We’ve come to the end of our time in Suffolk County and Felicity and I reflect on our project Change, Chance and Circumstance: Field Notes. What started out as a conversation on Aldeburgh Beach last summer and an exchange of emails over the year led to us contemplating possible journeys to two coastal locations: Orford Ness, Suffolk, UK and Montauk Point, Suffolk County, New York, USA. The difference between talking about doing a speculative research project such as this, and actually doing it was a-n’s Artist Bursary 2018. The kernel of an idea suddenly became possible with the generous support of the Bursary to cover my travel to the USA.
Our starting point was a shared interest to find out more about two Suffolk UK/USA locations that seemed to have geographical, historical, and environmental commonalities. As we explored Orford Ness and Montauk Point, by ferry, car and foot, we walked, talked, recorded, not entirely sure what we would find, but open to a curiosity of location and environment.
Our precondition to create a tangible outcome was one that we both struggled with at Orford and Montauk. We had to keep reminding ourselves that this was an opportunity to be in a pre-defined ‘field’, to observe, take, and exchange, visual notes, rather than process too quickly into product.
Although we did produce a pair of short moving image sequences, To the High Light and Around the Light, these served more as a manifestation of a shared visual experience of the sites, brief notes of collaborative seeing, and definitely not a conclusion.
The experience of us both travelling thousands of miles to a different site (albeit one we had identified as having commonalities) allowed new observations, experiences and meetings of place and people. It also allowed both of us to reflect on, and see afresh the environments closer to our respective homes.
As we left Suffolk County and drove back towards New York to urban life, I thought about how, as an east coaster, I feel drawn to these two coastal locations with their lighthouses that have vantage points, both as beacons of navigation and exploration.
The coastal landscapes of Orford Ness and Montauk Point are stunning: the quality of light is dazzling and there is a feeling that we could be on the edge of the world. The sublime presence of recent(ish) military historical architecture and remains is simultaneously psychologically terrifying and visually quite beautiful in a brutalist kind of way.
Both sites have an undercurrent of precariousness in terms of the continuing coastal erosion. Whilst Montauk Point Lighthouse has more resources and backing to fight that battle, Orfordness Lighthouse is in a very different place and it is there where I want to return: to continue to record its particular Change, Chance and Circumstance.