Spring on the Copse 2016

I’ve completed this Module now, apart from the preparation for Assessment, but think it appropriate to update my explorations in Landscape to show how I am continuing the theme introduced in Assignment 3.

There has been so much rain in recent months that even the days of sunshine have failed to dry out the ground. The path through the Copse has been almost a sea of slippery mud. Bluebells are beginning to raise their heads but even they look bedraggled at the moment and the strong winds have removed some of the weak branches which have gathered in drifting piles. Sometimes I’ve wondered whether people might have dumped them there over their garden fence.

Two trees were blown down across the path in the recent gales, one of them completely blocking it so that the dogs and I have had to scrabble through some prickly undergrowth to get round it. I had this debate with myself; joggers, dog walkers and families with children do pass through the Copse and the fallen trees are large obstacles. Should nature be allowed to take over or should I phone the Council, who are responsible for the maintenance of this local amenity. I thought about it for a day or so and then decided I would phone as the Copse seemed to be falling in on itself. There was also something in my mind about wanting to prove that people do make use of this small piece of nature, so that there wouldn’t be an attempt to de-label it as green space and make it vulnerable to building development – which has been mooted. I was surprised when the trees were cleared within a week especially as I had agreed with the young man in the parks department that this wasn’t an urgent job. When I say ‘cleared’ I don’t mean completely cleared away but chopped so that there’s a way through.

The other day I was talking with one of the people from a nearby house and we discussed mud, gales, fallen trees and litter on the Copse. The lady said that for quite a while she had cleared the litter but stopped doing that when the Council only started to collect fortnightly and her dustbin got too full. She told me that some young folk have re-built a den again in part of the copse and even installed an old bench. They collect there in the evenings sometimes, lighting fires and making noise. This must have been since a ‘ring’ of branches was laid-out in the area during the Autumn. I wondered about contributing something – maybe I might introduce the bark mask as a decoration. I’ve had some email contact with members of The Elephant’s Journey   (TEJ) and when I mentioned this John recalled Stig of the Dump . I’d forgotten Stig but it does fit. I have to acknowledge that I’ve felt a bit of a fraud somehow in relation to TEJ because they do their work in urban areas, highlighting adverse developments through their art, whereas I’m out of that loop, working in small green spaces in the suburbs, interacting with what I see. However, John was very encouraging around the idea of a discourse with the den builders.

I’ve also just started to read a lovely book Common Ground (R. Cowen,2015) which is an account of Rob Cowen’s explorations in a nearby edge-land after moving from London to a new home in Yorkshire. He writes, ‘Enmeshed in every urban edge is also the continuous narrative of the subsistence of nature, pragmatic and prosaic, the million things that survive and even thrive in the fringes. This little patch of common ground was precisely that: common. And all the richer for it’ (2015:9) Looking at the illustrated map at the front of the book  Cowen’s  piece of edge-land is much much larger than mine but I can still notice changes over time and see how nature and people impose their presence.  A little further on Cowen writes of entering Chauvet Cave  in the Ardeche Gorges and seeing the representations painted and scratched on its walls over between 15,000 and 30,000 years ago and how they show  the engagement between animal, land and human. He concludes, ‘What I didn’t realise until later is that in seeking to unlock, discover and make sense of a place, I was invariably doing the same to myself. The portrait was also of me’ (2015:11).

References

Cowen, R. (2016) Common ground. United Kingdom: Windmill Books.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stig-Dump-Puffin-Books-Clive/dp/0140301968
http://bradshawfoundation.com/chauvet/
http://robandleo.com
https://theelephantsjourney.wordpress.com
King, C. and Ardizzone, E. (1963) Stig of the dump. United Kingdom: Puffin Books, Middlesex.

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Continuing to develop my Place in Landscape

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We’re well into Autumn now with colours fading, leaves falling from trees and becoming slippery and grimy underfoot. The days are shortening and it’s a time when I start to feel too warm and drowsy to leave my cage and forage outside, but there has been much to do photography wise.

Interventions in the Landscape

Temporary Art

8th October 2015:

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I made a flower of leaves under a fallen tree trunk and photographed it.

9th October 2015:

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I printed the photograph on 6×4 photo paper and took to the print to lie next to sit original

18th October 2015:

The leaves had turned brown and were disintegrating but the photograph remained the same.

13th November 2015:

The leaves have disappeared into the drift of dying leaves over the piece of bark.. The photograph is turning in on itself taking on the shape of a small log.

Wild Flower Seed Balls – 15th October 2015

I strewed these on some soil and will wait for them to create their own art and to see what Spring brings.

Pop-up Mini Exhibition – 3rd November 2015

I’ve talked for a while of creating a mini Exhibition where I would hang photographs from trees in the Copse and have received encouraging comments about this from my tutor and also from member of the OCA Thames Valley group. This would be different from creating a piece of work, taking a photograph as record and then leaving the creation to the elements – as Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy do. Gill Golding sent me a link to the blog of The Elephant’s Journey – a Collective of artists with the purpose “To consider and propose modes of art making and arenas of curation; to work within, what Carla Duarte has described as ‘A Possible Canvas’”.

At the heart of our practice is the documentation of our actions. We are at an early stage of what we see as an on-going practice of returning work, derived from the urban sphere, back to its source”

Members of the Collective have laid photographs in places in Salford, hung them as mobiles from trees in Lisbon, and Gill placed her work near the O2 in London see here  and here. They create their work in urban spaces whereas I create mine in pockets of woodland in suburban spaces. There is something in me that worries about the creation of ‘litter’ in public spaces and I have written about this before. I knew I didn’t want to put something up and leave it there until it disappeared or was taken down and trampled on the ground.

I decided a pop-up Exhibition would be the best for me and, on one of my walks, picked out a spot next to the path which would be easily seen by anyone walking past. Then I printed off four A4 photographs.

The photographs were placed in plastic sleeves, with a green treasury tag through the holes to act as hangers. I had thought of bulldog clips with string as a hanger or dowelling but, in the end, decided that the treasury tags were more simple and in keeping with something very temporary. After further thought I decided to add another plastic sleeve with a sheet labelling the Exhibition and a note adding ”Comments welcome”, plus some scraps of paper and a pencil.

I enjoyed seeing them there. They looked at home somehow and I imagined what it would be like if I was a stranger walking along and saw these photographs in their plastic coats hanging from the trees. Looking closer and thinking, “Oh! They look as if they’ve been taken here”. I went back as it was going dark wondering if anyone at all had seen them as I’ve seen very few people there. They were still there plus someone had actually left a comment. I felt so pleased.

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I was going to take them back the next day but it rained and, somehow, I felt that one day had been enough.

Thoughts

I have some doubts about the wildflower seeds. Am I intervening/interfering too much in the environment because I want to see something pretty grow in the Spring and think “I planted those”? Otherwise I feel satisfied with on-going projects so far. It’s good to continue with something and not just to abandon it to make space for the next part of the Module and a new Assignment.

I still have plans for a geo-cache and have been collecting items but I need to think more clearer about the aims of doing this. It needs to be more than a wish to involve myself in creating a ‘treasure’ hunt.

15th November 2015

References

 https://theelephantsjourney.wordpress.com
https://theelephantsjourney.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/postscript-to-the-thames-walk-from-greenwich/

1: Working on my relationship with Photography through Landscape

A question I asked myself after reading C&N Introduction was “Why do I keep making photographs of the same subjects over and over again”. One example being the local Common. I decided to do some work on this by writing as if I was a part of the Common. Here it is.

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I am wood – crouched low against the ground
Wind-blown branches snatched from roots in silver sand.
Once I was a sapling slim and slender, dancing in the breeze,
Now I am bent and bound into a different shape
And yet I still provide shelter and, if you seek me out, I will tell you stories of all that I have seen and done.

 Many have walked beside me in the past and spoken of their dreams and fears and memories,
Whilst I listened and absorbed the energy of their being into my roots.

I am the tree of life and life goes on beyond me.

 

I took this with me to the Thames Valley Group meeting on 11th October to share in review of on-going work, also in the context of my feeling stuck with my work on the Course going so slowly. Everyone was supportive, interested and offering comments and suggestions which was heartening. I am beginning to think that part of my difficulty is in finding a new way to approach landscape, to be able to insert myself into it somehow in a way that feels authentic to my sense of myself. At this stage I know that my tendency is more towards using photographs as an adjunct to my writing, as opposed to holding more of the narrative within themselves, so this is one area of work for me.

Amongst suggestions coming from the group were to directly manipulate the landscape in some ways – adding to it , inserting something. Another was to think more on the words in my prose poem and see how else I could represent them. I can certainly see myself in those words. I am facing the physical changes of growing older. I know that my life is finite but the rhythm of life will go on beyond me. I believe there is a balance and harmony to this world with invisible connections, I like to tell stories. I’m beginning to feel as if I have more of a sense of direction now.

I began today by doing some double exposures

At least I’ve made a start

 

14th October 2014