Friday, 10 October 2014

COMING SOON... CHAINROCK: USERS' GUIDE alluvial island in the Thames Estuary, recently.
Never go back, they say. They say a lot of things, however, and it's best to lead by example. It's best not to lead at all in fact. Going back is not necessarily negative, it depends what way we're facing. Going forwards, looking backwards.. or the reverse... this is dangerous.

We cannot go back. We can revisit, but it's different. It's not the same. So when I revisited Canvey Island for my final project at Greenwich, I found myself redoing the project in its entirety. Predictably, I made many of the same mistakes in execution as I had the first time around. The process was no less rewarding. Repetition is, after all, a form of change. In Leonard Cohen's novella Beautiful Losers the mantra is "I change, I stay the same... I change, I stay the same..." a Leonard koan?

A ship at rest, at last, on the muddy banks of the Thames Estuary.
 Setting process aside and looking at product, two Canvey projects left me with a bundle of loose ends and untethered threads. There is a certain mindset that obtains enormous pleasure from untangling knots. It is not a mindset that I possess: I lack the patience and am insufficiently conscientious. However, I'm proud of some of what was produced and would like to share it with others. There are enough ingredients to put together an interesting meal. But this is not fine dining, and instead of neatly contrived courses it is more likely to resemble a one-pot stew, possibly with some bread to soak up the juice.

As a quick recap, the (second) project was concerned with the reclamation of Canvey Island's Occidental Jetty ("Chainrock") by a group of convicts in order to create a self-sufficient self-governing penal colony. The armature performed the role of conduit, connecting land and sea, and as vector for the landscape processes responding to the prisoners' hierarchy of need (water-shelter-heat-food etc.)
Shipbreaking: not the redemptive power of forced labour, but a necessary subsistence strategy in a new colony.

The concept of the "users' guide" was initially explored as a framing device for the detailing of the project: since the project did not lay out an immutable final design (the site would be continually undone and remade by its users), the "detailing" would consist of helpful suggestions for the site's occupants (i.e. biotopic filtration beds, reclaimed furniture templates, improvised fixings etcetera). Chainrock:  Users' Guide was thus intended to faithfully recreate a document that might exist in the fictional universe of the project.

Time constraints meant this ambition was not realised and ...Users' Guide joins the other confused Canvey concatenations. Of all the unfinished projects it may have the strongest individual case for completion, but in a plebiscite it would win a plurality, not a working majority... I cannot ignore the needs of the other parties and their constituencies, and instead we must enter some kind of coalition.

Hence the one-pot meal approach. By first of all accepting that whilst the initial concept of ...Users' Guide may well have been realised in one version of the Chainrock universe, it exists as a partially finished project in this universe. Likewise, the project exists in multiple forms, in this and other universes. A new realisation of ...Users' Guide might thus serve as a portal into these parallel worlds and also as a psychocartograph of the creative processes that led to the various realisations of the Canvey Project.

In conclusion, the text Chainrock: Users'Guide is currently under production. It may/may not be available online and/or offline any time soon.

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