“I only need to step into the small alley in the garden, stroll between the green hills and blue waters, and in an instant, I would feel as if the cacophony outside is of no concern to me. I vanish within the middle of the garden, just as the world disappears into the garden.” – Garden of Mirrored Flowers, Hu Fang, 2010.

I was talking to a work colleague last week about my project at Culpeper. She lives near the garden and knows it well. She pointed out a fundamental characteristic of the site that I’d not considered before: that it is sunken into the landscape and that in order to enter from the street you have to descend – either via stairs or down a sloping pathway – into the space. The pathways and beds are layered, segmented by little stone walls and steps so that you are often walking up and down, moving higher or lower – but it is true that the perimeter fence always rises up around you; looking outwards from the centre of the garden to the buildings around is to look upwards and outwards.

I’ve been working with my double-exposure images this week, thinking about ways to develop them into a screen-based piece. Compared to the sequences of scanned slides – which give a stuttering but fairly straightforward representation of the site – the overlaid projections give a more complex expression, a grainy, patchwork video collage. Zooming in on small details is exciting too – shapes and patterns become more abstract, more evocative.

The images I’ve been testing weren’t made with any kind of sequencing in mind so changes between frames are erratic and random. But nevertheless some sense of movement is suggested as details in one or other image recede or advance in the picture.

I will try out some more thoughtful tests – masking out details gradually, progressively, so that transitions are smoother and longer.


Listening to a podcast of Tate’s 2009 Symposium Urban Encounters: Rethinking Landscape, I heard Susan Trangmar presenting ‘A Play in Time’, a 2-channel video installation shot in a public park in Hove. Trangmar explains how, in this and in other projects, she has explored relationships between “a phenomenological experience of space, the cultural constitution of place and the lived practices of space, which take place on site”. I found her articulation of these relationships very interesting, and they’ve helped re-frame some of the ideas I’ve been exploring at Culpeper.

Particularly interesting were her thoughts on aspects of ‘public’ and ‘private’ within urban spaces – the idea that community gardens are collectively shared, but also places for the individual to pause and reflect. She talks about the balance between sociality and solitude in parks, ‘where imaginative space mingles with public space’.

I often feel conspicuous when filming and photographing in the garden – laden down with bags and cases, my tripod mounted precariously across narrow footpaths or between benches. Culpeper is quite a contained, compact space, and while it is easy to lose oneself (psychologically, imaginatively) within the seclusion of the bushes and trees, there is little possibility of physically escaping or actually being concealed.

Trangmar talks of embracing the performative aspect of her shooting – making herself clearly visible so that her role as observer is as important in the ‘performance’ of the piece as that of the people around her whose activities the camera is capturing. This led to interesting discussions on the changing relationships between lens and subject in a country where people are almost continually under surveillance – the growing paranoia of a public who are aware of always being watched. Trangmar voices her concern that the increasing privatisation – and so protection and surveillance – of space is affecting our ability to relate or interact with others.

So far I’ve not photographed any of the people I’ve met or passed by in the garden, but I’ve been thinking more about the importance of their presence within my audio recordings, if I am to explore these interrelationships between culture and nature, between sociality and solitude.

I’ve not had an opportunity to visit Culpeper for a few weeks now – I’m eager to find out whether more leaves have fallen, whether the branches are more bare – and, crucially, whether the buildings are becoming more visible around the perimeter fence…

I have done some tests with my Super 8 footage this week though – projecting it into a suspended glass sphere, to see if my ideas about microcosms could be explored in a new ‘bubble’ installation.