The Tourist

Work in Progress 3

The places from which our ancestors came, in which they lived and died are key to each of our existences. We are as much a part of these places, as we are a physical part of our forebears. We are defined as much by the paths and roads our ancestors walked as the genetic code passed down through the generations. And although we might not be familiar with such places, we are familiar to them.

With modern science we can read our genetic code and see in its letters the blueprint for who we are. But what about how we came to be in the first place? Everything that every one of our ancestors did had to be done as it was in order for us to be born; anything different, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, and we would not be here.

Imagine that when they walked, our ancestors 'wrote' themselves upon, or into, the landscape, that they left a trail or trace like sentences in a book (see Lines). This we might describe as another kind of code, one which can be read today, much like a story. Of course there will be gaps, but these can be filled with our own 'tales', the everyday 'code' of our everyday lives, stories which we too, write upon the world.

My aim as a tourist is to read and write these stories, to tell them in whatever way I can, through maps, stories and artwork, to understand the present as much as the past; to see the past through the prism of my existence and to see myself through the pathways of the past.


Is a place simply the physical environment which, for example, my ancestors have inhabited? Or is it itself a consequence of the paths my ancestors took through life?

In his book Lines Tim Ingold, Professor of Social Anthropology writes:

"In his contemplation on the Arctic, Playing Dead (1989), the Canadian writer Rudy Wiebe compares native Inuit understandings of movement and travel over land or sea ice with those of the Royal Navy in its search for the elusive North-West Passage to the Orient. For the Inuit, as soon as a person moves he becomes a line... Thus the entire country is perceived as a mesh of interweaving lines rather than a continuous surface.' The British, however, `accustomed to the fluid, trackless seas, moved in terms of area'.

In brief, whereas the Inuit moved through the world along paths of travel, the British sailed across what they saw as the surface of the globe. Both kinds of movement, along and across, may be described by lines, but they are lines of fundamentally different kinds. The line that goes along has, in Klee's terms, gone out for a walk. The line that goes across, by contrast, is a connector, linking a series of points arrayed in two-dimensional space."

In researching my family tree, it's been easy to see my ancestry as a series of nodes linked by lines connecting parents to children, husbands to wives and so on. My individual heritage is mapped like the map of a country with nodes (towns etc.) linked by lines (roads). As a basic diagram of relationships this of course is fine, but as a means of understanding how I've come into existence, it is wholly inadquate.

Again in Line, Ingold tells us how for Inuit travelling 'was not a transitional activity between one place and another, but a way of being.'

In our family tree diagrams, we can see our forebears, their dates of birth and death and perhaps the places in which they lived. This way of perceiving the past is rather like what Ingold describes as the 'line that goes across... a connector linking a series of points arrayed in two dimensional space.' For example, my grandmother was born in Wales in 1912 and moved to Oxford where she died in 2008. We can map her life between two nodes - Wales and Oxford, and between two dates, 1912 and 2008. We can do the same for all our ancestors, but this of course tells us nothing. If we take the Inuit view that when we move we become a line, we can begin to imagine a line far more complex that one between two dots.

In Ingold's book, the difference between these two lines is the difference between what he describes as transport and wayfaring. Transport might best be illustrated by the tourist going from A to B. He leaves A and arrives at B - his destination. The bit in between is, if you like, a means to an end, or rather a means to B. For the wayfarer, there is no A and B as such, but rather a trail along which life is lived.

In terms of my family tree, transport is seeing my grandmother's life as being point A, born in Wales to point B, passing away in Oxford. Of course it goes without saying that there was more to her life than that, and that is the difference between transport and wayfaring. For my grandmother, there was no A and B as such, but a trail along which her life was lived.

Returning to Ingold's book , we read:

"Australian Aboriginal people... imagine their country not as a surface area that can be divided into blocks but as an ‘interlocking network' of lines or `ways through’. ‘All our words for country, [Bruce] Chatwin's Aboriginal interlocutor told him, ‘are the same as the words for line. These are the lines along which ancestral beings sang the world into existence in the Dreaming, and they are retraced in the comings and goings, as well as the singing and storytelling, of their contemporary reincarnations. Taken together, they form a tangle of interwoven and complexly knotted strings."

Ingold describes these interwoven lines as meshwork "of interwoven trails rather than a network of intersecting routes. The lines of the meshwork are the trails along which life is lived." He writes:

"Wayfaring, I believe, is the most fundamental mode by which living beings, both human and non-human, inhabit the earth. By habitation I do not mean making one's place in a world that has been prepared in advance for the populations that arrive to reside there. The inhabitant is rather one who participates from within in the very process of the world's continual coming into being and who, in laying a trail of life, contributes to its weave and texture."

This weave and texture, for the purposes of this project is exactly what I am. It's rather fitting that some of my ancestors were master tailors. Ingold continues:

"These lines are typically winding and irregular, yet comprehensively entangled into a close-knit tissue. ‘In describing their past lives’, writes anthropologist Renato Rosaldo of the Ilongot people of the Philippines, ‘Ilongots speak of walking on paths that meander, like the courses of the streams they follow, in ways that cannot be foreseen'  They have no ultimate destination, no final point with which they are seeking to link up."

Wayfaring might still be taken as describing someone on a journey - albeit an aimless one, which in our modern minds still implies being away from home and going somewhere. In the example of my grandmother, we might see her life as being lived along the line joining Wales (Hafodyrynys) to Oxford, as if her long life was lived in progression along that line, reaching Oxford at the end. Of course, the journey from Wales to Oxford, although a big step, was in a temporal sense, a much less significant aspect of her life. The most significant portions of her life were spent in the same places, either in her home village of Hafodyrynys, or in Oxford where she lived in the same house for over 70 years.

Even in these seemingly 'fixed' places, we still move; in Klee's words, the line is still going for a walk.

Ingold, turns his attention to the Walibri people of Central Australia who draw with their fingers in the sand as they "tell of the earth-forming journeys of their ancestors in the Dreaming. The places from which the ancestors emerged, or through which they travelled, are depicted by circles, and the paths between them are depicted by connecting lines."

At first glance this appears similar to the node and line diagrams of modern maps. Ingold writes:

"...the ancestor is shown coming up from the ground at A, travelling to nearby B, and then on through C, D, E and F, before returning into the ground at A. Each place looks to us like a container for life, linked to other places as nodes in a network." But, Ingold shows us, the appearance is deceptive. "A vital clue is offered by the fact that the place is commonly depicted not by a single circle but by either a series of concentric rings or a spiral winding in towards the centre." These forms Ingold tells us "...are not static nor, strictly speaking, do they enclose. They surround nothing but themselves. What they describe is not an external boundary within which life is contained, but rather the current of life itself as it circles around a focus. The place, in Walbiri thinking, is like a vortex. Although it is conventional to draw the rings or spirals and the lines between them with separate strokes, so that they appear to intersect, the movement they are meant to convey is continuous."

In some ways I'm reminded of Bill Viola's writing (in Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House), when he states: "We have been living this same moment ever since we were conceived. It is memory, and to some extent sleep, that gives the impression of a life of discrete parts, periods or sections, of certain times or 'highlights'."

The thread, or line is continuous.

These lines , as Ingold writes: “make up… a meshwork. Every place... is a knot in the meshwork, and the threads from which it is traced are lines of wayfaring. It is for this reason that I have consistently referred to wayfarers as inhabitants rather than locals, and to what they know as inhabitant rather than local knowledge. For it would be quite wrong to suppose that such people are confined within a particular place, or that their experience is circumscribed by the restricted horizons of a life lived only there. It would be equally wrong, however, to suppose that the wayfarer wanders aimlessly over the surface of the earth, with no place or places of abode. The experience of habitation cannot be comprehended within the terms of the conventional opposition between the settler and the nomad, since this opposition is itself founded on the contrary principle of occupation. Settlers occupy places; nomads fail to do so. Wayfarers, however, are not failed or reluctant occupants but successful inhabitants. They may indeed be widely travelled, moving from place to place - often over considerable distances - and contributing through these movements to the ongoing formation of each of the places through which they pass. Wayfaring, in short, is neither placeless nor place-bound but place-making. It could be described as a flowing line proceeding through a succession of places.”

This line which flows through a succession of places is the line which flows through the family tree, for we are as individuals products of such a succession of places; not places in the sense of towns, cities, villages etc. but those formed by the journeys of our ancestors through their individual lives.

If I was a place, then that place would be described by lines. It would be a meshwork comprising weave and texture. Every thread would be a place-making thread formed by the journeys of my individual ancestors.

Ingold writes:

“Writing of the Walbiri… Roy Wagner notes that ‘the life of a person is the sum of his tracks, the total inscription of his movements, something that can be traced out along the ground'." It follows therefore that as well as being the sum of our own individual tracks, we are the sum of all the tracks of our ancestors. In a sense we have walked in the past.

"Ecology," Ingold tells us, "is the study of the life of lines." History, according to Marc Bloch, aspires to be a science of traces.

"History, according to Marc Bloch, aspires to be the science of traces." So we read in Paul Ricoeur's Memory, History, Forgetting. But what do we mean by traces? Returning again to Tim Ingold's book Lines we read:

"...the trace is any enduring mark left in or on a solid surface by continuous movement.." These traces he explains are either additive or reductive; additive being traces applied to surfaces, such as charcoal drawn on paper; reductive being marks gouged out or cut into a substance. He writes:

"Human beings also leave reductive traces in the landscape, through frequent movement along the same route on foot or horseback or, more recently, by wheeled vehicles."

There are also cases where such traces are both reductive and additive. The Old London Road in Oxford is one such case.

The road was first created through the successive progression of people over a period of time establishing 'reductively' the trail which, through the additive placement of stones, became a road.

In Ypres and Verdun, one finds traces in the landscape, in the remnants of trenches constructed in the First World War - a conflict of lines, drawn and redrawn at a terrible cost of lives. In his book Species of Spaces and Other Pieces Georges Perec wrote in relation to 'frontiers' that 'millions of men are dead because of these lines.' Lines which now mean very little.

First Wold War Trench Map

Hundreds of thousands of those killed in action have no known grave - they simply vanished in combat. And among their number was my great-great uncle, a man now outside of living memory who died in the area shown in the map above, near a place called Mouse Trap Farm.

Other traces which have struck me are those which can be found in the Tower of London. Here you can see traces of imprisoned men, many of whom were fearing for their lives. Using whatever was to hand, they gouged and incised lines into the walls of their cell to leave behind a trace of their existences. One of the most poignant has to be that inscribed by William Tyrell. In 1541 he wrote:

"Since Fortune has chosen that my hope should go to the wind to complain, I wish the time were destroyed; my planet being ever sad and ungracious."

Ingold tells us how the word writing originally referred to incisive trace-making. In Old English, the term writan carried the specific meaning 'to incise runic letters in stone'. These men, incarcerated in the tower were writing themselves onto the walls, just as we are constantly writing ourselves onto the landscape.

So how do we read traces? What can they tell us about those who are lost to the past, those who are unknown and unknowable? As regards this particular project, as a tourist of myself, I want to find traces of my ancestors, not in written documents or objects per se, but in the landscape itself.

As Ingold writes:

"We have seen that, for the inhabitant, the line of walking is a way of knowing. Likewise the line of writing is for him, a way of remembering... Hunters are known and recognised by their roads, and the history of a road would be told only as people 'went along'."

There is a clear link forming between text and trail. We 'write' ourselves on the landscape as we walk. Perhaps then, by walking the trails or parts of trails which my ancestors walked, I can read their history (and indeed mine) as I go along.

But what traces of my ancestors can I expect to find? The truth is, in terms of visible physical evidence, I can expect to find very little, if indeed anything at all. But that does not mean I cannot find them.

Walk upon 'The Mountain'

The image above was taken on top of what my grandmother called the mountain, a large hill overlooking the village of Hafodyrynys where she was born and where she grew up. She remembered playing on this hill and seeing her father walk up it on his way to work. Standing there myself I could see the world as my great-grandfather would have seen it at the beginning of the 20th century. And although there is no physical trace of his being there (although it could be argued that there is beneath ground - he was a miner) by walking the path he walked I can recognise him 'by his road', I can read his history as I go.

Wayfaring as we have seen can be described as being place-making. But we too, in the way we walk (i.e. the routes we take) are formed by places. The contours and the condition of established trails in the landscape define the routes we take through life, such is how I can find a trace of my great--grandfather on top of this hill. The trace is not so much physical as metaphysical.

The outline of the hills in the distance is very little changed from when my great-grandfather walked there, and as such I can find a trace of him as I look at the same hills. The trace is the line of the hills and the line it makes in my mind (that which it also made in my great-grandfather's mind).

In Plato's 'Theaetetus', Socrates suggests that there is a block of wax in all our souls into which things which arrive through our senses impress their mark - or as we might say, leave a trace. The line of the hills is like a mark made in wax.

We can stay with the Ancient Greeks for a moment and consider too a memory technique called the loci method. This technique required the user to think of a place and to (mentally) position within that place objects relevant to pieces of text the user wished to remember. For example, if the user wanted to recall a large piece of text, he would split the text up into parts and use an object to identify them. Placing these objects along a route through the remembered place, he would then recall the full text as he walked the route in his mind.

In a way, the traces I have discussed are like those objects, which have been 'placed' along numerous routes throughout the country. Behind the 'objects' or traces, is the 'text' of lives written into the landscape, which, when 'read' as I walk around the country will reveal the 'text', not only of my individual ancestors, but also of myself.

The following is a list of places in which my ancestors were born, lived or died. Although I will be journeying to some of these places, the journeys will not be named after the places themselves; for example, 'A Trip to Burton Dassett'. As we discovered, through Tim Ingold's book, (see Lines) 'wayfaring, in short, is neither placeless nor place-bound but place-making.'

I do not wish the journeys I make to be either placeless or placebound, but indeed place-making, and so the journeys will be described through whatever I find rather than what I look for. This also in part reflects the work I've done on imaginary landscapes, whereby, inspired by the maps of imaginary worlds I created as a child, I created a map of myself. The imaginary landscapes I created as a child were in many respects maps of myself. With this project I am also creating a 'map' of myself; therefore to have named places that are part of a country we know would seem to go against the idea of being a tourist of myself.

There is also the point that this project is about the essense of being human, how it is that we exist as living beings in whatever part of the world. Wherever we live and whoever we are, we all have hundreds and thousands of people behind us, who came before us, and upon whom we've depended for our very existence.

It's the essense of how we come to be born, the essense of places from which we have come, of lines and traces in which I am interested; rather than specifics.

The following list of places is for reference.

Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
Hafodyrynys, Monmouthshire, Wales
Dorchester, Oxfordshire, England
Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England
Burton Dassett, Warwickshire, England
Northend, Warwickshire, England
Knightcote, Warwickshire, England
Ampney Crucis, Gloucestershire, England
Tetbury, Gloucestershire, England
Ampney St. Peter, Gloucestershire, England
Minety, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England
Latton, Wiltshire, England
Driffield, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England
Mynyddyslwyn, Newport, Caerphilly, Wales
Cefn-y-Crib, Monmouthshire, Wales
Trevethin, Monmouthshire, Wales
Crumlin, Monmouthshire, Wales
Varteg, Monmouthshire, Wales
Blaenavon, Monmouthshire, Wales
Eastleach, Cirencester, England
Little Faringdon, Lechlade, England
Abergavenny, Gwent, Wales
Clytha, Abergavenny, Gwent, Wales
Goytre, Usk, Gwent, Wales
Usk, Gwent, Wales
Reading, Berkshire, England
Earleigh, Berkshire, England
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England
Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, England
West Walton, Norfolk, England
Walpole St. Andrew, Norfolk, England
Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, England
Epworth, Lincolnshire, England
Stockwith, Lincolnshire, England
Granby, Nottingham, England
Ford, Sussex, England
Brighton, Sussex, England
Arlington, Sussex, England
South Malling, Sussex, England
East Hoathly, Sussex, England
Alfriston, Sussex, England
Telscombe, Sussex, England
Albrighton, Shropshire, England
Hellingly, Sussex, England
Chiddingly, Sussex, England
Eastbourne, Sussex, England
Berwick, Sussex, England
Horley, Surrey, England
Worth, Sussex, England
Burstow, Surrey, England

I will make a number of journeys to places I know my ancestors lived at some point in their lives; places which have been instrumental in my coming-into-being. And although travelling from A to B and back again, I will attempt to follow the journey as if 'wayfaring' (see Lines).

Another difference between the A to B approach and that of the wayfarer is in the intention. If I travel from A to B with the intention of finding something regarding my ancestors, if I actively look for traces, then that would miss the point. The point is to just be in that place, to go wherever it takes me. One way of illustrating this is by looking at a photograph taken in 1973, one which I have used in other projects (see Creatures).

The photograph shows my brother driving a bumper car.


He is being photographed. Whereas the figures in the background, such as the man in the booth are just being in that place.

1973 detail

The tourist typically sees things from the outside; they are either on the other side of the camera, looking through the lens or are themselves the subject of the photograph. As an 'everyday' tourist, I want to be a part of the picture but somewhere in the distance, oblivious to the picture being taken.

Of course there are many times when we in our everyday lives actively search for something, but we are still living an everday existence. Ironically, given the title of this project, what I don't want to be is a tourist on these journeys and in these places. As tourists we step outside of our everyday realm, we visit and cease to inhabit.

But if I am to be a tourist, it's an everyday, inhabiting tourist that I will aspire to be.

Of course, even as an everyday, inhabiting tourist, I will be recording aspects of my journey. I will photograph things, write about things, records sounds and so on. And while this may seem contradictory to everything I have said (about not being a tourist) the fact is I will be recording things that present themselves to me, rather than things that I have sought to find.