Collaboration Spotlight: Elizabeth-Jane Burnett & Rebecca Thomas

Field Notes / Field Study

Elizabeth-Jane Burnett and Rebecca Thomas

We propose an Art book which explores both narrative sequence and mapping. The book will include a fold-up map created from our time spent in, bordering, and away from, three fields in Devon. Our collaboration uses mapping as a practical starting point for articulating these fields, operating both metaphorically and visually, involving different stages of drawing, writing, performing and imagining. Two screen prints will also be produced for the book.

Fields in Ide

As well as using on-the-spot, site-specific writing and drawing, we are interested in how the project develops away from the site, to include an imagined and re-imagined landscape. A series of small paintings of Fields-dreaming, in anticipation of one of the fields will be produced to feature in the book, as well as Dream-writing in response to the same field.

Diagram of the Book

The fields we are “mapping” are located in the Devon village of Ide. They appear as “Drewshill 1, 2 and 3” on a sketch map drawn by the writer’s father, a historian, who discusses the etymological history of these fields as meaning “the fields of the Druid.” These ideas and fields are also being explored in Burnett’s A Dictionary of the Soil.

Surface and Depth

Thomas is also interested in drawing while walking in the field, constantly making marks whilst moving. Using oil pastels or other mediums she will record, physically and literally the movement of the body through space. She is interested in working with a writer, with a view to exploring the relationship between this physical mark making and language in the conventional sense of the word.

Collaboration Spotlight: Clare Davies & Lucie Winterson

Language and the River

Having been paired for collaboration, we very quickly found themes in common.  Clare at the outset had expressed an interest in using poetry with photography, and to convey movement using texts and layering.   Lucie, working in photography and layering in painting, was interested in the languages and poetics of nature.  We both have deep connections with rivers and sea so it has been a natural impulse to explore this process by engaging with a river.

We agree that we want to convey the mood of the ‘post’ era that we are in – ecological as well as social. Timothy Morton’s view that we are ‘post nature’, and in a state of ‘ecological emergency’ is an influence on the framework of Clare’s first poem for the project which is integral to the three collaborative images attached. The intention is to show the utterances of the river juxtaposed with surprising language that conveys a sense of human separation from the environment; the language of business, war, and segregation. Lucie is interested in the liminal space between a river and its bank and Clare has used this within the poem’s framework to convey that this space, devoid of human interference, is where the river can truly be itself.

We are interested in both the catastrophic separation of humans and nature, and also in the places where humans and nature do align.    In the pieces so far, the attempt is to show both the separation and the coming together,  as part of the eddy and flow.   Words flow in the river, sometimes integrated and sometimes jarring.

Methodology

We wanted our collaboration to be site specific and centred around a particular river.   After much discussion we settled on the Taw in Dartmoor. The choice of river is practical (we both know it) and inspirational but in a sense the setting is unimportant. It could be any river in a rural setting.   We meet there to encounter the river, undertake site specific explorations, photography and in Clare’s case, writing.

There are a number of directions we are pursuing.

  • To create image/poems that are examples of the idea of writing as part of nature, the river itself as a poem.   A fusion of photography and words that are woven into the  movement of the river giving a sense of ‘utterance’ in parallel to the sound of rushing (or still) water.
  • Experimenting with floating words downstream and documenting this with photography and film.
  • ‘Shape poems’ –  shapes of poems as they are arranged on paper to emphasise the sense of movement to and fro from verbal to visual engagement – further evoked by ‘shaping’ the photographic montage accompanying the poem.
  • A short film of words and river in motion.

Anticipated Outcomes

Poems

Works on paper

An artist’s book – an assemblage of the images/words

Short film

Documentation of site specific pieces

 

Collaboration Spotlight: Ann Fisher-Wirth & Barbara Howey, ‘Damaged Landscapes’

We propose a series of paintings and poems to be included as part of In the Open Exhibition; our work  addresses cross-cultural aspects of damaged landscapes in the American South and Britain. The approach we are taking spans various personal, political, and historical aspects of our encounters with trees within landscapes that have been marred by pollution, flytipping, and neglect.

 

Barbara Howey

 

Politics

                        Cypress Lake Trail, North Mississippi

You can begin a hike arguing about neoliberalism, trying to figure out what it means, and after you have listened to your true love tell you about the Whigs and the Federalists, and Britain in the nineteenth century, and Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, and civil rights, and Clinton and the injustices of NAFTA, and the original meaning of liber, free, what that might mean in terms of generosity and open-mindedness certainly not operative at present when Scott Pruitt just became head of the EPA—goodbye EPA, goodbye wolves and bears, goodbye redwoods, goodbye tribal lands, goodbye water, goodbye air, goodbye the tattered remnants of life as it should be lived on earth, goodbye goodbye godbye, god be with you shattered forests, god be with you toxic waters, god be with you small anguishes, starved bent & twisted lives, the reasons for grief are nearly infinite—after you have listened you can both fall silent as you walk with this man you will love to the end of your days, and notice the downed and leafless trees, the ant trails, which are lines of sifted dirt that cross the path heading from spiky dried reeds to more spiky dried reeds, notice an anthill climbing all the way to the top of a clump of daffodils that grow off the trail in a weedy field, choking and killing the flowers with its thousands-of-tiny-bodies formic acid, and looking up, acknowledge silently that there is a white-bellied hawk, yes, wheeling and calling above the pine trees   keee-ir   keee-ir   almost like a cat, and fleecy clouds that presage rain on what is still a sweet morning, frogs hiccupping and spring peepers shrilling, invisible, somewhere around the lake, and all around you tiny insects, the sun hitting their wings, like translucent diminutive angels.

Ann Fisher-Wirth

Barbara Howey, ‘Vinegar Pond’

Winter Day on the Whirlpool Trails

Oxford, Mississippi

 

Where the power lines go through,
the red clay gullies and pits, not even
privet can grow fast enough to bind it.
We clamber down and up, and down and up,
and turn to enter the woods. Further along,
we come to broken glass, old brown bottles
nearly buried, a toilet choked with brush,
bricks, some pipes, some turquoise plastic coiling.
It’s just like that, here—people dump things
and they sink, protrude rusty and jagged
from the mud, or block the trail,
stained with leaf mold. To the side,
some withered Southern red oaks,
a blackjack oak, knobby trunks of nameless
trees choked as they grew by spiraling vines—
Virginia creeper, poison ivy—
and leafless sweetgums with their little
sci-fi seedpods, clusters of loblolly pines.
Everywhere rotting, everywhere teeming,
moss like emeralds on the stumps,
the hollow logs. This is my home, this leaf-duff
and dereliction, where look—a vulture wheels
above the cedars, searching for what stinks.
Where a first tender violet, blooming
by my feet before Valentine’s Day,
signifies the seasons are in heat.
The great blue heron’s not here today,
standing motionless among the reeds.
But a turtle slides off a distant log, and sunlight
scatters like shot across the scum-slicked pond.

Ann Fisher-Wirth

Collaboration Spotlight: David Walker-Barker & Dan Eltringham

The reservoir dam under construction c. 1900

The artist David Walker-Barker and poet Dan Eltringham are working together on a collaboration focused on the submerged reservoir landscapes of Midhope and Langsett, around 10 miles north west of Sheffield, in search of the illegible, erased and underground.

We are following traces of vanished ways of life, using archival photographs, old maps and the records of local rambling societies. The objects of our search so far are remnants of the drowned village of Langsett; the “Jossie Cabin”, an eighteenth-century shepherd’s hut that may have fallen victim to enclosure but was still visible in the 1930s; the Shepherd’s grave at Midhope Chapel; fragments from the eighteenth-century Midhope pottery works that was finally closed by the reservoir in the early twentieth century; and the ruined North America farmstead.

The shepherd's hut?
The shepherd’s hut?

Our first excursion to this landscape yielded more unknowns than sureties: in search of the shepherd’s hut on Stanny [Stony] Common, the rain and wind was so bad that not much could be made out. We don’t know if we found Jossie’s Cabin or not; a pile of stones was our the best bet, but one pile of stones looks very like another in poor visibility. We’ll have to go back.

North American farm
North America farm

The walks feed into the work we produce, but are discrete from that work: visual and verbal records of pedestrian excursions that seek not only to document the experience of the landscape as we have seen it and taken it in through the other senses, but also its histories and hidden communities, human and nonhuman.

jossiegravedec16
The shepherd’s grave?

The work is also what we find, as well as what we (so far) have failed to locate. David’s artistic practice is centrally focused around collecting and the taxonomy of arrangement, in artist’s cabinets he builds himself to house his interests in minerals, fossils and relics of human community such as bottles and ceramics. Dan is working on a poetic text, R/S Res., that plays with the formal taxonomies and juxtapositions of David’s artist cabinets, as well as with mini-fields of open-form verse plotted across a page, allowing ‘R’ to speak with ‘S’, Resource with Surface and Resistance with Strata. The objects David finds mix time scales, from the vastly geological and prehistoric to seventeenth-, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century objects of common use.

Midhope-ware
Midhope-ware

The Midhope Pottery yielded some such daily records, in the form of plate-ware pulled from the mud around the ruined farmstead, and brought to the surface with the help of nonhuman excavators: fox holes throw up a lot of good stuff.

What we have so far are a lot of unknowns, losses, overwritings, and several strands of work-in-progress. We plan to return to Langsett in the Spring.