Yesterday we delivered a series of research drawings and video work made in collaboration with Gary Stewart and Stefan Keuppers to Bridport Arts Centre for their exhibition of a selection of work from ExLab2012. Gary and I have been working on a new two screen audio & video work inspired by conversations about the experience of time and memory we had with the Cultural Geographers from Exeter University we’ve been collaborating with this summer for our Storyweir commission at Hive Beach. Hive Beach is a continually shifting strip of shingle between the land and sea where the endless cycles of sun, tide and waves cause changes larger than we can imagine, but which are also felt by humans on a daily basis.
The new video at BAC is a new piece combining video shot at Hive Beach with maps, scans of the seabed and archival material. It features footage of several people whose activities bring them into contact with different cycles of life and histories of the area including a fossil hunter, an archaeologist, a member of Coastwatch and Bridport Wild Swimmers. Data on wave height, wave period and wave direction data gathered from the Channel Coastal Observatory beuy at West Bay is being used to control and modulate the ambient soundtrack that accompanies the voices of people who live, work and play on the coast.
You can see it at BAC from 13 October to 23 November.
Our installation on Hive Beach in Dorset, Storyweir, finishes on Sunday 9th September. Here are some photos taken by photographer Pete Millson. From October 13th we will also be participating in an exhibition about the ExLab commissions in Bridport Arts Centre’s Allsop Gallery.
Earlier in the spring I received a copy of ATLAS: Geography Architecture and Change in an Interdependent World (edited by Renata Tyszczuk, Joe Smith, Nigel Clark and Melissa Butcher) a new book published by black dog publishing that brings together architects, artists and geographers to look at global and economic change. It is linked to and grew out of the web project ATLAS: making new maps for an island planet. Many of the contributors to these projects, like me, were part or participated in events or publications arising out of the Interdependence Day (ID) project back in 2006 and the organisers have gone to great lengths to keep those people and ideas together over the years through events, discussions and publications that keep progressing ideas and conversations.
For Atlas I revisited the project In Good Heart; What Is A Farm? (2009) which grew out of the partnership between Dodolab and Proboscis exploring communities, environment and resilience. I has been invited to visit the former Charlottetown Experimental Farm on Prince Edward Island, Canada, by arts organisation Dodolab. The visit, coupled with conversations with people and farmers, historical research into representations of farming, the lore of agriculture, weather, the seasons and the labours of the months, triggered many questions about land, farming and the factors that impact on this most ancient and technologically advanced of trades. The map created for ATLAS was inspired by these questions and the mediaeval illustrations of the Labours of the Months which were some of the first representations of farming and food production. It maps the interconnected stories people told me about what the word farm meant to them; their hopes and fears about food production and the harsh realities for farmers themselves. One of the things that struck me was how many people, who now live in urban places, recalled growing up on farms of visiting their grandparents farms. It impressed on me how swift the move from rural to urban has been for some people. Knowledge about environment has shifted with that move, some knowledge must have been lost and other knowledge is perhaps being created.
At the start of our commission Storyweir (part of the art science project Exlab) the brief was to work with earth scientists (as well as local people) but when we heard cultural geographer Dr Ian Cook (Associate Professor of Geography in the College of Life & Environmental Sciences at University of Exeter) speak at the Exlab induction day/symposium we were instantly inspired by his highly collaborative approach to his research work; we wanted to try and collaborate and to bring Cultural Geography into the project. Ian’s project followthethings.com demonstrates his co-creative approach to social engagement and cross disciplinary working (with academics, students, filmmakers, artists, journalists and others). It felt like a natural link with our work and was very exciting to find at the Exlab event. I had read an essay Follow the Thing: Papaya way back in 2004 and I remember at the time thinking that I’d like to work with geographers who take this approach but I hadn’t realised until very recently that Ian was the author of that paper.
A windy walk to the end of Bridport Harbour with Ian and artist Gary Stewart who works with us at Proboscis resulted in a Ian offering to introduce us to some of his colleagues Geographies of Creativity and Knowledge Research Group, University of Exeter. Ian introduced us to three colleagues who each brought different strands of thinking to the project; Dr John Wylie (Associate Professor of Cultural Geography and Director of Postgraduate Research in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences) who has opened up our thinking on time and being in the landscape; as well as the ‘intertwining of self and the landscape’ coupled with how we move and walk in the landscape and visualise it through photographs and images; Dr Nicola Thomas (Senior Lecturer in Human Geography in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences) has brought her exploration of craft and communities and the traces of history and memory bound up in skills, crafts and the evidence of them; and Rose Ferraby (PHD Researcher in the Department of Geography) who has an undergraduate degree in Archaeology and Anthropology and an MFA in Illustration brought both an archaeologists eye to our reading of the land at Hive Beach and her ideas about how abstract ideas can be communicated visually.
An initial audio skype conversation left us very excited at the blend of academic discussion and rigour with a deeply creative and poetic approach. Following that we all spent a windy early January day outside on Hive, Burton and Cogden beach and a creative media ‘mash up’ day at PVA medialab (in Bridport) which saw us coming together with drawings, audio, video, data and other media. In all these we have found a shared interest in the social and cultural effects of the way the local community engages with its environment and the exploration of human and deep time. Looking at the sediments of Burton Cliffs and their fossil layer we discussed the evanescent nature of time and timelessness and the relationship between deep geological time and human time – particularly how he perspective of time is different depending on the prism through which history is viewed (fossils were once cited as evidence of the Deluge). In that sense history (perhaps also time) is not experienced as single linear narrative but constantly in flux.
Finding a lost welly trapped in the shingle mud brought up the notion of the Anthropocene (a unit of geological time that marks the moment when human activity is resulting in a visible impact on the ecosystems and geology).
Walking the beach and then above on the cliffs to the caravan site sparked conversations on the transience of nostalgia and memory, the way the beach (which is such an elemental place) triggers memories and affects our experience of time. The beach reconnects us to patterns and emotions that are long lasting and outside of the pattern of daily life.
This is not a large budget, long term research project so we feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Ian, Nicola, John and Rose it is a very exciting process and these interconnected conversations are influencing the questions we ask in public activities and the form, materials and content of the work. Through the dialogues we have focused an initial interest in the relationship between deep time and human time into how it is reflected in the ongoing dynamic processes and transitory human life at play on the geology of the coast. In that ephemeral space of flux between the land and sea the continual cycles of sun, tide and sea affect changes larger than we can imagine but also are felt by humans on a daily basis.
Alongside the films I posted from Pathe News in yesterday’s Storyweir update I found this one of Mackerel Fishing in West Dorset in the 1940’s
It looks like its somewhere along Chesil Bank near Burton Bradstock. The boat is a traditional Lerret which I think was unique to Lyme Bay. Boat builder Gail McGarva recently created a new Lerret for the Lerret Project an initiative to celebrate the fishing heritage of the area. There is a lot more about the history of fishing off Hive Beach on the Burton Bradstock Village website including some audio describing local fishing methods and the recollections and fascinating film of Cynthia Stevens net making – her hands move faster than you would have thought possible. So fundamental was fishing that boats were blessed and garlands created and carried to the beach to bless the harvest of the sea. Garland day continues in the nearby Village of Abbotsbury.
There are few Lerrets left seine net fishing off the beach these days. I heard of how shoals of mackerel would often come right into the shore of the sleeply banking shingle beaches but its not seen often now. There is a film of the “now rare sight of mackerel shoaling just off the beach in 1987″ on the Burton Bradstock village site. I was talking to a local fisherman who supplies Hive Beach Cafe and he recalled there being fishing boats all up the coast between Burton and West Bay. Several people also recall there being thousands of herring gulls nesting in the cliffs – which now have gone. No-one seemed to know why, maybe because there is very little seine net fishing directly from the beach, so not much for the Gulls to scavenge, maybe its another reason.
Since November we have been doing a lot of background research for Storyweir our commission to explore the relationship between the human story and physical geology at Hive Beach on the Jurassic Coast, working with local people, geologists, Human geographers at the University of Exeter the Hive Beach Cafe and the National Trust.
It is a place of many intersecting narratives of sea, land, farming, fishing, industry (the area was a flax, rope and net producer for several hundred years) and geology; which are all woven together amongst narratives of time. A walk on Hive beach takes you from the deep unimaginable time of geology to human time and through many cycles of tides, seasons, and patterns of life.
This month I head back to local village Burton Bradstock to spend a bit of time out and about again talking to people involved in geology and fossil hunting as well as people living and working in the area. I’m really interested in how the human ‘data’ that forms the aura of the place (stories, experiences, local knowledge) sits next to or can merge with scientific data and analysis.
We will be there from the 22 – 24 March and weather permitting will be on Hive Beach from 11.30am to 2.30pm on the 24th March offering a cup of tea in exchange for peoples experiences of the area so if you are in the area please come and join us.
Image: Strata in the Burton Sandstone Cliffs – an example of the distinctive layered geology of the cliffs which contain many fossils of the Jurassic era.
Alice has been invited by Revolutionary Arts in Worthing to create a new series of works inspired by Worthing Pier for Worthing Pier Day on the 12 Sept 2010 and the Made in Worthing Festival 17 – 19 Sept 2010. This is currently involving her in blustery days filming from a kayak, drawing on and under the pier, talking to people on the pier, wading on the beach, falling over the groynes and tripping over the shingle and researching history in an effort to understand the allure (and engineering) of the pier, the seaside and this particular aspect of the British seafaring relationship to water. The project links to Alice’s ongoing body of work At The Waters Edge, about our human relationship to water, land and traditional knowledge of water.
I have just sent off some new works on paper, that are the first part of my project In Good Heart, off to Confederation Centre Gallery in Prince Edward Island, Canda for the show Dig Up My Heart: Artistic Practice in the Field curated by Shauna McCabe which opens on Saturday till September 22. The show; brings together a group of practitioners who start from the same impulse – a visceral connection to the land and to place, and the transformative potential of that attachment in response to issues of landscape change…
In 2009 I was invited by our partners Dodolab to visit the Charlottetown Experimental Farm on Prince Edward island and spend some time researching its history, exploring the site and the island. The Charlottetown farm was one of a network of Experimental Farms created in the 1880’s to research and improve farming methods and production, the network hub was the Central Experimental farm in Ottowa.
The visit to PEI which triggered many questions about farming and the factors that impact on this most ancient of skills. The works bring together several strands of research, conversations, interviews, historical and folklore research to explore the perception of “Farm”, its origins, what it means to people now and the way in which the disappearance of traditional skills and distance from the sources of our food serve to disconnect people from their link with land and nature. It is part of my ongoing series, At The Waters Edge looking at peoples local and personal relationship to land and environment.
There will be a publication with the series of works and stories published in June. You can see the works on flickr.
I am grateful to all at Dodolab, Confederation Centre and the Public Archives and Records Office for helping with my research. A huge thanks to the people who kindly sent me their thoughts on the word “farm” and I would like to thank; Andrew, Angela, Adriana, Barb, Chick, Deborah, Danny, Dan, Frank, Gillian, Joyce, Joe, Kei, Mervin, Niharika, Tarin and Sarah. This work was commissioned by Dodolab who invited me to PEI in 2009 as part of an ongoing partnership with Proboscis.
There are no fences here … when you go out of town there are no fences, but I wouldn’t call this a wilderness because peoples homes are here, people live here.
This week I’ve been packing up a set of drawings to send out to the Canadian arctic town of Inuvik for the first leg of a touring show during the the 25 year anniversary of Ivvavik National Park in Canada which was created by a historic Aboriginal land claim settlement The Inuvialuit Final Agreement, signed in 1984. In it the Inuvialuit agreed to give up exclusive use of their ancestral lands in exchange for guaranteed rights from the Government of Canada. The rights came in three forms: land, wildlife management and money. (read more on the Inuvaliuit Regional Corporation). As a result Parks Canada and the Inuvialuit co-operatively manage Ivvavik National Park with the Inuvaluit Wisdom that the “The land will protect the people who support the protect the land“. Parks Canada has organised a touring exhibition of work from their Artist in The Park programme which I was invited to be part of by artist Joyce Majiski, in 2003 with whom Ive been working with since them on projects such as Topographies and Tales.
Middle of Nowhere?
Bordered on the north by the Beaufort Sea and Alaska on the West, Ivvavik sits at the north western tip of Canada. A highly biodiverse region of the Western Arctic, its Inuvaluktun name ‘Ivvavik’ means nursery or place of giving birth. It is a portion of the calving grounds and migration route of the Porcupine caribou herd and forms a part of the Beringia Refugium; an area untouched by the last glaciation where an ice-free bridge allowed humans and animals to migrate from Asia into North America over twenty thousand years ago.
In summer 2003 I met up with artists Joyce Majiski Ron Felix, Audrea Wulf and James Ruben, guide Mervyn Joe and elder Sarah Dillon and flew out of Inuvik, across the Mackenzie Delta towards Sheep Creek. From the air (and in the imaginations of the temperate zone) the arctic taiga and tundra, is a frozen desert. But landing at the junction of Sheep Creek and the Firth River we saw tussocks of wild flowers, embroidered cushions with succulent jewel like plants, luminescent mosses and ferns; miniature gardens of Babylon. Out on the land there were larger traces of life and stories of trappers, miners, hunters and travelers. The language of the north I grew up with paints an image of bleakness, but there the myths of desolation fell away.
“Have good time miles from nowhere!” someone had said before I set off. In the world’s ‘wildernesses’ like Ivvavik it is easy for a visitor to be lost in such a reverie of wonder at landscape that you miss the lives and culture that are part of it. There is a disjuncture between the notion of wilderness as barren, by definition disconnected from the social, and the view of land as homeland, a social place of culture, food and everyday life. To many outside the north the Arctic is still shrouded in an aura of romanticism portrayed, as it has been through the history of polar exploration, as a landscape of sublime desolation. To some, I expect, it’s not a place but an imaginary landscape far away from their everyday lives. I wonder what is the global consequence of this enduring vision of the land?
One day we see five caribou. Pregnant cows lead the herd from Ivvavik into the calving grounds in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR); an area rich in oil reserves. So important are the grounds the Gwitchin people refer to them as the “sacred place where life begins”. If the ANWR is opened for drilling many people believe it will result in untold damage to the herd and the people whose lives and traditions depend on it.
Alice Angus and Giles Lane are currently participating in the latest DodoLab in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada where we are working alongside Andrew Hunter (Chief DodoLabster), Barb Hobot, Laura Knapp and Lisa Hirmer, as well as a group of students from Mount Allison University led by Dr Shauna McCabe.
A film by Alice Angus and Joyce Majiski using music, oral recordings, drawing, animation and storytelling to playfully unearth local and personal stories, memories and myths against a picture of how concepts of space and environment are shaped by ideas of belonging and home. A personal exploration of the intimate way people form relationships with their environments, Topographies and Tales takes a journey through the myths and perceptions the filmmakers encountered on their travels in the west of Scotland and the Yukon.
Topographies and Tales is part of Alice’s long term collaboration with Canadian artist Joyce Majiski. They began a collaboration in 2003 which took them to Ivvavik National Park in the Canadian Arctic, Glenmore Lodge in the Cairngorm Mountains, Scotland, the Klondike Institute for Art and Culture in Dawson City, Canada, Joyce’s Tuktu Studio in Whitehorse and the Proboscis Studio in London.
From 3rd – 9th of June we’ll be roving around the village gathering and recording stories in many ways; from hanging out at the election, the community shop, the pub and the community spaces with a large village map, to visiting local clubs and individuals, to hosting a storytelling dinner with the residents of a street, to running workshops and going for walks. As the village continues to change through growth, movement and migration the initiative aims to let local people explore place and identity.
Alongside this we’ve integrated storytelling and news sharing (by email and with a WordPress blog); sound recordings (via the free podbean and AudioBoo podcasting servicees and the low cost Gabcast telephone-to-MP3 podcasting service); photo sharing (via the Flickr group pool); social connections (via the Facebook Group) and news feeds (via Twitter). We will also be adding in some of our own inventions like StoryCubes and Diffusion eBooks to make tangible things that can be passed around, as well as the digital media.
We will be back during Sutton Feast Week from the 1st – 5th July with an exhibition and audio broadcasts at St Andrews Church and around the village.
See you in Sutton!
Much of our work, especially our research activities, is inspired and guided by over-arching themes. In 2011 we began developing Public Goods as our new theme.
Public Goods is our new theme focused on making and sharing tangible representations of the intangible things we feel are most precious about the places and communities we belong to, such as stories, skills, games, songs, techniques, memories, local lore and experiential knowledge of local environment and ecology.
What is most precious about the places and communities in which we live, work and play?
How can we begin to communicate the value of the intangible goods and assets that define our attachment to people, places and things?
Britain is entering what promises to be the most radical transformation of our public services and social infrastructure since the establishment of the welfare state in 1945. As many of the more recognisable tangible assets (libraries, forests, public art and culture venues, arts activities) are run down, sold off or cut back, Public Goods aims to re-invigorate our appreciation of the immense ‘common wealth’ that persists in everyday life across the diversity of cultures in our society. It is a critical moment of artistic opportunity to investigate the resillience, adaptability and future of local communities.
Previous Themes (2001-2011)
Cultures of Listening (2006-2011)
Since 2002 Proboscis has been exploring and developing the concept of Public Authoring, the everyday mapping and sharing of local knowledge and experience. We believe that it is just as important to listen to the voices of others as to make our own voice heard and that this skill is, in itself, a significant aspect of understanding citizenship, toleration and participation in democracy.
The act of listening is crucial to our vision of public authoring – where public authoring offers people a space to have a voice it also needs to encourage that voice to be heard and listened to. In the noise and confusion of the modern world, where we are bombarded with ever-increasing amounts of communication, it is becoming harder to listen, or find the time to listen to those around us.
Proboscis’ Social Tapestries (2004-08) programme can be seen as a metaphor to describe interdependence (of communities and people) through its exploration of how people weave threads of knowledge and experience across the public domain – creating a public knowledge commons. The everyday experience of sound and skills of listening are largely dominated by visual culture, yet cultures of listening are crucial to cultural experience and understanding human relationships; from the intimate to the civic, local to international. Social Tapestries aims to develop these practices of public authoring that in turn engender cultures of listening – places and spaces in which we pause to reflect on what we hear, to disentangle the meaning from the babble of noise.
Species of Spaces (2001-2005)
Species of Spaces explores the relationships between the physical and the virtual – how people navigate between the phenomenological world of the human senses and the invisible, immanent world of data and communications. SoMa acts as a facilitator and developer of new networks that lead to innovative collaborations, partnerships and alliances to explore how creative interventions can inspire and influence public policy and socio-cultural trends.
Projects include: Private Reveries, Public Spaces; DIFFUSION: Species of Spaces; Peer2Peer; Urban Tapestries; Social Tapestries;
A Species of Spaces Diffusion series was commissioned and edited by Giles Lane between 2001-06
Liquid Geography (2001-2005)
Liquid Geography questions and explores contemporary perceptions of geography, territory and landscape. It encompasses our research into new and emerging forms of public art, and explores new sites for reception by investigating the relationships between audience and artwork, producer and participant, site and distribution.
Projects/experiments include: Landscape & Identity;Language & Territory; Topographies & Tales;
Sonic Geographies; Topologies; DIFFUSION: Liquid Geography;
A Liquid Geography Diffusion series was commissioned and edited by Alice Angus between 2002-06
Topographies & Tales is about the relationship between people, language, identity and place, revealing personal stories against the larger picture of how our concept of space and environment is shaped by “belonging” and “nationhood”, and how boundaries, barriers and borders come to be formed.
It has included short films, essays, nine Diffusion eBooks, a Creative Lab in London and events in Dawson City, Canada and is underpinning a new body of work exploring peoples relationship to water called At The Waters Edge.
Topographies and Tales is based around a body of work that Alice Angus has been creating in collaboration with Joyce Majiski exploring the perceptions of landscape and of the North. It is driven by interests in ideas of proximity and remoteness, technology and presence, and the concept of ‘wilderness’ against the lived experience of a place. The works are a personal exploration of the intimate way people form relationships with their environments. They are underpinned by an exploration of how the technologies of travel and communication impact on a sense of time, from the coming of the railroad to the ‘new’ world of data and communications: our perceptions of geography are affected not just by knowledge, but by the way it is mediated. Beginning in the winter of 2001 Alice took the railroad across Canada, from east to west, against the historic flow, creating the film, Near Real Time. Then, in 2003, Alice participated in the first Parks Canada residency in Ivvavik National Park in the Northern Yukon. She began a collaboration there with guide Joyce Majiski which took them to Glenmore Lodge in the Cairngorms, Scotland in 2004 and Klondike Institute for Art and Culture in Dawson City, Canada in 2005 for their short film Topographies and Tales 2009.
Topographies and Tales 2009 (12.52 min)
Topographies and Tales, 2009 (excerpts 5.30min)
Using music, oral recordings, drawing, animation and storytelling to playfully unearth local and personal stories, memories and myths against a picture of how concepts of space and environment are shaped by ideas of belonging and home. A personal exploration of the intimate way people form relationships with their environments combining animation and live documentary footage, Topographies and Tales takes a meandering journey through the myths and perceptions the filmmakers encountered on their journeys in the west of Scotland and the Yukon.
Near Real Time By Alice Angus, following the railroad East to West across Canada
Landscapes in Dialogue by Alice Angus, thoughts inspired by the Artists in the Park residency, Ivvavik National Park, Yukon
At The Waters Edge with Joyce Majiski and Alice Angus
The first in a new a series of eBooks growing out of Topographies and Tales. At The Waters Edge are water based investigations exploring different perspectives of what it means to care for the environment and how it can affect the way in which water environments are managed and cared for.
Team: Alice Angus, Giles Lane, Orlagh Woods (2004-09).
A series of workshops and artists eBook commissions held in 2002 at Iniva.
LILT resulted in a Diffusion eBook series, Liquid Geography, commissioned and edited by Alice Angus between 2002-06. Contributors included: Mohini Chandra, Gair Dunlop, Roshini Kempadoo, Andy Pratt, Joyce Majiski, Kate Foster & Hayden Lorimer, Loren Chasse, Louise K Wilson, Jim Harold, David Key, Kathryn Yusoff and John Schofield.
Team: Alice Angus & Giles Lane