Straying With

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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Short stays/strays moving along, with and into the canal. Moving into an urban passage, dormant infrastructure, ecological territory. Moving into questions around how we might make and dwell in more supple, open, vital cities and more fully in and through our bodies. Nan Shepherd walked into the Cairngorm mountains, entwining walking and writing with the place. Janice Parker’s practice can also be understood as sym-poeisis, a ‘making with’, which philosopher Donna Haraway has argued is necessary if we are to pursue more liveable futures in the twenty-first century, Staying with the Trouble.

Presence in a place can be specific, partial, unintentional. With the path, watery weather, passers-by, constrictions, re-orientations and variable edges. With anchoring stones, markers, bridges, junctions and municipal junctures. With sheltering nooks, branches, benches, enfolding built geometries that may be mounted, leant into, lending pause and surprising generosity in return. The canal begins to lodge within memory, a series of dredged lodgings that accumulate into sharper, deeper focus through the situation and tempo of Janice’s daily responsive, embodied practice. Companions, witnesses, watchers come and go and variously stay with her movements each day (near, behind, afar: drawing, field-noting, photographing, glancing, ignoring). Her daily log, written after each hour with the canal, supports a discipline of staying with the practice, of registering the particularity of presence.

What sort of trouble is the Union Canal in 2022? As a transport artery, exchange flow, divider of and edge to neighbourhoods and activities, it is itself an urban margin, most recently defined by dis- or under-use. Its 35 miles are heterogenous, accruing more or less intensities of a range of development models and urban design orthodoxies. Richard Sennett has claimed that “a city that is too brittle, too fixed, too rigid and too regulated” will die. He explores characteristics of a more vital Open City - incomplete form, passage territories, development narratives and democratic space - as physical experience. This thinking underpins and surfaces in Janice’s writing. The canal has stayed with this city for over 200 years, while the city has strayed into it. Janice’s work has revealed that the canal is not a singular subject, it is hard to be objectified or understood only as an origin (or completion) story. If we stray into and with it, can offer stays, pliable support, bodily foundation, and may inspire more radical urbanisms.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJanice Parker. Not Brittle, Not Rigid, Not Fixed
EditorsEmmie McLuskey, Janice Parker
PublisherEdinburgh Art Festival
Pages41-55
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)78-0-9929909-4-7
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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