An introduction to the Delta~Meander Method


Anthony Hall

Image: Antony Hall ‘Delta’ 2020

Collaboration plays an important role in my practice, but when working with others I have a tendency to feel a certain ‘pressure of ideas’. As ideas [for an artwork] like true collaboration, don’t always come easily. I often need to remind myself that the conversations [with humans and non-humans, materials or phenomena] questions and problems generated through these interactions are as valuable as the artwork that might manifest as a result. Currently I am actively involved with two collectives[1]Proximity and Para-Lab. Both explore collaboration in different ways. Proximity are collective of practice-based PhD students [2], and Para-Lab[3] are a group of artists and scientists exploring collaborative practice across fields, outside of the academic context. Essentially both are concerned with what happens when different practices are in proximity to each other.  While Para Lab is more focussed on making interdisciplinary collaboration happen.

Thinking about the importance of these social ‘convivial interfaces’[4] to my own practice and how this proximal interaction leads new ideas, I developed the ‘Meander~Delta’ method as a form of direct experiential collaborative research enacted through walking and doing experiments in the rural environment. 

The idea for Meander~Delta Method came about through an act of PhD thesis procrastination and the serendipitous convergence of 4 recent incidents [a meandering].

1. Looking out the window can see my neighbours improvised greenhouse. I noticed how snails and slugs had created a tree like network a branching fractal network over the large plexi-glass planes. This reminded me of an art work I created in 2013 with a rivulet of black ink streamed between two slightly inclined panes of glass simulating a meandering ink rivulet[5]. Compressing the two panes together to the point where the stream is no longer able to flow, creates a triangular ‘delta’ like formation in which the liquid branches out inverted branching tree like form. I spent the rest of the day retrieving the documentation of this as I realised I had never shared it before. Making a short film and posting it on Instagram that evening[6].

2.  The following day I had to devise a creative writing workshop for the para~lab group based on some of my experience at MMU and Proximity, sharing the techniques I have been finding useful in my own work. I devised a detournement[7] writing exercise: “take a science related text and replace any scientific terms and references with art terms and references”.

4. The para-lab group were planning a walk and we all had to devise an activity. ‘Night exercise’  was a series of planned activities based around perception that took place at night during a walk through a forest. The following day we did another walk, in which we accidentally left the path and ventured into an over grown valley and ended up walking down a stream.

In these cases, and others like them, intentional and unintentional actions led to un-expected outcomes. Imagine the sight of grown adults scooping clay from a hole in the ground in the middle of a field with their bare hands[8]. Or walking around in the woods in with ping pong balls taped over their eyes[9]. Or a group of artists and scientists huddling together testing the strength of a chocolate bar while sheltering from gale force winds near a pond somewhere on the north Yorkshire Moors[10]. The and social interactions and discussions that took place during these experiments were as important as the artistic outcomes. Reflecting on these events in retrospect they take on enhanced significance in one’s own memory, like a situationists performance or a happening, only in a rural context. Could these productive processes of walking and experimenting in rural contexts constitute a research method, of sorts?

I endeavoured to answer this question using a détournement writing method. I combined texts related to the geological and mechanical process of meandering rivers [fig.1] and the subsequent creation of ‘Delta’ [Fig. 2] [the land masses occurring at the end of meandering streams and rivers] with the action of walking and experimental investigative action which encompasses ‘focussed distraction’ and tangential thinking. 

You can find the method here:

[1] In addition to the collaborations within my PhD project ‘Experiments in art and perceptual illusion’ with  BEAM Lab Manchester University.

[2] Proximity is “an enquiry into the spatial & social elements of practice as research”. Collective of 5 artists.

[3] para-lab explores “how new knowledge can be generated by collaborations between artists, scientists and makers that happen next to, but are independent of, research institutions” and was Instigated by Annie Carpenter and Andrew Wilson.

[4] A term we have started using within the Proximity group.

[5] Delta formation

[6] Rivulet, Antony Hall, Object A gallery 2013

[7] A User’s Guide to Détournement, Guy Debord & Gil J. Wolman

[8] Fieldwork Under The Darkest Sky, Allenhead Arts 2019

[9] Night Exercise, Middlewood Trust study centre 2018

[10] para-lab meeting, Brunclough Reservoir 2020


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