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Phychogeography: A short introduction

by Matt Clench

Phychogeography as a concept was first introduced to me during the first year of my degree, wherein I embarked on a project to document, re-imagine and then visualize my parents experience of living in London.  Having been born in London, despite only living there for the first year of my life I feel a large part of my upbringing and thus subsequent life has been in the shadow and influence of a city I never really knew personally but instead knew in an indirect means through a kind of inherited congenital experience from my parents.

Psychogeography as a term was coined by the Situationists international; who where a group of revolutionary thinkers made up of avant-garde artists, political theorists and intellectuals that operated in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Their political basis was strongly aligned with the left and this is something that tends to bleed through into practise of modern day Psychogeographers.  The Si also used to undertake various tasks to ‘reclaim’ the city which included cutting maps up and ‘aimless wondering’ around the city – to be a ‘flâneur’ to use the correct term.

Despite the Si queuing the term itself, many of psychogeography’s ideas derive from this idea of the flâneur which was derived much earlier and discussed by writers and thinkers such as Charles Baudelair and Walter Benjamin.

It is arguable that Edgar Allen Poe’s “Man of the Crowd” (1840) was perhaps the first instance of any sort written account of urban wondering, if we are to define the urban wanderer or Flâneur as one who travels aimlessly with a heightened sense of awareness so as to take in the landscape and architecture better, and so rediscover the familiar.

The story follows a narrator who watched passers-by from a coffee house, one gentleman in particular catches his eye and he decides to follow him however he gives up after about a day as he realises that he will never discover what the gentleman is about as he is never not in a crowd.

Many psychogeographic films provide an experience of a ‘disembodied consciousness’ and indeed this is germane to re-imagining things, or to reclaim things as one’s own. This principal of the disembodied consciousness is pertinent and lends itself well to the thoughts and findings of the early ‘urban wanderers’.

 

As a case study:

Iain Sinclair in his project ‘London Orbital’ (2002) employed many phychogeographic practises. A film accompanies his book of the same title, (although the film is not a direct interpretation of the text, the two mediums exist independently of each other) wherein he walked around the entire circumference of the M25 motorway, in much the manor of the early ‘urban wonders’ to perhaps rediscover the familiar in a new light.

The project was also established with the notion that the middle of London was to some degree dead and overwritten. In an interview in the DVD extras Sinclair discloses that “the only way to get an interesting story was to get out to the fringe” (London Orbital, 2002) What sets Sinclair apart from many phychogeographic filmmakers and writers is that quite often, (and not unreasonably so considering that Sinclair himself is a renowned author of fictitious works) we find him straddling the tenuous line between fact and fiction. Within London Orbital (2002) many references to the author J.G. Ballard are made, amongst other writers.

It would appear that there is clear reference from gothic literature throughout the history of phychogeography. Indeed, Poe himself sighted to be the first instance as discussed and Iain Sinclair himself references Bram stoker’s Dracula in his piece London Orbital, claiming to have found the fictional Carfax abbey: a church situated between a soap factory and a large warehouse.

 

 

Notes from the author:

It’s quite hard to pin down what exactly psychogeography is in one flat definition, and this is logical considering its phenomenological basis. It is however much easier to discuss what it means as an idea, concept and practise and this is something I’d suggest the reader find themselves, in light of this please see the further reading and viewing below:

 

The view from the train, cities and other landscapes Keiller, P [Published by Verso (2013)]

Psychogeography Coverley, M [Published by Harpenden, Herts: Pocket Essentialsin (2006)]

The Situationists and the city: A reader. McDonough, T [Published by W W Norton & Co. (2009)]

 

London (1994) [Film] Directed by Patrick Keiller UK: BFI

London Orbital (2002) [Film] Directed by Iain Sinclair & Chris petit UK: Illuminations

Thames Film (1986) [Film] Directed by William Raban

A13 (1994) [Film] Directed by William Raban

 

To read more from Matt Clench, go to his website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Onwards to a 2018 of Happenings!

Photographic Art Crit Banner - Jessica Zchorn

Research, realisation and internationalism are selected words that would describe our 2017 succinctly.

Cathays Cemetery Art Walk (1 of 1)-6We’ve done a lot in the last year, not all succeeded, but everything has better prepared us for the future. We began 2017 with a dream of turning an old industrial warehouse into a creative hub and artist space; we got so attached to an idea that we failed to see our wax wings and the nearby sun. From that one project, we learned a core concept of entrepreneurship: businesses are not great ideas but great solutions, and they have to be sustainable. That moment of self-realisation was the true start to our research and development stage. In the business world they call it pivot when you take a business and direct it in a different direction – learn that lesson early on has been invaluable. Since then, Ffangaí has joined the European Creative Hub Network and through them visited Madrid, Glasgow and Edinburgh on a program that has shown us the variety of possibilities in creative entrepreneurship out there. On a similar note, Visiting Arts’ KickStart: Cardiff event allowed us to see the breadth of collaboration, both at local and international levels, as a tool to not just facilitate fascinating work but commercially sustainable work that can better distribute the benefits of the creative industries throughout the strata of our societies. The past year we worked hard on our self-development: We give many thanks to Cardiff Metropolitan University; the Inc. Space and Centre for Entrepreneurship teams for guiding us in the minutia of business and pointing us to the wealth of resources out there. A shout out to Business Wales is in order too, for keeping us on track and for wonderful advice. And many thanks to our friend and mentor, Richie Turner, for being there, supporting us in our crazy ideas while nudging us towards more sensible activities.  We’ve made friends, we’ve thought projects up, we’ve fallen, stood up, cleaned our knees and will keep going.

For 2018, we’re looking to put our education, expertise, experience and contacts to good use and finally launch Ffangaí, not just as a group of creatives doing one thing here and one thing there, but as a platform for collaboration, production, support and community engagement. This doesn’t mean that we suddenly know exactly what we want to do, of course not, like mushrooms we’ll continue to grow, spread, and finally thrive in our niche; but at least we now know what our road should look like.

Starting the year strong, Ffangaí will be participating in the European Creative Hubs Network Campus forum in Brussels from the 24th to 28th of January. Ian Cooke-Tapia, founder and director, will be present there to investigate the possibilities of creating international links for small scale digital projects with the goal of nurturing relationships that might one day lead to international exchange programs of some type. In the mean time, Ffangaí’s commitment to provide a grassroots platform for freelance artists and the public to converse, share and fight off isolation over a tea or a pint will continue. Our twice-monthly Art Crits will be starting again soon, taking place every second Wednesday, at Cardiff MADE (1-2pm) and The Andrew Buchan Pub (7:30-9:00pm). More projects and events will be starting soon, so keep an eye out on our temporary Blog, Facebook Page and Twitter for updates.

We humbly thank those who have supported us and those we will in turn support.

Onwards we fly, with wings (not of wax) aloft, to lands unknown!

 

– Ian Cooke-Tapia

Head Mushroom, Creative Director

Ffangaí

 

P.S. Images above illustrate one of our first public events, an art walk around Cathays Cemetery in Central Cardiff.

On Networking and Disappointment

Written by Ian Cooke-Tapia

village-urban-resort

I fell down a hole, and in that hole was an endless loop. And like a washing machine trapped in perpetual dry cycle, I broke down.

After months of working on Ffangaí the creative hub and artist workshop, I couldn’t escape this feedback loop of needing a building to inhabit, and I couldn’t get the building without setting up the company, and I can’t set up the company if I didn’t have people backing me, and I couldn’t get those people without having the building… ad infinitum. Soon enough I had the inkling that I wasn’t walking anywhere but trapped in this magical hole with the washing machine and that the rattling sound wasn’t me running really fast but my whole world falling apart. I had lost track of Ffangaí, the evolving art company and community of artists; through the box of my own hubris I couldn’t see the goals I had set out with, for which Ffangaí is a medium, not a destination.

Steve Aicheler (business advisor and all around wonderman from Cardiff Met’s Centre for Entrepreneurship) sat down with me and voiced the concerns that were but thoughts at the time. Was I getting anywhere? No. Did I really need this wonderfully big and expensive building? Could I even afford it? No and no. I had become too emotionally attached to this wonder property, and forgot that I cannot gain people’s trust without something to show for it. So I stopped focusing on Ffangaí as a creative hub and began to focus on these satellite thoughts that I had been having as of late, and it all relates back to my recently neglected freelance practice.

Focusing on Ffangaí has actually been, in one hand, extremely informative and wonderful, but, on the other, it has left my artistic practice (one of my goals) on very shaky ground; both in my perception of my worth as a professional, and in how I haven’t gained any dependable clients in the last couple of months. Since January I’ve been wondering how I can make my freelance practice financially viable while making sure Ffangaí becomes a reality; only now do I realise that going into this with Ffangaí as a medium for financial stability that would allow me to freelance to my heart’s content was a flawed and upside down way of approaching this. Ffangaí won’t get me clients; getting clients will help me build the relationships and expertise that will make Ffangaí work. Sometimes thoughts just need some time to digest, and it is while moving in a forest that you realise how to best build a sand castle you can stand on. Recently I was working on a video commission – something I hadn’t done in a while but was confident I could get back into with some work – but half-way through the project I realise that the time I would put into relearning things didn’t provide me a good exchange rate for what I was being paid to do, and of course the quality of my work would suffer. In that situation, I reached out to my immediate network and asked someone I trust and I know has the skills to help me out. We ended up having a process in which I made the images and prepared them for animation, she did the animation, and then I would edit them. It was while in the midst of editing the life she imbued my still images, that these thoughts that had been mulling in the back of my mind came together coherently: I personally know so many people each possessing of a very varied palette of skills and expertise; each person working on their own can only do what they can do… but what if we all work together?

Considering the frame of mind I had at the time, this realisation kept being visualised as a physical, hypothetical space. And while all along the plan was for Ffangaí to have an online branch dedicated to collating and representing the network’s collective skill and expertise, I never wondered if this could become a planet rather than a satellite. What if we build up this network of people who work together? What if we help them become financially able? What if we help them liaison with businesses? What if, eventually, this network of professionals that eventually might be able to afford to inhabit studio spaces…

After some thinking, I believe Steve’s advice came at a crucial point, mentally at least. It was crushing, I’ll be honest, and simply turned the mirror towards my own face and made me see just how obsessed I had become with something that I just haven’t got the know-how, money or time to make work. If anything, I was mostly disappointed in myself. Stop! I told myself, rethink, recoup. Can’t say I am recouped, but I am in what I feel is a more productive stage. Put Ffangaí’s dream of a creative hub to the side, and focus on what you already know how to do, Ian — that is talking to people, making connections, going to events, being friendly and, most importantly, listen. Steve put it like this: if I do this for Ffangaí, I’ll be finding people to work with for my own freelance business. But it works the other way around; if I am going as a freelancer and simply gather information and just talk to people, then Ffangaí can work. It isn’t one or the other, really, just different degrees of both. It all clicked when he said that. I was so focused on helping future me reach a future goal that I forgot that I, here, right now, need to eat and reach my more immediate goals.

So I spent a day researching events in Cardiff – everything from creative industries gatherings to business networking, to shows, and expos – anything that would get me out of the make-shift studio and talk to people with real businesses and with completely different experiences than my own. This research let me see the cheer number of events and groups throughout the South Wales region. There are so many, and so many are free! My Panamenian-born mind still has issues with accepting that, on average, people do want to get together, talk, share and help each other out with their problems. And to help others, I am trying to combine a calendar list of some events in the South Wales area. I’ve put them into this file, until I figure out how to make it better.

So far, the only event I’ve been to as of the writing of this article is a Zokit Networking Breakfast at The Village Hotel in Whitchurch, Cardiff. It was a small gathering of photographers, cleaners, marketers, life coaches, business advisors, and more that wasn’t focused on selling our products but more about sitting down and talking to one another. I had some of the most refreshing conversations of the past couple of months in that space, and through those conversations I was given solid advice and many a word of encouragement. My LinkdIn profile gained some new connections, and I received some promises for work, got a follow-up meeting, and simply learned a lot not just about other people but how those people perceive my work. It gave me focus on what to work on so I can reach my goals. Just be mindful that with as any external new information, it will make the road you’re on shift and warp a little.

I went to this event as a freelance illustrator and writer, with a secret agenda of having Ffangaí come into the conversation whenever possible, but I left with a stronger base for my freelancing. Having access to free swimming pool and sauna did help me put things into a semblance of order in my head. If you ever go to a networking event, I recommend some physical exercise afterwards – when the body moves, the brain is left to work properly. And now that I feel like I can finally think clearly, and the metaphorical washing machine has exploded, I can look at the pieces of the delusion I had constructed for myself and start building again.

Open Art Crits

We are all happy to announce that Ffangai is going to be running Art Crits open to anyone at The Andrew Buchan pub, on Albany Road, Cardiff.

For those who are not familiar with the lingo, an art crit is a round table discussion in which one person presents their work (illustration, poem, short story, music piece, sculpture, pot, performance, etc.) in order to gain insights into how others perceive it through constructive criticism, unconstructive criticism, opinion-based criticism and sometimes support. Art crits dress you down and build you up by making you aware of where you’re faltering and where you can strengthen your work. All in all, they are good for any practicing artist. Once you’ve been offered some critique of your work, then, you can join in and return the favour to others.

Part of the reason behind having our first bi-weekly event being an Art Crit is due to one of Ffangai’s missions: to strengthen the local artist community. Art crits are also ways for people to get together and interact. Being an artist can be an isolating, lonely affair, so sitting in a room and meeting colleagues, new and old, can help banish this. It is Ffangai’s desire to start building a network of mutually supporting professionals, both in the arts and outside of them.

If you’re in the local area and want to share your work, share a drink, and talk to other local artists, do come along!

Facebook Event Page

Ffangai's Group Crit POSTER 01

Some of Scotland: European Creative Hub Network Peer-2-Peer Programme Report

 

Glasgow Visit 020002
View from Garnett Hill, by Ian Cooke-Tapia

 

 

I am Ian Cooke-Tapia, practicing freelance illustrator, creative writer and entrepreneur working on a start-up company by the name of Ffangai. Ffangai’s goal is to establish a collaborative work space and hub for Small-Medium Enterprise (SMEs) at a disused industrial unit in the Tremofra District of Cardiff, Wales. At the time of my visit to the host hub, Many Studios, in Glasgow, the acquisition process of the industrial unit has been slowed down due to mine and my team’s ignorance in matters of business strategies, sustainability and marketing. Let the anti-business philosophy of art schools be praised. Even with the lack of space, Ffangai had started to participate with the wider creative hub-community in Cardiff through the Cardiff Creative network by involving ourselves in discussions and conversations. I am also part of the Inc. Space, creative business incubation unit at Cardiff Metropolitan University, and taking part of a business accelerator program in the same institution. At the time of visit, Ffangai was facing issues regarding visualisation (How do you turn an industrial unit into a creative hub?), monetization (how do you keep a healthy income stream so the hub can function and bring back to the community?), and legality (What are the legal hurdles to jump over when starting a space such as this?). It was the latter question that convinced me to visit Many Studios.

Being an organization working in the UK, Ffangai needs an understanding of the legal and Industry contexts that can only be acquired through experience. And while, in practical terms, a visit to local hub The Sustainable Studio might’ve allowed for conversations focusing more on the Welsh – or rather, the local Capital Region context, we figured that an organization working across the Isle might offer a very different set of answers to our questions. Variety is a spice, isn’t it? Research done on Many Studios painted them as an organization working in a similar way to what Ffangai was originally working towards setting up: artist studios. Communication between the hubs pre-visit established that what we at Ffangai were interested in was to see as many examples of creative work spaces, creative hubs, collaborative projects, arts organizations and community-oriented organizations as possible. Our ignorance in management structures, in the ethos and codes that make hubs work, as well as what sort of business models can be emulated, were the main driver for our visit. Ffangai wasn’t the only visiting hub, however, and the presence of representatives from Room 100 from Split, Croatia and iZone from Kiev, Ukraine, coloured some of these visits. The resulting amalgamation of individual needs provided an honest variety of spaces to visit and a myriad of conversations within the small to high tier arts organizations.

 

IMAG3218
Many Studios, Glasgow

Our host creative hub, Many Studios is a community interest company and social enterprise working from The Barras, in Calton, east Glasgow. Inhabiting a redeveloped industrial unit in the historic Barras Market, Many Studios can be interpreted as standing for a regeneration project in some ways, as well as a bridge between cultures. As a business, they offer individual studio units, some with closed doors, others with open doors, as well as day-use co-working desks; in their two-floor space, they house f, freelance artists, small companies and creative businesses. Many Studios also has two shop-front-style galleries. Natalia Palombo, Many Studios’ managing director, acts as a curator for the latter under her personal interest in African contemporary arts and creative outcomes in the processes of regeneration. The very presence of the hub in a poverty-stricken area with histories of sectarianism, gang violence, as well as possessing the lowest male life expectancy in Scotland creates an unexpected bridge; it sits within an area (the Barras Market) that is very much owned by the local community as a bridge over a moat through which visiting artists (at the time of the visit, two Lahore-based artists were finishing a residency program at Many Studios) can contribute and incite local culture.

 

 

Glasgow Visit 01
Visual Notes from a conversation with The Tool Library

The core aspect of the five days spent with the host studio included the three visiting hubs connecting with spaces in Glasgow and Edinburgh and participating in conversations on themes of sustainability, internationality as means of finding funding, the effects of hubs on local economies, the effects of hubs as drivers of community involvement, serendipitous encounters, the role of hubs as generators of labour and productivity, the difference bureaucratic and social mechanisms of hubs working in different nations. In Edinburgh we visited Code Base, a tech-based creative hub; The Biscuit Factory, artist studios, SME incubator, and event space; Custom House, coworking space, in which The Tool Library, a social enterprise for generational and racial community integration, can be found. In Glasgow, we visited MakLab, a maker space shop-front and education hub; Glasgow Collective, SME work space, shop-front provider, and apple-tree ponderer; Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), experimental performance art platform, gallery and event space; and Cryptic Nights, an experimental contemporary arts organization based at CCA. Other themes that came from these meetings were questions of sustainability; differing models of operation, especially between CICs and Ltds; the role of creative organizations in a support role for its tenants and members; the very physical and economic effects of creative spaces in local communities, both as agents of redevelopment (gentrification) and in improvement of human factor; the recognition of for-profit organizations as social enterprises in everything but legal name; how to invite locals to inhabit spaces that are built for them but, due to many factors, appear uninviting to them; organic business growth; the fact that not two similar-looking spaces are or can operate under the same rules; and conversations about how similar organizations can work very differently across borders due to the local context.

 

For Ffangai, all of these conversations have been utterly beneficial at different stages of our development, both present and future. As stated above, when Ffangai visited we were having problems visualizing the physical space as a representation of both business model and community commitment; as such it was our visit to The Biscuit Factory that was the most useful to us. The Biscuit Factory is a private enterprise that’s taken over a disused industrial space, slowly redeveloped it, and, in the words of director and owner Alan, contributed £1.5 million to the local economy. The Biscuit Factory diversifies its income with holding events, hosting London-based companies, offering studio and work spaces to local artists and SMEs, as well as being a centre for pop-up community spaces. This variety allows them great flexibility for their long-term sustainability, which in turns allows them to better support their tenants and their space, and by proxy the community.

The start-up nature of Ffangai meant, in essence, that we could and cannot yet offer much in not just to our host hub and the other visiting hubs, but to those who opened their doors and welcomed us into the secret hearths of their organizations. However, the ideas have been sowed and much-needed inspiration was had. Ffangai’s resolve to create not just another creative hub in the City of Cardiff, but to create a unique space that looks locally and internationally, has been strengthened. We cannot collaborate right now, but contact information has been exchanged and hands shaken. Until Ffangai has experience, credibility and resources, it can offer very little outside of its list of contacts and members’ expertise.

Due to this visit, however, I was inspired to start a conversation Panama-based creative hub and documentary film school ACAMPADOC to start working on an exchange program of some kind between the arts and tech industries. Details pending further conversations.

The ways in which participation in this peer-2-peer program could be quantified, but, as Zhou Enlai said about the French Revolution: “it is too soon to tell”.

 

 

Written: 11/08/2017

Current Habits of The Community

As part of our research into what type of space Ffangai can provide for a community of small businesses and enterprises, Ffangai is running a Facebook Poll asking a series of questions designed to find out the current habits of those who take part in it. By using the MOMTest, Ffangai aims to figure out current behaviour and situations as a means to create a business plan that is tailored to current needs, rather to working from a top-down perspective of business management. While the directors of Ffangai have an idea of what type of space we need, to assume that our perspective is global is a dangerous assumption.

The questions included are:

  1. Do you live in the Cardiff City Region (Newport-Bridgend-Merthyr Tydfil)? If so, please tell us where.
  2. Where do you work from?
  3. Is your work place any of these: office, permanent resident at an artist studio, no fixed area (mobile), shared office space, hot-desking space at a creative hub, freelancer from home, own business from home, institution (please name), less than five days a week at an artist studio.
  4. How much do you pay for your work space a month?
  5. Please, describe what you do as a creative professional.
  6. What equipment do you currently use in your practice? (Design-ready computer, A3 scanners, print-making equipment, ceramics equipment, paint, etc.)
  7. What equipment do you need for your practice but have no ready access to?
  8. What is the main reason for you not to access shared work space?
  9. What are your main issues/problems/stumbling blocks/worries as a creative practitioner?
  10. Are you a member of any arts organization, group, collective or club? Please name.

 

If you wish to help us in finding out what is currently going on, please fill this survey.

 

LINK

ECHN P2P – Glasgow

Ffangai Director and Co-Founder, Ian Cooke-Tapia, is currently participating in the European Creative Hub Network Peer-2-Peer program. As part of the program, Ian is visiting Many Studios in The Barras, Glasgow, and meeting with many local “creative hubs”, from artist spaces, events management units, arts collective, performance platform, democratically curated galleries, and more.

While there are still some days left to go, as well as having to write up an official report on the findings, Ian can say that this trip has been one of the best decisions he’s taken. Perhaps the most telling piece of information so far has been the fact that, be for-profit or non-profit organization, every single one of these artist spaces has been very different to one another. Every hub functions within their particular contexts, organization structures, environment and user base.

There have been conversations on funding venues and systems, on the benefits of being a limited trade company versus a community interest company, both as a means for sustainability and for a more efficient support for the community these hubs support.

Late next week we’ll be publishing the first of a series of blog posts based on our activities in Glasgow and Edinburgh as part of the P2P program.