld (Vital Capacities’ director): Thanks for being part of the Vital Capacities residency programme! Can you say a little about yourself and your work, perhaps in relation to what you’re thinking about doing during the residency?

Thank you for inviting me to take part! I always say that I am a neurodivergent visual artist and writer and kind of leave it at that. I tend to compartmentalise my life; over here is art, over there is everything else. I’m trying to bring things together into a more cohesive whole these days though, because that feels more honest. So a more accurate description would be, I am a neurodivergent visual artist, walker, knitter, writer, sewist, pagan, crone-in-becoming, small business owner, mother, disabled, white, cis female, human animal/cyborg. I draw, design, make, illustrate, write stories, write non fiction and spend a great deal of time in an imaginary post-climate-crisis future with a cyborg called AuTCRONE. I’m currently learning to play the recorder.

JW: One of the aims of Vital Capacities is to create an accessible site (so more people can use it) – how do you think this will be an opportunity to develop your way of working?

I think this is a wonderful and important project and I am aware that I actually don’t do enough to make my own online presence more accessible. My neurodivergent brain really struggles with this, writing Alt Text is tortuous for instance (because my brain struggles to simplify things) but I want everyone to be included so I am looking forward to learning more about creating accessible content. I hope it will become second nature to do after spending time working on Vital Capacities site.

JW: What would you like to achieve through the residency? Is there a particular project you’ll be focusing on?

Yes, I’m going to be using this residency as an opportunity to research my interest in paths and tracks. Walking is a very complex thing for me and touches on many different areas of my life and practice. For instance, I have psoriatic arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disorder, which means that my body often hurts and walking can be painful, yet walking also helps ease my condition, helping my joints stay relatively flexible. I am invested in the idea of walking as medicine, though I don’t think it has to be done on two feet. Following a path, actually or metaphorically, especially a path that takes a person outside and into the world, feels like an inherently positive act. 

I find walking a very creative thing to do and I often record my walks using video, sound, photography, writing and drawing. I also use walking as an opportunity to test my ideas regarding clothing, hand work, relationship to materials, my relationship to capitalism and testing minimalism/essentialism. Walking connects me in a very direct way with my ancestors, with history, and is an invitation to become an animal among animals. 

Hmm, walking is a very complex subject for me! (laughs) I want to use this residency to  tighten the focus of my thoughts, using the notion of The Path to direct my making and thinking.

JW: How do you see the next few weeks unfolding? Where would you like it to take you?
One of the things I am looking forward to is the relationship with the other artists and curators involved in the residency. I’m excited to see what this cohort is working on and hope that some creative and interesting conversations will happen between us.
I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to work ‘deep,’ to focus on my interest in paths and tracks. I don’t really know where I will end up, I’m just following the path as it unfolds, I don’t want to know where I will be at the end of this journey until I get there!

Interview with artist, Nadine Mckenzie

Jamie Wyld (Vital Capacities’ director): Thanks for being part of the Vital Capacities residency programme. Can you say a little about yourself and your work, perhaps in relation to what you’re thinking about doing during the residency?

I’m a dancer with a disability from South Africa. I have been working professionally for the past 14 years. I am also a teacher in inclusive dance and have received training from Alito Alessi. My interest for integrated work started after I saw an inclusive dance production when I was a student and this shifted how I see disability and dance. What stood out most was at some point during that performance I stopped seeing the wheelchair and I saw the artist, and in that moment I realised this is how I wish society could see persons who live with disabilities.

During this residency I wish to explore my relationship to my chair. What this means to me and how it has impacted my life. This is something that I’ve realised in my own journey; something that I, a lot of times, have not paid attention to. How much I rely on it, need it, and, at times, forget about it.

JW: One of the aims of Vital Capacities is to create an accessible site (so more people can use it) – how do you think this will be an opportunity to develop your way of working?

Accessibility has always been something very close to my heart. There is always room for growth and improvement. How I think this will be an opportunity to develop how I work. To start with I am very interested and feel very passionate about creating work that is accessible for persons with visual impairments. Although I do not have experience in how to go about creating this access I am open and ready to explore and look into this.

JW: What would you like to achieve through the residency? Is there a particular project you’ll be focusing on?

What I wish to achieve? I’d like to see this exploration come to life with a short video presentation. With this my hope is to shift how we see wheelchairs, or any assistive devices  and the fear attached to it, or that we as people have placed on it. To leave us with something to think and talk about and have more room for acceptance of the unknown.

JW: How do you see the next few weeks unfolding? Where would you like it to take you?

At this point, to be honest, I would like to learn as much as possible from everyone I meet and am excited to be in a creative space again. Find out how these ideas and conversations take shape and unfold in creation.