In Search Of The Shortcuts is an interactive website that encourages you to explore the artworks, projects and research of the artist Simon Woolham.
By navigating around an outline version of Google Maps, films, biro drawings, layers of narrative are mapped-out in relation to the specific locations, presenting both pavement and the cracks in-between.
The Wythy Walks are an ongoing exploration around Wythenshawe, a suburb in South Manchester, by generating narrative, encouraging streams of consciousness, layers of memory tapes with people who grew up there. They are an active act of taking back space by encouraging us to stray off ‘in search of the short-cuts’. They are a contemplative act around a community and its spaces. The focus of the Wythy Walks is on the random dialogue between walking and narrative, of the relations between place and people.
The walks start out from the house where the person was born, still lives, or spent the majority of their time in Wythenshawe. Guided by our narrative we then walk towards different locations, depending on what we talk about. The walks are discreetly sound recorded during the initial walk and later develops as an ongoing series of re-enacted narratives and measured filmed stills, taken from carefully chosen sites. The very act of going back to these sites days, weeks, or months after the walks have happened, allows for a reassessment and editing, which is not present within the initial walks or the relating Biro drawings. These film stills are deliberately composed, and chosen, a contemplation of the collaborative walk.
Following an unpredictable, personal and emotionally instinctive rapport to guide us around Wythenshawe, we are guided by the rhythms of what we sense on the walks. The strategy of the Wythy Walks jolts us out of an everyday situation, and enabling the free flowing process of both walking and talking provides a shared voice through the loosening of inhibitions and the opening of the memory banks. They are a positive method for engaging with a community, more than a short stroll, they take us out, reconnect with collective and personal narratives of a place, encouraged by walking.
Remember Your Garden?:
Remember Your Garden? is an exchange of drawing and narrative that poses the question: Do you remember your childhood garden or an intimate place where you hung out? Describe your garden and an incident that happened there and post it on the wall. I will then do a drawing of your place from what you remember. Remember Your Garden? is an ongoing project that openly exchanges narratives around childhood gardens and intimate spaces. The live, online archive, acts as a gateway, a ‘memory palace’ for the personal narratives. The anecdotes are then interpreted through drawing by myself, and then reflected back to the holder of the memory. The project is a response through drawing, highlighting notions of collective memory through creating a more intimate, collaborative and communal process of using Facebook. The drawings and narratives are then situated and accessed through the ‘In search of the shortcuts’ website, on the road, street, hill or field, re-examining and opening up a spatial dialogue with a representation of intimate social space.
Unstable Ground considers how drawing methods are related to experiences of autobiographical narrative? This key question is what all artists in Unstable Ground responded to. All past experiences, both great and small, are fundamentally different. Yet they are interconnected through the senses, returning to them through other random chance encounters, and, or so it seems, more so during times of reverie. Drawing describes, expresses, makes sense of, adds complication to, these moments in time. Memory has a live dialogue through the process of drawing it.
Unstable Ground was a group show that explored the perplexing, the fragile, the experiential, and the direct relationship between the paper surface and the representation and manifestation of memory. Focussing on the autobiographical memory of each artist, their works create an emotional dialogue between place, drawing methods, and the mediation between vision, hand, and brain. Unstable Ground attempts to dig deeper, present and open up a dialogue with seams of artistic, social and political signifiers.
Forming part of the curatorial framework for Unstable Ground a series of virtual online walks with the artists was presented as part of the exhibition, laying bare autobiographical and artistic details through layers of space and time. I utilised Google Earth, Skype and Debut, a screen capturing application, we start off at the house where the artist was born or grew up. We then went on a journey of mind and matter, guided by the histories that were drawn-out and unfolded.
Spirit of Theatre:
The Spirit of Theatre was a project undertaken between myself and Manchester Metropolitan University, I was invited to instigate ideas as both a researcher and practicing artist, collating and exploring memories associated with the Library Theatre Company, before being re-housed. From out of my initial conversations, the concept of a Cluedo-style presentation seemed the most simple and engaging structure to pursue. The Theatre Ghost research team had already initiated a substantial amount of investigation, based on questions specific to the Library Theatre as a space, the plays and performances, both from the perspective of audience and theatre workers. I wanted to activate these questions through the presence of drawings. The interplay between the hand-drawn images and text, concerning the Library Theatre spaces and the narrative representation and interpretation, is central to the functionality and interaction of the Spirit of Theatre.
Drawing Out The Canal:
Drawing Out The Canal was a project developed in collaboration with Drawing Projects UK in Trowbridge, Wiltshire. The project focused around a 4-day walking, drawing, talking residency along the entire 53-mile length of the main Kennet and Avon Canal, from Newbury to Bath. The project initiated and exchanged collaborative story-telling through drawing and engaging with histories along the towpaths.
Drawing out The Canal engaged with a variety of local groups and clubs from Trowbridge along the 6-day route through activating the process of collecting graphite rubbings, as a way of engaging with the canal histories and generating layers of narrative around the locale.
At drawing Projects UK, I examine the generated variety of rubbings, developing an immersive as well as smaller, intimate artworks from the ‘textures of history’ in relation to the 4-day walk. Drawing as a way of transporting to a place, it’s memory and the experiences surrounding it. The amassed rubbings were interpreted in a number of ways, over the period of 4-days, in relation to the geography, history and narrative of the whole canal route, alongside exploring the spaces of Drawing Projects UK.
The process is an instinctive and organic process, an evolution, interpreting the past, present and future visions of an important, historically and socially significant site and its interpretation. The process engages with the spaces and surfaces through the physical process of rubbings from the architecture, machinery, towpaths, gates and locks. As part of the unveiling of the installation, I performed and interpret the drawing through an expanded drawing performance with local musicians from Trowbridge.
The 4-day walk and 4-day drawing process happened during the summer months and promoted walking, drawing and a deep engagement with histories, a valuable activity for celebrating and engaging with the canal as an active creative process:
Day 1: From Newbury to Wolf Hall
Day 2: Wolf Hall to Coate
Day 3: Coate to Limpley Stoke
Day 4: Limpley Stoke to Bath
This film shows the process as an instinctive and organic one, an evolution, interpreting the past, present and future visions of an important, historically and socially significant site and its interpretation. The process engages with the spaces and surfaces through the physical process of rubbings from the architecture, machinery, towpaths, gates and locks along the canal route. As part of the unveiling of the installation, I performed and interpreted the drawing through a performance with local musicians from Trowbridge:
Rural Routes: Bolsover Walks:
The Rural Routes: Bolsover Walks was a co-commissioned digital project for Junction Arts and D-Lab. A series of physical and virtual walks around the Bolsover District in Derbyshire. In the same vein as the Wythy Walks the co-walkers walked around different locations, either physically or using Google Maps, guided by the co-walker’s own narrative. The initial walks were sound recorded and later developed as a series of re-enacted narratives and measured filmed stills and virtual re-enactments taken from carefully chosen sites.
The commissioned films can be viewed at:
Digital Routes: Space//Place DAR Residency:
For the SPACE//PLACE residency with DAR (Digital Artist Residency) I developed a virtual walk with the organisation curator for a project I called the Digital Route. The Digital Route was a virtual and psychological collaborative residency around sites and spaces, manifested through a virtual process that explored and sensed human details:
The virtual re-enacted film ‘Tom’ can be viewed at: