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Weymouth - space, place and memory

The Weymouth project was conceived as a multistranded art project designed to investigate the idea of place remotely. It was a response to an Open Collage of the Arts short course on psychogeography which was centred on experiencing place directly through walking, using the derive method.

 

Having done some trial derives I soon realised that this method of working did not fit into my practice and so I decided instead that I would look at others' experience of place, documented through photography, sound, written materials (both factual and fictional), film and ephemera, and use these sources to generate visual art responses.

 

A key first resource was a guide book to Weymouth, published in 1966, which I found in a job lot of ephemera acquired last year. I have never been to Weymouth and this seemed like a good start. In researching the town, I soon came across the novel Weymouth Sands, written by John Cowper Powys and published in 1935. Cowper Powys lived in Weymouth for some years as a young man, but wrote the novel whilst he was living in the US. I was also interested in films about, or that have been set in, the town, such as The Damned (Joseph Losey, 1963), Dunkirk (Nolan, 2017) and Far From The Madding Crowd (Schlesinger, 1967). YouTube was a source of short films. The Internet Archive housed a number of audio clips recorded in the town and internet auction sites had images of postcards and historic photographs.

For the first strand, I analysed the text of Weymouth Sands, looking at the main set of characters and their movements through the town, noting the locations where the characters met. I made colour coded schematic diagrams of these events on paper and made an artist book. I found postcard images of some of the important locations in the book and digitally collaged them with the colours used for the characters to represent them meeting in those locations, producing an artist book in the form of a folded letter card.

For the second strand I annotated a street map of Weymouth with links to sound files which I created from film and video, and also audio files found online. I used the Audacity audio app to make sound files and also retained the sound wave patterns to create a digital diagram representing overlaid sound.

For the third strand, I used the 1966 guide book as a base. Weymouth had unfortunately become notorious for piles of rotting seaweed on the beaches and this was affecting the tourist industry. In an attempt to turn this around, the town was rebranded as "the home of seaweed" and its presence turned into a positive. An influence here was designer/writer Richard Littler's satire/parody work based on the fictional town of Scarfolk. Littler reworks sources such as public information leaflets, adverts and record sleeves and presents them as archives from the Scarfolk Town Council.

For the fourth strand, I looked at the role of the postcard as an indicator of visiting place and reflecting the experience of being in a place, as well as what happens when the postcard is received. This resulted in four variants of a Weymouth postcard, digitally collaged with wallpaper samples which represents how the postcard, originally bound to the place of origin, becomes detached from place and is absorbed into the home.

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