Gilbert White's Natural History of Selbourne

Flag flown by HMS Warspite at the Battle of Jutland unveiled by NMRN

Lizzie and I did a fair bit of research into WW1 naval vessels as part of our last show, Tanks & Tablecloths: Chapter 2 at Plymouth Arts Centre. So I was delighted to discover the news that some of the ensign flags from ships that took part in the Battle of Jutland will be displayed at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth in 2016. The top image shows the silk flag from the HMS Warspite, whose long life came to an in 1947 on the rocks of Prussia Cove here in Cornwall, on her way to be scrapped after an illustrious thirty year career.

The bottom image is a work we made for TNT Chapter 2 about Warspite. Belli Dura Despicio (Broadside) is a 29.7km line printed on 150 broadside newsprint sheets. The length of the line relates to the maximum distance of a broadside from Warspite's 15 inch guns.

Work in last

New works finally beginning to take shape for our show at Plymouth Arts Centre, May 1-14 June 2015, folks. To know more, visit our page on PAC's website and have a look around while you are there.

Anya Gallaccio 'Untitled Landscape'
New commission by Anya Galliccio at Orford Ness as part of the 14-18 NOW programme. The photographs depict 'traumatised pebbles' altered by ordnance disposal. Why photographs? Why in this landscape? What do these images bring to this site? Hmmm...


Scouting locations for Tanks & Tablecloths 2015. Top is Plymouth Athenaeum, Devon. Bottom Holman's Test Mine, Cornwall. Crossin' the Tamar...and back again 'ansomes. Photos by Miss Ridout. See more in Lizzie's sketchbook.

Tabletalk: Vannevar Bush's Memex

'As We May Think', illustration of the 'cyclops camera', Life Magazine, Nov 1945

In 1945, influential American engineer Vannevar Bush envisioned the 'memex', a hypothetical machine allowing the creation of associative linked 'trails' within a personal knowledge repository. Both information and trails were collected and stored within the machine. Bush's ideas influenced the early development of hypertext. His article 'As We May Think', was published in the Atlantic magazine, July 1945 and reprinted in Life, November 1945. An except which describes the memex follows, the full article from the Atlantic archive can be found here.

Jeremy Norman's History of Information site includes details of amendments and additions to the Life article.

Illustration of the memex from Life,November 1945
"Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, "memex" will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.

It consists of a desk, and while it can presumably be operated from a distance, it is primarily the piece of furniture at which he works. On the top are slanting translucent screens, on which material can be projected for convenient reading. There is a keyboard, and sets of buttons and levers. Otherwise it looks like an ordinary desk.

In one end is the stored material. The matter of bulk is well taken care of by improved microfilm. Only a small part of the interior of the memex is devoted to storage, the rest to mechanism. Yet if the user inserted 5000 pages of material a day it would take him hundreds of years to fill the repository, so he can be profligate and enter material freely.

Most of the memex contents are purchased on microfilm ready for insertion. Books of all sorts, pictures, current periodicals, newspapers, are thus obtained and dropped into place. Business correspondence takes the same path. And there is provision for direct entry. On the top of the memex is a transparent platen. On this are placed longhand notes, photographs, memoranda, all sorts of things. When one is in place, the depression of a lever causes it to be photographed onto the next blank space in a section of the memex film, dry photography being employed.
There is, of course, provision for consultation of the record by the usual scheme of indexing. If the user wishes to consult a certain book, he taps its code on the keyboard, and the title page of the book promptly appears before him, projected onto one of his viewing positions. Frequently-used codes are mnemonic, so that he seldom consults his code book; but when he does, a single tap of a key projects it for his use. Moreover, he has supplemental levers. On deflecting one of these levers to the right he runs through the book before him, each page in turn being projected at a speed which just allows a recognizing glance at each. If he deflects it further to the right, he steps through the book 10 pages at a time; still further at 100 pages at a time. Deflection to the left gives him the same control backwards.

A special button transfers him immediately to the first page of the index. Any given book of his library can thus be called up and consulted with far greater facility than if it were taken from a shelf. As he has several projection positions, he can leave one item in position while he calls up another. He can add marginal notes and comments, taking advantage of one possible type of dry photography, and it could even be arranged so that he can do this by a stylus scheme, such as is now employed in the telautograph seen in railroad waiting rooms, just as though he had the physical page before him.

All this is conventional, except for the projection forward of present-day mechanisms and gadgetry. It affords an immediate step, however, to associative indexing, the basic idea of which is a provision whereby any item may be caused at will to select immediately and automatically another. This is the essential feature of the memex. The process of tying two items together is the important thing.

When the user is building a trail, he names it, inserts the name in his code book, and taps it out on his keyboard. Before him are the two items to be joined, projected onto adjacent viewing positions. At the bottom of each there are a number of blank code spaces, and a pointer is set to indicate one of these on each item. The user taps a single key, and the items are permanently joined. In each code space appears the code word. Out of view, but also in the code space, is inserted a set of dots for photocell viewing; and on each item these dots by their positions designate the index number of the other item.

Thereafter, at any time, when one of these items is in view, the other can be instantly recalled merely by tapping a button below the corresponding code space. Moreover, when numerous items have been thus joined together to form a trail, they can be reviewed in turn, rapidly or slowly, by deflecting a lever like that used for turning the pages of a book. It is exactly as though the physical items had been gathered together from widely separated sources and bound together to form a new book. It is more than this, for any item can be joined into numerous trails.
The owner of the memex, let us say, is interested in the origin and properties of the bow and arrow. Specifically he is studying why the short Turkish bow was apparently superior to the English long bow in the skirmishes of the Crusades. He has dozens of possibly pertinent books and articles in his memex. First he runs through an encyclopedia, finds an interesting but sketchy article, leaves it projected. Next, in a history, he finds another pertinent item, and ties the two together. Thus he goes, building a trail of many items. Occasionally he inserts a comment of his own, either linking it into the main trail or joining it by a side trail to a particular item. When it becomes evident that the elastic properties of available materials had a great deal to do with the bow, he branches off on a side trail which takes him through textbooks on elasticity and tables of physical constants. He inserts a page of longhand analysis of his own. Thus he builds a trail of his interest through the maze of materials available to him.

And his trails do not fade. Several years later, his talk with a friend turns to the queer ways in which a people resist innovations, even of vital interest. He has an example, in the fact that the outraged Europeans still failed to adopt the Turkish bow. In fact he has a trail on it. A touch brings up the code book. Tapping a few keys projects the head of the trail. A lever runs through it at will, stopping at interesting items, going off on side excursions. It is an interesting trail, pertinent to the discussion. So he sets a reproducer in action, photographs the whole trail out, and passes it to his friend for insertion in his own memex, there to be linked into the more general trail.

Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified. The lawyer has at his touch the associated opinions and decisions of his whole experience, and of the experience of friends and authorities. The patent attorney has on call the millions of issued patents, with familiar trails to every point of his client's interest. The physician, puzzled by a patient's reactions, strikes the trail established in studying an earlier similar case, and runs rapidly through analogous case histories, with side references to the classics for the pertinent anatomy and histology. The chemist, struggling with the synthesis of an organic compound, has all the chemical literature before him in his laboratory, with trails following the analogies of compounds, and side trails to their physical and chemical behavior.

The historian, with a vast chronological account of a people, parallels it with a skip trail which stops only on the salient items, and can follow at any time contemporary trails which lead him all over civilization at a particular epoch. There is a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record. The inheritance from the master becomes, not only his additions to the world's record, but for his disciples the entire scaffolding by which they were erected."

WWII table shelter

Lithograph on paper, WW2 75.5 x 50.1cm, Imperial War Musuem

Study of a shell burst, Keith Henderson, 1917

Charcoal on paper, 17.7 x 23.3cm. Imperial War Museum, London


Top to bottom: Strategic Food Stockpile, grain silos at Oxford and Knapton; Emergency Feeding Station (Crown copyright); one pint bowl and spoon, for distribution from EFS; Body label. Householders were advised to label the dead.

Images from 'Four Minute Warning': Britain's Cold War' by Bob Clarke (Tempus, 2005, ISBN 0-7524-3394-6).

Hiroshi Sugimoto

Sugimoto's candles, photographed for his In Praise of Shadows series. Interesting perhaps because, like Pickering's Celestial Objects series, which document the lifespan of a gunshot in a single image, these show us a candle burning down, under various conditions, again in a single photograph.

Sarah Pickering 'Explosion'

Sarah Pickering 'Artillery', 2005

Sarah Pickering 'Landmine', 2005
More explosions, and 'Public Order', images from the Met Police Public Order Training Centre at

Table-talk (Pt 2)
We'll be talking this talk at the Independent School of Art in Penryn, UK to kick off the new phase of TNT. Please join us if you can.


Table-Talk by John Selden, or Seldeniana, published by Southgate, 1868

Toying with this idea of table-talk for the next Tanks & Tablecloths wave…

-ana |ˈɑːnə|

(forming plural nouns) denoting things associated with a person, place, or field of interest: 
Americana | Victoriana.

In 1755, Samuel Johnson's Dictionary described an -ana as 'loose thoughts, or casual hints, dropped by eminent men and collected by their friends'. (Johnson's Dictionary would therefore be called a Johnsoniana.)

John Selden published Table-Talk in 1689 and it later became known as Seldeniana.

Thursday's Inspiration

Ori Gersht, Big Bang, 2006 from
Noga Gallery of Contemporary Art on Vimeo

From our good friend Mr Mills.
(Watch big and loud.)

Watching this - and importantly listening to it - made me think of Alvin Lucier's I am Sitting in a Roomin which the artist's words are repeatedly played and rerecorded and replayed, until the words lose all meaning, becoming mere abstract echoes and vibrations in the space. It's not that the two pieces are in any way similar, but they both make me consider two things which I think we could reflect on in our own works: sound and speed/stillness.

The sound in Gerscht's Big Bang is so effective - I knew it was coming, the title and preceding stillness gave it away - and yet I still jumped and yelled all three times that I watched it. How will we consider sound in our own ideas of exploding matter? (Does it synch with the film, is it played in a different space?) And also Gerscht's explosion… he slows it down. Do we want realtime or to play with and extend reality?

With Lucier's piece, I'm interested in the way the sound defines a physical space. And a domestic space too, judging by the image that accompanies it. For me there's something that is potentially quite powerful in that, particularly with our own subject matter. Can we find a way to create sound for our film (or perhaps a separate sound work altogether?), that creates an ambience of a domestic space, therefore heightening and highlighting the discord between home and this explosive intrusion. Perhaps its a filmic piece with a partner sound work exploring the power of the explosion from within a space and far beyond it? Not sure…

Tables Vol. II: Missing Man Table

Photo Credit: Spc. Elisebet Freeburg, Joint Sustainment Command-Afghanistan, PAO

At official military and naval ceremonies in which dining takes place, US tradition states that a single,  circular white-cloth table is set for one, symbolizing the absences of soldiers who are prisoners of war or missing in action. The table might be set for one to symbolize the vulnerability of one isolated prisoner, or for larger events set for six, to represent the members of the five armed services (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard) and a sixth place setting for the civilians who died during service alongside the armed forces or who are missing during armed conflict. The table is round to represent the everlasting concern of the survivors for those loved ones. The chairs always remain empty to remind all of those who are not present. A slice of lemon reminds everyone of their bitter fate. The salt symbolizes the families tears shed as they wait for the return of their loved ones. The wine glass is inverted because the missing and fallen cannot toast. A yellow ribbon is tied to a vase with a single red rose to remind everyone of the families and loved one in harm's way.
You can read more on Wikipedia.

Tables Vol. I

'As from twelve noon today the central Government will cease to function and the administration of the country will be handled by 15 regional commissioners'  Emergency committees in major towns and boroughs announce the different classes and numbers of evacuees in The War Game (1965)
A family runs to hide under a table after a nuclear strike in The War Game (1965)

The team who invented radar in Castles in the Sky on BBC2, Thursday 4th September 2014, 21.00

Creating a nuclear fallout shelter from a table, as advised by the Government issued Protect & Survive manual in The Young Ones, aired November 1982
Tables for all purposes: at which to eat, talk and spend time with family; to play on, under and behind; at which to work, muse, read, write; on which to present and display; over which to plan, strategize, formulate; from which to deliver, direct, declare.

Images showing a few of the varied uses of tables on the home and war fronts, from The War GameCastles in the Sky and The Young Ones here, here and here.


Tanks & Tablecloths is currently putting together a proposal for a new body of sculptural and filmic work exploring survival and civil defence to be shown at Plymouth History Festival in May 2015.

We began the Tanks & Tablecloths collaboration a decade ago, and 2015 also marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, so it seemed high time that we reconvened and made some new works exploring the common ground between the military and the domestic. We're particularly interested in looking at Plymouth as a city of military significance on the
war and home fronts, both during the Second World War and now.

Utility furniture

Courtesy of Design Council/DHRC, University of Brighton

While trawling the interweb in search of some cheap, dour period pieces for my own home, I came across Utility Furniture, issued by permit in WW2 to those most deserving. Designed by luminaries of the time, such as Gordon Russell, the furniture served to utilise scarce resources in the most effective way, whilst also bringing 'good design' to the masses. However, the designs became ever associated in the public mind with wartime austerity and the Utility programme was abandoned in 1952, as the consumer boom began in earnest.

Image from

'Cheeses' logo, stamped on all fabrics and furniture, designed by Reginald Shipp. Molto Italian Futurist.

Read more:

Pip, Squeak & Wilfred: Herbert SAMMONS

These are my Great-grandad's medals, now looked after by my Nan and Grandad. He served in the Navy onboard HMS Chester.


From The British People at War, published by Odhams Press Ltd., date unknown (approx. 1943).

Salvage. Rag. Bone. Waste.

With the restriction of imported goods during the Second World War, old and decaying industries were resurrected. What had previously been considered waste was reconditioned to fill demand. The above rather lovely info-graphic shows the salvaging of waste material into textiles for blankets and clothing. From The British People at War, published by Odhams Press Ltd., date unknown.


The Civil Defence Manual of Basic Training, His Majesty's Stationary Office, 1949