Anneg pointed me at the misguided walks that Wrights & Sites ran on 8th April 2006 at the ICA. I imagine it was a bit like this algorithmic walk, or perhaps a map club event led by Guy Debord. Stephen Hodge led us on this walk:
Out of Place
A walk of coincidences, derived from overlaying a map of Paris onto London. What’s where the Eiffel Tower should be? Where can we stop for un Ricard?
From the A Mis-Guide to Anywhere book, p16:
Towards the end of 2003 a ferris wheel from Paris was re-erected in the centre of Birmingham - but the French audio commentary had not been removed, and for several weeks the public viewed the English cityscape whilst being told to look out for Parisian landmarks.
Outside the ICA, we talk of Paris as an invisible city overlaid on London - lovely. Can we imagine Joyce starting Finnegans Wake in a Victoria Palace Hotel sited on Bloomsbury Street rather than on rue Blaise Desgoffe, 6th? We also talk of wormholes to other places, thoughts, times and experiences. Are these wormholes to blank places? Is this wormhole disconnected?
The team consults the maps at Trafalgar Square, the ground-zero of roads, miles and city-stories. We overlay a map of Paris over one of London and fix the I.M.Pei Pyramide to Nelson's Column (currently hidden under a scaffold for conservation). After some discussion and inspiration from Fiona, we rotate the map so that La Musée D'Orsay hovers over the Royal Academy, and decide to walk to it, a journey that will require a crossing of the Seine.
(Except that my secret plan is to overlay somewhere else upon this Paris-in-London: East Marden in the early 1980s. When we were nine or ten, The Captain had on the wall of his study in East Marden a framed map. It claimed to be of the harbour and city of Wilhelmshaven and surrounding area in Baltic Germany, and he claimed to have been presented it by the German navy in the 1970s, but my cousin Andrew and I knew better. It was clearly a German invasion map of the south of England, and the proof was that we could see the actual arrangement of roads and paths in the village just there, to the lower right. World War Two was still being fought in West Sussex during the early 80s, though most adults now affected not to notice the Nazi yoke they'd shamefully been bent to; as Toby Litt pointed out elsewhere, a few young, stubborn heroes held out here and there across the country.)
We split into two teams - each will cross the Seine via different bridge, requiring a different route in London. Our team heads off, passing the National Gallery, which is showing Americans in Paris. We head from the Louvre towards the Jardin des Tuileries, turning right onto Whitcomb Street, where we see the ghostly outline of the Place du Carrousel. Its curve was sketched in chalk on the tarmac.
(At the same time, in 1980s/East Marden/Paris Andrew and I are on bicycles, having powered down the lane in the direction of Stoughton, which has of course fallen to the panzer divisions already. The curve of the Place du Carrousel on Whitcomb Street is a grassy bank that we're dug in behind, using the opera glasses for reconnaisance. The mortars and anti-tank weapons are primed, and our bags contain provisions. We are ready.)
We jink left and right through back streets and we cross the Haymarket and the lower part of Regent Street, both of which now feel like rivers of cars rather than roads because we're aware that we're approaching the Seine.
On Jermyn Street to the west of Regents Street, the Tesco Express's EXIT sign seems to indicate the limits of terra firma. David and Sally look from the Pont Royal down into the river Seine. Far off to the left is the London Eye, currently installed on the Ile de la Cité. We know we're crossing the river because we pass a sprinkler sign. After the crossing, we reach the left bank on Duke of York street. As we look from the map to the pavement, the rive gauche chalks itself in.
(In war-torn 1980s/East Marden/Paris, we fire our bazookas at the approaching column of Panzer IV, the projectiles crashing through the shop-front of The Silver Fund and prepare to move. Our options are to draw them away from the village by cutting across the fields in the direction of Up Marden (Baker Street), or fall back to the village (Stanfords on Longacre/Rue de Richlieu) where we can consult the Wilhelmshaven map from the safety of our bunker.)
Further up Jermyn Street, we pass Isaac Newton's house and turn right into Prince's Arcade. I think this is where Manet's shocking Olympia (1863) is in the Musée. Someone mentions Benjamin's Arcades Project, and we all grimace because we haven't read it. The top of Prince's Arcade opens onto Piccadilly and the Rue Anatole (Air) France.
I try to see multiple cities, like progressively thinner blankets overlaid on London, or acetates over a printed map. I see Calvino obviously. Or Joyce in Paris-in-Zurich-in-Trieste-in-Dublin-on-London. Does this multilayering work on other cities, in Los Angeles, Mumbai, Auckland? Is London an ur-city - a historied, storied spoilheap in which all cities might be found, a loom for weaving place-stories? Can we look further back, to ancient cities like Catalhoyuk?
And shortly the teams meet again at back of the Musée D'Orsay: the Royal Academy. Stephen Hodge shares chocolates he has brought from Maxine's, and sets us two final tasks: firstly to text someone in French (Anneg, what's your number?), and secondly to take a photo each from a set he took in Paris, and to leave them somewhere publicly. My photo is of the details for a house to rent near the Place de Vosges. It has "LOUE" handwritten across it - which I think means "RENT" or "RENTED" - or maybe it's "LOVE". I decide to scribble Duchamp's "Eau et Gaz" line on the back of it and leave it tucked inside a Duchamp book on the shelves of a bookshop - so that it might be discovered at some point in the future. But Waterstones at Charing Cross doesn't have any Duchamp books (and I forgot to do it at the ICA bookshop), so for the moment it's still inside the notebook, waiting for a Shakespeare and Co bookshop, whose Rue de l'Odéon must be somewhere down past the Houses of Parliament.
A very interesting walk, thanks to Stephen, and David, Sally and rest of the team. All the pictures are here. And today it has been raining so the chalk marks have probably melted back into London's storyspoilheap already.