Nathan Walker is best known as a performance artist and poet. He has produced textual delights such as the Action Score Generator and the ongoing Tabloid Anagram Zines project, which rearranges newspaper headings into books and broadsheets including The Who Knew Nothing Man and Trojan Spot Checks for Horse Plots.
Last summer Walker was writer in residence at the independent Armitt Museum and Library in Ambleside, Cumbria, which houses a collection of artworks by and study resources on the German artist Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948). The library holds an eclectic mix of literature, reference materials, guidebooks and manuscripts by local artists, climbers and writers, from Beatrix Potter to John Ruskin. It is a rich resource on local history, dialect and folklore.
Inspired by Schwitters’ sound poetry, collages and the historical publications in the library, Walker has drawn upon a range of local literary and spoken resources to produce the evocative and performative book, Condensations.
Walker began by selecting texts to ‘erase’ from books and manuscripts in the archives. These erased pages were then superimposed and intermixed with the artist’s own writings, local place names and slices of conversations with his grandfather (‘Wuky’) “on his life on the mountains and specifically his experience of building a cairn on Knock Murton and a wall in his kitchen in West Cumbria”.
In describing the book, Walker says: ‘These slow-collage-word-terrains range language, and are to be read and performed.’ And they are – these words create strata of crisscrossing layers that evoke local geography and lives. Concentrated pockets of texts plunge and rise, often overlapping in thick screes of words that must be prised apart and grappled with, just as a climber clings to rocks, or we to our memories.
It’s a powerful and energetic book, a tribute to art and poetry, dialect and nature. Reading it aloud feels as if the contents of the library’s bookshelves have been deposited out in the wilds to converse, as paper, ink, language, rock and mud scrabble to share their stories.
In Condensations, Walker has distilled the essence of this intermingled place and sent it out into the world to talk to you, through you, with you.
1. Detail: Condensations, Nathan Walker, Uniformbooks, 2017. Photo: Nathan Walker
2. Oor Mak O’ Toak: An Anthology of Lakeland Dialect Poems, 1747-1946, Lakeland Dialect Society. Photo: Nathan Walker
3. Curtain of rain approaching Ambleside & Rydal. Photo: Nathan Walker
4. Cover detail: Condensations, Nathan Walker, Uniformbooks, 2017. Photo: Nathan Walker / Uniformbooks
5. Detail: Condensations, Nathan Walker, Uniformbooks, 2017. Photo: Nathan Walker
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