Phil Smith: ‘Walking in Rain and Darkness’

Walking in rain and darkness; why had I not imagined that night would fall? Tiny yellow diamond points, red eyes in the black tops of the trees; there was a refusing gloom and a cold relentless soaking, a cold blessing. I had planned for a dry symbol and icon walk, but we were forced out of any kind of disembodied and self-satisfied gnosis by the unsureness of the saturated ground we were on.

I had sneaked out at lunchtime to check the route against a variable memory. Through the gloom they came. Physical Energy. Queen Caroline’s Temple. Speke’s Obelisk. I had specifically planned the walk so the needle and the temple would be seen at a distance, almost abstract. Now they were ghostly, silhouettes of murk, horrific steals and celebrations of white supremacism; tripped up here and there in despair and self-destruction.

On our way to the gardens we had curled around the streets to the Bulgarian Embassy, where we remembered Georgi Markov. In fact, I had forgotten his name, but Simon remembered. Simon and I had been stopped here and asked if we spoke Bulgarian; we were bemused by the frustration that our negative response inspired, before we realised the embassy was here. I gave an umbrella to Rebecca; not a black furled umbrella with a capsule of poison at the tip like the one used by a Bulgarian agent to murder Markov, that would have been undiplomatic. Rebecca was asked to choose some kind of stimulus for occasionally furling the umbrella, but not to reveal her criterion only to do the action. Initially, I had intended that she keep the umbrella furled and raise it on the stimulus, but given the rain it was better to reverse the instruction.

At the pedestal of the Albert Memorial marked for ENGINEERING, I pointed out the figure of Hiram; the architect of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and a crucial figure in freemasonry. Hiram was murdered; he had the great secrets of masonry memorised, but had made no record of them. Once missing, his assistants went out to find him and his secrets, but they found only his dead body. And so the secrets and rituals of freemasonry are based not upon Hiram’s secrets, but on an interpretation of the words spoken and the gestures performed by the assistants around their master’s body. I asked the walkers to look out for any gestures made by passersby, or by other members of the group, and to guess what body of learning they might be coded in.

At the ‘Physical Energy’ sculpture of a horse and rider I asked the walkers to place their hands on the coppery green sea-like base of the sculpture and pointed to the two huge bolts securing the ocean to its stone plinth. Watts had been an artist influenced by Symbolism, the sculpture celebrates the racist Cecil Rhodes; I remarked on the present danger represented, particular for occult psychogeographers, by a ‘radical traditionalism’ represented by the likes of the late John Michel, whose ideas were being picked up by contemporary neo-Nazis and followers of Evola.

We left the path.

The stones were concealed in briars. The two smaller stones were wholly covered, while the larger one with a tiny metal plaque was barely visible in the daylight. We found it easily enough, though, and people used their phones to illuminate the engraved text: GRANO METALLIC STONE. I tried to describe the ingredients. Mostly ground up clinker from blast furnaces mixed with Portland cement. The appeal of the mix was that the grains of clinker weathered better and stood out from the softer materials, creating a rough ‘natural’ feel. A fake ‘nature’.

Through the trees, the Temple. A sunhouse for a queen. A second temple had been built, but subsequently demolished; it had been constructed on top of a 37 foot high mound of earth and rock extracted from what is now the Serpentine. It had revolved. I asked the walkers to imagine a sunhouse turning in circles on top of an inverted lake. I was mixing geometry and fluid materials; fumbling for enough approximation in the hope that the walkers were drawing lines in their heads.

At the statue of Peter Pan I handed out envelopes and small sheets of paper. I explained that this site had been a regular ‘dead letter drop’ for spies and their embassy handlers. I asked the walkers to imagine writing on the paper the name of a conspiracy theory that they would like to see dead, then to place it in the envelope and put it away in a pocket, so later they could throw it in a bin or burn it.

It took a moment to find a view to Speke’s obelisk, but it appeared silhouetted, a dark spire behind, the tree tops hazy like fog. Speke was the discoverer of the source of the Nile, though it would have been easier if he’d just asked the locals. He was a believer in the Hamitic Hypothesis whereby a certain group of Africans, Tutsis, were designated superior to (and less African than) their immediate neighbours, the Hutus, on account of their descent from a son of Noah. A groundless application of biblical text, a regular trope in colonial manipulation of the histories of the colonised, that would play some part in the Rwandan genocide in 1994. An obelisk is a frozen sunbeam, yet this one celebrates a river; a mixture of sharp invasion and soft fluidity that mirrors Steve Metz’s idea of ‘shipwreck modernity’, mixing theft and composture in the assembling of empires and paradigms.

Finally, after a nervous moment when the gate from the park seemed to have disappeared, we crossed the road to Lancaster Gate and the monument to Reginald Brabazon, 12th Earl Meath. His face, with its eyes deeply hollowed out by the weather, sits beneath the sculpture of a sitting, half naked boy. Brabazon was founder of the Duty and Discipline Movement “to combat softness” and “to give support to all legitimate authority”, a leading light in the Empire Movement and an enthusiastic advocate of signing up for slaughter. Between the eroded and vulnerable child and the head of the Earl were depictions of a ‘City of God’, also eroding and barely visible, and I encouraged walkers to take the opportunity for a rare view, by supporting each other with a palm at the bottom of the back. Maybe two of the fifteen took up the offer.

In the pub we tried to explain and detail the recent qualitative shift in all things.

-Phil Smith

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One thought on “Phil Smith: ‘Walking in Rain and Darkness’

  1. Pingback: Thursday 12th January: Serpentine sturm und drang in the late afternoon: Simon King and Phil Smith | walkative

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