Dazzle Walks

Emily Roderick, who splits her art-life between the Midlands and that London, was featured in the Guardian the other week along with the rest of The Dazzle Club, doing walks through the capital with their faces painted with abstract shapes.

They're using a technique developed by artist Adam Harvey that he called CV Dazzle in 2010 which is based on the pre-radar method of protecting ships from torpedos in WWI by painting them with abstract shapes. This Dazzle Camouflage confused submarines who were unable to accurately calculate the distance and heading of a ship and thus unable to hit it with a torpedo.

via Wikipedia

CV Dazzle makeup, standing for Computer Vision Dazzle, is intended to work in a similar way by either making the face invisible to recognition software or simply disguising the individual so they can't be tracked.

There's a lot of this sort of art around, but it's interesting, and relevant to our interests, to see the Dazzle Club using group walks as the way to get it out there. It turns the act of wearing the makeup into a protest and it's no coincidence their walks coincide with the London police starting to use live facial recognition systems in the capital.

Wearing the makeup as an individual probably doesn't work – the technology is improving every day and doesn't just depend on faces for identification – but combining it with a silent group walk, which features in the long history of protest, helps raise issues around its adoption without full consideration of the flaws and civil implications.

Dazzle Club walks take place in London on the 3rd Thursday of the month. Sign up to their newsletter for location information. And hopefully Emily & co will bring this up to the Midlands soon.


A Walk is a Tool and a Platform

The latest issue of Craig Mod's Ridgeline, his excellent newsletter about walking to which you should all subscribe, appeared in my inbox with the above title and got me all excited because it would make the perfect manifesto for Walkspace. Walking as tool for creating something new, be it ideas or actualised work. Walking as a coherent and defined platform that enables an anticipated outcome but allows for serendipity and surprises.

Of course, letting my mind race ahead like that meant mild disappointment as Craig was giving the title to a talk at a tech conference where the audience build digital tools on digital platforms, but that's OK.

The talk is worth watching because it summarises a inspirational walk Craig did last year where he tried to find a good balance between being connected and being alone. He would be travelling with a camera and a phone but he would set strict rules on how he would use them. Some, like having to take a portrait of a stranger before 10am, forced him to have encounters he might not have. Others, like restricting him communication with the outside world to one SMS text message a day, enabled him to, as he says in the talk, "be present in the world while connecting with my community in meaningful ways."

Along the 1,000km walk over 43 days Craig would send a photo and a text message which would be relayed to anyone who had opted in to receive them. These recipients could reply but Craig would not see the replies until he got home where a large book containing his photos, messages and all the replies would be waiting for him.

As someone who uses walks to take photos (or uses photos to take walks) and has experimented in the past with platforms like Twitter or Instagram to document a journey, I often struggle to know what to do with the documentary detritus, or whether capturing the walk detracted from the walk itself. Cross City Walks is a perfect case in point – was it made or broken by the way I co-opted it as a tool/platform?

Casting the walk as a tool could be a useful way of mitigating this. A tool is, fundamentally, matter which has been shaped to facilitate an outcome, be it a hammer to bash in nails or a rocket to get you to the moon. If you know why you're undertaking a walk (and that can be a big "if"), how can your act of walking be shaped to facilitate that?

Subscribe to Craig Mod's newsletters and explore his extensive writing on his website.


Exploring Micro Sovereignties

I often think about the group slow walk Hamish Futon ran in Birmingham in 2012 for the Ikon and Fierce Festival where he got people to walk lines marked behind Curzon Street Station, some very short, some the length of the site, as slowly as necessary to complete the walk in the time allowed. Here's a short interview with him, filmed by Chris Keenan.

I was reminded of this when reading about Rubén Martín de Lucas's art project Minimal Republics where he marks off a 100m2 area of land, declares it to be a sovereign nation, and inhabits it for up to 24 hours. He documents them using aerial photography which looks very pleasing.

The work is about the absurdity of the concept of nations, which I approve of because nations are absurd concepts, but I'm intrigued by the idea of forcing yourself to stay within a specific boundary for up to a day, especially when that boundary is set up in an "uninteresting" area.

It's doubtless meditative with an element of endurance, but the idea of exploring that 100 square metres, of really getting to know every rock in the sand or mark on the tarmac, is really interesting to me.

I've often wanted to do an hour-long photography workshop where people can only explore a small patch of land that they wouldn't consider interesting at first – the corner of a car park, for example – forcing them to look beyond the obvious and start to see patterns and beauty in the details. I think the photos that would come out of such an exercise would be really interesting.

I wonder what it would be like to make one of de Lucas's pieces, to define a micro-country and occupy it for a day. Once the boredom passes, what would you see?

Via the always excellent and inspiring Geoff Manaugh. Photos from, and credits in, the Lens Culture article.


Hockley Flyover Project

The Hockley Flyover Project is a community photography project run by Tracy Thorne of Ghost Streets. She's done a number of similar projects in Birmingham including Stirchley High Street Stories, where as locals we naturally got involved.

The Hockley Flyover  is an overpass which is part of the A41 in Birmingham that crosses over the top of a unique and fascinating public space called Hockley Circus built during the 1960s. 

We will be running a participatory photography project with local people to document this space, as well as exploring people's experiences and to share stories from the flyover in the new year.

The project is open to people who live and work around the flyover, of course, and they can get involved by contacting Tracy or via the Insta.

[Disclaimer – Tracy is hiring me to run three street photography workshops as part of the project.]

Upcoming Events

Dark Moon Walking

An expedition into the darkest recesses of Stirchley and Bournville.

Cities, like cats, will reveal themselves at night.

Rupert Brooke

On Sunday 23rd February, as the New Moon begins, we shall reclaim the night by walking out of the street lights and into the darkest corners of Birmingham B30. 

By day our route is green and pleasant, traversing parks, canal paths and verdant walkways. By night we shall discover how different it all looks and feels when the path is not lit, the trees loom large and all colour disappears? Will there be fear or excitement, a feeling of power or of vulnerability? 

I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.

Vincent Van Gogh

This one-hour night walk offers the chance to venture into the unlit borderlands of Bournville, Stirchley and Lifford wards in the safety of a group. To blend into the darkness and embrace the power of our invisibility. To explore our inner fears as well as a sense of awe and wonder. By walking together, we aim to reclaim the everyday urban spaces that become off-limits after dark. 

There will be short breaks along the way to contemplate the darkness or just to blend into the shadows, become invisible and think.

Spaces are limited so booking is essential. More details on the booking page or contact Fiona with any questions.

I like the night. Without the dark, we'd never see the stars.

Stephenie Meyer

Video: Cross City Walks

Five years ago Andy and Pete did a series of walks across Birmingham in straight lines, a project they called Cross City Walks. To mark this half-decade anniversary they put their thoughts into a short documentary.

Upcoming Events

Photo Walks in March

Pete's Photo Walks continue next month with Bournville on Saturday 7th and Jewellery Quarter on Sunday 29th. They're £10 per person and you can book here.

These walks are for photographers of all types, from cameraphones to hefty DSLRs and are geared towards slowing down and looking at our surroundings.

They're also themed based on the location. Bournville looks at the history of this garden suburb, built by the Cadbury family in the style of an English village. It's undeniably beautiful but what was involved in maintaining this idyl?

The Jewellery Quarter walk looks at attempts to preserve the industrial heritage of the district in the face of rapid regeneration, but who's heritage is being saved and what is being forgotten in the process?

Details of all Pete's photography walks are here.

Walk Reports

A walk underneath Spaghetti Junction

I went on one of Pete's quarterly walks under the M6 Gravelly Hill Interchange and wrote a report of it on my blog.

Walk Reports

A Winter Solstice Wander

I organised a dawn group walk on the Winter Solstice starting at the mysterious Bordesley Henge and finishing at Witton Cemetery. I was joined by Jonny, Kerry, Kevin, Phil and Shane.

Land in Curiosity invited me to post a photo essay account on their blog.