Archives for March 2015

ARE WE THAT NAME? Some reflections of the use of pseudonyms (for Ste)

Note: I wrote this for Ste, shortly before his death in September 2013. It relates to a topic he was working on as part of his course at Birkbeck. According to Encarta, pseudonym ( literally in Greek a false name) is a ’name that is assumed to hide one’s identity’; it was first used by the   French, in the mid 19th century – although as we will see the practice certainly predates this in England – and is conventionally used to apply to pen names, or ‘noms de plume’ as they are still sometimes called, though why it should be so restricted is not clear. The definition would seem to cover a whole lot of other uses. Like most dictionary definitions, this one is disarmingly simple. It rests on the notion of duplicity and the intent to conceal. But how is intentionality to be established rather than simply inferred? People [Read More…]

Mapping the Real : Ethno-graphology and the ‘Other Scene’

…  since Neolithic times  we have been marking down representations on cave walls, in the dirt, on parchment, trees, lunchplates, napkins, even on our own  skin-all so we could remember  where we have been, where we want to be going, where we should be going. There is a deep impulse ingrained in us to take these directions, coordinates, declarations out of the mush of our minds  and actualize them in the real world. Since making my first maps  I had learned that the representation was not the real thing, but in a way  this dissonance  was what made it so good: the  distance between the map and the territory allowed us breathing room to figure out where we stood’ Reif Larsen The Selected Works of T.S.Spivet  It is significant that ‘culture’ is sometimes described as a map. It is the analogy which occurs to an outsider  who has to find [Read More…]

Archive that,Comrade

  Legacy politics and the ruses of remembrance Foreword  Not so long ago I had the experience of mentoring a young German student who was intensely curious about British culture and society and what had shaped it in the second half of the 20th century. He plied me with questions like ‘What was it like before Mrs Thatcher?’. ‘How does the situation of gay people today compare  with what it was like in the 1960’s’. ‘When did Damien Hirst  first become  famous?’ ‘How did people in this country respond to the fall of the Berlin Wall?’ ‘Have British people always not liked immigrants?’ I did not always find it easy to answer him without falling into what Marx called ‘dumb generalities’, but I did my best to point him in the direction of where the answers might be found. Quite often I found myself telling  him stories about my own [Read More…]

Our Kind of Town

Citizen Social Science, Participatory Mapping and the Struggle for a Just City This is the text of a public lecture I gave to the Institute for Social Research at Birkbeck in October 2014.Thanks very  much  for the many useful comments  made in the discussion following the lecture, some of which have been taken on board in revising this text. I am especially grateful to Anna Davin for drawing my attention to Hugh Brody’s wonderful book about Inuit cartography :Maps and Dreams. Thanks also to Paul Watt for acting as discussant.  The powerpoint which accompanied the lecture and which is indicated by (SLIDE(S) in the text is available to download from the Living Maps Website: An audio of the lecture, including the powerpoint images is available on the Birkbeck website. For Ruth Glass ( 1912-1990) The map maker’s work is to make visible All them things that shouda never exist [Read More…]

March Blog: Living with Painting

 Living with painting   The works which constitute the life and fame of artists decay one after the other by the ravages of time. Thus the artists themselves are unknown, as there was no one to write about them so that this source of knowledge was not granted to posterity     Giorgio Vasari Writing is present in the margins, painting is spread over ‘vacant’space’ –  Stephane Mallarme My responsibility  towards these paintings  is to make you see them, only that. – Victor Segalen 0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0 By all accounts it was Vasari who was responsible for the idea that the story of art could be told through the lives of its practitioners. At the time he was writing, in the mid 16th century  it certainly was the case that if the reputation of painters, sculptors and architects was to survive them it was not enough for their works to do so. His vivid pen [Read More…]