BY OUR SELVES (The Installation)

BY OUR SELVES (The Installation)

Andrew Kötting & Iain Sinclair
14 November – 14 December, Friday – Sunday from 11am – 4pm.

Preview: Sunday, 9 November from 2:30 – 4:30pm with a live performance starting promptly at 3pm.

Toby Jones, Iain Sinclair and Andrew Kötting (dressed as a Straw Bear), made an eighty mile walk from Epping Forest to Helpston in Northamptonshire, following in the footsteps of the poet John Clare. Clare’s delirious march is the catalyst for the project. A great English pilgrimage and a self-enacted novel in the tradition of Pilgrim’s Progress.

The walk was documented using pinhole photography and video and has now been edited to form the backdrop of the installation. The artists Nick Gordon Smith, Anonymous Bosch, Philippe Ciompi and Jem Finer as well as the singer Macgillivray and the musician David Aylward have all collaborated in support of the exhibition as well as Alan Moore and Kötting’s daughter Eden who has contributed paintings and text in the guise of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.

Dilston Grove, Southwark Park, London SE16 2DD +44 (0)20 7237 1230 CGP????London – Cafe Gallery and Dilston Grove – is managed by the Bermondsey Artists’ Group which is an artist-led organisation, a not-for-profit company registered in England no.3353857 and a Registered Charity no. 1073851. Financially assisted by Arts Council England and Southwark Council.

For the opening of the installation, Sunday, 9th November there will be a live performance at 3pm.

Three other performances will also take place on:
8th December, at Battersea Arts Centre |

10th December at Colchester Arts Centre |

11th December at Whitechapel Gallery |
A feature film will be released in the new year through Soda Pictures.


In 2000 Iain Sinclair set out to recreate Clare’s walk away from madness. He wanted to understand his bond with the poet and escape the gravity of his London obsessions. Accompanied on this journey by his wife Anna (who shares a connection with Clare), the artist Brian Catling and magus Alan Moore, Sinclair’s quest for Clare becomes an investigation into madness, sanity and the nature of the poet’s muse. And this is echoed throughout the installation. His book, Edge of the Orison will be made available throughout the exhibition.

‘Brilliant . . . amusing, alarming and poignant. An elegy for an already lost English landscape. Magnificent and urgent’. Robert Macfarlane, Times Literary Supplement.

‘A sensitive, beautifully rendered portrait . . . a feast, a riddle, a slowly unravelling conundrum . . . a love-letter to British Romanticism’. The Independent

‘Sinclair walks every inch of his wonderful novels and psychogeographies, pacing out huge word-courses like an architect laying out a city on an empty plain’. J. G. Ballard, The Observer.

CGP London is financially assisted by Arts Council England and Southwark Council. CGP London provides two contrasting spaces for artists to realise ambitious new projects: Cafe Gallery which is a modern purpose-built space comprising three interlinked ‘white room’ spaces and Dilston Grove, Britain’s first in-situ poured concrete structure, that provides with a cavernous raw space for large-scale installations and performance.

CGP London artist patrons

Ackroyd & Harvey, Andrew Kötting, Mike Nelson, Cornelia Parker, Iain Sinclair, Richard Wentworth, Richard Wilson.

CGP London patrons

Breckman & Company, Paul and Louise Cooke, Lord and Lady Stevenson.

Listings information

CGP London: Dilston Grove – By Our Selves (The Installation) | Andrew Kötting & Iain Sinclair Southwark Park, London, SE16 2DD,
+44 (0) 20 7237 1230

Opening times

14 November – 14 December 2014 | Friday – Sunday from 11am – 4pm.

Preview: Sunday, 9 November from 2:30 – 4:30pm with a live performance starting promptly at 3pm.


Underground: Canada Water on the Jubilee and London Overground Lines. Rail: South Bermondsey Buses: 1, 47, 188, 199, 225, 381, 395, P12, C10 all stop at Canada Water station.
Canada Water station is seven minutes walk from Southwark Park.
Car/Taxi: Enter Southwark Park via the Southwark Park Road entrance. Free parking in the park.

Dilston Grove, Southwark Park, London SE16 2DD +44 (0)20 7237 1230 CGP????London – Cafe Gallery and Dilston Grove – is managed by the Bermondsey Artists’ Group which is an artist-led organisation, a not-for-profit company registered in England no.3353857 and a Registered Charity no. 1073851. Financially assisted by Arts Council England and Southwark Council.

A film made for BBC’s Newsnight about ‘Edge of the Orison’

Somebody just sent me a link to a film made for BBC’s Newsnight about ‘Edge of the Orison’. We were covering the same ground as the recent ‘By Our Selves’ walk. But with a more strident political agenda.

At 05:03 a very interesting section of the video, with Iain talking of an anonymous modern building in the middle of a roundabout.
“A center of alien intelligence”
“Where are the people? There are no people. It’s post-human. It has no actual purpose.”

By Our Selves kickstarter – update nr. 2 – Alan Moore

Check out Alan Moore’s plea in support of the kickstarter campaign for the John Clare movie – By Our Selves.

Besides shooting this (short) message, Alan has also offered several rare books and comics, authored by him and others, as rewards.


Click here for the kickstarter page

By Our Selves – Notes from the field – photo gallery

Iain just sent photos from the set of “By Our Selves”.

If you would like to help get this movie completed and distributed, you can contribute to the kickstarter campaign launched by Iain and Andrew. And a secret guest (not so secret).



PS: If you see an annoying message, please ignore it. Come into the post and you should see the slideshow. If you don’t contact me on twitter


‘Get up, you maggot!’

‘He’s dead.’

‘It’s a reconstruction. In the wrong place.’

Toby Jones, fresh from acclaimed impersonations of Alfred Hitchcock and Truman Capote, sprawls in the gutter of a Stevenage foot tunnel, channelling John Clare. And resting his weary head on a portable typewriter. Words leak everywhere. Toby has gone to ground, without those fortunate trusses of clover, his head to the north, after the first day’s hallucinatory tramp, his escape from Dr Matthew Allen’s bucolic madhouse at High Beach, Epping Forest. More than twenty miles already achieved. Sixty hard miles ahead.

T-shirt youths echo the women of Stilton who discovered Clare ‘foot-foundered’ on gravel, and debated the validity of his collapse. The boys were right. This was a reconstruction in the wrong place. But not by much. Stevenage has time-travelled since that day in July 1841. It is now burrowed with underpasses, grassy knolls, social engineering. But somehow, at the end of that long day of guerrilla filming, we found the right spot. Sun low in the sky. Dog walkers, taking the fallen man in their stride, stopped to make conversation. Interchangeable mother and daughter leashed to a docile pack of hellhounds.

‘Have they renewed their marriage vows?’ Kötting asks, pointing to the panting senior-citizen canines.

‘They’re a lovely couple, but the old feller hasn’t shown any interest since she dropped the pups. Beautiful family, good as gold. But we can’t fetch the son out with us, his dad’s always trying to mount him. He’s a randy old devil.’

The incestuous theme chimes with our current project: a spoiled version of Hamlet, with the mute, infolded Toby, so precise and considered in gesture and frown, prodded forward and voiced by his father, Freddie, who played a memorably engaged John Clare, years earlier, for the BBC. Freddie is still replete with those Helpston songs and poems. Haunted by multiple identities, an actor’s fate.

Walks cross over earlier walks. Tracks vanish into prairies of oilseed rape. Pumping stations ghost as asylums. The Doom mural at Waltham Abbey, a Day of Judgement painting, Heaven or Hell, becomes a map of the motorway system. A ketamine headache for the Highway Planners.

‘The new road o’er the forest is the right one,’ Clare wrote. ‘To see red hell, and further on the white one.’

From the time when I limped into Glinton, at the finish of the walk in the footsteps of Clare’s Journey Out of Essex, recorded in my book, Edge of the Orison, I wanted to go back over this terrain for a film. There were photographic records of that walk in 2000, and unseen footage shot by Chris Petit of the first and last days, but no substantial piece in the mood of Herzog’s The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser. Nor was there likely to be. I chanced on Kötting’s This Filthy Earth, which was dressed with the gloriously toothless Dudley Sutton, and I thought he could do the job. We talked of it from time to time, but Andrew never found a way in until he noticed the photograph from Whittlesey Museum: a glowering minder and a chthonic, mud-and-twig Straw Bear. The absurdity, the savagery, the Beckettian possibilities of man and bear roped together, attracted him.

With just enough funding from the Arts Council (based on the promise of four ‘outcomes’, live performances), we took to the road. From Monday June 16 to Sunday June 22, the crew were out in the country, filming it as it happened.

I’d never collaborated before with a performer like Toby Jones, a man capable of anchoring the silence at the heart of the project with such measured forensic skill – and thereby giving Andrew licence to let the Bear caper and tug. The two men, figures from wildly different eras and traditions, wrestled in shamanic embrace beside the M25, and on solitary tracks between fields of ripening cereals. Bird whistles, provided by Jem Finer, haunted the night, in forest and roadside meadow. The crew – Nick Gordon Smith on camera, Philippe Ciompi drinking up sound with his furry proboscis, Anonymous Bosch pinholing portraits – were heroic (and proficient at muzzling ego for the general good).

What were the highlights? Whatever Kötting cuts together. Whatever strange sounds reverberate or clash.

A helicopter camera, like one of Matthew Allen’s watchers, pursues Clare as he flees the forest. Before it climbs vertiginously to reveal the dense canopy of the trees.

Toby lies beside a millstream in Pre-Raphaelite abandon. A passing walker is reminded of The Death of Chatterton by Henry Wallis.

A confused cyclist, heading straight back to London, swears that he is riding north. He mimics the disorientation Clare felt, that first morning, at Enfield, at the Labour in Vain public house, which has never been identified.

HGV cowboys honk and shout ‘Wankers’ from the M25 orbital ridge as Toby and the Bear trudge the margin of the hard shoulder, making for Stevenage.

Toby emerges from a clump of poppies, on the morning after the second day’s walk, across the motorway from an Adult Pit Stop. These sheds are a special kind of redundancy. They have replaced the old Happy Eaters and fast-food halts, but have stocked their shelves with specialist DVDs at a moment when the form looks antique.

Philippe disappears for hours to make recordings of the wails those giant propellers of wind farms do not make. The rest of us doze among the poppies.

In Potton, the librarian has never heard of Clare.

In Glinton, I discover the fire-scorched window where Mary Joyce, the muse who inspired Clare’s escape, was burnt. Her erased grave is now marked with a heritage sign.

Alan Moore, on a bench in a Northampton park, reads ‘I Am’ to the Straw Bear. MacGillivray keens a whispering lament. She drifts off among the trees.

The materials are all there. It begins to make a dangerous kind of sense. In whatever form it eventually takes. Contributions to the kickstarter fund will secure post-production and time to turn notes into a shaped reality.

— Iain Sinclair

Iain and Andrew are working at their new movie about John Clare and your help is needed!