On Geoff Nicholson, and fellow travellers

Last updated: 9 Aug 2019

My first post on this blog, dated 5 June 2013, was on The lost art of walking by Geoff Nicholson, aka The Hollywood Walker. It was one of the first walking-as-a-thing books I read. So really, it’s all his fault.

From then on he was popping up everywhere, even inside my head. 2013 also saw Geoff’s 5 year walking forecast, revisiting his 2010 Talking Walking interview, and Walking in ruins, wherein he muses on decay in various locations, including Sheffield, his childhood home. This slipped down nicely as an Xmas treat, accompanied by Hollywood Christmas past, looking at the phenomenon of people going on Xmas walks and the fate of Xmas trees.

2014 saw a new novel. celebrated by a “multimedia collaborative story” in LARB entitled Geoff Nicholson maps the territory – as well as text there’s a vid and photos. (The map/territory meme originates from Alfred Korzybski, who first used it at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in New Orleans in 1931.)

Nice chat too on Colin Marshall’s Notebook on cities and culture podcast. Colin also chatted with Geoff Dyer, who for a time I kept getting Geoff N muddled up with. They probably know each other, seeing as they both live in LA, and get each other’s mail.

I’m a bit cautious about Geoff’s fiction, it’s the Erotic Review lens, but his Bleeding London (2000) is a prime candidate for the walking fiction canon. Anti-hero Stuart London’s walking project is to undertake a walk down every street in London, scoring it out in his A-Z as he goes. There’s also a fun section on leading guided walks.

Bleeding London then morphed into Bleeding London: the photo project, with the aim of photographing every street in London. The sort of data-based enterprise which builds into something else through accumulation, but which is an effort to scale; while in London Geoff knocked off a square of the A-Z (“frankly it was absolutely knackering, mentally as much as physically”). Quoting Sol LeWitt:

When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.

The Bleeding London Exhibition was shown in July 2015, along with Stuart’s first walk, offered by Footprints of London’s Jen Pedler and blogged by Geoff. I’m almost moved.

Every post on his blog is a delight, in a seemingly effortless drifting ironic style that slips down a treat. The occasional digs at psychogeography and academe are reassuring. I’d be tempted to leave a fan girl comment if it weren’t for the fact that he doesn’t do fellow travellers. It seems we all become a Venn diagram of one at the end.

More Geoff (he knows what we want):

And finally, Ultimate Ramblings.

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