Journey to the Surface of the Earth
Mark Boyle's Atlas and Manual

Published as part of an exhibition at the Haags Gemeentemuseum
16 May - 12 July 1970
Uitgegeven als onderdeel van een tentoonstelling in het Haags Gemeentemuseum

A practical guide to a journey on which Mark Boyle and his colleagues in the Sensual Laboratory, Joan Hills, Des Bonner and Cameron Hills will make multi sensual presentations of 1000 sites selected at random from the surface of the earth.


In a condition of adamant doubt you are asked for explanations when all you want is for someone to explain anything. And you are asked for purposes when you are learning to accept that a purpose is not going to emerge ever. And you are asked for a statement of intent when the head seethes with all your fluctuating statements of the past instantly and meticulously taken down and which you use constantly, with increasing derision, in evidence against yourself. And you remember years ago deciding that art, if the word had any meaning, should be waged like war and how, according to all the strategists, you had to locate the enemy and evaluate your own forces and assess the terrain and clarify your objectives and work out your strategy and your tactics and, whatever you do, do not forget your logistics, and how after months of thinking you succeeded with point one and it's not the dealers or the critics or the intellectuals or the government or the rich or the bourgeoisie or "them" and it's not even like Father Xmas your father all the time but the only enemy is yourself and maybe it doesn't matter too much whether you win or lose.

Everything you have undertaken has been so far from perfect, so seriously marred, that to exhibit it with no matter how many disclaimers must remain an unexpungeable arrogance. You don't even think that what you do is art but just the most exciting thing you can manage and how inadequate in a world of such magnificence and you remember visiting Christopher in hospital after the accident and the old man opposite with the regularity of a metronome sobbing, hour after hour, a little cry, every time he exhaled, unintelligible, purity of style, like a hammer on the head, and the nurse at last going over, and the old man says he was trying to go to sleep. And you've made these pathetically inadequate studies in your own neighbourhood, and the beach studies, and studies of natural phenomena and induced reaction with earth, air, fire, and water, and presentations of insects, reptiles and water creatures, and the physical nature of the human body and some experiments in the area of the unconscious and you know that all of these, however random, may be flawed by the influence of your ego and your upbringing. And even the studies in your own neighbourhood selected with a dart in the map are affected because you chose the district in the first place and if you extend it to the whole of London you have to admit you chose to live in an urban environment, and so you have no alternative but to make your selections from the whole earth. And while you're at it you are going to make films and you're going to make this film on evolution which will include every living thing, and this film on the elements which will include every known element, and performances of Requiem for an unknown citizen which will star the entire human race in their conscious and unconscious aspect and their physical and social condition. And you're going to do this earth probe and you send hundreds of people a dart each so they can take part and the GPO refused to deliver half the invitations because the dart was a dangerous enclosures and they're going to be blindfold throwing the darts at this huge map of the world and the surface of the earth is 70% water someone said and supposing all the darts went into the sea would that not make me look a complete fool and then the first dart is being thrown and there are all these people waiting to come in and the important thing is that no-one gets hurt with one of these bloody darts and its Iceland and it's going to be alright.

And during the exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London you blindfold the public soon after they come in, and you put a gun in their hands, and you lead them and you point the gun more or less in the direction of the unknown target, and they fire this dart and take off the blindfold, and they realize they've fired at this huge map of the world, and you have quickly discovered that it's almost no good trying to offer explanations, that the day of the explanation is over, and you long ago discovered preaching is an ineffective moral gesture, before you even got started on that career, and that if there's one thing you can't possibly do it's to "tell it how it is" do you see what I mean, that's my whole life finding out how it is and when you're telling, in the end, you're telling how it is to be telling how it is, until feedback sets in the form of a harsh scream.

And its not for want of acceptable explanations. There's a superabundance of explanations and purposes to suit any inquisition, any situation. That isn't the problem. The problem is to select from an almost infinite spectrum of reasons why ....... and Christopher comes in and says "I can't understand why you're so hung up with the idea of objectivity. Objectivity is motiveless appraisal, and I can't see how any appraisal can be motiveless". And the same day Dave Jeffries and Phillippa are round the house discussing the light/sound machine(3). Dave says you can't measure any electronic circuit with absolute accuracy because the application of the meter affects the circuit and later that evening the police come round to collect Christopher because he's supposed to be mad and he's just escaped from this asylum they put him in two days ago, and Christopher jumps through the glass of a third floor window at the back, and when you get round there, for one marvellous moment, you think he's made it, and there's this image of him vaulting over the wall in the moonlight, and then you see his feet sticking up out of the area and while you're holding him and feeling the warm blood soaking your clothes, and you're crying and loving him, and sure he's dying, and your thighs are all sticky with his blood, and he comes round for a moment and starts to apologise for breaking the window, and says he just wanted to be free. And you can't even begin to explain to him or yourself, and you weren't even able to explain adequately to the judge that sent him there in the first place, why he should be free, and why he didn't want to have them with their drugs and their electric shock treatment buggering around with his ideas even if they are hallucinations, and whose to say, and anyway maybe London needs people acting strange and going about with weird ideas - a very gentle man. And he thinks he's an angel, and you come away from the Chelsea v. Arsenal game with him and Sebastian and all three of you howling with laughter at the idea of Michael the Archangel being a Chelsea supporter and so what? I know someone who thinks he's the Archbishop of bloody Canterbury, and someone else who thinks he's Mark Boyle, and Des Bonner says "who do we think we are?" ........

And Miriam brought David Berkley round from Bell Laboratories in the States, and David spends some hours examining one of the beach studies through a microscope, and then suggests I should give up the whole art bit and do the Journey to the Surface of the Earth as a scientific project, and suggests I should write up the tidal series for one of the geophysical magazines, with a page of high contrast photos to show the gross form, and some micro photos to show the individual grains of quartz and salt. And Cameron takes the high contrast scientific shots and this dealer sees them and says the photos aren't any use because they're too painterly. And they're both right, and everyone is right, even the ones that are wrong are right. Did you see that interview of Jung on TV when John Freeman asked if he believed in God, and the old man says "I believe in the belief in God".

And how can you offer explanations? You can say "I've tried to make my work as objective as possible, as far as I can be sure there's nothing of me in there," but you must always have the suspicion that although each individual work is entirely random, the whole project, and the desire and determination to do it, are deeply subjective and David Berkley says that in the final analysis he, as a scientist, has the same problem.

'And in the midst of all this questioning there are these people analysing, parsing and explaining what you're on about, and believe me, they are dear, kind sincere people whether they're for or against you, and you divide them up into those who are seriously trying to discover about themselves and their role and the world and those who are concerned with their posture and whether they can be seen to be liking or disliking the right scenes, and you think about Mike Ratledge and Robert and Kevin and Hugh and working with the Soft Machine and their shattering, acetylene music and how can anyone hear it live and then ask for explanations. How could anyone go to Beethoven and say "Why?" How can you go to a girl with her baby and say "Why?" But they do. And there is an answer. There are a million answers. The answers are all around you. The head is drenched with thoughts and images(4) that supercede one another with such rapidity that writing and even speaking become intolerable except as a sort of recreational activity, or as a social constitutional of a kind that appals you more and more.

You don't want any image, you want to be transparent, a projection almost seen on a cloud of cigarette smoke. And you know as you say it that all you're doing is to make another kind of image, perhaps more suited to your circumstances than any other. You're saying I am what I produce, I am a circuit of no importance. My anonymity is valuable to me.

You would like to have a bitter image of yourself. But you're not even bitter any longer. You have no ambitions. You've seen it all and you knew before you saw it that their Hilton Hotels and their Cadillacs were going to add up to precisely nothing. You're an onion, and to find the inner, essential onion you strip away the layers protecting the centre, to discover that at the centre there are only more layers and beyond them a smell and a blur of tears.

You remember fragments of 50,000 experiences, and you suspect them, and you suspect the conscious and unconscious forces that keep dredging them up. They're all part of the proper snobberies, the prejudices and preferences(5) built in by your heredity and your upbringing. Most of all you suspect the way you formulate. And so finally you say there is this, there is this, there is this. As far as I can be sure there is nothing of me in there. They present as accurately and objectively as I can manage certain sites randomly selected, isolated at one moment. The next moment the sites are different. In half an hour they are transformed. And you have the situation as it was at that instant, perhaps already partially invalidated by its permanence and its isolation; and you film it so you can also study the movement across the site and the way it changes and you go back weeks later to photograph the changes and you get attacked by this big spotty dog and then it pisses on the edge of the site and you and the dog move off in your separate directions, relieved, and you get home and you develop the film and beyond the site, and beyond the dog pissing on the edge of it, you see this sign saying "where really good signs are made'.

And the question arises 'to what extent is it necessary to isolate in order to examine'. I've isolated fragments, the organic and the inorganic, the natural phenomenon and the induced reaction, the human and the elemental. I've tried to integrate in order to examine. If you study how it is somewhere, sometime, maybe you are better able to begin to know how it is, anywhere, anytime. Maybe it's only by way of isolating anything that you can begin to cope with the concept of isolating everything.

And in the end all you can say is, "I know what I'm on about, and Joan knows what she's on about, and Johnny and Des know what they're on about, and everyone to some extent knows what they're on about and we're going to do this Journey, making multi sensual presentations of 1000 random sites across the surface of the earth and we'll put the actual description of what we're going to do on each site at the end of this bit and it doesn't matter if nobody reads the book because I don't know why the things I'm on about should interest anyone else.

And maybe my telegram was right and there is a multi cellular animal called humanity and maybe Johnny is right when he says we're developing a nervous system (6) for it and maybe we need to develop an efficient digestive system for it, and a circulatory system and a skeletal system, and an excretory system so that when some atrocity happens or when anyone anywhere gets hurt we immediately feel the pain of it. So that we can handle the food and distribute it, not just adequately, but equally, to each cell. So that we can handle our effluent without polluting the whole place. Maybe we should recognize the animal and recognize that the evolution of this animal could be the purpose that has to be discovered. Maybe we have to accelerate evolution. Maybe everyone has to learn to accept only the distortion of their own senses, so that humanity can adapt and survive because each one of us is able to offer, as far as possible, objective information to the racial conscious. Maybe we also need to supply the racial unconscious with an adequate dream.(7)


The objective of this Journey will be to make multi-sensual presentations of 1000 sites selected at random from the surface of the earth. Between August 1968 and July 1969 blindfolded members of the public selected these sites, initially by throwing darts and eventually by shooting them into what turned out to be an enormous map of the world. However big the map, the dart point inevitably covered a considerable area and so could only be an approximation of the site. A larger scale map of the area covered by the dart point is then obtained and a further dart is fired to select the actual spot. Perhaps if large scale maps of the area are not available it will be necessary to draw one. On arrival at the actual spot an area 6 feet square is selected at random. The method of selecting the actual square varies, depending on the terrain (e.g. on a flat treeless piece of ground a right angled piece of metal thrown into the air will determine one corner when it lands, and the lines can be produced to form two sides of the 6 ft. square. Vertical or suspended elements on the site must be included in the total area from which the selection of the final square is made). Everything else about the Journey must depend to some extent on what is possible in the realm of equipment, materials, transport etc. etc. And the size of the finished work, though as near as possible to 6 feet square, must depend on the difficulty of the terrain it has to be transported through. But nothing must be allowed to affect the random selection procedure. It may well be that on the site, geographical or botanical or animal features will pose conceptual problems. These must all be dealt with in a random manner that removes the possibility of personal subjective selection of the site. The arrows on the detail maps in this atlas give only a rough approximation. In every case a further dart will be thrown at a large scale map of the district to select the actual spot.

Once the actual random square has been selected a multi sensual presentation of the site will be made. This will be done in the medium most suited to the problems posed by the individual site. But usually the multi sensual presentation of each 6 ft. square site will include most of the following studies.


Solids (8)

1. Take the actual surface coating of earth, dust, sand, mud, stone, pebbles, snow, moss, grass or whatever hold it in the shape it was in on the site. Fix it. Make it permanent.

2. Take an earth core showing the composition of the earth from the surface to a depth of 6 feet.

3. Make a study of the effect of elemental forces working on the site. (9)

4. Make a film involving a 360 pan from the centre of the site.

5. From the centre of the site, setting the angle, lens, direction and motor speed of the camera at random, make a film for a random duration (e.g. select randomly a length between one frame and 100 feet of film).

Liquids (10)

1. Make a surface study with film or by casting the surface.

2. Make a hologram of the water.

3. Take water samples at various depths.

4. Make an underwater film of coloured dyes in the water to show turbulence.

5. Perhaps take the surface coating of the sea bed as in solids 1.


1. Film sky from the centre of the square 24 hours at 1 frame per 30 seconds, so that in 2 minutes the cloud formations of that whole day can be seen.

2. Make a turbulence study by, for example, filming the result of releasing variously coloured smoke at each corner of the site.


Assemble a film on all the elements.

Vegetable (11)

1. In the surface presentation preserve all the plants so that their actual colour, shape, texture etc. are fixed permanently.

2. Collect seeds on site.

3. Plant random gardens.


Make a film on all classes of botanical life.


1. In the surface presentation preserve all traces of animal life. (12)

2. Film animal movement on the site, in the air above, in the sea, on or in the earth.


Make a film on all classes of animal life.


Perform random check on physical responses of Mark Boyle and Joan Hills to each site. (13)

Study with film and tape the nearest inhabited spot to the site. (14) Treat this community (e.g. Family, village, or city) as a biological entity. (15) Examine the animal biologically (i.e. its skeletal system, its nervous system, its digestive system, its circulatory system, its reproductive system, its excretory system, its intelligence, and its unconscious.) This material will form the basis for the performances of REQUIEM FOR AN UNKNOWN CITIZEN. (16)