With only a month and a half until the exhibition opens, things are pushing on. I am being extremely careful to prioritise my efforts so I don’t get caught up on one thing for too long. It seems to be coming together, but I have the mammoth task ahead of deciding how best to use text within my work for the booklet. The narration of my sites is vital, it will bring the sites and my data to something like a conclusion (even if it is only a temporary one). Text always holds such authority and influence over meaning and interpretation and makes the reading of things seem so concrete and certain. I’m wary of how I use it here. These sites are far from certain and by their very nature, remain somehow unknowable and obscure. My personal relationship with these particular places has shifted and I find I am torn between not wishing to spend anymore time there (knowing who I might meet), to at the same time feeling I might somehow have a stake in them. The process has made them distinct and meaningful places, pulled out from the blur of backdrop. They were already places, but not to someone who has no use for them. Their lack of function created them and they gave opportunity to a kind of function.
I think to approach this text I will have to revisit each site again, stripped bare from the task of excavation and open to the act of just being there… always the most challenging and dangerous I find. Some space to contemplate following this strange process I have carried out is definitely needed.
A couple of weeks ago I went along to a talk at The Courtauld Institute called ‘Narrating the Island’ given by Barney Samson. It’s part of a series of events under the title ‘Imagining Islands: Artists and Escape’ set up by the students of the MA Curating the Museum. The idea of the desert island is of interest to me and has strong links to my research. My piece shown for the MA show, ‘The Island’ is an obvious reference to this but even in ‘Hidden Landscapes’, the sites hold island traits. There is definitely something in their sense of isolation, an inhospitableness and the presence of strange inhabitants and potential threats that makes them feel like landscapes adrift and uncivilised. They carry a timelessness that seems to stand outside the business of modern life, and as Barney Samson talks about the duality and contradictions in the depictions of the desert island, as both an escape and prison, as an adventure and an isolation, as a discovery and a loss, I find myself wondering from which protagonists point of view am I coming to these islands from?
I’ve been super busy lately trying to get as much of the things I hoped to get done as possible. As much is never going to be everything. This project has grown and grown and I will have to accept that there will be many strands left loose that I will have to come back to at a later date. This is extremely exciting though, this project seems to be a toe dip in an ocean – what more could I ask for?!
As I ride the momentum, production seems to be steaming ahead. I have been drawing at almost every possible opportunity, trying to get as many artefact drawings, feature drawings, group drawings and graffiti drawings done as time will allow. The process is addictive, driven by a deep curiosity to bring these sites in to view, build the blocks together and make some sense of the things, circumstances, and clues that have arisen. The process is very much driven by a personal intrigue, I do feel that the stories of these spaces are revealing themselves to me as I go. I hope that at the end they will come through to others, though. Although this is quite a private encounter presently I want intensely for others to be able to access something meaningful from the data and from my findings.
As the exhibition draws nearer the practicalities of display and presentation are moving to the forefront of my consideration. What to show, how much to give and how people will physically come to it will make a big impact on so much. I’m trying not to to get too daunted by it though. As a research and development project I want to maintain a freedom to try out, risk a little, reconsider and ultimately learn from the experience.
It has been an exciting morning. I got a first glimpse of one of my maps (site one) arrive in my inbox. Jillian seems to be making good progress and from this first version, seems to be interpreting my rough deigns as I hoped and more. Little details in my design have been translated into this much more ‘official’ language, making me re-look at this site. It is almost like hoovering up all the untidiness of the place, all the chaos of my first scribblings and seeing it anew in strange clarity. One of the details that stood out on initial viewing of this first version was one of my features – an old mattress, (which in reality is rotting, broken and half buried in the undergrowth), in the map it is shown by the little symbol of a bed, kind of like the thing you would find on a road sign for a B&B. This little detail seemed quite significant and the status of this mattress reinstated somehow. I can’t wait to see more of the drafts! What a fantastic experience, having Jillian help me to explore these places again.
It has all been getting a little hectic these past couple of weeks. It’s as though everything has started to go into motion at once and I am really struggling to keep all those balls in the air. The rough maps are finished apart from a last check over of the details, then I can send them to Jillian; the artefact drawings have been started; I’m quarter of the way through editing my photos; half way through the study of the graffiti (the north side wall has been completed and I am on the second panel of the south) and I have started the archiving of my finds on to ehive.com. This was a really exciting moment but I have only managed to list two objects in a week. It is going to take me forever working long into the evenings! Am I trying to do too much?! …Probably, but I am also positive that all these elements are vital to the study, so I going to have to just keep on grafting and hope for the best.
Seeing my first two finds on the ehive website felt momentous somehow, like the objects have reached a new place of permanence, elevated to the status of an official collection. I hope to get as many as I can uploaded and will publish them for the exhibition in August.
This week I have begun some drawing studies of a few of my finds. These feel like tentative steps as I work through a number of possibilities for how best to scrutinise them as openly and objectively as possible. Restricted to a black pen on cartridge paper, I am working from my studio photographs, magnified, so I might pull out the smallest marks and details. It’s a strange process, looking at these random, incidental and dispensable objects at such close proximity; scrutinising every mark, label, stain, broken edge. The drawing process does new and unexpected things and allows me to get to know them like nothing else so far. I first put them in bags, mostly while looking away; I scrubbed them through the scent of soapy water at arm’s length and gloved up; I photographed them ducking behind a camera and awash with white lights and high contrast; now as I draw from these rather clinical and stark images I am adequately distanced enough to see them afresh and as slightly alien things.