Medlock Soul Revival: Installation

Exhibition piece in Link Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University. 27th Feb – 7th March 2013.

Conclusion of 6 week psychogeography project exploring the River Medlock. The installation includes sand and water from the Medlock; a video projection of the section of the river I was exploring; a hi-vis jacket with embroidered and screen printed logo ‘Medlock Soul Revival’; and two showcases of research material including objects from the river bank, books and photographs.

The installation attracted a lot of comment and interest.

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After taking it down I returned the sand to the banks of the river Medlock.

The showcases with research material are staying on display for a bit longer.


Medlock Objects (poster variation)

Objects found on the banks, and in the vicinity of the river Medlock.

The rule here was to keep the objects in a square grid format. This means all the objects are not to scale.

Medlock objects (all on A4)(72)


Medlock Objects

Slideshow (silent) of objects found on the banks and in the vicinity of the river Medlock.


Medlock Soul Revival (Ancoats Beach – Interventions, Observations)

Engaging with the beach, collecting objects from the sand, raking the beach…


Some clips of the river at the beach….


Hi-vis jacket – ordered online. Embroidered logo on front, print on back….

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Roundhouse (Field Trip: Litter Shrine)

Christ Church, the original building that became the Roundhouse, closed in 1880.

Manchester Settlement: a registered charity founded in 1895 by the University of Manchester.

The original home was the Roundhouse in Ancoats, Manchester. It provided a large recreation room for plays and dances.

In 1963 the Settlement moved out of its other building at Ancoats Hall.

The Roundhouse was demolished in 1986.

In May 2009 the charity moved into a new £2.2m centre in Openshaw.

Today: January 31st 2013, the brick circle contains silver birches, wild brambles and much litter.

An unusual amount of discarded footwear.

Intervention: ‘Litter Shrine‘.


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Ancoats Beach (Field Trip 3)

Buying a rake.

But arriving at the site and seeing there were three Environment Agency Vehicles there.

An animal hole.

The snow has melted.

Patterns in the sand.

Starting at the gated land that was once the Ancoats Nursery School…..



And as Ancoats Nursery School was, on Palmerston Street, 1965.


Ancoats Nursery School on Palmerston Street, 1965. Courtesy J. Shaw

Due to the snowmelt the river Medlock is high today….

IMG_2944 IMG_2946The Environment Agency arrived to clear some of the rubbish….one of the men said that they would clear the sand away at some point. The barriers are to prevent trees and large rubbish entering the culverts in Manchester city centre. Once larger objects enter the culverts it is hard to remove them, and they can cause flooding.

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Will Self: On Walking &Technology

In Confidence delves beneath the surface of some of the most creative spirits of the decade in probing interviews by critically acclaimed Radio 4 presenter and Sociology Professor Laurie Taylor.


Urban Explorers: Quests for Myth, Mystery & Meaning by Bradley Garrett

Urban exploration, sometimes called UE, UrbEx or infiltration, has been described as an interior tourism that allows the curious-minded to discover a world of behind-the-scenes sights’.

(Ninjalicious 2005, p3)



Tim Edensor (MMU) [See British Industrial Ruins website and book]

Caitlin Desilvey (University of Exeter)

David Pinder (Queen Mary, University of London)

Hayden Lorrimer (University of Glasgow)

Alistair Bonnett (Newcastle University)



“The brute materiality of a ruin”

The tactilities and sensation of the materials.

Anti-authoritarian streak. Out on a limb against ideas of how we use space.

The desire to explore.

“There’s always an element of revulsion”. Sense of threat.

East End as a site for social reformers. Bill Bunge 1960s early 1970s explorations in Detroit. Collaboration using Geographic tools.

A fascination with landscape and place.

Going where others have not ventured. A sense of place. From own or others past. Connecting to real feelings, real memories.

Finding gaps and cracks. A radical edge. Creating new community. Doing stuff together. Walking as an important aspect of the dialectic of rambling.

Robert Sullivan – “grabbing the Empire State Building and lifting it up to reveal the underground systems. Thinking downwards and thinking upwards = a vertical orientation.”

Zoom right out then zoom right in.

Childhood: getting older and feeling they have lost something, or never had something.

How to get out of the ‘transparent space’ of surveillance and constantly being watched? Zones off the map. Just ‘going off’ like kids.

They are not ‘overdetermined’ places. Not smoothed over. Not predictable.

Room for imagination. Decay allows the new.

Presenting of the past.

Exploration as a visceral experience.

Dredging up local histories.

The continuing mutation of ruins.

Spectral geographies: haunted spaces, ghosts, traces, the immaterial, strange signs, absent present, the uncanny.



Bunge, Bill, 1969. The First Years of the Detroit Geographical Expedition: A Personal Report. Detroit Society for Human Exploration.

Granick, Harry, 1991. Underneath New York. Fordham University Press.

Macpherson, Hannah, 2009. Touch in the Countryside: Memory and Visualization Through the Feet in The Senses and Society 4(2).

Urban Exploration Resource, 2009.


See also: Gareth Rees Psychogeography blog


Gaythorn, Medlock Street Car Park

“In a rather deep hole, in a curve of the Medlock and surrounded on all four sides by tall factories and high embankments, covered with buildings, stand two groups of about 200 cottages in which live about 4,000 human beings, most of them Irish. The cottages are old, dirty, and of the smallest sort, the streets uneven, fallen into ruts and in part without drains or pavement; masses of refuse, offal and sickening filth lie among standing pools in all directions…”

Friedrich Engels’s account of 1840s Gaythorn area of Manchester, as depicted in The Condition of the Working Class in England.

After some uncertainty as to how to choose my drifters research area, I have taken the Gaythorn car parks (Medlock Street car park and car park D) as a psychogeographic starting point. These rough and battered patches of land are going to provide the locus from which I will orientate out. I will pursue radial explorations around the area, returning to Gaythorn car parks as a home base.

Using Andrew Taylor’s excellent map of Manchester I have isolated an area I am calling the ‘Medlock Corridor’:

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Medlock Corridor (central section). Map © Andrew Taylor 2011

This initial local drift took place on a frosty day and concerned the main two car parks:

I noticed the Salvation Army / Social Services Centre was looking a bit worse for wear. The Sally Army Crest was vandalised. I went in to ask the receptionist what was happening. She informed me that the place was closing down on the 12th December. She put me in touch with Nigel Yates, the Centre manager, who was positive in my request to take some interior photos before the place is demolished. See further blog for results of this.

Drift pattern:

1) Circulation of Medlock Street Car Park

2) SSC Salvation Army / Lifehouse, Wilmott Strett.  Outside and visit inside.

3) Circulation of Car Park D



Integral Drifting: A Manifesto


This blog is based on research and practice around the themes of:










I intend to explore the idea that Psychogeography has a two-fold nature – one linking to the Romantic literary tradition (Blake, Defoe, DeQuincy, Baulelaire, Rimbaud, Alfred Watkins etc); the other linking to the Political/philosophical interventionist remit (Debord, Raoul Vaneigem and Situationist International). But I particularly want to read some of the more contemporary writers on the subject: Ian Sinclair, Merlin Coverley etc. Also I intend to study Patrick Keiller’s ‘Robinson’ films and the works of Chris Petit.

It strikes me that the split in approach is interesting and raises good questions. What is the purpose of psychogeography? To stimulate a subjective poetic re-visioning of the city, to transform individual perceptions of the urban landscape? Or to transform society through radical intervention and disruption of habitual oppressive patterns? Is the derive a game of fantasy or an act of realism?

There is a lot of writing and blogging around this area. I will try to survey the ground as much as I can.

I am introducing the dimension of Integral Theory to Psychogeography out of a personal interest in both areas and to see if the Integral approach benefits or adds to the understanding of the psychogeographic trajectory.


The practice based aspect will be in the actual establishment of a personal derive practice. This will include:

a) Defining the ground. Choosing geographical boundaries. Possibly using Manchester Postal codes as a parameter. But at least considering methods of approaching the geographical field early on in the project. Initial map research.

b) Walking the ground.

c) Recording the field using camera, drawing, video, audio, writing.

d) Collecting from the field – found objects and items

e) Use of found objects, writings, and images as documentation and as material for further modification, display, installation.

f) Proposed outcomes to include this Blog record, exhibitions of research and made objects, printed book using online publishing, a talk/presentation of findings, an organised derive for others.



My methodological approach includes:

1) Reading broadly around the theme.

2) Watching films and seeing exhibitions relating to the theme.

3) Performing random practical experiments (open to the surprising, synchronous, and serendipitous)

4) Performing more structured pre-considered experiments

5) Applying the principles of Integral Theory (specifically the 4 Quadrant Model proposed by American philosopher Ken Wilber)


Drift rather than dérive

Dérive is the French word often translated as ‘drift’. The original french does have resonances specific to the Situationists and as such is a good word. However I don’t intend to limit myself to the interpretation of psychogeography proposed by the Situationists. I want to keep open to new and recent interpretations. Also, the Integral philosophical approach is by nature a theoretical structure which allows for contradictory positions. My assumption is to find both benefits and limitations in polarised positions. This, for me as and eclectic being, maintains a dialectic and indeed a possibility of dialogue which I hope will bear interesting fruit.

‘Drift’ has poetic and manifold connotations: driftwood, ‘get my drift’, high plains drifter, snow drift, drifting off course. I like the light touch it has and the ever-present danger of drifting off topic.


The Integral Model

‘Integral’ basically implies an attention to the idea that in any given moment at any given place there are always 4 dimensions of perception or ontological reality:

1) Inner singular (subjective / me)

2) Inner plural / collective (inter-subjective / we)

3) Outer singular (objective / it)

4) Outer plural / collective (inter-objective / its)


4 Quadrants

So the ‘Integral Drifter’ carries this model as a way of maintaing an awareness that we tend to habitually perceive the world with biases in one or more of these quadrants. And yet the theory states that we can’t really be separate from any of these dimensions. Even when we are on our own we are subject to and conditioned by cultural background and shared values (intersubjective), and we are always part of some sort of social or environmental system (interobjective).

So this model can provide a methodological map for psychogeographic practice. At any given moment, in any given place there is the potential to become aware of

1) The psychogeographic subjective (my mood, emotional state, inner alertness, cognitive sharpness etc).

2) The psychogeographic intersubjective (an awareness of the way locations have shared cultural meanings, place is not separate from language, place forms and is formed by relationships)

3) The psychogeographic objective (observations of things, buildings, objects, people etc)

4) The psychogeographic interobjective (observations of how a given place is formed by, and forms institutional structure; is part of corporate, social, or governmental planning and economic forces; how a place is always part of an environmental network).