The Plan of St. Gall.

Switzerland. July 2017.

A journey that was to continue a journey that began long ago. Or as Wittgenstein much more eloquently put it, “it is so hard to find the beginning, or rather, it is hard to find the beginning and not wish to go further back.” And back, and back and back, for all things are delicately interconnected. The Plan of St. Gall is an ecological project, a proposition for a different way of viewing the self amidst the multiplicity of contexts and places in which one is present.

“Being is with, otherwise nothing exists”. Jean Luc Nancy.




They had a party the night I left. Zurich looked like one of its own bejeweled window displays, all splashes of colour and glitz. It wasn’t purely in celebration of my departure though. August 1st is Switzerland’s National Day, and one of the few days of the year fireworks are permissible for use across the country, so they let them off with gusto into the sunset of my EasyJet flight to commemorate the signing of a document in 1291 that forms the foundation of what has since become the Confoederatio Helvetica, the Latin form of Helvetic Confederation, the CH of which has become the modern day data code for Swiss based websites and the abbreviated denomination of the currency CHF.

Quite why I was flying out on the national day of celebration was more an outcome of some wonky planning on my part. The unexpected nature of the trip and having to squeeze it into a busy calendar meant that I found myself in Switzerland for the second half of July, a decidedly poor choice for someone looking to explore the Swiss arts scene as most of them are apparently on holiday at that time of year.
My flight was late, Britain was sweaty when I left and the midnight cool of Zurich was a welcome relief but also a falsehood for the central European heat that would preoccupy the coming days. I had managed to arrange a meeting with a notable Zurich based gallery for the next day, so, with little sleep, little food since Gatwick and having spanked £50 on a three day travel card for the city I set off to the Lowenbraü building in Zuriwest to look at the Jenny Holzer show and then have a meeting about an idea…

An idea that was given formal opportunity to bloom due to this travel bursary, though it is currently still gestating: the logical expansion of some of the ideas within my PhD (available here:, into a much larger project currently entitled The Plan of St. Gall and very much still a plan, a proposition for the future.



The Lowenbraü building is the heart of Zuriwest’s art scene, home to several major institutions and the Migros Museum which is the contemporary art collection of a fund genrerated by 1% of the profits from Migros, Switzerland’s equivalent of Tesco’s. Inside however, there’s Susan Hiller, there’s Jospeh Beuys, and a myriad collection of other seminal 20th century artists. It made me wonder who Tesco’s would choose to buy if they ever found the capacity to be so generous.

Later on I met Catherine Munger from Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Arts Council, outside the Landesmuseum wherein there are a series of exhibits on what it means to be Swiss, or perhaps on how to generate a cultural identity, and how to retain it over time. It is perhaps this attempt that is fascinating, something eerie about trying to protect and conserve that which has forever been fluid, a collection of people, living in a place, a fluid myth, an identity crisis. An autoethnographic pursuit. We are told of William Tell, a myth about an apple and an arrow, and Henry Dufour, a cartographic genius, others. There are books there, photographs and the development of the grand tour across Switzerland, endless, neat, tidy, everything here is neat, tidy, polished, stacks of books lined up, neatly efficient cloakrooms, lockers, escalators and trams. There is a piece of paper I wish I had taken from my meeting in the Lowenbraü building, it is probably still there, piled high in multiple. A t-shirt I bought from the Holzer show reads WORDS TEND TO BE INADEQUATE, she describes some the things in her own show so eloquently, economically: the cold dry descriptions of torture, the categorization of war and exploitation.

Switzerland is nice though isn’t it? A pleasant land of cattle and chocolate, mountains draped in rare flowers and hikers, mountain bikes. But there is something beneath all that, and I mean beneath the flow of daily life and even beneath the country’s extensive collection of nuclear bunkers – Switzerland’s policy until 2006 was to have enough Nuclear bunker accommodation for its entire population, each newly built block of flats was required to be serviced by a nuclear bunker capable of housing all its residents, each bunker is accompanied by a collection of models in miniature of the nearby architectural highlights, supposedly for their post-apocalyptic reconstruction – so beneath this, and beneath all the veneer and all the real wood – everything is real wood – there is something I can’t quite describe because it demands more time of me still to comprehend and get across. A disquiet, a dis-ease, the suicide rates are high, the drug use, extensive, an apathy spreads, a platitudinous nature, common parlance and polite restraint, like you can’t quite say anything too real, because this is a neutral country in a time of perpetual global conflict and the place seems to be doing rather well for itself, not so much out of manufacturing warfare, but out of quietly enabling it, with discretion. In the Landesmuseum again there is a room dedicated to the countries proud history of anonymous banking and financial disposition, and there is a video of a stern but honest looking man stating “Switzerland’s anonymous banking system grew out of a wish to enable people who were under threat to hide their resources” and you can almost hear him say “but”, or imagine him doing so, but he doesn’t, it hangs there instead, half a sentence, like a silent concession.



I left Zurich. On a train. Bound for the alps. I left some smart clothes and anything heavy in a locker at the station. I bought some risotto meals from a Migros in the station, and some methylated spirits from a camping shop in Zuriwest. I was going into the hills for a bit. It is illegal in Switzerland to do wild camp below the tree line, so you have to go up. The weather was not promising, but the schedule was not to be ignored. An hour and a half later, on a £60 return ticket and I was in Engelburg, angel mountain, and climbing, up towards the Jochpass in the warm summer rain amidst and a pile of mountain bikers. This part of the alps is preoccupied by the day trippers, who all take the cable car off the mountains by 5pm, so for several hours it is just me up there, in the slowly dying light of midsummer, listening to the wind and the creaking ice high up on the mountains. I stay here for three nights, moving the tent around the hillside, reading, thinking, writing… so a little background perhaps:

In 2009, I walked from London back to the house I was born into in Switzerland, a house with a nuclear bunker in a village called Engelberg near St. Gallen, I undertook the walk in the wake of my estranged fathers death, I undertook the walk because I wrote a letter to the house asking whether I could visit and they replied saying I would be welcome to visit and stay. This journey became the foundation of a practice based PhD into walking, writing and performance through an autoethnographic lens. The study of the culture of walking as an arts practice, through drawing, walking and writing a place into practice.

This trip is post-PhD, in the academic aftermath, revisiting and revising what is possible, taking those methods adapted from ecology and ethnography over years and reapplying them to gallery spaces. This trip is for conversations and for time spent alone in the hills. I go back to the station in Engelburg, transition through Zurich where I contemplate having a shower until I check the entry price, then board a train for St. Gallen and walk once more, out of town and up into the hills on a rainy afternoon, looking for the bakery by the church and the lane opposite, that leads down and up and across a road, onto a tiny path to the back of a house to which I walked in 2009. I am dripping wet this time. The family welcome me in. Their English has improved, my Swiss-German is still non existent. I shower and rest, and eat some melted cheese. I am here for a few nights, a week perhaps. And have a few meetings in St. Gallen with the Kunsthalle and the Kunsthaus, to try and figure out how all this might work, how the fuck the fucking art world works…

No one seems to know. I have asked a few people this question now, in high up places where it is just not the done thing, to ask such a blunt and distasteful question. Each art world spins in its own universe apparently, composed from its own version of the various constellations that make up these places we attempt to traverse as makers and thinkers. Through my PhD I now view my practice more as a visual form of philosophy than a mere factory of products. One day I sit in a chair in the garden and read a book from cover to cover, it is a book by the artist Roman Signer, a series of walks and conversations with his friends, colleagues and his brother. He has two pieces of advice. One was that to survive in the art world you need a couple of people who really like your work, and the other is that you need to occasionally be willing to get a job in order to survive. Roman was not financially sustaining himself through his practice until his 60’s, it’s a long slog. I climb the mountain he climbed with his brother, I am disgustingly unfit and yet still order some Rosti from the Berghaus at the top. Everyone here is fit, and beautiful and very well equipped. I have learned that I need to exercise more, that I need to find commercial representation to approach the sort of work The Plan of St. Gall is aiming to become, that I need to chance my luck more, and that I need to find those few people who really like my work and are willing and able to support it every now and then. I learn that I really do love the mountains, and that I wish I had done this in winter, or at least autumn, that I am not designed for hot weather, and that arts practice is a myriad cycle of never ending questions and problems, that finding the solutions is a futile quest, and that there is room for hope amidst these contradictions.



When I was 17 I scratched a Jenny Holzer truism into a wooden desk at the library of Royal Forest of Dean College, YOU ARE A VICTIM OF THE RULES YOU LIVE BY. Art and its work should be a process of perpetually unsettling the rules of whichever particular system you find yourself in. The walk will go on, the work will prevail, the world will still turn, as Auden once said, ‘you owe it to the world to do what you do best’, the tricky bit is finding out what that thing is. I am an artist who started with walking and kept going… It’s still the best answer I have come up with.

A radio show was produced as part of this travel bursary, this was broadcast on Resonance FM on 12th October. A copy of the show will be made available on my blog in the new year. For more information about Trail Mix[ED] my radio practice see