Track-way #16 2:46 pm – 3:10 pm 24 minutes 2016
DE – DE – DE
DE – DE – DE
DE – DE – DE
• – • – •
(Like Morse code)
S – S – S
I venture out for the first time this year, late in January. Snow diminishes, water and temperature rise. Too hot in all my clothes walking to site, out, escaping into the light. Sunlight, occasionally, nearly, for the first time this month.
I wade through the flooded road halfway up to my wellington boots, ranging rods in hand and my bag on my back.
Fields are white, dripping. Slush and ice, water, mud, brown, black, white. I exile myself from indoors and the screen. Breathe, heat even Sweat.
Crunch of the soft compaction on the remaindered snow, off the road into the wet wood, green emerges, slowly, slow shoots show through mushed leaves, green on brown. Life awakens again defying gravity.
The ground is soft and flattened, the wood, though wet, is easy to move through. Without boots I would not venture, as I move the water is rising, snow diminishing.
I consider one tree-fall, near the mere, I’ve seen it before, never imaged it. Maybe on my way back – Perhaps I always think this here, keener to get to somewhere I am going, although I am not sure where that sums up to be. I intuit to a point of satisfaction. Far enough in to start. I intend only to make one work and return. Before and sometimes still I venture to push all effort beyond my limits of pleasantness. Sometimes fruitfully, but not on this occasion.
Time compacts again as I see the way to where I was last time I was here, flashes of memory and remembered images. Memories embody movement and effort as well as vision. The trigger is the way up that I came down. I could meet myself here.
I turn deeper into the marshy woodland, off human paths to the fox and badger trail – no human prints here. The trail is obstructed only above the height of the mammals that nocturnally traverse them. They all know I’ve been here, smell my scent and manufactured belongings.
Considering, looking, moving, stopping, listening
DE – DE – DE
DE – DE – DE
A rustle above, the squirrels are still in the ivy here. The camera is still on my back. The drips enhance my spatial awareness loud and quiet to imperceptible. Near drops loud.
Familiar scenes are passed on. Then I know. I’ve been here before and suddenly it all fits. Another tree-fall, out in the water. Instantly, nearly, perhaps, I simultaneously see the element and remember the image I made here last, subtracting all the other potentials and the environment to inhabit this space. One I have constructed before. I relate much quicker, less to take in, revel and revealing change.
The water is higher (and rising) frozen ice breaks as I immerse my foot, halfway up the boot. I move in and think, not the same position as before. Initially I think it is too hard to get to, the water too deep. Potential of cold not heat now. I move back to the bank put down my bag and the rods. Take off my coat (will it rain?).
Decide to pause ǁ
I place the ranging rod near the tree-bowl, not like before.
Out into the water. Why is the best position often mediated by my overall approach (physical not conceptual)? I decide the position I reach in the water, close to my initial look is the one. Difference is good. This is not the same place as it was last time I was here, so I need to emphasise this in my work. I push the extended tripod down into the mud below the ice and water, and work. Difference is what I hope for, with inevitably recognisable similarity. I vary my position as my feet get colder. Three pairs of socks are nearly not enough. At the end I remove the camera from the tripod and shoot around me to the edges of my composite environment hoping that more kind errors will occur in processing.
Tree-fall #5 Visit #2 1:59 pm – 2:35 pm 36 minutes 2013
It’s done, unlike the canine bones image (see A Deer in the Wood, it was a deer not a dog) I do not have a transformative experience whilst in the process of making, rather this began when I entered my own comfortable space here. The reciprocal place I know much better than the bones site (I guess I’ll never go there again).
Hunger makes me desire leaving.
I move back to the trail home. Finally I do stop and photograph the tree-fall near the mere, but badly – satisfied I have done enough today.
The fields have turned green as I exit the woods still patched by white and brown. I struggle through the flood using the ranging rods to look for shallow ground slowly moving on tiptoe, so as not to allow the wave, so near the top of my boots, from washing over. Ahead three dogs, Jess, Kasha and Granville wag in anticipation and my partner wishes she had her camera. Still waters rising, but I made it without spilling down inside my boots.
Extract from Field Notes January 2013
Continuum is a long term investigation of the changing environment, a process, for me, of place learning through way-finding, as ecological psychologist James Gibson puts it, “Both animals and humans… are capable of way-finding. Or, in still other terms, they can do place-learning. Observers can go to places in their environment that have affordances for them” (Gibson, 1986, p.198) By way-finding Gibson means navigating through a process of movement and repetition in an environment, using memory and knowledge as well as perception to guide oneself toward what is of interest, rather than following a map or using a mobile device, like GPS. In this process I am led not only by the goals I have set myself, but also by what I encounter in the environment. This is a process of place learning that I have repeatedly undertaken, and continue to, across a number of sites visiting specific scenes and interpreting each of them with photography.
I know, though, that this experience, my experience of place is, as Doreen Massey has pointed out, elusive (Massey, 2005), particularly when I try to communicate or represent it either with words, or via visualisations, as is the case in this project. Instead of thinking of each site as a place, I treat each scene as a kind of external studio space, a site of experimentation and contemplation. A work space, or taskscape, as Tim Ingold terms it : “It is to the entire ensemble of tasks, in their mutual interlocking, that I refer by the concept of taskscape. Just as the landscape is an array of related features, so – by analogy – the taskscape is an array of related activities” (Ingold, 2000, p.95). It is in this sense, through continuity of actions, that each site I visit is linked in my experience as a space of experimentation.
The Cage Visit #2 4:23 pm – 4:57 pm 34 minutes 2013
By undertaking tasks at a site I no longer consider it as a place, or a landscape to be passively observed, but a space of activity and engagement, a space that I am embodied within. This embodied process is not known by looking alone, but also engages all my senses, my knowledge and memories, in short my being as an amalgamation, for as Maurice Merleau-Ponty points out, “the unity of space can be discovered only in the interplay of the sensory realms” (Merleau-Ponty, 2002, p.258). I may be influenced in my approach by elements other than the visual, such as sound or temperature, or hunger, to make works in certain ways, with certain responses. These may well be emotional, I could feel empathy toward a subject, or it may relate to a past experience that I recall at the scene.
A Fox, I thought Encounter #1 4:06 pm – 4:29 pm 23 minutes 2013
Each site becomes linked through actions, although each scene is geographically distant, in some cases in separate countries, I undertake the same process at each one. The results are also amalgamated together in a collective narrative, interpreted in the artworks and through their potentially multiple narratives and sites of discourse. By presenting these works together I augment a new place made place through a collective narrative, be it in a gallery space or elsewhere, that is subject to change.
Tree-fall #5 Visit #1 1:59 pm – 2:24 pm 25 minutes 2012
In undertaking this field work, my intention was to investigate how environments change and how this is understood by those experiencing it. This occurs through time; changes are perceived through processes of repetition, both of being at the site repeatedly and by undertaking similar actions. Hence the emphasis here is on the passage of time as manifest in experience, not as an instant, but as a durational continuum. In life, the individual occupies a mobile space, a constant environment that is moved through and although I am occasionally present at each place, I am mostly absent. The site and the scenes in it continue to exist in this time, and is known through memory recall, hence change is that which is recognised as different from what was experienced before. In order to reflect this in the artworks, I repeatedly made images of the same scene, in order to interpret how change is experienced with photography.
Blue Land Visit #1 3:24 pm – 4:04 pm 40 minutes 2012
As a rule, when exhibiting these works, I deliberately do not show the works from each scene together. They are shown in a sequence defined by relationships across scenes rather than a direct comparison, this spacing of the works augments an exercise in memory. In a gallery (or similar space), this means that in order to actually make comparisons, the beholder has to physically return to a version of the work they have already seen to be able to make a comparison. Hence a temporal and spatial experience is augmented that relies also on memory, because the viewer is unable to see two artworks of the same scene together. This curatorial approach mimics the actual experience of making repeat visits, the process of place learning, in a controlled space.
This body of work is tied together by its emphasis on the woodland as a site type. Although these sites are geographically distant from each other, they each have similar ecologies. These sites are pockets of largely uncultivated land in a widespread agricultural landscape. They represent the biodiversity of the region (Britain and Ireland) and as such as subject to low level management, stewardship and miss-management. They are all similarly subject to broader changes government policies and cultural priorities, as well as impacted on by climate change. They are therefore tied together by both their marginality, being pockets of wildness in an increasingly mechanised agricultural landscape and as ecologically important sites of biodiversity.
Each scene was selected on the basis of reflecting both on change and also on the complexities of interactions and relationships between the human and non-human life that occupy and act in each space. Hence some signs of human activity might be present in a scene, as well as other perceptible signs of change such as a tree blown down in a storm, or the corpse of an animal.
A Deer in the Wood 4:37 pm – 5:07 pm 30 minutes 2012
Repetition as a method was investigated across almost all the sites within the study. Each scene has been periodically visited, some since 2011. None more so that the scene of a track-way that has been photographed sixteen times to date. This site became a space of experimentation as a result of the processes involved in place learning. I became so familiar with this place that I no longer considered it as a place with an identity to be examined, but as a space of activity, an external studio space that I periodically return to. See the Track-way entry for further information on this process and the site.
Track-way #12 11:14 am – 11:56 am 42 minutes 2014
Continuum formed the central element to the solo exhibition of the same name at Avenue Gallery, Northampton University in the late autumn of 2014. It was part of the culmination of a Practice as research Doctorate titled In Flux; land, photography and temporality.
Track-way #13 (photograph on vinyl 236 cm x 210 cm)
A Deer in the Wood and Blue Land #3 on exhibition (C-type Lamda prints 160 cm x 140 cm each)