Into Ruins

post-phd thinking, writing, art, cartography, abstraction, Robinson Crusoe – risking appearing deranged – writing-as-thinking


Use your voice.       – Patti Smith

’Writing does not grow within us like a cabbage while our thoughts are elsewhere,’ I replied, not a little testily.  ‘It is a craft won by long practice, as you should know.’

– J. M. Coetzee, Foe (p.147)

‘What can I write?’ she thought.  ‘What can I decide by myself?  What do I know?  What do I want?  What is there I care for?’

– L. N. Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (p.316)

It is naive to think that writing is a simple two-stage process: first you decide what you want to say, then you say it.  On the contrary, as all of us know, you write because you do not know what you want to say.  Writing reveals to you what you wanted to say in the first place.  In fact, it sometimes constructs what you want or wanted to say.  What it reveals (or asserts) may be quite different from what you thought (or half-thought) you wanted to say in the first place.  That is the sense in which one can say that writing writes us.

– J. M. Coetzee, Doubling the Point: Essays and Interviews (p.18)

When Sviazhsky had finished, Levin could not help asking: ‘Well, and what of it?’  But there was nothing to follow.  It was simply interesting that it ‘appeared’ to be so and so.  But Sviazhsky did not explain, and saw no need to explain why he found it interesting.

– L. N. Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (p.360)

[I]f the young are to be forbidden to prey upon the old then they must sit forever in silence.

– J.M. Coetzee,

You’re born, you know, the wrong names, wrong parents. I mean, that happens. You call yourself what you want to call yourself.

Bob Dylan

     And he
             a little charleychaplin man
                                           who may or may not catch
               her fair eternal form
                                     spreadeagled in the empty air
                  of existence

“I want to suggest a different metaphor for theoretical work: the metaphor of struggle, of wrestling with the angels. The only theory worth having is that which you have to fight off, not that which you speak with profound fluency” -Stuart Hall

This blog is both a showcase and a way for me to experiment with approaches and attempts to usefully write about art and politics.  Most posts are sketches, pieces of writing that are experiments or notes, and that may prove to be unsuccessful, or may lead me to change and improve my approach.  I want to take some risks with them, out of a commitment to actually doing writing rather than allowing ideas to remain unarticulated, where they remain safe from challenge and development.

Comments are very welcome, particularly any suggestions of relevant writers, artists, academics or websites.  I also welcome robust (but considered) criticism.

Thank you for reading.


PhD Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, 2015: Cartographic Abstraction: Mapping Practices in Contemporary Art

MA Art and Politics, Goldsmiths, 2010 – including Alan Little Memorial Prize for thesis: View(s) from Nowhere: Counterpoints to Hegemony in Cartographic Art

BA (Hons) History of Art and Architecture, University of Reading, 2003


2 comments on “About

  1. Inge Panneels
    23 April 2012

    Hi Claire
    just found your blog; would love to read more; am an artist and academic with a keen interest in mapping which is how I randomly got to your site… if you have a (digital) copy of your thesis I would love to read it if possible; can you mail me at

  2. Sophie Balfour
    7 July 2014

    Hi Claire, I came across your blog from the As Above, So Below conference. I am currently writing my masters thesis on artists responses to drone warfare and would be very interested in reading the paper you gave at the conference or your other work (which of course I would reference to you if you were kind enough to let me read it). If you would be willing my email address is

    Best Wishes,

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