There are a few strains of inquiry and activity that have been common to my work in Wow Cool, DeptEx, and the Brown Cuts Neighbors that may not be super obvious, given that much of the result is performance, music, zines, comics and such. When pursuing these obsessions with various collaborators we had a pretty clear idea of what we were digging at but had not much of a sense that there were very many others out there with the same interests. Like magic, in the last decade or so, the maker movement and psychogeography emerge, and it’s like, “oh, yeah, that”. After some two decades of walking, digging and documenting, much of the work in the area of what would be labelled psychogeography that had been done by Jason Martin, James Kopta and myself still remains unreleased. Separated geographically from the subject of our obsession – Schenectady, New York and its regions – any sort of substantial document of this research seems ever more distant. Every couple of years Jason and I, and whatever accomplices we rope in, descend on the increasingly unfamiliar homeland to wrest the secrets from a corner of town not yet explored. But this post isn’t about us, it’s about a man named Nick Papadimitriou, who has been an unexpected inspiration to re-engage with this material. His home is the former county of Middlesex in England.

Above you can watch the complete documentary on Nick and his work – The London Perambulator by John Rogers.

John Rogers’ film looks at the city we deny and the future city that awaits us. Leading London writers and cultural commentators Will Self, Iain Sinclair and Russell Brand explore the importance of the liminal spaces at the city’s fringe, its Edgelands, through the work of enigmatic and downright eccentric writer and researcher Nick Papadimitriou – a man whose life is dedicated to exploring and archiving areas beyond the permitted territories of the high street, the retail park, the suburban walkways.

Walking continues it’s march towards becoming a criminalized act and Deep Topography has emerged – thanks to Nick – as a better term for much of the activity that was called psychogeography, before that term expanded its meaning past sense. Nick’s is an unique and wonderful voice; and his is the one that has given us this more useful term for our obsessions. He’s recently released a book that explores the North Middlesex/South Hertfordshire Tertiary Escarpment or Scarp with his unique and poetic take to this method. A trailer for it is below. It’s description does its job well.

Nick Papadimitriou has spent a lifetime living on the margins, walking and documenting the landscapes surrounding his home in Child’s Hill, North London, in a study he calls Deep Topography.

Part meditation on nature and walking, part memoir and part social history, his arresting debut is first and foremost a personal inquiry into the spirit of a place: a 14-mile broken ridge of land on the fringes of Northern London known as Scarp. Conspicuous but largely forgotten, a vast yet largely invisible presence hovering just beyond the metropolis, Scarp is a vast storehouse of regional memory. We join the author as he explores and reimagines this brooding, pregnant landscape, meticulously observing his surroundings, finding surprising connections and revealing lost slices of the past.

SCARP captures the satisfying experience of a long, reflective walk. Whether talking about the beauty of a bird or a telegraph pole, deaths at a roundabout or his own troubled past, Papadimitriou celebrates the poetry in the everyday. His captivating prose reveals that the world around us is alive and intrinsically valuable in ways that the trappings of day-to-day life lead us to forget, and allows us to re-connect with something more authentic, more immediate, more profound.

Deep Linkage:
Middlesex County Council (Nick’s homepage) | Ventures & Adventures in Topography (Podcast and Resonance 104.1 FM program)

BBC Newsnight: Chronicler of suburban sprawl Nick Papadimitriou

Reviews & Interviews: The Guardian | Time Out London | Granta | Rich Pickings

Related reading: Richard Mabey’s The Unofficial Countryside | The Book of Dave by Will Self | London: City of Disappearances