Street pavements accumulate and gather lost paper artefacts, a papery sediment of handwritten scraps forms upon its surfacesJemima Terry

Lockdown. Walks. More walks. I’m beginning to get bored of walks. In fact, I sincerely think I could describe and detail every road, corner, pause and crossing of my daily route. I suppose it means that I have started looking out for new things, anomalies. Things that shouldn’t be there, or at least weren’t there yesterday as I scan the same pavement each evening, and then again in the morning.

“Abandoned and left to drift along paving stones like leaves, each list offers an incomplete glimpse or ghostly trace of the mundane life of its author”

I’ve always liked spotting accidents on pavements, the accidental dog paw or boot print in wet cement that leaves, now for all to see, a rather strange and urban sculptural relief. It makes you think about the people who lay the pavements down in the first place, and what a new, freshly scraped slab might look like. You can almost hear the ‘oops’ of the squelching culprit as you pass the now solidified footprint, encrusted in the ground like a fossil.

I remember my 15-year-old captivation with the works of Mark Boyle. In his London Series, 1979, Boyle selected areas of London at random, taking square casts of pavements and streets in resin and fibreglass. In these replicated squares of crumbling cobbles and cracked concrete, Boyle’s indexes of London’s topographical texture seem to have been torn away from the coarse fabric of the street itself.

Make lunch for work tomorrow. Check Wilko for a bigger tupperware boxJemima Terry

Over the last two months, flutters of white paper have offered themselves as my walking entertainment over the monotone drags of pavement. Fugitive paper scraps that must have slipped from pockets or hands, which bear handwritten scribbles of things. I come across some notes still enclosed in their perfect folds, and though yes unsanitary and Covid-unsafe, pausing to open them reveals intricately inscribed interiors.

I remember my curiosity when I first spotted a lost shopping list, written neatly and compactly onto a bright orange sticky note: Chestnut mushrooms, parsley, 4 lemons, M+S loose tea… I envisioned an evening of French-style mushroomy chicken, then later down the list D-Mannose, a UTI tablet. I smiled at the scrap of paper on the pavement, at its accidental divulging of its owner’s intimate thoughts and concerns.

‘Toilet paper. HARPIC FOR inside THE TOILET’ was sprawled across another scrap I found one morning. The concision of the list surprised me. To diligently write down just two items, as well as detail the directions of use for Harpic seemed to me superfluous, given the apparent urgency or chaos of the situation. Where else could the Harpic go?

Each list offered an incomplete glimpse, or ghostly trace of the mundane life of its authorJemima Terry

The paper lists appeal to me in the same way that peering into the windows of houses does. Abandoned and left to drift along paving stones like leaves, each list offers an incomplete glimpse or ghostly trace of the mundane life of its author. One lost note read, ’Hey Esther, Love you’. Another attested to a case of an anxious hangover, ’Be calm tabs, paracetamol, ibuprofen, cleansing pads, coffee’. One seemed to indulge in its own inside joke ’Sausages or bacon, milk’ and ‘Wootsits!’ Some lists were strikingly bland, ’Chicken, soup, salad, celery’, others eccentric, ’Corn things, choc + flowers’, some methodical ’Make lunch for work tomorrow. Check Wilko for a bigger tupperware box’.

Underlying this interest is an admiration for the paper object, the tactile appeal of the papery properties of unfolding, creasing, tearing, peeling, and inscribing. Paper is materially unstable, merely finding these scraps in one piece evokes a marvellous sense of chance. The surrealist André Breton writes vividly of his fantasy of walking through Paris, the city streets unfolding under his feet like huge sheets of paper:

“Street pavements accumulate and gather these lost artefacts, like a papery sediment that forms upon its surfaces”

‘The ground beneath my feet is nothing but an enormous unfolded newspaper. Sometimes a photograph comes by; it is a nondescript curiosity, and from the flowers there uniformly rises the smell, the good smell, of printers’ ink’

Breton’s surrealist exploration of Paris is elided with some sort of reading. Streets are navigated like the printed lines of text on flat paper pages, between folds and corners new passages appear. Breton experiences his paper Paris in a distinctly sensorial way, it is seen, smelled, and unfolded like a great newspaper that reveals intricate interior contents. This surrealistic relationship between reading text from within paper folds and the marvellous chance discovery of a city’s infrastructure is somewhat evoked again by the Surrealist fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. In 1935, the designer took the scraps of press clippings from newspapers and assembled them into a collaged print that she used as fabric for blouses, dresses, and accessories. Transferring the paper scrap onto a garment playfully reiterates the textural properties of paper as a dynamic surface that folds, creases, and moves fleetingly through the city’s streets, according to chance.


Mountain View

Landscapes of the Mind

Street pavements accumulate and gather these lost artefacts, like a papery sediment that forms upon its surfaces. Finding, unfolding, and peeling apart these objects, I wonder how many of these lists were lost before they ever reached the supermarket, how many items had perhaps been forgotten or missed. I think that though lockdowns have ended, and walks have become slightly less insistent features of my days, I will always be reminded of Andre Breton’s fantastical vision of the city as a gridded network of newspaper columns, passages, and paper folds when little paper notes flutter across my path.

Jemima’s found lists are photographed and digitally collected on her Instagram @paperyness