I’ve just been away to East Yorkshire with friends and spent time walking along the coast and driving across the spacious, sparsely populated Yorkshire Wolds. Came back to the task of writing up my work over the past 6 months for submission for my MA so my head is full of questions:
- What is it I’m doing?
- What is the thread which brings together all the different things I am interested in and make as my art practice?
- Does it HAVE to be coherent?
- Is it coherent at a sub-conscious level, emerging in the practice as I mine the process for meaning?
I also came back to a message from the Landscape & Arts Network (LAN) containing an inspiring account and video of their recent AGM and national gathering http://youtu.be/6j7QVxpviOw.
So… perhaps there are some links to be made, between my experience of being in the East Yorkshire landscape, the questions in my head, and the glimpse, from the video, of what other artists are thinking about the role of art in these times of tension and challenge for the environment. We sometimes talk as if we forget that, although human activities are becoming ever more destructive, the environment will survive, however changed. It is us, the people who live in troubled relationship with the ‘natural’ world, whose future is in doubt, along with many other living things. So that makes some sense of my other key interest- in relationships between people and place (also explored brilliantly by Gregory Bateson, see http://cdm16621.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p16621coll1/id/999/rec/3).
I read the opening chapter of Doreen Massey’s book, For Space, last evening and was reminded about her proposal that space/place has the potential to redefine our perception of the world, enriching our experience by inviting us to ‘see’ more of what has ‘taken place’ (interesting expression in this context) there, and who or what have been the players in the dramas or the ‘music’ which have created it and sustain its dynamic flow.
In terms of my practice then… How it works at the moment is that I need to take time to be in a place (recent examples include: Low Newton on the Northumberland coast; the Leeds-Liverpool canal in Armley: Sunny Bank Mills in Farsley; and what remains of Jewish Warsaw), so as to notice and delve into the stories contained. I then try to record what I see, using photography, liquid light on found objects, rubbings, drawing, paper-casting of surfaces, cyanotype, working with maps and map fabric, and kinetic ‘traces’ of movement in the landscape (using chalk pastels in paper-lined cylinders). A key question for me is to link this activity with another aspect of practice, from my working life, which is working with people, on conversation, change, and ‘harvesting’ thoughts and words.
The Landscape & Arts Network information provided examples of how to link these two elements, for example, by engaging a range of people who study, live in and are the custodians of landscape (including those whose voices are less often heard, such as farmers) in conversation. My tutor, Garry Barker, is helping me link the place and people aspects, noting my interest in social practice and suggesting ways to ‘curate’ conversations based on the ‘mosaic’ of different people’s understanding of place.
So maybe I am getting somewhere??