Cliff Andrade MA RCA (UK, b. 1982) uses drawing, printmaking, photography, moving image and walking to explore the effect of class, migration and the phenomenon of memory on our sense of identity and belonging. He is based at Spike Island Studios, Bristol, UK.

 

You can find out more about his work on his website here

It's funny that the insignificant things you forget - where the mugs are; how to turn on the shower - are some of the things that connect you most to a place.

Companions

 

The Years, Annie Ernaux

9.5 Theses on Art and Class, Ben Davis

One Place Afer Another: Site-specific Art and Locational Identity, Miwon Kwon

For Ernaux, things begin with a photo, oval-shaped, of a fat baby with a pouty lip and brown hair. For him it begins with a photo of a 9 year old boy, the chubby hands he inherited from his mum's side of the family pushed together in the middle of his chest as if in prayer. He looks slightly up at the camera which has been set just above his eye-level, in his white suit with his smart navy bowtie, against a light blue background; a torso, head and arms floating in a toneless angelic sky.

The photo sits alone in the centre of the largest wall in the largest room in the house. Isolated, not only as if to augur the premature death of his parents (if death can ever be premature) but also an independent and solitary mindset with which he will forever encounter the world, and an arrogance that no one else sees it in quite the way he does. In the early autumn, when everyone has returned to school and the summer has moved into memory, the wall glows in the light of the setting sun while he watches the 6 o'clock news the TV has flowed into after Neighbours, a light which seems to speak of a whole world outside his reach.

On smaller tracks, I am reassured by the spiders' webs across my path shining in the sunlight, a sign that as yet no one else has come this way today.


As I walk I notice I am not paying any attention to the landscape at all. I know it already. My journey is currently completely internal. I take some photos, but I am not interested in and of the landscape itself. The incredibly low level of the water means I can walk along the shore. And my focus becomes totally about this. On the present challenge of tackling the terrain immediately in front of me. In the mental engagement of doing so. The 'flow'. The experience of walking as and of an action in itself. And I wonder if this is only possible because I am in a landscape I have already known.


I didn't need a shit. And the mosquitoes will not leave you in peace at dusk.

Day 2: Clockwise

I am anxious about my arse when I set off as last night I had a minor epsiode of paralytic ileus. But off I go. And not as anxious as I might have been. Maybe becasue the exposed shore gives me the opportunity to find spaces well away from houses and ticks. But I still won't eat.


Maybe because I am so tired, I hardly think of anything at all. Barely look around. I am focused on my physical sensations. The pain in my feet. The weight of my rucksack. How hungry I was getting. And on which rock I should put my foot next.

 

At the KFC in Miraflores, they would ask for his name when he ordered so that it could be shouted out when his meal was ready to be collected. And each time he would provide a ridiculous name. Partly out of curiosity to see how they would be pronounced. But mainly to make his friends laugh. Names that in the future he would cringe at the thought of.

 

At times I felt like I was walking in a stony desert. There is something so freeing about walking on the exposed shore. The way is always obvious (keep the sea on the right; or left). And it is a new and exclusive way. You are no longer tied to tracks and roads, and can reach areas well away from houses and deep in the woods.


But yet when I do encounter houses I wonder about my right to be there . An English history of enclosure and private property creates a mindset I cannot dismiss. Who does this temporarily revealed shore belong to? The dry reed beds are decomposing in the sun. The stench draws swarms of flies it is difficult to walk through.

 

Juliet told him that tans can be scratched off. He laughed at this ridiculous idea. But later on a beach in Panama, once they had been in South America for months and were tanned and felt untouchable in a world of endless opportunity and privelege, she showed him.

 

 

 

I didn't need a shit.

Day 3: Clockwise

A cockerel crows in the distance.


A cockerel crows in the distance drawing him out of his slumber. He makes his way to the tile lined kitchen. Cool, even though he can see the heat outside. A box of Chocopic. The excitement of the novelty of a cereal unavailable at home. He is beginning to adjust to the taste of UHT milk. And the fact it comes in cartons, not bottles. And the cockerel is joined by a voice shouting Lucia, não esqueces de espalhar a ropa. Sim senhora. A response in a petulant but at the same time respectful tone. And it wouldn't be until years later that he discovers Lucia, his aunt, has a mental age of about 8. Some say this is because his grandmother fell over when she was pregnant. But he doubts this. His upbring has been more scientific than superstitious. These are the same people who say you shouldn't trim your nails on Tuesdays, or eat before cutting your hair. And, most dangerous of all, that you shouldn't swim within two hours of eating. His dad's uncle did that they say. He went swimming in the sea, and in the sea he stayed forever.


I haven't done a shit before leaving so again I am slightly anxious. But my guts feel quite settled.


I want to walk myself to exhaustion. I want to feel the ache in my feet and the strain in my back from effort exerted. Signs that I have done as much as I can. So that when I lay down at night, their presence means I can rest with a clear conscience and sleep properly for the first time in months.


I think back to last time and see it now in part as a mapping exercise. My feet had to know every part of this land. My camera had to provide a sense of 'place'.


Now I feel free of that and continue round the coast. There is something so meditative about picking my way over the rocks. Me. The sea. The granite. The sun. The wind.


Bright pink balloons wish me a Happy 18th Birthday.

 

I didn't need a shit. At night I hear an owl.

Cliff Andrade

I am 'returning' rather than simply 'coming'. And I am interested to know how this will change what I am interested in, what I am interested in exploring and, what takes my interest.


Day 0: Group Walk

When he was young, some of the greatest excitement in visiting Europe was found in the simple things. Familiar brands going by different names. Discovering scents of shower gels unavailable at home. Familiar, but not. Like a parallel universe playing by slightly different rules, replete with new possibilties. 

I used to think that memory distilled over time. That recollections of an experience would evaporate, until only the largest grains remained for you to carry with you until death, or that time at which you lose your memories altogether. Instead, memories come and go. Some rise to the top for a while and float there, before sinking again to be replaced by others that had been seemingly forgotten, only to re-emerge again at some point as yet unknown and for reasons I cannot fathom.

Day 1: Anti-Clockwise

I haven't done a shit this morning so I am anxious when I set off, but off I go. I don't want to shit in the woods because I am worried about ticks.


The light is much harsher than when I was here before. The contrast much stronger. The mosquitoes are out in force in the woods. And there are people. I twice encounter people out walking their dogs where before I saw no one. The second time, a pair of dogs sprint towards me barking. For a while after that I thought about little else other than worrying about whether I would encounter more. 

Day 4: Clockwise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The total peace of walking home at midnight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn't need a shit. 

Day 6: Anti-Clockwise

The cockerel is back and the nostalgia overwhelming.


I am anxious. I have been to the loo but feel there could be more to come. The group walk means I am not in complete control of my time or pace.


I make everyone start early so they experience for themselves the process that I have to follow to manage my circumstances. And with them I walk the exposed shore from Östersjö to Rumshamn. With them I complete the exposed shore from BKN round to Östersjö.


Again, even though I am not on my own this time, I find the focus required for the rocks, the constant assessment of the best path, meditative. Thought is silent. And when we pause and sit on the rock I stare at the the sea and the the sky and the granite and I stare and I stare and I try to sear this moment into my brain. The image of blues and greys. The emotions of calm, contentment and comaraderie. The feeling of the sun and wind on my skin. But it is fuitle. In a moment this moment will be the past, tomorrow a memory. And eventually, like Ernaux constantly reminds us, everything will disappear. But maybe that is not the point. Maybe the point is to generate that positive energy in the universe whilst you have the ability.


He would think back to the warm sun and the deep blue of the seawater pool in Santa Cruz. It's short slide shaped like a killer whale. Now just a relic. It sits there still, the entrance to its steps barred. And as the children splash about beneath it there is no way they could know that it was so steep that it would cause the saltwater to burn his sinuses as he plunged into it.


Later, in the sharing session, John would think about the walk as a metaphor for society. That even though we walked at different paces and at times spread out quite far, a shared sense of purpose and a feeling of care towards each other meant we made sure no one got left too far behind. And how had we been concerned soley with ourselves, the walk would never have worked. He talks about the utter absence of manmade noise when we stopped and listened. And about how he felt very present during Bernardita's water walk as he had to be so careful where he put his feet, feeling the resistance of the water against his legs. 


And I tell him that this presence is what I feel on the exposed shore. The concentration required to navigate a path. The absence of thought. And Bernardita has the opposite experience. Of being so fearful of falling on the rocks that her mind is consumed with worry and anxiety. And we marvel at how an environment can engender such different responses. And discuss the experiences engendered by different paths. How the meditation is absent on a road or an well-trodden track - the path so easy that it is the mind that is free to wander.

 

The following night, in my bunk in a Stockholm hostel, I will wonder if this was my favourite walk of all.


I didn't need a shit.



In 2019 I walked the same route every day, 3 times a week, for a whole academic year. From the house where I was staying to university. I wrote my MA dissertation about it. About the thoughts and memories that would accompany me on this walk. But towards the end of this daily journey it was not the thoughts, but their absence, that would fascinate me. As my body would tire my mind would quieten, and I seemingy found a place, through walking, beyond thinking.  A process of learning tot unlearn. And I began to wonder if walking could be a reliable route to this meditative state - this place beyond thought, beyond memory; beyond questions of identity and existence. 


In 2021, when I walked the entire length of the UK, it was in large part to try and spend more time in this state of absence of thought. Instead, I found my mind pre-occupied with so many thoughts. Of identity. And place. And ownership. And histories. And class. And race. And anxiety. This state was lost to me.


I wondered if it had been lost to me forever. But here in Björkö I found it again. On the exposed shore, picking my way through rocks and plotting the best route over the granite boulders. So the question I am left with is why... why here and why now?


I wonder if it has something to do with the unique qualities of the place...


...that it is known to me already so I am freed from a sense of novelty; from a need to explore, define, map and know


...that the sun was shining


...that its scale means I am never far from home, and yet its population density means I am able to feel like I am 'away' from everything, alone, intrepid, wild


...that I feel safe and do not fear, man nor beast


...that the exposed shore revealed a route in which all this came together, and which allowed me to focus on my feet and the journey and nothing more


...that I am free to research without pressure or expectation of outcome.



And as I consider all this, I am also thinking about which memories are already rising to the surface in the immediate wake of my time in Björkö





Day -1: Arrival

The sun. The scent of pines. The smell of burning wood. Suddenly the sound of a motorbike far-off. Transport me back to summer visits to Madeira 30 years ago. But the difference between this sun and these pines and this burning and this far-off motorbike is that they are in a place I feel connected to. And I am overwhelmed by a deep melancholy at the disconnection I feel for Madeira now.

Shoreline Loops

Coda: Reflections

I sensed things were different, but I couldn't remember the specifics. Then Jolene asked me about the trees. Was the birch naked? Could I see the lake from the road? And then I remembered that the Japanese maple had already turned red.

"The girls on either side of her in the photo belong to the bourgeoisie. She doesn't feel like one of them. She is stronger and more independent. By spending too much time with them, accompanying them to surboums, she feels she demeans herself. Nor does she think she has anything in common, not any longer, with the working-class world of her childhood and her parents' small business. She has gone over to the other side but cannot say of what. The life behind her is made up of disjointed images. She feels she is nowhere, 'inside' nothing exept knowledge and literature."

Dreams of Sleep

"As if marriage had only been an interlude, she feels she's picked up the thread of her adolescence where she'd left it off, returning to the same kind of expectancy, the same breathless way of running to appointments in high heels, and sensitivity to love songs. It is a return to the same desires, too, but now she is not ashamed to satisfy them to perfection, capable of saying 'I want to fuck'.

 "With a swiftness that astounded us, we were forming tiny cells, impermeable and sedentary. Young couples and new parents were invited to each other's homes. Unmarried people, oblivious to monthly bills, tiny Gerber jars, and Dr Spock, were viewed as an immature species whose freedom of movement vaguely offended." 

"Identity, which until then [1980s] had meant nothing except a card in one's wallet with a photo glued onto it, became an overriding concern. No one knew exactly what it entailed. Whatever the case, it was something you needed to have, rediscover, assume, assert, express - a supreme and precious commodity." 

"all the twilight images of the early years, the pools of light from a summer Sunday, images from dreams in which the dead parents come back to life, and you walk down indefinable roads"

"The profusion of things concealed the scarcity of ideas and the erosion of beliefs."

"All we have is our history, and it does not belong to us."

- José Ortega y Gasset

the way the light slipped between the trees, the sea and the granite in the forest between                  Östersjö and Rumshamn as if I was not looking at it, but was inside its substance

the fisherman who first showed me how to walk the exposed shore

the noise of the waves sweeping up the rocks north of Sälviken

the camaraderie of the group walk on the final day

a stolen moment behind the bus stop in Simpnäs

swimming off the pontoon in my secret place

the lychen glowing in the light in the forest

the endless blues, golds, greys and browns

the fact my bed was soft and lumpy

Gerhard sharpening the knives

walking home at midnight

messages on the bus