Photo: Monica Naranjo Uribe
Perceptive Safari is a reflection on the impossibility to represent or communicate by any means the aura of a landscape. The blend of sensorial information, which we pick up unrelentingly from the places we find ourselves in, and which helps us interpret and understand them, can only be perceived in its complexity by ourselves, for example by moving through a landscape by foot.
The layering of natural, historical, industrial, post-industrial and urban landscape, which can be found on the outskirts of London along the Thames in West Thurrock, Essex, attracted our attention soon after we moved to London. We were interested in uncovering and exploring the subconscious parts of the metropolis, which contribute to its uninterrupted functioning, but which remain unnoticed, unperceived by the vast majority of London’s inhabitants.
After several months of extended visits to these places and after extensively researching about them, we decided to organise a Perceptive Safari. We wanted to make our friends and friends of friends participate in what we had discovered, both in an un-mediated way – by bringing them to the places – and by sharing with them the stories we had discovered along the way.
Over two days, from the 14th to the 15th of March 2009, with a group of 22 people we walked from Rainham to Grays, spending one night in Purfleet, a small town exactly half way through the planned route. By doing so, we crossed the M25, the orbital motorway which encircles the Greater London area.
Each participant was given a high visibility orange bag containing an apple and a book. The book, which we edited and designed, contained a selection of texts, stories, photographs and historical documents related to the different places visited during the walk. The walk itself constituted the narrative element connecting all the parts.
At the end of the first day’s walk through the Rainham Marshes, one of very few medieval landscapes remaining in London, we visited the Purfleet Heritage Centre , a bizarre and fascinating war and local history museum administered and curated by a group of passionate amateurs and war veterans. We spent the evening and the night in the village’s Royal Hotel.
From there, the next morning we set out for the second half of the excursion. We walked towards Grays on a narrow path between the Thames and the industrialized and post-industrial land owned by different companies. People could choose whether to walk on one or the other side of the flood wall or on top of it, thus deciding what sort of sensorial experience they wanted to get.
Photo: Joana Monteiro
Photos: Monica Naranjo Uribe
Photo: Kate Morrell
During the excursion the participants reflected on the landscape, exchanged ideas with each other and during the following weeks reflected further on their experience by producing works in response to the walk for an exhibition at the Royal College of Art, which later was on show also at the Purfleet Heritage Centre.
Perceptive Safari should evolve into is a series of four collective explorations of the landscapes on the outskirts of London. Each time the border formed by the M25 should be crossed from inside to outside.
We would like to thank:
Chris Paul Daniels
Beside the River
Kick the Can
A Strangers song for Grave
Monica Naranjo Uribe
Annie Callaghan, Luke Moody, and Tim Petch for joining the project.