Richard Long: Time and Space; and a walk

Today, with time to spare, I went to Bristol’s Arnolfini Gallery to see Richard Long’s retrospective. See HERE. The following notes were made immediately after my visit, and are largely verbatim. Notes from the dark room are of the exhibition in near darkness, called By the Mark, the Deep, by Matt Davies and Milo Newman. The Photographs are from a walk I took after visiting Arnolfini, where I attempted (and failed) to find Richard Long’s Boyhood Line.

First Impressions

Liked the repeating motifs – the word association poem of a Scottish walk mentioned FLOOD as an associated word (associated to what I can’t remember); and then, on an adjacent wall, a photo from a walk entitled Flood, of somewhere else (possibly somewhere in Africa)

Circles in several circumstances, white wooden board on the floor in one room, photos of circles of boulders, remains of round buildings

A photo, taken outside a cathedral, showing a circle of white limestone, while in the gallery, a huge cross, using similar stone. The stone cross inside, more likely to be thought of as an X (this is an artist of maps and landscape, after all)

But viewed as a cross – divine, like a little church or sacred marker to the landscape outside

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Dark room – very dark at first

Anyone there?

Where are the walls?

Big, dull bulbs, and tiny LEDs

‘Soundtrack’ cracks, pops, a decomposing tape, I’m told.

Felt like a wildcamp, carefully pacing around, nervous about what or who might be around

A while passed and my eyes adjusted; someone entered, sat straight down

No stress. Eventually sit down myself, feeling comfortable, relaxed

Walk the room’s perimeter, trace the wall with my finger; a familiar space now

But still – all space, no place, just like that brief moment on a wildcamp, never to be visited again (though I will, to both previous wildcamp spots, and this dark room)

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On my way out, buy an academic journal on ruins, and a book of interviews with Richard Long

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These notes, written at the Lloyds amphitheatre, skaters making their own lines in the landscape.

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Saint George: Fir Tree Lane

12/07/2015

I get the bus home from work, and from the bus stop a walk down a very steep lane. But recently I decided to descend the slope via a different route. A quick look on Open Street Map revealed a road called Fir Tree Lane, which would only add a few minutes to the walk. Maybe, if I was lucky, it would be less steep – I have dodgy knees, hips and feet, so anything of a gentler gradient would be much appreciated. Turns out it is probably just as steep – and anyway, it joins my previous hill before the steepest section. But Oh! what a tremendous route. Bristol often surprises me with green spaces, but this went beyond the usual manicured parkland. This path, in places, feels like a walk through a country village.

At first, a church, probably built in the 19th century, then a quaint wooden Scout hut with field. On the right, 100 year old cottages with overgrown gardens and dillapidated huts. This is still near the top (though sloping downwards), and the pavement-less road feels all the more rural for stone wall hemming its sides. Through the gaps in the buildings, it’s possible to glimpse Trooper’s Hill nature reserve, with its charred golden grass, purple flowers and abandoned smoke stack from its glory days when this was a working quarry (I can’t remember if they quarried coal here and shipped the copper ore for smelting, or if this was the site of a copper mine, and they brought in the coal – I’ll be looking in to this more in the future).

Further down the road (here called Firtree Lane – note the conjugation), the character returns to suburban, as is most common hereabouts. Buildings are in various states of completion as developers aim to fill any gaps not yet built on. But further still, and the road narrows to a path – steep enough for steps. It was raining today as I took my photos, yet this section remains dry – to my right a thicket of tall fir trees edge a garden and shelter the path.

Growing between the cracks in the stone slabs: lush, verdant plants, and filling between the plants are fine, colourless pine needles. Despite no rain making it on to the path, this can be a slippery walk; the needles shifting with each step. I imagine it would be easy to slip and fall here, though I’m relieved this is yet to happen.

Towards the bottom of the steps, the path curves, obscuring the view. It’s dark, and this all makes it feel everso slightly surreal. Yes, I’ve walked it many times before, but still, it’s not hard to feel a little bit of magic. I wonder: how old is this path? Why was it never widened to take traffic? In whose footsteps do I follow? I once saw a dead magpie in this darkened section – though it had vanished a day later when I retraced my steps.

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Saint George, Bristol: Paths, Cuts, and Lanes. PROLOGUE

I have decided to document the paths and lanes around where I live. I live in Saint George, Bristol, or possibly Crews Hole, depending on who writes the address, or which map you look at. Our flat is a few hundred meters from the River Avon, though despite our ellevated vantage point, the river cannot be seen, though its route is clearly visible as it wends its way downstream.

It is, however, just possible to see Crews Hole Road [sic – the lack of apostrophe in ‘Crews’ is not my doing]. We can also just spot the peaked roof of the recently-reopened Bull Inn, just beyond the cliff-clinging Buddleia plants that edges the flats’ carpark.

The aims of this project (at this point of time, leastways) is (1) to document some of the hidden, and not so hidden, routeways of the area; and (2) to learn how to get the most out of my oft-neglected Nikon F65 SLR (film) camera.

So some more detail. First, the paths and lanes. There is quite a variety of walkways roundabouts this steep valley slope. There are the roadways that plummet straight down the hill, the narrow paths cutting between houses and past backs of  gardens. There’s Trooper’s Hill nature reserve with gravel-surfaced paths through the heather, and the tarmac’d River Avon path. Some trails are overgrown and unused, such as the path that starts at the end of our car park, and there are rat-runs through pavement-less narrow lanes, unnerving for walkers who find themselves facing a suped-up Mitsubishi, or impatient van driver.

Second: my camera. I have owned the camera for about 8 years. For a good few years it’s been mothballed, collecting dust in the spare room. I recently got a copy of Natural-Light Photography by Ansel Adams (1952: 1971, Morgan & Morgan: New York) from Bristol Central Library. It’s pretty technical, recommending all sorts of light meters, and discussing the merits and demerits of various, and largely obselete, film types; but depsite that, it is the philosophical approach to natural light photography (a term that refers to not only outdoor shots, but the process of photography that does not use specialist lighting equipment) that is inspiring.

I intend to use a single film per routeway. This means about 36 shots each time – so I will have to think carefully about every photograph. I documented a path today and used about 2-and-a-half films! Using a digital compact camera has certainly made me lazy about photos, with its vast memory and instant results. I look forward to slowing things down, to take my time; and from this, become more attentive of my local area.

There is another aspect to this approach which I hope will be useful. There will always be a lag between photographs taken, and photographs developed (barring converting the spare room into a darkroom). It means it is possible to write some notes about each path during or immediately after, perhaps with some research. But once the photographs are developed, it is hoped I will have a new perspective – perhaps something I missed during the excursion, or that ability to look at something in its fine, static detail.

Essentially, I envisage that the process will embody three key elements:

  1. Close observance and photo-framing during the walk
  2. Writing and considering my thoughts and feelings of that walk
  3. The close study of the returned photographs in all their pristine, and not so pristine, detail.
St George/Crew's Hole

St George/Crew’s Hole area. Click map to got to OSM.

Sun-ways not Widdershins – revisited

On 16th October 2014, I published a post of a walk through the field near work. This week, I took another close look. But this time from the start of the summer.

 * * *

TOWERING TREES

varicose veins | flames of green buds | cumulonimbussing conker tree

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SEVEN HOLED SURFACES

 

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FLOWERS OF MEADOW & HEDGEROW

unknown with grass | willow grass | lesser stitchwort | nettle: stinging and dead | hawkweed | elderflower

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FRUITS OF SUMMER COMING, SUMMER PASSED

elderberry | blackberry | fig

* * *

CRAWLING

spider nest | honeydew | scorpian fly | cuckoo spit | anthill | humble bumblebee

* * *

EPHEMERA

If Bristol were flooded.


* Video is my recording of a film shown at Millenium Square, Bristol, on 03/05/2015. The original film Cheers, Drive! can be viewed at: http://www.triplegeek.com/portfolio/visuals/cheersdrive.

* Boat images are of the Withdrawn exhibition in Leigh Woods, near Bristol, described as “an unexpected encounter with a flotilla of abandoned fishing boats installed in the depths of the woodland”. More details at: http://www.lukejerram.com/projects/withdrawn

Three Processions

I set out alone in brilliant sunshine
Along the green river, a shop
The town; the Gloucester Road

The first Saturday of May
To see the procession
Or at least, its terminus upon ancient common

Gloucester Road to Filton Road
Crowds outside pubs thicken
“Are these all for the Jack?”

Police on foot, horseback, riot vans
Match day. Blue and whites
I arrive at the common

(Avoiding the busy streets)
The common is empty
The road alongside, suddenly

Gets noisy: proud chants
Supporters escorted on a
Pre-planned route

This is not the procession that I
That I was expecting
But it carries its own values

Sense of occasion
I wait for mine, sat here
Too early, and realise

This is a solitary procession, all of my own.

On form and fluid – musings from Minehead

Preface

Over Easter weekend 2015, I decided to cycle from Barnstaple (Devon) to Bridgwater (Somerset), wild camping (and, as it turned out B+Bing) along the way.

I might elaborate further on the trip in the future. But for now, here are some thoughts I had in Minehead in Saturday evening as I watched the flow and ebb of the tide.

   * * * 

I’ve walked along the waterfront, from Butlins on the eastern edge, to the west end in the shadow of North Hill. Behind is the RNLI Lifeboat Station, and I’m sat on a trailer for towing boats.

Further down towards Butlins, the beach is sandy but here it’s all pebbles: grey, purple and violet, smoothed to irregular shapes.

Along the shoreline to the left and right stand two fishermen, spending as much time looking behind at the wooded hill and playing with their equipment, as out to sea. A couple sit on a conspicuous shelf of concrete, which seems to be a dried dump of cement; pebbles from the shore embedded within.  

I like watching the tide. A good deal of my childhood was spent in a village that is “the second most inland place in the UK”, according to my mother, though my dad is from Grimsby. The waves crash at rarely a foot high. The larger waves work further up the shore, and as the water recedes, the rocks clatter loudly, as though a smoker is taking a rattly inhale before the next crest blows in.

Sometimes the pebbles don’t rattle, the old smoker missing a breath.

I wonder: is the tide coming in or going out? After several tiny waves, I conclude going out, only for another large wave to come in, confounding me.

It’s seven o’clock, and the sky above the western horizon of the sea is golden. Wales, seen through the haze, is basking in sunshine, too, including the large power station; its smoke a barely-percepitble grey smudge.

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Anthony Gormley sculpture, Leith.

Why are coastal towns so often furnished with sculptures? In Aberdeen, the harbourside paving inscribed with poetry, a sort of concrete poetry, or perhaps better: granite poetry. In Leith, Anthony Gormley’s frozen, rusted anglers-without-poles stand stoic.

Minehead, too. A pair of giant galvanised hands wrestle with a corrugated map, marking the start (or, depending on proclivity and angle, end) of the South West Coastal Path. Even this deserted trailer upon which I sit (a sort of sculptural memorial itself) sits three small pebbles placed upon one another.  

In front of me, 100 or so metres out into the water, two structures I recognise but don’t understand, protrude from the surface. Two seagulls and a crow stands sentinel atop. A large ship approaches from the east, perhaps an oil tanker from the Avonmouth refinery. It floats in languid light, the same golden sunlight that has long been hidden from this sheltered section of harbour.

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Maybe this is why sculptures seem so plentiful on the coast; a desire to make form from the unending fluid of the ocean. Tim Ingold asks of his undergraduate anthropology students to visit Aberdeen beach, and to the consider the nature of place, space (though he’d never utter that word), emergence, surface and form.

In short, looking out to sea we saw a world in movement, in flux and becoming, a world of ocean and sky, a weather world. […Apply this way of seeing to the land, and] it is the solidity of the ground itself that is thrown into doubt

Ingold, 2011, pp131-132

So sculptures: more than just an attempt to fix the sea, but to fix the land too. Perhaps seaside dwellers are used to flux and dynamism: waves, coastline, rising rivers, supermoons, spring and neap tides, rain, fog, wind, but as well as seeing this in the sea, it is seen on the land as well. Groins and piers for the sea; sculpture for onshore.

It’s getting cold, and my thirst needs slaked – so to the pub. But before I depart, I look again at the pebbles in front. The couple have left, but in their stead, a neat stack of eight or ten pebbles. And yes, now I’m sure: the tide is coming in.

Reference

2011, Ingold, T, Being Alive: Essays on movement, knowledge and description, Oxon: Routledge