Month: March, 2013

The Unruly


The Unruly


EMMA BOLLAND (with Tom & Judit in my mind).

What is the language using us for?  / It uses us all and in its dark / Of dark actions selections differ.

W.S. Graham, from: What Is The Language Using Us For?

Thou tellest my wanderings: put then my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?

Psalm 56:8 King James Version

Night Walks. Photograph: Tom Rodgers

Night Walks. Photograph: Tom Rodgers

We have come together and bound ourselves with the dark narrative of David’s text, journeys plotted through the intertwining of the novel’s numbered pages and the tangles of the gridded map: but the fictions of the pages are not contained, and leak into our own fictions, and raise the shades of other texts.  The places named, the lists; Halifax, Leeds, Preston, Bradford, Manchester, Huddersfield, Morley; the blackened stones of a real and imagined industrial North are threaded through with words of romance and revolution, of wealth and hardship and Kapital, that overcast the parks with the shadows of the mill.  The spectre of our own narratives, these too are raised.  When I came first to this city, just three years after the ending of the horrors we now explore, I walked these same places enacting a private premonition of the work we do now.  Chapeltown Road, The Hayfield, The Gaiety, a descent through the satanic mills and liminal woodland of Buslingthorpe Lane.  Alone in the chaotic dark, shit-faced on speed and spirits, a stumbling target, (there but for the grace of God): my memories reworked by and working in my reading of the words on David’s page.  The coming together is not of ourselves, and our chosen text, but of all of these things, and more, and of all the other, echoing texts that we carry within us; written and read and lived – shared or secretly held.  The things we find and make and do will not be prescribed and preordained by our collective will and an ordered collation of our constituent parts.  The words are weaving and intersecting: the sites and the narrative we place at the forefront of our labours is an unruly catalyst for uneasy and unexpected distillations of our co-mingling.

Prince Phillip Playing Fields, Leeds. Photograph: Tom Rodgers

Prince Phillip Playing Fields, Leeds. Photograph: Tom Rodgers

The sites that we are reading and writing, walking and talking, are in many senses mundane.  Municipal, spatially limited, socially and geographically contained.  Yet, through their histories as sites of terror, death, and grief, they are also wild places, ambiguously bounded, a self-narrated and problematic sublime.  Our particular sublime, (in the sense of an approachable, digestible, and legible terror), is not an orthodox experience of ‘the vast and overwhelming’, the precipice and the howling wind.

Where We Tread. Photograph Tom Rodgers.

Where We Tread. Photograph Tom Rodgers.

It is found in the small and the fragmented, the forensic layers that are the palimpsest of the whole: grass, graffiti half erased upon a bench, a broken fence, a sodden littered list of faded names.  The parks and playing fields of our cities defy domestication as much as any mountainside, and furthermore deny their externally and paternally authored purpose: the sanitary narrative of dog-walking, picnics, ‘fresh air’ and ball games disrupted by the infectious counter-texts of alcohol, drugs, vandalism, sex, abduction, transgression and death.  These are conflicting, oppositional, but perversely interdependent fictions: the meaning of one a reflective and conditional context of the other.  Historically, a Romantic experience of place explicitly privileges mediation through language.  Inevitably, given my/our preoccupation with the disruptive and the transcendent, this Romanticism is an aspect of our paradigm; an aspect we would be foolish to deny, and which we willingly embrace.  It fuses word and image to make a hieroglyph of the whole, its general systems claiming meta-meanings that are independent of our chosen poetic.  Language is all.  We walk around these places, ambiguously anchored by the physical & psychic ballast of our books.  With maps, and pens, and paper, the word is inescapable.  Even the camera lens has a glossary and grammar of its own; but then the wind may change, or in the corner of our eye a bird fly low between the swings and suddenly, in ways we do not comprehend our lines of our thoughts are gone, and we are lost.  What is then that dizzying moment, when I (we) (they) (he) (she) walk off the edge of language, into a temporality where there are no words, where the text is terrifying in its absence?  Where are we then?

The word cannot completely contain us, because it itself is never completely contained.  It is in the moment of transgression that ‘the words escape’, where we find the things that ‘hurry away from their names’, and in the places in which we walk even the blades of grass are ringing still with violation.  In the tremolo-theremin of this uncanny echo even the ghosts of language are erased.  These are the momentary textual lacunae into which the comforts of our syntax disappear; and the grace of risk will pour into the vacuum of its disintegration and we can write our words anew.

This text was originally written for our poster publication to accompany the exhibition at The Wild Pansy Project Space, University of Leeds, 2012.

The Unruly Page: Judit Bodor, Emma Bolland and Tom Rodgers in conversation







When I set out to interview Judit Bodor, Emma Bolland and Tom Rodgers earlier this month, my aims were twofold: firstly, to capture their thoughts (and processes of thought) on the eve of their new exhibition (The Unruly Page), and secondly, to record something of the dialogue between the collaborators.

Over the last year, I’ve found this dialogue to be unique, organic and vital to the development of the MilkyWayYouWillHearMeCall project; it has enabled a practice wherein the roles of artists and curator are constantly shifting through intuitive, responsive and decisive acts. The sourcing and the shaping of The Unruly Page, for example, was a process in which all three collaborators were equally engaged (something I witnessed first-hand during the installation).

Click on the orange ‘Play’ button to listen to the interview


The interview is, I think, faithful to Judit, Emma and Tom’s voices, and also to the relationship between their voices. The structure is provided by three questions:

‘The fictions of the page are not contained.’ What is it specifically about this project (or this phase of the project) that suggested ‘unbound’ or ‘unruly’ modes of presentation?

How do you think your roles within the project have changed over the last year?

What has surprised you most about the development of the project?

Apart from a few minor cuts, the interview is presented as it occurred at York College on the afternoon of Tuesday 5 March 2013.

Brian Lewis, Sheffield, 12 March 2013