Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Kitchen psychogeographer

Sunlight in the place of air
The vent in the window idle
Still for the breeze, 
hungry for a storm

Energy in waiting
Blades twin, spin
A story of a bird 
The rattle of a cage

Revolution, a disc
the pound-shop clock
Gaudy and gold-rimmed
And its incessant score

Asking me to spin
Gold from straw 
Another domestic chore
Unravels me

Starting at the last letter
It’s clean gone 
My name is unstitched
A fairy-tale conundrum, a mystery

I am on a micro-adventure
An urban-explorer
A psychogeographer
Of the kitchen

Nature abhors a vacuum
So I shall leave the dust
forget the dishes
And go outside

Here is my compass and map
Those uncharted territories
For those brave enough
To survive the domestic

Saturday, 23 December 2017


I contributed to a google map of soundscapes in Edinburgh for a group called "Drift and Derive (with an accent)" which meet ups regularly to explore the city in interesting ways. I chose to go up Calton Hill, which is in the centre of Edinburgh next to Princess Street. Once you get up there you are removed from the hubbub of the city with wonderful views of Arthur's Seat. With its half-built 'National Monument' based on the Acropolis and once called 'Edinburgh's Shame' as the project ran out of money before completion,  the hill is a place of refuge for half-finished projects and the personal follies within us all. When I first came to Edinburgh, I'm embarrassed to admit I built a superstition around Calton Hill. I made a pact with myself that if I went up, I would move away from Edinburgh. Nevertheless, a year or so later, there I was, up on Calton Hill with some friends of mine who had come to visit Edinburgh. Calton Hill must be far too rational a rock from to go in for superstition, however, as I am still a resident of Edinburgh. A visit to Calton Hill, though, is a reminder of my ongoing ambivalence to staying here.

This time on my visit to Calton Hill, I tuned in to the sounds around me. I sat on a bench with a view to Arthur's Seat and listened to the tourists who were taking selfies. There was a millstone the tourists would step onto to take their photos. For half an hour, I sat and listened, not understanding a single sentence of the many different languages spoken. I enjoyed their ritual of taking selfies, which I appreciated as an investment of time and energy, skill and love. The intricacies of relations has to be symbolically recorded, acknowledged and reflected upon in the selfie ritual. This took often many minutes for each party, and much communication that went over my head. It began to sound like a musical score. Only the English words "3, 2, 1" were woven deftly into one woman's conversation, as she readied her sister for the next photo, of which there were many, usurping her own language with the global language of the selfie. The three words spoken were like a pendulum, ever returning to the same place. In the same way, the tourists were attracted to the millstone, to the stage it gave them, consecrating their outdoor photo booth, again and again, first in front of the craggy landscape, then, turning around, against the National Monument. I began to wonder at the millstone. Who brought it up here?  Did they think of selfies whoever brought it up here, relinquishing the millstone to the tourist's ever-growing demands for their self-affirming ritual? When the millstone was free, I got up on it, and took a selfie, just as I had observed the others doing. I felt at home among the tourists. For me, the tourist attraction was the tourist themselves. It was certainly nice to be surrounded by foreign languages as an antidote to Brexit, insular Britain and small-mindedness. In this way, Calton Hill was rather a haven from half-finished projects and follies on a grand scale.

When I returned from Calton Hill, I mixed and looped the conversations I'd heard. Now disembodied, the voices sounded urgent and haunting from a time and place never to be repeated. In the recording, the woman counts down the "3, 2, 1" against the sound of a kiss, a woman laughing, a man talking in Spanish, and a woman saying 'Holyrood'. Through the recording, each of these ordinary moments become the expectant outcome, the great event, the solution, the reason, though of what is never revealed.

Thanks to Ewan and Michelle for organising.

You can hear the soundscape here, best heard on headphones as the quality is not the best.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Pocket-sized Peninsula

My new artist book, "To the Peninsula, my Friends" is out now! It is a poem with photographs taken on a walk along the Greenwich Peninsula in London, currently undergoing massive development. Having grown up in Greenwich, since childhood I have often walked eastwards along the river and witnessed the many changes to the landscape and use. On this occasion, I spotted a very unassuming building called 'The Ernest Shackleton Lodge', tucked amongst the newer higher-rise flats. Intrigued by the contrast and possible connection between Shackleton and the newly developed Peninsula, I decided to combine the quotes of the polar explorer with the sales language of the Greenwich Peninsula PR. Though one hundred years apart, these two sources seem to be steeped in the same hubris, pioneering new territories but for whom? 

The book is A6 format in an edition of 50. It is signed and hand-stitched and costs just £7.50 including post and packaging to the UK and the EU. If you would like to have one, please email me at: cathmarshall@googlemail.com. 

Many thanks to Julia Stone for design and production of the book. 

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Number 26 to Elsewhere

I am very excited that my piece, End of the Line,  has been published on the blog of the Elsewhere: A Journal of Place. 

It tells the tale of a rather unusual bus journey to the end of the line in Edinburgh, a discovery of an industrial museum, witness to centuries of change and my own transition in moving to a new city and country. 

'Elsewhere is a journal dedicated to writing and visual art that explores the idea of place in all of its forms, whether city neighbourhoods or island communities, heartlands or borderlands, the world we see before us or landscapes of the imagination.'

I have been a fan of the Elsewhere for quite some time, enamoured of the print journal's beautiful design and illustration by Creative Director, Julia Stone, and impressed by the photo essays and high quality writing, selected by Editor in Chief, Paul Scraton. The latest issue, no.4, is available here

Wednesday, 30 August 2017


I often say ‘what’s the point’ or ‘there is no point’ or ‘where’s the point in that’. Negative talk you may think.

When a hand points, however, I don’t ask myself, what’s the point? I just follow the owner’s forefinger direction to its visual conclusion and hopefully learn something new.

So actually, there is always a point as far as your hands are concerned. Merely by positioning my hand and forefinger I can make (if I say so myself) a brilliant point without having uttered a word.  

Suddenly I feel liberated as I have proved empirically that there is no such thing as pointlessness.

I put my theory into practice. I point my finger up in the sky then out of the window, happy in the knowledge that there is some point to it. The point is, I feel liberated from my worry of there not being a point. For any casual bystander the point would be absolutely undeniable. 

One day, of course, you may find yourself in front of a crowd, say, the size of Wembley Stadium and be expected to make a point. Perhaps you forgot the point you were going to make.  (Damn, it is still in the rucksack along with your packed lunch at home). No matter, you can make the universal sign – no, not that one – and your point will be taken seriously, possibly even applauded. 

There might come a time, after all these public engagements, that you get pointed finger fatigue (PFF). Your muscles in your forefinger have seized up. This is where a pointy stick comes in handy. This is a plastic version of a pointing hand on the end of a stick. People might forgive you for using that to make your point instead of the real thing. On the down side, if everyone gets one, it could be hard to distinguish your point from the others. 

If all fails, you could always use the thumbs up sign, though there is not much point in that. A thumbs up is, at best, just ok. Inevitably, even a hand can get caught up in dogma. This is where you may have to rethink your point entirely. I mean, who is to say that a wave isn’t as meaningful or pertinent as any elegant or well-made point? It might mean a repositioning of your hands. Change can be slow or never come at all when it involves new distribution of power and hierarchy. In this case, your index finger will have to accept that is it symbolically equal to the other four digits. You may have a struggle on your hands. 

Then comes the day when waving is passé: “Waving is passé, and all because you couldn’t or didn’t want to make a point. Now look where we’ve got to. Now all we do is swipe. Swipe left. Swipe right. Swipe” But there is no point in pointing the finger of blame. Swiping is, in fact, a very elegant gesture. Its just a pity that swipe sounds like a cross between snot and wipe when, in fact, it is more of a swish or swoop or s’wow. Its true that it is rather individualistic. We’ve become a nation of selfish swipers etc. However, it can be argued that it allows people to express themselves. There is a delightful performative quality, albeit unconscious, to our swiping that was wholly absent when we were merely making a point. 

Now at this point, I’d just like to go back to my very first point, but as I was about two and a half years old at the time, its pointless I’m afraid.