Tidal Flux

Worlds within worlds


Worlds with –  in worlds


flux   in

Firth of Forth


World within worlds


Now playing: Chris Abrams / Mike Cooper – ‘Memory of Water’ (from Oceanic Feeling – Like)

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The wild wood


Beyond the Hawthorn


Beyond the hawthorn, lies the wild wood

“cuckoo, cuckoo”




over the threshold

forms and colours

of the Otherworld




… snake-eye stirs



jaw click, snout

and a slither

of tongues




threat or supplication?

paw or claw?

who  hears the cry

of the wild wood?




no-one here






the oracle

of the wood





… always the leaves


Invitation to the light


… always the light




Hawthorn bushes and the call of a cuckoo conjure up the tale of Thomas the Rhymer a thirteenth century Scottish mystic, wandering minstrel and poet. Folklore tells of how Rhymer meets the Faery Queen by a hawthorn bush from which a cuckoo is calling. The Queen takes Rhymer on a journey of forty days and forty nights to enter the faery underworld.  Some versions of the tale say Rhymer was in the underworld for a brief sojourn. Others say for seventy years, after becoming the Queen’s consort. Eventually, Rhymer returns to the mortal world where he finds he has been absent for seven years. The theme of travellers being waylaid by faery folk and taken to places where time passes faster or slower are common in Celtic mythology. The hawthorn is one of the most likely trees to be inhabited or protected by the faery folk.

The wild wood can be found amongst the terra incognita of farmland, old paths and hedgerows between the village of Pattiesmuir and Dunfermline, Fife.

Now playing: Bert Jansch – ‘The Tree Song’ from Birthday Blues.

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NOW SING (and soothe the city fabric)

Now Sing

Whilst in Glasgow recently, it was a sad sight to walk along Renfield Street and see the hollowed out shell of The Glasgow School of Art. Even in it’s fire-damaged condition, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s architectural masterpiece remains identifiable as one of the great buildings of the world.

On the other side of the street, a shiny new neighbour, the Reid Building, hunches over its ailing, elderly companion. A reflective sympathy of glass, metal and concrete. On the balcony, Michael Stumpf’s installation, speaking to the moment:

As an invocation, it’s a good one:




As twilight descends, and the sounds of Sauchiehall Street murmur below, we can imagine the Reid Building and all people passing, singing soft lullabies. Songs to comfort. Songs to bring back light and air to soot-blackened lungs. Songs to soothe the city fabric.

So no fire damaged pictures of The Mackintosh Building. It’s presence will always be there: to heal, challenge and sustain the human imagination, whatever its material state.


Now Sing detail

(and soothe the city fabric)


Now playing: Richard Youngs – ‘The Future is So Different Today’ from Summer Through My Mind

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Hail to the sky


On the longest day




…………………………………………………..hail the light



21 June 2014. Walking along an overgrown railway track near Crombie in Fife. As ‘night’ approaches, darkness fails to smother the light. Even the Giant Hogweed (?) appears to embrace the sky.

Now playing: Loren Mazzacane & Suzanne Langille – Come Night

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a thinking space







……………………….t  h  i  n  k  i  n  g……..s  p  a  c  e



………………………………………………f  o  r



. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . .p  l  a  c  e……..t  h  i  n  k  i  n  g






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An irrevocable brilliance: Guy Debord in the Landscape

c Luc Olivier

Debord’s house at Champot, (c) Luc Olivier

I have had no need to travel very far

In Guy Debord’s autobiography, Panegyric, he describes having spent the greater part of his life in Paris, specifically within the triangle defined by the intersections of rue Saint-Jacques and rue Royer-Collard; rue Saint-Martin and rue Greneta; and rue du Bac and rue de Commailles.


Never or hardly ever, would I have left this area which suited me perfectly.

However, for the last 20 years of his life, Debord spent increasing amounts of time in an isolated house at Champot Haut, situated in Bellevue-la-Montagne, a commune (population c. 500) in the Haute-Loire département of the Auvergne. From 1975 onwards, Debord spent most summers and a few winters there with his second wife Alice Becker-Ho.

The idea of Debord as a Landscape writer is not one that would immediately spring to mind, yet over a few pages in Panegyric, Debord paints a lyrical elegy to the natural world and landscape of Champot.


Inaccessible • isolated • surrounded by woods

I have even stayed in an inaccessible house surrounded by woods,  far from any village, in an extremely barren, exhausted mountainous region, deep in a deserted Auvergne.   I spent several winters there.

snow • drifts • logs • fire

Snow would fall for days on end. The wind piled it up in drifts. Barriers kept it off the road. Despite the surrounding walls, snow accumulated in the courtyard. Logs were piled high on the fire.

at night • an opening to the Milky Way • stars so close

The house seemed to open directly onto the Milky Way. At night, the stars, so close, would shine brilliantly one moment, and the next be extinguished by the passing mist…

a land of storms • horizon flashes • under siege

It was a land of storms. They would approach silently at first, announced by the brief passage of a wind that slithered through the grass or by a series of sudden flashes on the horizon; then thunder and lighting would be unleashed, and we would be bombarded for a long while from every direction, as if in a fortress under siege.

a lightning strike • an illuminated landscape • an irrevocable brilliance

Just once, at night, I saw lightning strike near me outside: you could not even see where it had struck; the whole landscape was equally illuminated for one startling instant. Nothing in art has ever given me this impression of an irrevocable brilliance, except for the prose that Lautréamont employed in the programmatic exposition that he called Poésies…

high winds • shaken trees • relentless assault

High winds which at any moment could rise from one of three directions, shook the trees. The more dispersed trees on the heath to the north dipped and shook like ships surprised at anchor in an unprotected harbour. The compactly grouped trees that guarded the hillock in front of the house supported one another in their resistance, the first rank breaking the west wind’s relentless assault…

clouds traverse the sky • winds retreat • relaunch

Masses of clouds traversed the sky at a run. A sudden change of wind could also quickly send them into retreat, with other clouds launched in their pursuit.

all the birds • chill of air •  shades of green • tremulous light

On calm mornings, there were all the birds of the dawn and the perfect chill of air, and that dazzling shade of tender green that came over the trees, in the tremulous light of the sun rising before them…

the arrival of autumn • a sweetness in the air • ‘the first breath of spring’

The weeks went by imperceptibly. One day the morning air would announce the arrival of autumn. Another time, a great sweetness in the air, a sweetness you could taste, would declare itself, like a quick promise always kept, ‘the first breath of spring.’

in the square • extraordinary encounters • the owl of Minerva 

In the midwinter nights of 1988, in the Square des Missions Étrangères, an owl would obstinately repeat his calls, fooled perhaps by the unseasonal weather. And this extraordinary series of encounters with the bird of Minerva, its atmosphere of surprise and indignation, did not in the least seem to constitute an allusion to the imprudent conduct or the various aberrations of my life. I have ever understood where my life could have been different or how it ought to be justified.

a pleasing and impressive solitude

It was a pleasing and impressive solitude. But to tell the truth, I was not alone: I was with Alice.


The Debord/Becker-Ho postbox at Champot (c) Andy Merrifield

At Champot, on 30th November 1994, Guy Debord shot himself through the heart with a single bullet.

Now playing: Jean-Claude Eloy – Chants pour l’autre moitié du ciel / Songs for the other half of the sky.


Guy Debord, Panegyric Volumes 1 & 2, translated by James Brook and John McHale (London: Verso, 2004).

Andy Merrifield, Guy Debord (London: Reaktion Books, 2005).

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An encounter with the uncanny



And we

………….who always think

……………………….of happiness rising

would feel the emotion

……………that almost startles us

………………………….when a happy thing  falls.

Rainer Maria Rilke – Duino Elegies 

It often happens.  A sensation at the edge of perception. A glint of light, a fluttering of movement. The feeling that some-thing has flitted across the threshold of the senses.

Something there – but not there.

And so it was, walking along the tree-lined footpath by St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh. Looking up, amongst the trees it was difficult to see it clearly at first. Something metallic, floating, but also appearing to be entwined amongst the branches, merged with the sky. It was only when a light breeze, initiated a gentle rocking movement that the suspended human form fully emerged.


From another angle, the drifting figure resembled a pencil drawing sketched on to the sky. A shaded human form floating against the blue canvas, slowly dissolving back into leaf and branch.

The gentle motion, both hypnotic and dreamlike conjured up thoughts of Solveig Dommartin’s character, Marion, in Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire.  A lonely trapeze artist, inhabiting the space between ground and sky, who entices an angel down to Earth.



Solveig Dommartin as Marion in Wings of Desire


I have subsequently read other people describe the St Mary’s work as “sinister, creepy or disturbing” and it certainly startles you when you first look up and see it. An experience that I’m sure would be intensified if you encountered it in the dark under moonlight. However, for me, the figure conjured up a sensation of something otherworldly, yet strangely familiar. A fluid form of substance and air, swinging silently, and like ‘Marion’ suspended between the earth and sky.

From a distance I watched for a short time as many people passed along the footpath. The vast majority did not look up or see the figure suspended amongst the leaves. Silently watching, waiting to transform the everyday city into an encounter with the uncanny.


Now playing: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – The Carny

I have found out that the sculpture is a work called Spirit by Aliisa Hyslop, a Finnish/Scottish artist. Spirit is presently part of an exhibition at the Arusha Art Gallery.

The quotation from Rilke’s Duino Elegies are the last lines of the translation by David Young (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1978). Wim Wenders cites Duino Elegies  as the initial inspiration for Wings of Desire.

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