Tag: memory


Emma Bolland

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was…’ John 1:1 KJV.

 ‘At the scopic level, we are no longer at the level of demand, but of desire…’ Jacques Lacan. Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 4th March 1964.

In The Realm Of The Scopic I Am Imagined. Photograph: Emma Bolland

In The Realm Of The Scopic I Am Imagined. Photograph: Emma Bolland

In the beginning, before the beginning, we wanted to make a book. In the bitter winter of 2011 I sat with curator Judit Bodor and the authors David Peace and Jake Arnott in The Queen Vic on Great George Street in Leeds. David, Jake and I had just delivered ‘And from the west a pale horse…’, an event curated by Judit to close my exhibition ‘Nightwood’. David and I had discussed the themes and sensibilities that were shared by our respective practices. Jake had been the arch and erudite and ever so spiky host. The bar was crowded, noisy, our company spread across several tables, the energy of the evening contained within the closed and looping circuits of fifty or so knees and elbows. The four of us had formed a conclave amidst the mob; discrete, a precious clique, (the stage had been ours & lingering adrenalin was making us temporarily wary of those who had followed us from event to pub). Judit leant forward… ‘I’m thinking, we should do a publication, your images, David’s words, something…?’ ‘Yes!’ we say, ‘Yes!’ We are drunk with the rush of the evening, with beer, or performance, or both. A few months later, David has moved back to Tokyo and Judit is no longer working in Leeds. I am drifting around in the studio, picking up & discarding threads of thought from one day to the next. I have an overdraft, a broken heart, and no deadlines to meet. Nothing has been done. Melancholy coils its skin around me.

And, yet, still, despite, or because, we have become MilkyWayYouWillHearMeCall. Myself and Tom and Judit, with emails to David that tell him of our readings and our wanderings. We still want to make a book. We still want to be a book. We want to see our words, and our images, and our wanderings taken in hand and brought to order. What we must ask ourselves now, is why…

Every Place A Palimpsest (Part Two)


‘Nothing defines the specific rootedness of a location – the transformation of a place into a site – more than its being founded on a grave’. Francesco Pellizzi

‘The eye reads forward as the memory reads back.’ WS Graham

‘Every Place A Palimpsest (Part Two), was written, & performed by Emma Bolland as part of the Occursus Post-Traumatic Landscapes Symposium. The paper focuses on the unheimlich of the non-space in the erasure of traumatic trace, and examines site in relation to both her personal history and the collaborative process of MilkyWayYouWillHearMeCall.  The paper ends with an extended reading from the novel 1980 by David Peace. The performance was contextualised by an installation of work by MilkyWayYouWillHearMeCall. Thank you to Brian Lewis for technical support with performing,  recording, and sound editing.

In Memory of Wilma McCann

1947 – 1975

Post-traumatic Landscapes

MilkyWayYouWillHearMeCall at the Occursus Post-traumatic Landscapes Symposium

Post-traumatic Landscapes: A Symposium on Cities

The University of Sheffield Arts Enterprise

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 10am to 4pm

Empty: Prince Phillip Playing Fields. Photograph, Tom Rodgers

Empty: Prince Phillip Playing Fields. Photograph, Tom Rodgers 2012

Emma Bolland will be presenting a short paper: EVERY PLACE A PALIMPSEST (Part Two). The paper will focus on Prince Phillip Playing Fields; municipal playing fields located on the borders of the Scott Hall and Chapeltown areas of Leeds.  This was the site of the murder, and subsequent discovery of the body of Wilma McCann: a victim of Peter Sutcliffe, the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ The paper will examine the anonymity of the site, and the exploration of the idea of the ‘non-space’ as an attempted erasure of traumatic histories; referencing the writings of Gordon Burn and John Newling and their examination of Gloucester City Council’s demolition of 25 Cromwell Street; the home of Fred and Rosemary West. The author’s history and ‘pre-history’ of a continuing personal and creative relationship with the site will locate the experience of site as mediated through the lenses, mythologies and narratives of contested memories, media representations, and the pre-existing themes of landscape and trauma as central to her individual practice. The conclusion will examine the site’s position in relation to the on going collaboration  ‘MilkyWayYouWillHearMeCall’ between the author, Judit Bodor, and Tom Rodgers, and its representation in the novel by David Peace, 1980, which was the starting point for the project.

To contextualise the paper, MilkyWayYouWillHearMeCall will be staging a one day temporary installations of layered images and texts.

Places at the symposium are free. To see details of all the presentations, and to book a place at the symposium, please go to the Occursus website.

Winter Music

Emma Bolland

… alone in this starless endless night …  to never hear the songs that made me dance …

David Peace from ‘1980’

And when we die and float away / Into the night, the Milky Way / You’ll hear me call, as we ascend / I’ll see you there, then once again…

From ‘Thank You For Being a Friend’, lyrics by Andrew Gold

'We are echoing on the walls' - guests at The Unruly Page, March 2013. Photograph: Tom Rodgers.

‘We are echoing on the walls’ – guests at The Unruly Page, March 2013. Photograph: Tom Rodgers.

Released in 1978, the song ‘Thank You for Being a Friend’ was written by Andrew Gold, who recorded it for his third album, ‘All This and Heaven Too’. Fragments of the lyrics are strewn amongst the pages of David’s novel. Shaken free from the familiarity of the music, the interrupted refrain takes on an uncanny echo.  We learned and recorded the song in one session in the autumn of 2012, as the leaves fell from the trees, all of us singing & playing fiddle & guitar, in Tom’s front room. In the bone-cold gloom of this endless winter, I rework the recording, remembering all the calls that went unheard…

With thanks to Penny Whitworth and Brian Lewis for technical assistance. X


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.


Emma Bolland

I created the text below using cut-up sentence fragments taken from each chapter of ‘1980’, a novel by David Peace. With the kind permission of the author.

Out of the shadows the darkness, and for a moment the living soul is here, eyes still open.  Lord, break off these hard veils and give relief to the pain that swells my heart and rains down blows upon my flesh.

Dark Grass – Prince Phillip Playing Fields at Night: Photograph by Tom Rodgers 2012

Who are these faceless people from the silences?  The tears they first wept, made for them in crystal freeze from the shadows of the sun.  To the place you spoke.  Wasteland.  The darkest.  The farthest.  It is hard to hear, here among the dead.  If you are not weeping now, do you ever weep?

Stare into her, and lie together under the big trees.  Still breathing, the starless endless black smelled so sweet, so clean, like a flower almost bursting underneath her.  The damp dew and the flattened grass: tall trees watching my brown hair for the last time.  Know this face, love me; all my leaves gather in this mournful forest.  She cannot remember: she is: and she will never find suffering equal to this.  There is no greater pain than to remember in our present grief past happiness.  Save me.

Who is this one approaching, who without death dares walk into the kingdom of the dead, hands opening?  More powerful than grief, the sphere that circles all.

detail from Constellation: pen, ink and gouache on paper: Emma Bolland 2012

The snowflakes are dancing on the radio.  As we ascend, hear me cry.  Milky way, you will hear me call.

WORK: A Love Letter

Emma Bolland

‘… our toil and labours daily so extreme, that we have hardly ever time to dream …’ Mary Collier, ‘peasant poet’, from ‘The Woman’s Labour’ (1739) 

‘… look at your hands, your peasant hands, your big ugly hands …’ mother (c. 1977) 

‘… this is the world now …’ David Peace, from 1980 (2001)


Factory, Manor Street Industrial Estate. Photograph: Tom Rodgers

Dear J—–

We all sell ourselves a little… sometimes we get to name our price, and sometimes not. What we have, what we are, and what we endure; exchange value, use value; the Stankhovian accumulation of the seconds, the minutes, the hours, and the years. Sometimes, just to live is an act of heroism. (Seneca, c. 4BCE-65CE)

That night, in that place, that place that was made for moral pursuits, for the sanitation of mind and body, that place that was bestowed by D——, for the benefit of his workers, that place that is the stark simulacra of the lost (and imagined) pastorale that has been obliterated by the mill and its smoking stacks, that night, in that place, you looked across the grass, across the paths, above the pitiful trees that mock an imagined forest, that night in that place you looked up to the clock that was the black sun that fronted the factory wall. That was your time.

On this day, now, in this time, we stand in the spot we imagine you to be, and look around us. The clock on the factory wall is fallen; all that is left is a dark and circular void, a shadow of a place where time has been. It is a shithole, we say, an ugly shithole. We say we are sick of the drizzle and the flatness and the ugliness of these places made for a prescribed and moral leisure doled out in meagre portions by those who own our time, and we count our blessings that we can leave this place, and that the makers of these places do not own our time. We count our blessings that we can leave and not return, and that we can make, in part at least, our work, our time, our own. And I give thanks that my hands, my big ugly hands, my peasant hands, can work, and write, and love, as I would wish. And I look at my hands, and I love them.

My hands, gilded. Photograph: Tom Rodgers

But can I say, J—–, that I love you, I love your hands, I love you for the work you did, because you had to, (I wish you had not had to), and I love you for the fact that you took this place, and, (for want of a room), spat in the face of those who prescribed its usage, and hurled your supposed vice at their supposed virtue. (I wish you had not had to, I wish you had not had to).

Emma X

drawings on the studio floor

Layered drawings scattered on the studio floor. Emma Bolland. Photograph: Tom Rodgers



Communication Workers Union Resolution For The TUC Women’s Conference. Scarborough 2009

Conference calls on the Government to decriminalise prostitution. While the activities of women who work as prostitutes are subject to criminal prosecution then they are less able to access support and help from agencies when they need this. The criminalisation of those who work in the sex industry also creates a division between working class women who are all combating poverty and sexism. We believe women who work as prostitutes, are entitled to the support of women trade unionists not our collusion in their repression.


Emma Bolland

‘Nothing defines the specific rootedness of a location – the transformation of a place into a site – more than its being founded on a grave’. Francesco Pellizzi

‘…the snowflakes are dancing on the radio…’. David Peace

Prince Phillip Playing Fields, Leeds. Photograph by Judit Bodor

Every place is a palimpsest. We tread a forensic trace of memory, leaving a little behind, carrying a little away. The fields where she is lost and taken are invisibly layered with the facts and fictions of my historical gaze. The grave of my parents, seen for the first, and only time, ten years after their death. A contested recollection of a line of men, dark uniforms sweeping and striking the wet meadows of my childhood home, searching for the body of a lost child, my fingers reaching upwards to the calloused grasp of my father’s hand, while the cold rain mists the whole to a surreal shadow of itself, that I see in black and white. My tired eyes walking the seamless / stuttered lines of David’s fiction, wrapped, insomniac, in the last hours of a winter’s night. All these things, and more, lie translucent upon the ground.

Emma with a daisy found at Manor Street Industrial Estate, Leeds. Photograph by Tom Rodgers.

The flat anonymity of this space bears no mark of the obscenities enacted upon it. A blank canvas: receiving and erasing the banal and dreadful brushstrokes of his deeds. Judit pauses, pulling her coat around her, and reminds me of the statement made by Beuys that “everyone is an artist”, and Metzger’s questioning reply – “ Himmler auch?”, and moments later, as we stand in the cold light we ask ourselves, was it Metzger? Was it Beuys? Have we remembered aright?

Detail from ‘Clover picked from Prince Phillip Playing Fields’. Emma Bolland. Pen and ink on paper.

Amongst so much nothingness, we need a forensic gaze to find a beauty, to find a place where her soul can soar. In Judit’s words,  “we need to pay attention to the things we do not know”. We look closely at the ground, we lose ourselves in the infinite singularity of the endless grass; the blades and the black luck of the clovers already stellar, already anticipating the labours of my pencil, the labours of my pen; until, in a wrenching invagination of the heart, the earth becomes the sky. Milky way. You will hear me call.