NIA Walk #2 led by JeZ Hattosh-Nemeth described by Marega Palser
Meet outside Newport Train Station at 12 mid- day, Saturday 22nd March.
Walk and document – using digital cameras- every shop and space the entire length of Commercial Street finishing off by The Transporter Bridge.
Divide the group in to two, one half photographing the South side of the street, the other half, the North side. Do this in a relay team style so each person overlaps the
other. Photograph the lower part of the building in a landscape format. And finally…
Ask yourself… Why am I doing this?
Response from one part of the North facing team.
First, this task we have been set sounds relatively simple, but within seconds of starting I realise that this is not going to be a clear-cut exercise. Our team (there are three of us at this stage, we later grow to four) seems to fall apart almost immediately. We each have a different perception of where and when to start, and without an overall surveyor of the situation telling us at what point we should photograph and at what point to move on, it becomes apparent that this exercise in manoeuvres is going to be open to interpretation, very improvised, have its own dynamic…and may take some time.
One of my first impressions of being outside, standing in a street which is now a thoroughfare for busses, is the amount of information we are absorbing in a split second – it is immense! With the task in mind, there is the overview of the building that is in front of you, then there are the details-the design, the stains, the buddleia that has taken root in some of the roofs. There is the signage on the building, the traffic and pedestrian information signs; the sounds, the smells, the flow of traffic and people activity that accompany this… and then naturally, there is the banter between us. (We haven’t even bumped into anyone yet… that will come later).
At this point this writing could go one of two ways, but rather that going down the road of describing the many styles and flavours that Commercial Street has to offer (I’m hoping that the photos will do that) I would like to come back to Jez’s final instruction…
” Ask yourself, why am I doing this? ”
Good Question! – And it is one that will be asked en route, which is why it helps to be semi- prepared for a quick easy answer, (but we know life is not like that …full of quick easy answers that is)…
So why am I / are we doing this?
Again, to answer this, two trains of thought immediately open up.
1. I like walking. Walking is a good way to see and feel the world that is around me /us. Walking can help alter perceptions. We can walk ourselves from one state of being to another. Walking is liberating. By walking, you come across unexpected treasures, situations, and people. Walking is good for you, and what’s more – Walking is Free!!!
2. My explanation as to ‘ why are you photographing buildings…’ The ‘easiest’ answer I give when asked by two young men, one with a pram and fag between tattooed knuckles resting on said pram (I don’t even notice the baby), is that we are documenting Commercial Street as it is now, today. The response to this, and it is quite a common response when engaging in conversation about Newport is, “Why d’you want to do that for? … It’s all shit! “. My natural response when the word ‘shit’ is used as a descriptive word is one of optimism, i.e. out of shit, grows roses and many other floral and edible wonders. When I say this to Pram man, he doesn’t seem at all impressed, and is not having any of it. ” Its all shit “, he repeats once again, ” they should knock it all down”, (which if anyone reading this has not been to Newport Centre for a while, there is a fair attempt at knocking down what was John Frost Square – fondly once known as ‘The Piazza ‘ in some circles, and the row of shops that once ran behind the bus station…it is not what you would describe as a pretty vista for the eye balls…) but I digress in both subject and geographically I have wandered off the ‘main drag’ or gone ‘off piste ‘. This could be looked at as a good example of how easy it is to digress and get sidetracked on a walk. How easy it is to lose ourselves both in thoughts and in our orientation, unless we are head down and on a mission going from A to B. as quickly as possible.
(By the way, Pram man and I agreed to differ, laughed, as I think we both enjoyed the interaction and short debate, and went on our separate ways).
To try and draw this to a “Pause” rather than an end, as this walk is one of many that will follow, we did complete our task, and I managed to resist the temptation not to take any close up photos of rust, mould and any other interesting looking stains. Our collective journey finished in Fanny’s Café, opposite the Transporter Bridge, where we filled our bellies and learned more about each other and where we had started our journeys from that day. Starting points incidentally included Cardiff, Penarth and Bristol. Unbeknownst to us, Jez had very casually placed recorders on the tables in amongst the bottles of vinegar and brown and red sauce and the quite spectacular medley of salt and pepper pots.
A short edited film will follow at some point of a speeded up journey through the eyes of ten people ( of varying heights ) accompanied by a soundtrack of conversations that followed the walk-in normal time.
Over&Out for the now
I will leave you with a list inspired by Francis Alys.
You can create your own…
AS LONG AS I’M WALKING, I’M NOT SMOKING
“. “. “. “. “. I’M NOT HIDING
“. “. “. “. “. I’M NOT THINKING
“. “. “. “. “. I’M NOT …
I’M NOT …
I’M NOT …