Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Reverie 1

What follows is a series of posts based around the theme of ‘Reverie’ made by the artists Kate Genever and Steve Pool, the visual anthropologist, Amanda Ravetz, and myself. Here’s mine, which begins with few lines from Scott Walker's 1969 song On your own again:

You're on your own again,
and you're your best again.
That's what you tell yourself.

I’m an only child. Here’s me on my new bike with a proud Mum on Dunstall Walk (and in front of that original fence which separated the estate from the cornfield and the rest of the countryside beyond) around the time that Scott Walker was existentially reflecting on his life after the events of May 1968, and in what is probably my second-favourite-ever song.  

I certainly relate to those lyrics. When things go slightly wrong – for instance as I fail better once again to attract some research funding – my fall-back position is always to say to myself that I don’t care, I’m better off on my own, I can do these things on my own in any case. 

But sometimes I know that I have to come out of my shell, and that I should let others into what I’m doing. I did this last month when – not with a little trepidation – I invited some other, shall we say, hopefully, ‘interested’, parties – artists Kate Genever and Steve Pool, and the visual anthropologist Amanda Ravetz – to walk around the Middlefield Lane estate with me so that they could see the estate and, perhaps, shake me out of the insularity that an only-child-state, and a deeply personal research programme like this can perpetuate. In the end, of course, I needn’t have worried – it was just really nice to be able to walk around the estate with them, to show them the places and spaces of my childhood and, especially, to hear and see their responses to the estate.

The most gratifying aspect of our ‘preamble’ for me was that, without any prompting from me, they all recognised just how spacious, green, and well-planned the estate was. The other thing I liked was that they felt I was getting quite angry when I was telling them about how the original architectural and landscape planning of the estate had been messed about with over the years, especially in how the Modernist centre-piece of the estate, The Precinct shops, and its adjoining flats had been demolished, and of how it had been replaced by an incongruous set of new-build bungalows. If you want more of a flavour of that anger, have a look at a post from a couple of years ago ‘A new estate just like the old estate, only NEW!’here.

Fundamentally though, we met to discuss the meanings and experiences of ‘reverie’. Amanda’s done some considerable work on this and, out of what she’s written, I have gleaned this as a definition of ‘reverie’ that means something to me at least: a dreamlike yet active state; a form of absentmindedness that does not distinguish between the seer and the seen. We discussed how children are maybe more open to reverie simply because they have no time constraints, no sense of the past or of the future pressing on them, that they live in the moment, and so are more likely therefore to enter into the moment, into a state of reverie. As we walked around the estate we saw one child who appeared to us as a classic example of this, wandering aimlessly on his own, and absent-mindedly whacking walls, fences and lampposts with a stick as he went on. I remember entering into a similar state as a kid when bombing around the pedestrianised spaces of the estate on that bike, and when the ‘seer and the seen’, the boy and the place, were indistinguishable.

The next post comes from Amanda herself ...


  1. What a deeply moving set of "reveries". It seems part of the Human condition - at least for some of us - that wherever we may end up, we can't stop looking over our shoulders to the past. It's one of my own traits that I have long since accepted and, indeed, embrace. Is it insecurity, the need to know that the "nest" - albeit radically changed and abandonded by our families and friends - still exists? What we experience in our childhood and adolescence sets up waves that reverberate and echo through our lives for the rest of our lives. Keep up the good work.

    Allen Walker

  2. Thanks for your kind comment Allen. What you say is all very true - it's also incredible just how 'place' reverberates through our lives too (which includes home of course). Some of us (me) sometimes end up looking back too much though - it can get a bit heady - nostalgia as sickness, a yearning for that time and place. I'd go back to the time of those photos now if I could!