1. Take a photo each day at 6am and 6pm GMT of the same river view from my bedroom window. A twice-daily juxtaposition of the solar and the lunar, both clocks and calendars. See what – ideas? actions? – comes from this.
[I did this, but could never make of them a satisfactory movie – ’slideshow’. The same when I photographed every sunrise for a year. Lack of technical knowhow.]
2. Photograph each of Lancaster’s five cinemas from my childhood. All now closed, photograph what is there now. Perhaps with a figure standing outside in typical 50s cinema pose – girl with handbag in front of her, looking down the street, waiting for someone to arrive: will he come?; will he pay for her ticket?; will he steer her towards the back row? Or a man alone, self-erasing, waiting patiently in the queue. Or a child looking up at the six stills from the film each side of the cinema entrance, hoping he can escape into the world that is depicted in the film, the real world that exists somewhere. (The film-world is real; what I’m told is ‘reality’ doesn’t make sense.)
Films were only shown for one week, and then were gone forever.
When there was an ‘A’ category film (“children must be accompanied by an adult”), we’d wait outside and ask single men, ‘will you take us in, Mister?’ ‘Aye, as long as you pay for yourselves and don’t sit near me.’
[I did this, but without the models – I’d still like to do that. Letter 19]
3. Photograph the Lancaster and Skerton Cooperative Society shops. All now closed. The society was founded in 1860, a depressed time in Lancaster, before its late-century expansion with new industries. The Co-op thrived, built fine shops in the new residential areas of terraced houses, respectful of their solid working-class customers, with a carved beehive over the door to symbolise the strength of working together. They were still busy in my childhood. My mother, a working-class Tory, would never shop there, or allow us in them, always shopped at T. D. Smith’s. He was a local grocer entrepreneur who despised the Co-op’s motto, “strive to increase the good of all; thus only can the share of each increase”, aimed his shops at those with class-aspiration. He often opened branches close to co-op shops. Hoteling’s Principle: in a competitive economy, businesses cluster together to maximise their market; in a cooperative economy, they are spread evenly, to minimise the customers’ travel. There is a story, perhaps a play (think Harold Brighouse, Walter Greenwood, J B Priestley …), in T.D. Smith’s versus the local Co-op. Both foundered in the 1960s.
[I visited each location not since demolished, but as the Co-op branches, in the Directory, were not given street numbers, I’m not certain which shop/former shop (all the old branches now closed) was the Co-op. I photographed the likely shops. See Letter 18.]
4. Describe an urban walk which, when traced on a street map of the town, spells ‘Lancaster’. Is it possible?
[Not yet attempted.]
5. Cycle along the length of the Lancaster Canal, from Preston to Kendal, photographing every bridge. The canal is 57 miles long, there are around 200 bridges. Do the ride in one day – Midsummer? – it will be a tough day, as the tow-path is often rough and uneven. There are no locks on the first 43 miles, the canal following the 72 feet contour along the western edge of the Pennines. The canal is a sinuous lake, 43 miles long, twenty feet wide, lying like a snake along the contour line. The bridges, one pattern, one size, do not change.
[I did this, but not in one day. The bridges do in fact vary in design and size. Letters 5 and 23. I made a poster of all the bridges.]
6. Walk the length of the River Lune, from source to mouth, 54 miles, photographing every bridge. The river, beginning as a barely-perceptible spring that bubbles, overflows, trickles, erodes a channel, draws other streams into it, captures them, creates its own fan-shaped catchment area, until it is big enough to be given a name, is all action. Its energy derives from gravity, the 800 feet fall from source to mouth, and from falling rain and snow. The canal exists in stasis, all the energy that made it expended in the few years of its construction 200 years ago. The river is kinetic, expressing and embodying energy. The river gets bigger, downstream. At what point is it the same ‘size’ (ie in cross-section containing the same amount of water) as the canal? And of course the bridges get bigger, become more distinctive. If not necessarily more distinguished. Do over several days: drive to the end point of each day’s walk, cycle to the start point, walk the section, drive to pick up the bike.
[I did this. Letters 1, 3, 6, 14, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26. I made a poster of all the bridges.]
7. Photograph 24 clocks in Lancaster, one at each hour of the 24. Remembering how many public clocks there used to be, how I would run to school, my progress – lateness! – marked by accusing clock faces. Remembering the factory sirens to get the workers to work, the clocking-in clocks – five minutes late and you’d be ‘quartered’, have 15 minutes’ pay docked. It was after the time of ‘knockers-up’ – by my childhood everyone had a cheap, noisy, tin alarm-clock. And a loud-ticking living-room clock, that on Sundays stretched the boredom to screaming point. I’ve hated ticking clocks ever since.
[Where have all the public clocks gone? I could find only four working: old town hall, new town hall, Priory, and Banks Lyon. And what has happened to the chimes? The new town hall used to have Big Ben chimes on the quarter.]
None of these ideas is original, referencing, eg, Paul Auster, Richard Long, Ed Ruscha, Christian Marclay. The intention is three-fold: to apply a practice from elsewhere to Lancaster; as an exercise in actually doing something, in going from intention to action, idea to practise; as a connection from ‘now’ to ‘then’. See what, if anything, develops from each Project. Can they be described as Art Works? If someone chooses to treat them as such. I should, at some point, find out if there is someone who will. Until then, they are Art Works in potentia.