[NetBehaviour] a little project

Michael Szpakowski m at michaelszpakowski.org
Fri Apr 14 09:04:44 CEST 2017

Hi Edward& thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. What you say is very helpful too and helps me to orient myself a bit. 
It's good to hear that the arrows tie things up for you -this is certainly what I would have hoped, that the visual aspect is something that might engage a viewer/reader. 
Someone else mentioned that they found some of the map text proper -especially the name of businesses &c along the way - bothincongruous and evocative. I'm also pleased to hear the 'shapes' matter. They matter to me, those 'shapes' being deeply lived:).As for the writing, your comments are again helpful, but there's not much I can do in response , I think. I'm strict with myself -the stuff has to arise out of something I see or think on the actual runand I try very hard to tell the truth, both about events and about my internal responses. Much of the text is 'written' on the run , committed to memory and then transcribed later, although this process is by no means foolproof :)I do also try and make the piece as soon as I get back and certainly before midnight. This imposes, as I remarked in my initial post, some quite strong restraints.Maybe where there is banality or the overly poeticised this is a reflection of what I am. I'm not sure I'm aiming to be a 'good' writer here ( as I would for example in writing about art of any kind which for me is a literary task, with all that that implies)but a good 'doer-of-the-odd-set-of-tasks-I -have-set-myself-which-include-a--special-emphasis-on-a-kind-of-truth-telling'You once said about a piece of work of mine ( I paraphrase) that it conjured up what it was like to be human being, which made me happy. Oddly a few other people have said that about various things I've done. This has never been a conscious aim of mine, but I guessthat this piece's self imposed rules come close to encouraging something along those lines.Anyway once again , thanks!michael

      From: Edward Picot <julian.lesaux at gmail.com>
 To: Michael Szpakowski <m at michaelszpakowski.org>; NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity <netbehaviour at netbehaviour.org> 
 Sent: Thursday, April 13, 2017 8:26 PM
 Subject: Re: [NetBehaviour] a little project
  Michael -
 I like it! I found myself reading about forty of them. They're oddly moreish. The brevity of the text helps. I like the little arrows which point from sections of the text to the places on the map where the thing being described occurred or was seen - partly because I think your inclination as a reader is just to read the  text and ignore the maps, and the arrows help to tie the two things together. Another thing I like is that each separate run-route with its accompanying block or  blocks of text has its own visual identity, which helps you to keep track of where you've got to in the Flickr thumbnails at the bottom of the screen. Writing-wise I think the weaker sections are the more self-consciously descriptive ones, where the diction can sometimes get a bit 'poetic' or bogged down with artistic references. The best bits are the sections where the thing you're describing seems to absorb you more completely - the pairs of gloves appearing mysteriously on the grass verge, for example, or the ginger-haired boy smashing twigs in half with his forehead.
 At first I found myself thinking, 'It's a shame to waste this on Flickr; he should work it up into some kind of web installation'; but then after a bit I started to think that maybe using a ready-made facility like Flickr for this kind of new media diary was the most appropriate thing... I still can't quite make up my mind.
 - Edward
 On 13/04/17 14:13, Michael Szpakowski wrote:
    Last summer, after a gap of some years, I started running daily again. I did this because I had stopped taking a small dose of an antidepressant and although I was careful to withdraw slowly it hit me hard - I experienced a renewed depression and anxiety which was much worse than that which I had originally taken the drugs to combat. I was unwilling, though, to return to the drugs if I could possibly avoid this. The running helped me cope and, as I get slowly better, continues to do so. In early 2017 I started documenting some of my runs using the ‘measure distance’ function on Google maps,  taking a screenshot of the resulting image and posting it to the photo sharing service Flickr. I have been interested for a long time in things that somehow hover between image, diagram and text and this seemed like a fruitful example of that. Once I’d made and posted a few these it seemed only natural to append to the image some commentary on my run, things and people seen and noted, my state of mind, the weather… a kind of highly compressed diary superimposed on the run documentation and something which fitted with my long standing interest in the way that the internet allowed very naturally for long form aggregations of often diverse and lapidary components. (For years, from 2003 to the present day, I have been making small videos and posting them to the internet, a practice I have compared to the Japanese literary form Zuihitsu, literally ‘following the brush’ - a kind of miscellany.) Each piece takes quite a long time to make and I’m very conscious of working against the clock to complete and post each one. I’m also mindful that, although I work hard to make my texts flow, sometimes, to meet my self-imposed requirement of posting on the same day as I run, I have to accept a certain improvisatory quality (which might be a polite way of saying the texts are not always as polished as I would ideally like.) I was deeply involved in almost the first wave of ‘net-art’ - it brought me into image wrangling and gave me an opportunity to have people look at my work and even to get it shown in institutions too. I’m saddened by the now overwhelming corporatisation of this space which has, it seems to me, destroyed many of the possibilities for art which were so exciting in the late nineties of the last century and the early noughts of this one. Much digital and networked art now seems to require large amounts of tech and funding and to have moved closer  and closer to everything many of us felt was disagreeable and backward looking about the art world. Little of it now lives on the net. The kind of enthusiast I was would now get channelled into spaces specifically made for ’enthusiasts’, for ‘amateurs’ - the kind of intermingling that was completely natural back then has almost completely disappeared. One of my responses ( the other is to work in more traditional practices, such as painting) is to try and maintain a toehold in places like Flickr, which although certainly corporate and equally regarded by both art world commentators and those who own it as a space for the masses rather than the charmed circles of the art world, nevertheless retain, if one looks carefully, echoes of that earlier promise. One finds artists, who, whether they would style themselves such or not, are making work of depth and lasting interest as well as in some  sense pushing back boundaries. Finally I want to say I have no idea whether this work is any ‘good’. I know I have a need to make it, I know that on my good days it seems worth making and it seems to me to offer something that, if not original (what is? what is? - we had *that* brought home to us forcefully by the network, and a good thing too), at least synthesises a number of practices in a way which still seems native to the internet as well as drawing on some interesting tendencies in contemporary art, particularly the kind of romantic conceptualism I associate with Richard Long and Sophie Calle as well as with groups like Collective Actions.   If you have a moment please take a look. It’s a big ask but if you have time I would welcome your thoughts, whether positive, puzzled or negative.   best wishes michael
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