Visible Invisible

How wonderfully encompassing of answers and questions is the experience of participating in the Social Haunting Ghostlabs!

In Ghostlab 2 I found myself on a walkabout, musing on places, spaces and site-marks in Barnsley centre with Toby Pillatt, the landscape archeologist, and afterwards thinking and writing about the associations these musings brought up in me with Andrew McMillan, the poet. This was not just a stimulating and creative experience, it was a deeply, no, more than that - a richly moving one. I wrote about the feeling of “containment”, within a sort of class pecking order, that two contrasting inscriptions on a civic building’s foundation stone had stirred in me. This was a resonant reference to my background and the narrow horizons I had had to contend with in my own life story. Then I wrote about the softening sentiment from skillful and loving tool-use that I imagined developing out of the originally hard and unforgiving relationship between a miner’s hand, his pickaxe and the coalface. This echoed a sentiment etched into my consciousness and manual skills born out of my early working years as a toolmaker.

In Ghostlab 3 I had my mind and imagination opened to the techniques, wonders and charms of comic strip design, illustration and story-telling. Sarah McNicol and Jim Medway were the educators and facilitators of this experience. I found it utterly rewarding to find myself not only revealing a long-nurtured memory impression, but also coming up with some mental images that formed the rudiments of a visual narrative - about a young kid scratching in a street gutter with a stick after moving to a green landscaped New Town area, just as he had done previously in when he lived in an over-built slum area - that got everyone else talking about ‘mindsets’ and 'boundaries’. And then later, when Jim Medway took the setting, process and tone of this group discussion, and transposed these, together with the visuals of my story and another version of the theme invented by a fellow participant*, into a four-page comic format, I was mesmerised. As I looked at these pages and pondered on the way that the notion of Social Haunting asks, encourages, and above all allows us to contemplate things, a couple of sentences found form in my mind. I sent these to Geoff Bright, Jim Medway, Sarah McNicol and Jan Stevenson*:

“I like these comic pages Jim. We’re now looking at visibly invisible boundaries and traces from different yet discernibly connected angles. How wonderfully encompassing of answers and questions visuals are.”

John Taylor


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