Once again we have been collaborating with our esteemed colleagues Andrew Hunter and Lisa Hirmer at DodoLab on a discursive exploration of place and knowledge as part of our ongoing investigations and collaborative publishing project, City As Material. This time we have been undertaking a research expedition with Professor William Starling into the decline of the European Starling in Britain, seeking stories and evidence to explain their rapid disappearance in three towns : Thetford (in Norfolk), London and Oxford. Alongside Proboscis and DodoLab, we were accompanied by expedition members Dr Josie Mills, Curator of the Art Gallery at the University of Lethbridge, Canada and artist Leila Armstrong.
Haz has posted reports for each of the journeys and visitations which we undertook in Thetford, London and Oxford over on our bookleteer blog and we are now collaborating to produce a series of eBooks charting the expedition’s activities and findings – blending together questions, observations, musings, photos, drawings, rubbings and other things collected. As before, we’ll print up a limited edition of the books as well as placing downloadable PDFs in the online Diffusion Library for handmade versions and enabling bookreader versions for reading online.
“Trundling along our everyday routes through the city, our minds often consumed by thoughts of work and daydreams, our surroundings become all too familiar; a grid which we traverse on set rails, eyes downcast, something purely to be suffered until we reach our destination.
Surrender to the city’s own pace – immobile and immemorial – delve into dark corners and gaze upwards at spires; abandon the city as a stale platform for living, and seize it as material to inspire. Through shared excursions and experiences, playfully exploring our city, we come together to create. Open to all with no set ambitions, join us to collaboratively produce publications which showcase and investigate the city we inhabit.”
The City As Material set contains the 10 books commissioned and produced as part of last Autumn’s City As Material series of urban explorations and collaborative bookmaking. Printed using bookleteer‘s Short Run Printing Service, the set is limited to 50 slipcase-bound, individually numbered copies. It includes:
- City As Material: An Overview
- An Unbooklet of Disappropriation
- Ebb and Flow
- Ancient Lights, City Shadows
- Sonic Geographies
- The 2nd Book of Urizen by Tim Wright
- River – Gap by Ben Eastop
- Skylines & Sightlines by Simon Pope
- Deep City by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino
This Thursday 31st March 2011 we’re hosting an evening at our studio in Clerkenwell to launch our first limited edition slipcase set of books published and printed using bookleteer‘s Short Run Printing Service. The set in question contains the 10 books commissioned and produced as part of last Autumn’s City As Material series of urban explorations and collaborative bookmaking.
If you’d like to come please email us info at proboscis.org.uk – we’ll have drinks as well as offering a 20% discount off all publications. Or sign up on the Facebook event page.
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.
We have just received the first bound copy of our publication for With Our Ears to the Ground; a project by Proboscis commissioned by Green Heart Partnership with Hertfordshire County Council to explore peoples ideas about community. The project focused on four very different types of community in order to get a broad range of opinions across the county.
I’m really excited to see the final version and especially happy with the middle tracing paper insert of scenes and people Orlagh and I encountered during the project. The book draws together the multiple layers of ideas and experiences we found across the different communities we met in Watford, Stevenage, North Herts and Broxbourne and it is designed to reflect the many ideas and voices we encountered. It is organised in the six themes of Transport, Movement, Listening, Community, Getting Involved and Perceptions the emerged during the project. The book contains drawings, photographs, quotes and writings. It can be read in any direction and you can interweave the pages of the three sections as you read, to find new perspectives.
The With Our Ears to the Ground book, will go to selected libraries in Hertfordshire. The publication draws together the multiple layers of ideas and experiences we found across different communities and it is designed to reflect those ideas and voices.
We have a small number of copies please contact us if you would like to acquire one.
We have also published the main chapters as Diffusion eBooks – books to download print and make up published using Bookleteer. Booklets to make, carry in your pocket, browse in your own time, rather than read on screen. You can download them here.
Last week I was lucky enough to be asked to spend a few days drawing Granville Arcade/Brixton Village, on the first leg of artistsandmakers.com Empty Shops Network Tour to six towns across England, created by artist Dan Thompson.
I joined Dan, Jan Williams (Caravan Gallery), Steve Bomford and podcaster Richard Vobes, for lively discussion and to create new work on site for an all day event on the Saturday, you can hear Richard Vobes podcasts of about the project here.
Its been a while since I had the chance to stay in one place for a few days drawing, talking to stallholders and getting to scratch a little below the surface, seeing the flows of life. This year we’ve (Proboscis) been involved in several projects that have looked at the issue of common space and how its changing alongside the implications of huge shopping malls, department stores and the privatisation of public space. It was a real pleasure to be in a place where the character of it is created by the people using it to trade and to socialise. There was an almost constant sound of conversation, laughter and music and the smells of all the food being cooked or sold.
Exploring empty shops is about celebrating local distinctiveness and the project will also show local communities how to use empty shops for meanwhile projects. Each project will last less than a week from start to finish and Dan makes a very open space for artists to follow their interests. Each week will involve public meetings, informal training for local artists, and showcase the tools needed to run empty shops projects.
The tour has been organised by the Empty Shops Network, with the first event happening just a week after the project was conceived at a meeting of organisations involved in bringing empty shops and spaces into meanwhile use.
The tour is supported by the Meanwhile Project, and the Brixton event is using a space provided by the Space Makers Agency. After Brixton, the Empty Shops Network project will visit five further towns, with dates in Shoreham by Sea, Coventry, Cumbria and Durham to be confirmed in coming weeks. See artistandmakers.com for details.
You can see more images from the Brixton week here.
Jan, Dan and Steve.
Steve and Terry – the butcher – in front of the pictures Steve and Jan took during the week.
In the background to a lot of the work we all do at Proboscis is an underlying interest in the handmade and in particular in drawing. Many people know us for our work with technology but there is a strong undercurrent in our practice of drawing as part of design, illustration or installation.
The interest dates right back to Proboscis first project, Coil Journal of the Moving Image, which included drawing and illustration commissions by artists, film-makers and illustrators. I’ve begun a process of looking back on and gathering together images of work by us and the other artists we have worked with over the years and this is the first of a series of posts exploring the presence of drawing in our work.
Recently, for With Our Ears to the Ground Proboscis were commissioned by Green Heart Partnership with Hertfordshire County Council to explore peoples ideas about community and create an artists book/publication. Orlagh and I spent several days driving around the County to run events and meet people but at the same time the journeys we took were important in our understanding of live in the county. As part of that I’ve been making the sketches that appear on this page and and on our flickr page to investigate the ideas of flow and movement of people in the county. Some of these appear in the final publication but for the most part the process was about gaining another level of understanding beyond the events, interviews and workshops we did.
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.
We’ve recently submitted a proposal for Arts Council England’s Artists Taking the Lead project for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. It builds on an emerging collaboration we have with mongrelStreet (mervin Jarman and Richard Pierre-Davis) as well as ideas around migration and narrative we have been working on for a few years.
Trace Elements: Why are we who we are?
Trace Elements is an interactive and distributed artwork revealing the diversity of the journeys and migrations ordinary people make to live, work and play in London. Through words, images and symbols that convey these stories it will flow like a digital river through London’s public media spaces: generating a storyscape of endlessly changing combinations. It will allow both participants and audiences to form associations and connections between our lived experiences, hopes and aspirations as Londonders: a visual and poetic stream which we can fall in and out of.
Trace Elements combines the creative inspiration and experience of two artist-led groups, Proboscis (Alice Angus, Giles Lane and Orlagh Woods) and mongrelStreet (mervin Jarman and Richard Pierre-Davis). It will be a multi-faceted project that grows leading up to June 2012 and beyond. It will involve creative research with communities across London to elicit their stories of how and why they have come to live here: what they have given up; what they have held onto; what they dream of; what their fears are. This will be used to inspire a narrative ‘periodic table’ of story elements: images and symbols that capture the essence of people’s stories and experiences. The story elements will become a simple interface for engaging people to share their stories in a visual and symbolic way and will also be used to generate automatic poetry for dissemination via social media tools such as twitter and text messaging.
Using mongrelStreet’s iStreet Lab as mobile ‘stations’ for engaging with communities in their own areas, we will ‘recycle streetcorners’ into storytelling and sharing spaces, weaving a tapestry of social and cultural interactions across the city. iStreet Labs will also be sited in places such as airports, rail stations, parks and other public and private spaces to engage visitors, commuters and locals in sharing their stories. Audiences will be able to dive into the Trace Elements storyscape via media screens in tube stations, bus stops, rail stations, as well as via online and mobile media.
With uncertainty and climate change at the forefront of local and universal concerns we want to work with the people of London to create something that crosses barrriers by bringing to light our collective struggles and our shared hopes. Trace Elements will emerge as a magnificent reflection of the creativity, hope and determination of human spirit that has brought so many people here.
Paralelo, Sao Paulo, Brasil
Alice, Giles and Orlagh travelled to Sao Paulo in Brasil to take part in the AHRC and British Council sponsored event, Paralelo, hosted by the British Council Brasil, MIS-Museum of Image and Sound and Centro Cultural de Sao Paulo. We helped with the event facilitation, running two social mapping workshops and designing a special Paralelo Diffusion eNotebook, Travelling Through Layers, for participants to capture and share ideas, reflections and information.
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).
Flows in the heart of the city of Peterborough (UK) with music on the hang drum by Jimmy D. One of a series of 8 “Impressions” of the city of Peterborough in England. Part of the Perception Peterborough project which involves artists and consultants in working with local, national and international people to develop a compelling and exciting vision for the future of the city.
Excerpts from ‘Topographies and Tales’ by Alice Angus and Joyce Majiski (2005).
A personal exploration of the way people form relationships with their environments and home combining animation and live-action footage. A meandering journey across parts of Scotland, London and the central Yukon and through the experiences of the filmmakers crossing the miles that separated them between the UK and Canada.
Near Real Time by Alice Angus
A video combining documentary and animation, exploring the experience of technology, time and geography through tracing a train journey across Canada in the winter of 2001.
Made by Alice Angus in 2002, 4.13′.