I'm coming out of the other side of an annoying winter cold (as an aside, catching a stupid cold when there's a full-blown media panic about a flu virus going on is pretty weird because of course you don't have the danger-flu but even so, at the back of your fuggy mind, eating away...) which means I'm having periods of lucidity but not enough to actually do anything important without needing to lie down, so it's perfect time to write that overdue newsletter.
It's February 2020. It's cold and wet and nobody really knows what's going on, but we're going to try and make the best of it.
This is the irregular newsletter from Pete Ashton, artist etc, covering stuff he's up to and pointing to things he thinks might be of interest. Please unsubscribe if you're no longer interested, or forward to your friends if you think they might be.
The big news of the moment is Andy, Fiona and I launched an art collective / walking group / website called Walkspace and have been slowly showing it to people over the last week. For all three of us it serves a need and solves a problem, which is a good place to start any project. For Andy and Fi it came from being massively inspired by the Walking's New Movements conference we went to in Plymouth last November and needing a conceptual space to manifest that inspiration. For me it seems to be giving some purpose to my online activities which have felt a bit aimless of late. I will always enjoy blogging in the classic (ie Kottke) style but while it's always fun it never really feels like it is, I dunno, helping anyone.
There's a lovely Bill (Smog) Callahan song, To Be Of Use, which I've always liked the title of. To be of use is what we all dream of. I'd like my blogging to be of use.
So anyway, while Fiona and Andy will be using Walkspace for their own needs, mainly I suspect to anchor their art-walking ideas and practices to, I have been enjoying making a website that can be useful for others. If you know my work it might remind you slightly of the old Created in Birmingham but I also want to bring in the spirit of blogs like Geoff Manaugh's BLDGBLOG which points to cool stuff but in a way that inspires you to use the ideas to make something. (This is what I could consider a perfect Manaugh post)
Here's what I've posted to the Inspiration category of the blog:
And with those three I think I settled on a style.
You'll also notice I've listed my Photo Walks on there, and that's deliberate. I have long-term ideas on developing that income strand and this feels like a good way to start prodding at them.
Setting up the Walkspace site with all the key pages took me about a day, all told. I used to do this sort of thing all the time, sometimes even for money, so it's good to know it's like riding a bike. It's built on Wordpress, which I haven't used for a few years and has totally changed, in many ways for the better. I didn't feel the need to clone and hack the default TwentyTwenty theme, which was odd. It all just kinda... works. In an era when every other tech tool is tinged with disappointment I must say I was pleasantly surprised.
Walkspace will have a newsletter, run by me mainly. So get subscribing, people!
I haven't made the 1972 films I said I was going to in the last newsletter because, well, I announced them before they existed so of course I haven't done them. But the aforementioned Andy did wrangle me into helping him put together a document(ary) about the Cross City Walks project we did together half a decade ago. While it mainly serves to show how rusty I am at reading scripts I'm pretty pleased with it and it was nice to revisit the thing and put a cap on it. You can watch it here.
Stuff I've written since the last newsletter that isn't about walking:
I kinda stopped posting to Notes in the new year for some reason, which was a shame because looking back now there's some good stuff on there. I should get back into the habit of posting quality links again, if only for my own benefit.
I'd completely forgotten about Sam Kriss's 2010s review, for example, which was one of the best things I'd read in a while. It's classic angry Kriss, so your mileage may vary, but the rage is so very beautifully crafted and insightful. I sometimes wish I could write like this and then, upon realising what would be involved, am glad I can't. But Sam can, so go read him.
Similarly this interview with Adam Minter, author of Junkyard Planet is a fantastic read, looking at the myths surrounding recycling, specifically exports from rich countries to poor, and the strong feelings people have about what happens to their recycling as opposed to the origins of the stuff they’re discarding. Fascinating stuff.
I resolve to post more notes.
More on these later but I've had confirmation of a couple of fun looking jobs that will go under "Art Practitioner" on my accounts spreadsheet.
Sunset Social Club is part of a long-term community arts project from Place Prospectors in the Birmingham district of Druids Heath (yes, there's a district of Birmingham called Druids Heath because Birmingham was built on top of ALL SORTS of weird) where I'll be running workshops on photographing sunsets from the top of tower blocks.
The Hockley Flyover Project is a participatory photography project for people who live around this piece of infrastructure to document their stories. I'll be running a series of photography workshops on telling stories and building narrative with images.
I also wrote a brief for some significant camera obscura work in the spring and while I'm preeeeety sure it'll happen I don't want to jinx it, so fingers crossed for now.
My awesome wife is running the inaugural Walkspace walk on Sunday 23rd Feb. Dark Moon Walking is a night walk under a new moon, exploring the dark corners of Stirchley and Bournville. "To blend into the darkness and embrace the power of our invisibility. To explore our inner fears as well as a sense of awe and wonder. By walking together, we aim to reclaim the everyday urban spaces that become off-limits after dark. Book here.
Bunminster continues to be old. He turned eight (as in we think he was 1 when we got him seven years ago this month) which is officially old for a bunny and we're now describing him as "doddery". But while he's already blown through the first quarter's vet budget with fleas and an ear infection, he's doing OK and is in good spirits.
Clem, who was allegedly five when we got her three years ago, appears to be immortal. There's nothing wrong with her at all.
Thanks for reading. That was a bit of a burst damn after a few days of thickheaded sludge-brain. Hope it was of use.