Boswell in Space is the sixth and last of the Central Station Member’s Fund projects. In our blurb to Central Station we described it as a ‘strictly ill-advised documentary journey’. This will be in the form of a web ‘event’ that will take place over three weeks in November 2010. Visitors to the Boswell in Space site will be able to unlock documentary clips, blogs, images and animations over this period, as the story of the journey gradually unfolds…


But first, we should describe who ‘we’ are; Mitch Miller is an illustrator and Emma Lennox is a podcaster – both are also writers. We have devised an online immersive journey experience that will encourage our audience (assuming we can find one – please let us know if you have any spare), other artists and people they meet to consider the mechanics of the imaginative process. 


Our subject is one James Boswell, who you may well have heard of – he is best known as the slightly bumbling companion to the famous Dr Johnson, who wrote the first major English language dictionary, and famously toured Scotland in the late eighteenth century. Boswell is often remembered as a sycophant, a fool and a stenographer who leeched off of more impressive figures. This is not totally inaccurate (he also wrote an unforgivably idiotic poem on slavery) but he was also rigorously self-aware, an imaginative observer of his surroundings and an excellent writer of non-fiction. We reckon he was the first real documentarian – someone who took information, fact and his observation of where he was and who he was with, and made it into art. The writer worked as today’s documentarians do, drawing from his own experience, entering dialogue with his subjects and then – often at his own instigation, observing them in moments of crisis or culture shock, in order to draw out their inner character.


Miller read Boswell’s scandalous London Journal when he was 23 – the same age as Boswell when he wrote the bulk of it. He was immediately impressed by the quality of its writing and the powerful imagery of its scenes and sequences of dingy alleyways, smoky pubs and ornate drawing rooms. Ten years on, he will now attempt to draw in the ‘dialectogram’ style, a number of the locations and places mentioned so vividly in Boswell’s work – starting out in Glasgow, and going to Edinburgh, Ayrshire, Mull, St Andrews and London. These drawings will show how Boswell’s feel for space was used to create characters in his nonfiction, and draw out elements of their personality and back-story.


But that’s not all – Lennox will be dogging Miller’s steps, a Boswell Mark II whose task shall be to document the process of visiting major Boswellian locations and meeting a range of people along the way – people who know about Boswell, people who don’t, but know a lot about the places he frequented, and various waifs and strays picked up on the way. Whereas Miller will be using very traditional methods – as old fashioned as a pen and ink – Lennox will use film, sound editing, photography, podcasting and blogging to observe Miller in pursuit of his obsession, almost as a character in his own work.


And then what? Well, we will be asking anyone who is interested to sign up as a ‘Friend of James Boswell’ via Facebook and Central Station sometime in late October. As part of the group you will receive a special password that will invite you to follow our ‘journey’ as an internet event, each stage of the trip being released in episodes through a flash website. You will be able to piece together the story, and what happened, through drawing, animation, video, podcast, blog and anything else we can dream up. We will post up details about the group on this blog over the next week, so please do join us! We will be releasing ‘trailer’ material from around mid October, so hopefully you won’t get too bored waiting for the internet event to happen.


Speaking of which, the actual event will begin on Monday the 15th of November.


Why then? Well, that is the same date Boswell began his London Journal. While we will be delving into various of Boswell’s other writings, the Journal will remain the focal point of much of our misadventures, so we leave you with its opening lines – with which we couldn’t agree more  (except to say that all Boswell says applies regardless of sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or gender…);


The ancient philosopher certainly gave a wise counsel when he said, ‘Know thyself.’ For surely this Knowledge is of all the most important… A man cannot know himself better than by attending to the feelings of his heart and to his external actions, from which he may with tolerable certainty judge ‘what manner or person he is’. I have therefore determined to keep a daily journal of which I shall set down my various sentiments and my various conduct, which will be not only useful but very agreeable.


James Boswell, 15 November 1762 


Boswell in Space was one of the projects awarded cash from the Central Station Members Fund.