The following talk took place at the Walking in the City – Mapping Borders symposium at the Parlour Showrooms, Bristol on 13the September 2013. The full program of the day is available on their website, where audio files of the talks will be posted shortly: inthecityseries.co.uk/symposium
Jethro Brice / FutureMuseum
Unruly Waters – a river in the fluid tense
The River Avon is both anchor and corridor, situating Bristol firmly in the landscape and linking urban to rural; present to past and future. Once tidal and unruly as far as Bath, the River has been extensively reworked over the years; its borderlines gradually fixed and encroached upon by stone and concrete, weirs and towpaths. A literal eye scanning the familiar place names encounters a wetter landscape – Canon’s Marsh, St Augustine’s Reach, Broad Mead, St Phillip’s Marsh. Beyond the closely managed confines of the city, extreme weather events reassert the Avon’s former expansiveness.
I am a Bristol-based artist engaged in a slow exploration of the River. An encounter in ‘the fluid tense’ – a technique which seeks to elicit the simultaneity of multiple temporalities in relation to place.
Currently I am focussing on the Navigation between Bristol and Bath, tracing echoes of the absent tide in the lives of the human and non-human riparian communities. On foot, bicycle and boat I enact a series of journeys as performance, using slow travel as a catalyst for conversations and encounters with people and place. At the outset of my journey, I am experimenting with different ways of articulating this practice beyond the context of the performed journeys, using drawing, writing, and possibly recorded sound to create a non-documentary travelogue which reflects and expands upon my findings.
The talk presents the River as a route in and out of familiar terrains, asking what can be learned from a reading of Bristol and its environs as fluid and impermanent, not a landscape but a waterscape, temporarily restrained. Sharing stories from the river and drawings executed ‘in the fluid tense’, the presentation will also ask how a long perspective on time and processes of change can free us from the tyranny of the present, informing and enriching our responses and relations to the landscape as a changeable place.