Bajada is the name for a project I did in 2014- a walk from source to sea down a watercourse in Andalusia. I then presented about the project at an art event at Joya Arte Ecologia.

The project continues under the same name under the theme of walking watercourses.

Spain 2014

This is my original application for the project but in the end I walked it instead of biked it.

I am applying as a collaborator with Sistemas Efimeros

  • Title: Bajada
  • Discipline: Journey, Photography, Physical / Human Geography, Writing, Cycling, Website.
  • Duration: 7-10 days

Full description:

The dry fluvial system starts as a surface catchment area on the side of the mountain becoming a man-made water catchment system, a barranco and ‘rambla’ before reaching the sea. Along the way it may become a small stream or develop into a reservoir, disappear or evolve into multiple channels. The only unifying feature is the action of water and human interference with it.

Bajada is an aesthetic study and 100km self-sufficient journey by bicycle carrying minimal camping equipment through a landscape formed by human and natural forces. Beginning at Cortijada Los Gazquez the journey will follow the dry fluvial system from source to sea.

The dry fluvial system will be followed from rural to urban exploring the input & outputs on the system and its significance as a cultural and geographic feature.

When studying MA Design Critical Practice I became interested in mindfulness and consciousness. An experiment by Zoran Josipovic, a research scientist and professor at New York University placed Buddhist monks into brain scanners while they meditated [1].

"One thing that meditation does for those who practise it a lot is that it cultivates attentional skills"

From my limited observations exploring a section of the system, focus is embodied in the physical geography as a channel cut by a unified flow. The flow of water acts in dialectic material agency. From the heavy rocks and the high altitude of the mountain, through the sheltered, reflective tree cover, the worked lands of the almond groves and the ploughed terraces, cutting into the subterranean geologies of the lower reaches, the environment reflected states of contemplation. This is similar to some of the concepts in the Bachelard's Poetics of Space [2].

Up near the roof all our thoughts are clear. In the attic it is a pleasure to see the bare rafters of the strong framework. Here we participate in the car­penter's solid geometry. As for the cellar, we shall no doubt find uses for it .. It will be rationalized and its conveniences enumerated. But it is first and foremost the dark entity of the house, the one that partakes of subterranean forces. When we dream there, we are in harmony with the irrationality of the depths (Bachelard, 1994, pg 18).

A common theme in Bachelard's text is the point at which the description of the inhabited space takes flight from the physical into the dream realm.

I found myself drawn to geographical features that raised questions about the landscape's formation which triggered an internal response.

A huge slab of rock invited play to climb, see it from different angles, rub the surface to feel its texture. It evoked surprise when the surface turned from a stone grey with dappled pinks to an ochre yellow which rubbed off on my fingers.

A tributary into the main channel was strewn with huge dark grey granite boulders. An embankment made from a rich deep red material raised questions about the geologies that the system passed through.

Points of Enquiry:

  • What is the significance of the dialectic between external stimuli and internal response? What process is being evoked?
  • What is the relevance and value of 'natural environment' and 'wilderness' in terms of preconceived notions of Wilderness.
  • A testimony to your experience as you cross spaces and places en route to the sea."
  • What signs are there of human influence. How do these relate to the human condition. E.g. landscape as resource?

Equipment

Bikes - Options

  • Older (21inch / XL) steel framed mountain bike.
  • Modern touring/mountain bike.
  • 'Fatbikes' - popular at the moment, a good match for the task. Active UK communities exist for second hand options but likely to be the most expensive option.

Camping

  • 'Bike packing' style - strap the luggage to the frame, bar bag, seat post rack.
  • Light sleeping bag, bivvy bag, stove, mat, camera, clothes.
  • Example bike image http://www.whileoutriding.com/

Bikepacking bike

Outcomes:

  • Photography, geolocated blogs and tweeting
  • 'Headwater of information'; a repository of landscape metadata forming access points for others into the work.
  • Working in collaboration with a publisher I will produce a book with map, text and photographs.
  • Project curated by Joya: arte + ecología, as part of Sistemas Efímeros
  • Centred on my empirical observations relating to human geography.

Synopsis:

A mountain bike ride from the mountains at the source of the water catchment system, following the dry fluvial system (dry river beds) down to the sea. Documenting via photography, leaving repositories of 'metadata' with my observations of the physical and human geographies via geolocated blog posts to serve as access points for others into the project

Context to previous or future research:

Biography:

Technical Coordinator of Joya: arte + ecología, Andy studied MA Design Critical Practice at Goldsmiths (distinction). His personal projects span qualitative mapping, open product and open education design. Andy has run his own design business, worked as a mountain bike guide and traveled extensively by bicycle around the world starting from England to India, Nepal and Mongolia and wrote a book, 'Weave of the Ride’, about his experiences. He is developing a mountain bike tour company in Georgia called Georiders. Andy is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).

Links to previous research:

  • http://www.andywelchphotography.co.uk
  • http://www.andrewwelch.info

References

  • [1] BBC, Title. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12661646

  • [2] Bachellard, G., 1994 Edition. The Poetics of Space. Beacon Press.

  • http://philpapers.org/rec/RAOTFO

  • http://consc.net/mindpapers/8.5d

Manifesto

In the argument I make a case for the need for a better understanding of risk taking. The proposed methodology involved embodied action or ‘being in the world’ and a deliberate departure from all kinds of mediatised distractions that take the attention away from the present action.

Mediatised Reality

The grounds for the argument are based in the increasingly mediatised existence of particularly the Western, modern, developed world. There is an ongoing drive forward for media technology to be able to grab and hold attention in a ‘battle of attention’. This draw on the work of various philosophers including Slavoj Zizek. He draws on the work of Lacan of the Real world which is outside of the realms of our reality. The understanding of this space is that there is a border between reality and the Real. The world created by the mediatised technologies is a further world within reality which pulls the subject further away from the Real.

The activity that has been adopted to describe the process of leaving the mediatised worlds behind and leaving what is left, is adventure. Not just taken in the conventional sense of geographical movement, but rather as an everyday practice. A.N.Whitehead called adventure ‘a vitality of ideas’.

“A race preserves its vigour so long as it harbours a real contrast between what has been and what may be, and so long as it is nerved by the vigour to adventure beyond the safeties of the past. Without adventure, civilization is in full decay.” - A.N.Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas (1933)

Invasive Technology

The reason that this argument is important particularly now because technology is reaching a point where it is absolutely invasive into the human experience. For example, microchips can be implanted in the brain. Virtual reality takes over your direct conscious experience. Mobile phones allow for the total tracking of movement and behaviour. Artificial intelligence algorithms learn about your preferences and understand how best to interact with you for various purposes. Although the area of spread of the technology is far and wide, the depth is still shallow. Therefore one proposed aspect of the adventurous behaviour is to look more deeply and for longer (Laverty).

The reason for the existence of the technologies is a much larger question that goes beyond the scope of this thesis. It could be an inevitable process of evolution of objects, a need for humans to protect themselves against the environment and predators or a desire to remember the past.

Nature

The other world to the human world and experience constitutes the aforementioned Real. The term ‘Nature’ is conventionally used to describe the collective space of the non-human world. The conventional relationship between humans and Nature is either that of conquering and exploitation of resources and beholden as a space of beauty and equilibrium - the latter particularly in recent times used by environmentalists as a reaction to the human impact on the environment. The notion of being prepared - that motto of the scout movement is the main human reaction to Nature - to protect oneself.

Notes

  • Reality is your daily routine, what you see on the news, and your perception of the world. It is selective and directed towards the needs of the organism.

  • The Real World is what exists completely detached from individual (and collective) human existence, from your human-'being' from your personal 'world', network, which supports your existence in the form of a fleshy humanoid.

  • Reality is the human construct. It is the coordinates of what makes sense in the world; it is the 'enframing' technology of language (it can be explained with language). However, it is entirely possible that it at some points it fails to make sense like it should? Feelings (emotions and significations of consciousness) arise and signify that something should be done to enable the organism to 'satisfice' to do what it needs to do.

  • Humans have protected themselves so well because of their weakness. They now have various layers of physical and mental gateways, boundaries, borders, portals, screens, barriers, bureaucracy (whatever forms they takes) to navigate in daily life.

  • The development of the hyperreal space. In representational media we see something that represents 'The Real World' through technological devices (like a video camera). It sees like humans sees (more or less) (but a bit differently: useful?). These representations through their sublime presence become more valued than the Real itself (which we don't know and have no way of knowing or controlling fully) and also the reason for the activity of exploration itself.

  • The romanticisation of wilderness as offering freedom should be avoided (like in the film 'Into the Wild' where we saw the protagonist have a loss of survival instinct, essentially committing suicide. He achieved freedom only through death). The story is more interesting when the protagonist traverses different worlds - meeting many characters living different types kinds of lives.

Zizek - Symbolic Reality Baudrillard - Dessert of the Real Timorty Morton - Dawn of the Hyperobjects

  • Laverty https://sites.ualberta.ca/~iiqm/backissues/2_3final/pdf/laverty.pdf
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