London - Holyhead
Stretching for 181 miles the A5 begins at Marble Arch in London and ends at Admiralty Arch in Holyhead, Wales. The road was left largely unchanged from its original Roman route until the Act of Union between Britain and Ireland in 1800. Demand for improved connectivity between the two capitals at this time prompted Thomas Telford’s redesign of the passage, developing social and economic links with Dublin, via the ferry port at Holyhead. Motorway, rail and aviation are now more efficient methods of transport and these photographs function as a document of the ancient thoroughfare, its evolving identity and contemporary uses.
Although each photographed place is unique, the absence of exact place-name captioning situates the images in unspecific geographical context between the two arches in London and Holyhead. It is in this way that many of the images represent broader notions of Britain’s postmodern built environment. The element of anonymity that London-Holyhead consistently reveals, through public and private architecture, is indicative of the concept nonplace as described by Marc Augé. Augé argues that if a place can be designated as historical, relational, or concerned with identity then, comparatively, a place that cannot be labelled as such is a ‘nonplace’. Nonplaces, i.e. places of transport, transit, commerce and leisure are formed only to satisfy greater emotional and technological ambitions. What is interesting about the depiction of such locations in the book is their subversive beauty through functionality and the mass of unspoken relations between people and place the photographs represent. Both organic and inorganic relations can be seen in London- Holyhead, the organic (untaught, naturalistic) providing a nostalgic and sublime render of untainted landscape, while the inorganic (text, buttons, codified instruction) scenes show the decline of individualism in democratic environments, with associations of ownership and civil obedience.
Emotional zones that cannot be determined through architectural and economic conditions however must be determined by following an aimless stroll (derive). The results of which may then form the basis of a new cartography characterised by a complete disregard for tradition or habitual practice. In other words, the aimless stroll is the only way to look past what is commonly regarded as interesting or important in the landscape. Tradition of human behaviour in urban environments reduces one’s experience to merely pass through in order to get somewhere. The psychogeographer moves through the landscape, urban or rural, with the hope of achieving some kind of satisfaction from the simple process. London-Holyhead was embarked upon not because of particular interest in the specific route or place but instead to complete a journey and in doing so record what was to be found between the two destinations.
Alysandra De Gonville Morrison
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