Film and Video Umbrella

The following is an unedited transcript of an audio recording, recorded on location.

I’m walking on Brighton beach on a Saturday afternoon, it’s quite empty and I’m trying to recall while I’m walking details of the book Memorial Walks. Memorial Walks is [short pause] Simon Pope’s project… um… he was inspired by the writer WG Sebald who… um… had a great love for East Anglia and Nor… um… the area around Norfolk and Lincolnshire. Um… the landscape was very meaningful to him and Simon Pope, as an artist, decided to… um… commemorate him and go for a walk … uh… in the area he was writing his last book and actually walk out there and try and recall the description as he was walking through the area. So it’s very meaningful and a really interesting project as based on memory and landscape and the physical act of walking and the emotional, psychological act of recall.

Um… it’s very appealing on many, many levels … as a project it was quite curious as well… um [pause] … the book is a series of transcripts from walks he invited 17 contributors to go on and what’s interesting is this, in this is that, is that… they all had to go and look at paintings in an exhibition ummm… in Norfolk, I think, and – I can’t remember where it was [indistinct] whether it, where the exhibition was… but Simon Pope was very moved by a bunch of paintings that were in the archive and not really out on display so he brought them back out on display and asked, you know, 17 people to um… uh… to, to look at the paintings, each one with a specific focus on a tree and asked them to memorise the painting then come for a walk with him, in certain parts of um… the fenland area. Uh… the East Anglia… and um… try and recall the trees in the paintings as they were walking in a landscape completely separate to the landscape they were looking at…

Umm, and what’s interesting is that the, the book has paintings reproduced in there as they were displayed in the original museum. Um, and… in… And it, the book keeps with the way Simon Pope arranged the project whereby the um, the descriptions, the transcriptions of the walks the people were making, describing these paintings, were kept separate from the paintings so you couldn’t, you couldn’t read the transcripts of their walks trying to recall the paintings with the paintings within, you know, within reachable distance, so you can compare and contrast and see, I suppose, and test whether or not they recalled some things correctly. And the same thing is organised in the book, um, which is, it’s, it’s very nicely done, I think it’s, um, a really nice touch that you’ve got paintings in a really nice fold-out section of the book, um, and you can look at them towards the front after the foreword which explains a lot more about the, the, the project and what the book is about… um, better than what I’m doing right now. But what happens is that you, as you’re reading through all these different walks people have been on, recalling all these different paintings, you don’t have the paintings anywhere near the transcriptions, as they were, the same as they were in the gallery space.

So you are reading and looking at photos of people walking in these landscapes, describing at the same time something completely separate. And it’s, it’s an interesting test of your own memory as a reader to try and remember the paintings towards the front of the book and try and match up with the descriptions as you’re reading them going towards the other end of the book. Um, it’s…it’s quite difficult to get into because you have to understand that this is more an aide-memoir of a project that’s concluded than an artwork in itself, so you’re not really reading the book for anything new, it’s not really an entity in itself. Which sounds like it might be a failing but it’s not, it’s more to do with… recalling recollections and in that sense, it’s quite touching. It’s like, it’s like a photograph album with detailed annotations… um, photographs taken of people remembering something they’re not looking at in the pictures, so it’s very curious. You’re at once incredibly distant from the original paintings they’re talking about and the original setting of the artwork in the gallery in, um… I think, Lincolnshire, uh… but at the same time you’re holding this book where it’s all been brought together. So you’re immersed in it, without having actually touched or been near any of the original pieces.

And that’s the very end of the book, there’s a quite touching transcription of Simon Pope’s original Memorial Walk, his walk to commemorate W G Sebald’s last description of some landscape. And once you reach that section, you kind of understand what he’s trying to do and why the book is important… and perhaps doesn’t really need to make sense, because memory is fractured and is difficult and is easily distractable, and… and you don’t really know where it’s going to take you. And I suppose the people going on these walks with Simon didn’t know where he was going to take them. And even though there are maps, and even though there are pictures, even though there are transcripts of them describing these paintings as they’re walking… it’ll never be recreated again. You’ll never have been there. And all you’ve got are these words and pictures. And memories. And whatever can help bring those memories back, even if they’re not you’re memories, it’s quite touching. And a nice edition to any collection of art-related books. It’s not an art book, it’s not a project in itself… it’s a memory of one [laughs] and I think it succeeds very well for that, for being that.

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