Culpeper Community Garden nestles behind a Sainsbury’s carpark off Liverpool Road in Islington. It has a secret, secluded aspect – once inside, amongst the tall trees and networks of raised beds, you feel a long way from the commotion of central London just a few metres beyond.
I was recently invited by Islington Exhibits and Cubitt Education to take up a Research Residency in the garden. It is an informal set up, I’m not obliged to make, do or present anything in particular, there is no suggested time frame, no necessary outcome.
I’ve decided though, that it will be a twelve-month project, that I will spend one year visiting Culpeper, observing the seasonal flows and fluxes, the shifts in colour, form, light and shadow, the people that come and go, the plants and wildlife that live there. And I’ll see what happens. I’d like to develop a moving image work of some kind and I’d like to keep this blog to document my progress.
I’ve visited the garden four times so far, the first just to have a walk round and get a feel for its layout. The next few visits I brought a Sigma SLR loaded with Fugichrome Velvia slide film.
I’m endlessly fascinated and seduced by projections and I often use slides as a starting point in explorations of a place. I like to incorporate projection processes into my film and video-making and with this in mind I’ve been shooting series of images in the garden. Focusing on a section of path, a tree, a shrub I’ve been taking a sequence of perhaps six or eight frames, moving the camera very slightly each time. Not exactly pixilation and very rough and ready, but it’ll be interesting to see how they come out, the rhythms they might create, whether they will work on a timeline as (crude) animations. I am interested in capturing little moments, glimpses.
I have been researching Marie Menken’s work recently, particularly her 1957 film Glimpse of the Garden. I’m interested in ways she used magnifying glasses (in this and other projects) to reveal strange, ambiguous image-worlds within everyday objects around her. I’m also interested in what David Berridge calls her ‘stop-start sensibility, an interest in momentum interfused with actual or potential interruption, lingering and delay’, her attention to light and shadow, to surface, to pattern…
There have always been a lot of people in the garden when I’ve visited, people of all ages and from all walks of life. I like to listen to the sounds of their voices, many of which I can’t understand – there is a strong Turkish community in that part of Islington. While the garden is a protective, relaxing place it is in fact quite noisy. The constant hum of traffic, roaring planes, shouts of children from a playground nearby almost drown out the closer, quieter sounds of insects and birds, rustling leaves, footsteps and voices. I’d like to capture these sounds. I wonder how they might affect the sequential photographs I’ve been taking. I imagine they might change the feeling completely.