I’ve been writing a fair bit recently and it felt good to do so. Lockdown was rather paralysing and all-consuming at first but as this new-weird-normal becomes a bit more normal, though still very weird, it’s pleasing to look back and my output and be happy with 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 main thing I’ve been writing isn’t public and won’t be for a little while. I decided it was time to finally put Instructions For Humans to bed. The exhibition (where a few readers of this newsletter signed up) finished 30 months ago and, due to… reasons that will become clear, I never capped it off. Every Saturday I get an automated email from the Arts Council reminding me to complete the assessment but it’s only recently I’ve had a clue as to how to do that.
Part of the problem was the enormity of the issues I was attempting to address and my (heroic?) failure in achieving what I set out to achieve. So I’ve decided to write it all down and publish it as a book-length website, inspired by Craig Mod’s recent Ise-ji: Walk With Me. It will cover the ideas and theories that lead to the exhibition, the exhibition and performances that took place at BOM in 2017 and what happened to me after it finished.
The good news is it’s proving really easy to write because it’s been in my head for years. It’s going to be long but once it’s done I can finally move on from computer art. Which will be a relief.
So, what else have I been writing?
History is constantly being “erased”, and that’s OK.
In which I use the inane debate about removing problematic statues being an erasure of history to teach some truths, while recounting a bit of family history, and insulting our fool of a Prime Minister.
We desperately need social media literacy or the fascists will win.
Just published, so we’ll see how well it ages. Here I get exasperated with how people seem incapable of understanding why they keep getting into stupid arguments on social media when there are bigger fish to fry, and call for a mass schooling in media literacy that I know will never come. But at least I feel better for saying it.
Fi’s still doing her epic Pandemic diary (she’s aiming for 100 posts) and I joined her for a couple of days.
Pandemic diary 72: It’s about time (guest post)
In which I write about how time has gone weird in lockdown and observe that a pandemic is a natural disaster that, unlike an earthquake, takes bloody ages to kill everyone. This could easily have gone on my blog, and probably will be archived there eventually.
Pandemic diary 83: Covid-19 – our teensy tiny part in its hopeful downfall
A joint post where we talk about the tech things we’ve been doing to help researchers understand this coronavirus. Fi’s been recording her medical state on self-reporting app while I’ve set up the media-player PC to crunch data about the structure of the virus.
After a short break around March/April for some reason, we decided to make a concerted effort to reboot Walkspace, the collective for artists who walk in the West Midlands. There’s a lot of good stuff on there from all of us but this is my newsletter so here’s some of my posts that I’m proud of.
Possibly the best thing I’ve written this month. This is ostensibly a zine review but I approached it like those essays you see in the London Review of Books where the writer also goes on a long survey of the subject under review, in this case the value of Weird in making sense of modern Britain. I could have gone on much longer and may well do later.
Walking the Pipe with Kate Green
Finally writing up a project we came across last Autumn, this is very much in the style of the old Created in Birmingham blog which I ran in, ooh, 2008? It’s a “pointing at cool stuff being done by people like us” format I’m keen to do more of and it was like getting back in an old comfy chair.
Marching against Racism in Birmingham
The urge to write something in support of the Black Lives Matter protests was only overcome by the importance of shutting up and giving space to those who need to speak their truths, but on seeing footage of the protest in Birmingham I realised I might have something useful to add. This post attempts to make connections with past protests and demonstrations for racial equality in Birmingham by pointing to research by Ian Francis of Flatpack and the photography of Vanley Burke.
The Impossibility of Straight Walking
In which I manage to bring a reference to John Higgs’ Watling Street into a post about how blindfolded humans can’t walk in straight lines.
I’m trying to post at least a couple of things to Walkspace each week so if you’re in the business of following my writing, get over there.
With group walks out of the question, and unable to leave our immediate area, we launched Mapping Stirchley, an exercise in “extreme noticing” where we’re mapping all the overlooked oddities in our streets. It’s going really well and we tested out the map on a solstice walk this weekend. If you’re local to Stirchley and have been noticing stuff on your lockdown walks, please consider contributing!
We also submitted the project to the wonderfully titled Fourth World Congresses of Psychogeography or 4WCOP for their 2020 congress (which will actually be the fifth 4WCOP and the eighth such gathering) and it was accepted, so we’ll be presenting Mapping Stirchley and its outcomes this September in the form of a short video essay followed by an online conversation, because travelling to a venue and standing on a stage is a sentence that just feels wrong to even write these days.
So yeah, we seem to be some kind of arts organisation. Which is nice.
We’re actively looking to get new rabbits to join Clem. She’s been alone since Bunminster died at the beginning of lockdown and since that’s been semi-lifted I’ve been visiting the sanctuary to see who’s in need of a forever home. This little dude has my reserve sticker on him and we’ll see if he and Clem get on sometime mid July. He’s 1 year old and I want to rename him Dymaxion, or Max for short. We’re also looking for a young lady bun so that when Clem passes on (she’s at least 8) Max isn’t alone, but no-one’s hopped out yet. Fingers crossed.
I’m still reading a lot but I haven’t felt the need to share the links. I’m sure I will again soon though. I’ve become aware that the only UK general news site I read is The Guardian, which is fine, but I need more diversity. The Financial Times looks perfect but it’s SO expensive. Does anyone want to share a subscription?
Since April I’ve been furloughed from Loaf but for the next 3 weeks I’m back! Working from home. So not really back. But I’m actually working for my money rather than us claiming it from the government so we don’t go broke, so that’s different. The rapid change in business model that the pandemic demanded has utterly messed up our accounting systems and I haven’t been around to deal with it… until now! You have no idea how much I’m enjoying this. I have whiteboards, I have printouts…
And I think that’s enough for now.
Stay safe, stay well,