When I try to look back on time spent in a place as a stranger, I usually trigger memories by looking at images through which fragments of encounters with people and scenery emerge slowly and become animate.
Here though I trigger this loose remembering by looking at my hands. Folds or wrinkles (?) on the inside of my palms seem deeper than before the October spent in Glasgow. The two patches of dead skin on both hands multiplied into three on each. Back in October even my finger tips were tainted yellow. But it was not the yellow of nicotine, as I hardly smoke, so it must have been the yellow shade of the many surfaces we touched, leaned on, clung or hung onto and slipped off from.
Slightly unsettling- I started to wonder what an aggressive dirt concoction we caressed day in day out. But what am I surprised about? Glasgow enjoyed its last sand blast cleaning some 20 years ago for a huge international garden show (off).
Where we live in Bristol, rolling hills are covered with real estate and their height is proportional to their occupants' income. Those hills and the river Avon with its docks and canals shape the streets into giant curves, which tricks many into the assumption that they walk a straight line. Getting lost is an exquisite part of spending time in this city.
In Glasgow we found hills as well, their abrupt ascent felt often like a topographical assault on our legs. They too mark a harsh decline from a great life quality to a great misery, like coming from Garnethill walking towards Maryhill.
When looking onto the River Clyde-once speckled with wharfs but pretty deserted now- from Glasgow's miniature Suspension Bridge, it seemed straighter than the Avon.
Maybe the river is the reason why the street grid of the city centre resembles in parts Manhattan.
Maybe the reason is just that financial headquaters like Manhattan, Glasgow city centre also needs a rational concrete grid for its' tenants abstract and irrational purposes.
On the first night we found easily back to our privileged base on Sauchiehall Street. Someone sent us once mail to Sucky Hall Street, which at times felt a more apropriate name.
Yet running into other rivers we failed navigating Glasgow like Manhattan. Huge motorway junctions, one stacked on top of the other, cause disorientation as one tries to navigate underneath them. They cut recklessly through the inner city from the north to the south, facilitating a constant flow of commuters, cash and thickening of dirt layers on their periphery. These rivers' dirt surplus became integral part of our artistic material.
We saw how our sense of urban space became radicalized, as we rigorously accessed it through playing and rambling. Glasgow is not an easy ground on many levels and when going to bed we sometimes felt the city hurting-
not just in our muscles.
We regularly checked our hands and legs for cuts, grazes and dirty wounds.
My leggings were trashed within a few days and I gained the uneasy impression that my hands would never recover, they started to look like those of a builder on bank holidays. As my eyes scrutinized them my thoughts started to meander over 'the Dear Green' producing glorious ships, wharfts, and then being dragged into industrialization and unhealthy people, the first day walking from the city centre, crossing the Clyde to Pollockshields, then to Pollockwoods.
Yet with dirty hands we could also feel a bit heroic as we touched the city at its conventionally live-able and consumable edges. We at once identified spots polished by human touch and produced fresh trails of the tactile.
Glasgow's street furniture became an armature of physical imagination.
Memory does it's work, and what is left of the Glasgow rambling lives on in other circuits through Bristol. The non transportable part of the work is healthily and safely made accessible to you on these pages. Producing this document means leaving the moments of being alive and dirty behind us for a while.
Birgit Binder, Autumn-Winter 07/08