Fences & Edges by Karen Alderson


Journey 2. Walking from Ovenden Road to the top of Windy Bank Lane.

On Brow Lane, at the foot of the hill, the road curves and on the right is a row of metal fence panels one of which is distorted, its long metal legs bowed into a curved void. I get close to the point at which the metal cracks. Someone has woven green garden wire in between the fence panels that separated on impact, the suturing of a scar.  I want to create a memorial, not to an imagined fatality but to the inevitability of shock after a collision. In Greece roadside memorials are erected both to honour the dead and in thanksgiving to those that survive. I film cars coming down the road and stay for a few minutes acknowledging the event.






I like Joseph Hart’s definition of Psychogeography: ‘a whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities….just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictive paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape.”



I put Niederland et al into Google and a list of articles about the embodied practice of walking appear, further clicking leads me to posts about displacement of the self via migration and adoption which links with my visit to the Contact Theatre the previous Saturday evening where Lemn Sissay and other performers explored the theme of transcultural adoption and displacement. I hop from illness as a form of displacement to illness as liminality and finally grief as liminality and find this blog post:


Here, Caroline Pearce explores the similarities between grief and liminal places, e.g the disorientation & destabilisation of one’s world, the potential to “dis-embed’ from a sense of being in the world where secure boundaries become destabilised and we stand outside of normality with a potential for both transformation and chaos. This connects adoption, migration, trauma, grief & loss as experiences that have the potential to place people into liminal states.

After 2 years I sometimes go back to the place where I had an accident, bits of the bumper and grill still in the fence. It’s a fast road so I cannot satisfy my desire to walk slowly following the trajectory the car took as it overturned.

This makes me think about family and friends of people who have been killed in road traffic accidents and their need to revisit the place where the deceased died. A spot where place becomes space, a destabilised area where the living meet the dead. I think about roadside memorials and prevailing public attitudes to “private” grief, I consider the advent of the motor car back in the 1920’s and the resulting huge rise in fatalities that called for a national response to widen roads.


Road traffic accidents are seen as unfortunate incidents, not as a cultural phenomena. Evidence from RoadPeace, an organisation that supports families after a RTA death, have collected evidence that suggest society tolerates road death and disability as an acceptable price to pay for increased motorisation and convenience.


There is an increase in the prevalence of people creating their own roadside memorials  a need, it seems, to make their grief visible. However, others do not agree with this emerging practice, this is a statement from Surrey County Council “There is a view that placing memorials on the highway is maudlin and unhealthy.”


Roadside memorials are seen as something that do not sit with the idea of keeping the expression of grief private and contained in designated spaces such as cemeteries.  This leakage of grief into the public area is considered by some as sentimentality and “unnecessary” however Pearce’s article above theorises that the creation of such  memorials is an independent strategy for dealing with the chaos of grief thereby challenging traditional beliefs.

I ponder my experience of being in the car, thinking that I’m safe, seeing the outside like a screen.The car skids, hits the wall, time slows down, the grass moves past then I’m upside down pulling myself out of the passenger window. I feel the cold air, the hardness of the road, the pattern of the road surface as I crawl over broken glass, the sound of people gasping, the soft fur of my hood against my cheek. Moving  from inside to outside, a strange birth.

As I walk up Windy Bank Lane the industrial units, warehouses and garages stop as if there is an imaginary boundary at the foot of the hill. The fields open out to my left and the side of the road is littered with drink cartons, sweet wrappers and fast food containers.  Not one piece of litter is on the tarmac as if an imaginary demarcation exists between the sacred space of the road and its verges, a place to be studiously aimed for when throwing litter from the passenger window. In comparison, less litter is dropped in the industrial area suggesting that drivers and their passengers wait until they enter the unmonitored countryside.


I investigate the psychology of littering:


Two reasons are highlighted, first, certain groups not having a connection to place, second, a sense that it is someone else’s responsibility to dispose of rubbish. I begin to contemplate the sense of disconnection that car driving fosters, a global individualisation and the loss of belief in collective agency.


Halfway up Windy Bank Lane someone has thrown a black plastic bag of clothes into the field.  A child’s colourful sock makes me think of evidence at the scene of a fatality. I decide that I want to reclaim the clothes and wash them, as you would a body. Clothes are full of emotional energy, they have existed against the skin, they invoke the wearer, their personality, their soul. The concept of the film is becoming clearer.





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