TRACES, CURVES AND PATTERNS OF FLOW
A guest post from Disappear Here artist, Zoe Palmer talking about form and intent.
When I first read Adam Steiner’s call out for Disappear Here, I was struck by an image of the ring road as a wheel of life. What if we could, taking the ring road as our outer edge, balance the entire city on the head of a pin and spin? What might rise up into the split-second as light flickers between bridges and buildings? This zoetrope, literally meaning “life” “turning,” was the metaphor that offered me an entry point, a place from which I could dive into the history of Coventry and its ring road to unearth and re-imagine elements that have disappeared.
As a child of Thatcherite Britain in the 80’s, somewhere along my own wheel of life were kids singing mash-ups of the Coventry inspired Ghost Town in a concrete playground in Hackney. All of this got me thinking about ghosts. Not the type that send the cat round the bend at midnight but something more subtle and ephemeral; things that move through the city, unseen, people who laboured over a project for many years then moved on, the traces of thi
Through a recent collaboration with composer Jack Sheen I’ve been experimenting with techniques of the Oulipo – particularly their use of word ladders. Here’s the first section of a poem, later discarded, that attempts to explore some of these threads:
Design for a motion picture from the A4053
Press round 4 x lane perforations
Stick the eye of the thing on a pin
Clockmaker Samuel Vale balancing wheels and spindles
Stoops low in the window in front of the cross Roads
Rings around us
At the beginning of our process, my collaborator Filmmaker Brian Harley and I wove our way around the ring road’s nine junctions. Brian grew up in Coventry and made navigating the road feel effortless – the journey was over in under five minutes and soon we were exploring its numerous crossings, bridges and subways on foot. As Brian and I chatted, at one point standing in the middle of a bridge by the canal basin with cars rushing beneath us, Brian described the changes he’d seen in the cityscape. New themes began to emerge – the ring road as a palimpsest, re-dreamed, re-envisaged, re-appropriated by each generation. But one question lingered: is it something to adore or endure?
It wasn’t until I visited the History Centre at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum and viewed a fraction of the extensive archive relating to the construction of Coventry ring road, that I got a sense of how many people have invested huge amounts of time, energy and money into making things flow. This made me re-conceive the road as inspiration, repository and witness of - projections, frustrations, dreams, declarations and confessions that are constantly appearing and vanishing…Brian and I are continuing to explore.