Posts Tagged ‘west bromwich’


In Uncategorized on August 30, 2010 at 10:32 am

PHOTO: David Berridge, West Bromwich, June 4, 2010


In her essay “Language in the Landscape” Johanna Drucker observes:

“Language in the landscape, whether roads signs, billboards, or graffiti, shapes our relationship to the landscape in many ways. Language can be explicit (DO NOT ENTER), deceptive (THE ONLY REAL BEER), enigmatic (EDY’S CHARACTER CANDIES), confusing (PARKING THIS SIDE ONLY BETWEEN 4PM AND 6PM ON ALTERNATIVE TUESDAYS EXCEPT WHERE INDICATED), and elucidating (WINDOW 6 FOR TAX FORMS ONLY). In every case, written language represents an invisible conversation: someone is speaking, someone is being addressed, the message has a purpose, and the message is delivered in a particular way. Language is a symbolic system, full of implication. It allows us to discuss things that are not present. We cannot dismiss language in the landscape as auxiliary or duplicative. The relationship between linguistic statement and physical object influences every encounter we have with out environment.” 

Drucker’s essay, originally published in Landscape. Vol.28, no.1, 1984, offers a preliminary classification of language in the landscape. Drucker begins by focussing on the forms of written language itself:  “The forms of written language are twofold: first, the visible features of the method of production, such as the style of typography or calligraphy, and medium employed; second the forms of the language per se, such as current slang, obsolete jargon, newly coined words, and unconventional spelling. Form affects meaning.” She then considers language in the landscape by means of the following categories:


Beyond Information

Instructive Language

Language as Advertisement

Language as Identity

Language as Evidence

Language Creates Speculation

Language as Edification

Language as Context

Drucker’s comments on this final category also serve as the essay’s conclusion. They relate, too, to the photographs above, which were taken on walks around West Bromwich on June 4 2010, as part of my residency at the Black Country  Creative Advantage. My written response to the language in the landscape can be seen here. As Drucker observes:

“Landscape serves as the context for the language in it. Written language does not simply identify objects in the landscape. Language changes our perception of the very situation in which it acquires meaning. As we observe words in the landscape, they charge and activate the environment, sometimes undermining, sometimes reinforcing our perceptions. For us, language is full of culture and history, but it is also full of ambiguity and enigma. Because it is a set of symbols we use to invoke concepts, we may  find it divorced from the very objects it aims to identify, posing the issues of definition and identity as distinct from the material in which they are embodied.” 

SOURCES: Johanna Drucker, “Language in the Landscape” in Figuring the Word: Essays on Books, Writing and Visual Poetics (Granary Books, New York City, 1998), 90-99.


In Uncategorized on August 29, 2010 at 10:15 am

In June I spent two days in West Bromwich as a writer in residence with the Black Country Creative Advantage. Some notes on the origins of this project, particularly thinking through  and around ideas and practices of INVESTIGATIVE POETICS can be seen here.

During the residency it was decided that I would write an issue of the BCCA CREATIVE REPORT newsletter, whose format comprises a 20 page A4 publication stapled into cardboard covers. 

My text has now been published as CREATIVE REPORT #2. It can be downloaded as a PDF here. If you are in West Bromwich then you can pick up a hard copy at the BCCA stall  (stall 42, New Market Hall, King’s Square) or at the following locations:

African Caribbean Resource Centre; Charlemont Community Centre, Beaconview Road; The Fox & Hounds; Guru Nanak Community Centre; Hill Top Library; Kenrick Park Community Centre, Glover Street; Lodge Road Community Centre, Lodge Road; Sandwell College Student Association; Stone Cross Library; The Vine; Yemeni Association; YMCA; Wood Lane Community Centre, Greets Green.

This project offered the chance to think through a whole set of questions about relationships of writing to site, and the role writers can play in urban regeneration projects. 

What kind of intervention could I usefully make in the time I had been given? What did it mean to focus on my own writing and poetics as a way to explore a location and issue with which I was unfamiliar? 

I decided to focus on the role of written language, encountered, both in the streets and in the array of printed documents on the BCCA stall in which the debates of urban regeneration are partially conducted. I read through this material – how exactly such documents are read or not  was one of the questions that interested me – and gathered material on a series of field trips throughout West Bromwich. 

The resultant 20 page document includes notes, micro-essays, one word poems, poems awaiting development, pages cleared like areas awaiting development, street notations, quotations, scripts for plays and an opera, along with resources/ quotations from a range of other art projects/ poets/ thinkers….  unfolding the intention of an object of use, provocation and entertainment….

Language in the urban environment, West Bromwich, June 4, 2010


BCCA have commissioned the actor/writer Suzan Spence to record her own one person version of the text. I’m interested how one voice could approach the polyvocality of the text, assembling and re-assembling its components in each read through. When Suzan contacted me by email about her project I replied:

…I think of the text as batch of material/ ideas for use. I think some bits of it are likely to be more suitable read aloud than others, and perhaps a structure for the recording can be found by moving backwards and forwards in the text, following your interest. 

One thing that interests me about this kind of script is that the normal categories get confused – so anything could be stage directions, dialogue, notes and so on. Anything could be read aloud or not. 

In projects since – such as the serial writing project I am doing for BEYOND THE DUSTHEAPS exhibition – I have continued to think through INVESTIGATIVE POETICS, both as a particular way of working with language and within a broader realm of performative gesture and forms of social relation. 

OTHER SOURCES: Sat in my room in the West Bromwich Premier Inn I also watched the video of Laura Elricks’s STALK  – see here – and read David Wolach’s essay on the project and its “poetics of spatial practice” in JACKET magazine here. Also valuable here was Elrick’s “Poetry,Ecology and the Re-Appropriation of Lived Space, published in Brooklyn Rail here

Finally, whilst all this reading relates to a distinct constellation of concerns, wanting last night to list the books that have recently informed my unfolding sense of what is at stake in an INVESTIGATIVE POETICS produced the following diverse range of titles:

Falke Pisano, FIGURES OF SPEECH (JRP Ringier, 2010).

Geof Huth, NTST: The Collected Pwoermds of Geof Huth (If P Then Q, 2010).

Raqs Media Collective, SEEPAGE (Sternberg Press, 2010).

Viktor Shklovsky, Knight’s Move (Dalkey Archive Press, 2005 [1923]).

Pierre Guyotat, COMA (Semiotext(e), 2010).

Sean  Reynolds and Robert Dewhurst, WILD ORCHIDS: HANNAH WEINER (Issue 2, 2010).

Thanks to the BCCA curator, Monika Vykoukal, for her help and support on the project. Each issue of the CREATIVE REPORT takes for its cover an element of the West Bromwich city emblem. The full set of newsletters, published throughout 2010, will offer a symbolic, methodological, and literal reconstruction of this emblem ,and the urban realm it both visibly and invisibly delineates.