Category Archives: Feature

The Accidental Archive

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Julian Hyde is no stranger to this blog. His work is required reading for those seeking an authentic rendering of the edgelands of the ‘real Lake District’. The ‘Lane’ is at once a real place and a hermetic personal mythology. Hyde draws all kinds of objects, texts and images into his orbit, assimilating and reconstituting them.

His life’s work began during a moment of terror – an encounter in which his very life was threatened, but which resulted in “a new state of consciousness”. A strange kind of gift, for which, Hyde writes, “I must forgive him his moments of violence”. Over the ensuing decade the accidental archive began – hundreds of photographs and lines of typewritten text, overwritten in pencil. Three highly sought after (and now out-of-print) volumes resulted, all dedicated to an enmeshing of his own tortured private narrative into astonishingly beautiful documents of the overlooked.

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Now, there is a large format magazine, entitled The Accidental Archive #1. The first in a series? Amongst its pages are pieces by Alasdair Maclean, Neil Jackson & Craig Turnbull, Nick Papadimitriou and our own Richard Skelton – but these are essentially satellites, circling the words and images of Hyde as he regurgitates and swallows the last eleven years of elation and misery. Look away if you can…

Published by Voices in a Lane.

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Unindex Volume One : Ferae Naturae

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Whilst examining the Collingwood Archive at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, Richard Skelton discovered two sewn signatures excised from the 1898 edition of the Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society. The manuscripts contained a number of annotations written in pen and ink which, among other things, referenced ‘ritual overkill’ in bog bodies, the fox as a psychopomp, the horned deities Cernunnos and Belatucadrus, animal worship among late-Medieval ‘plague cults’, and an esoteric St. Bega tradition in which her armilla is reimagined as an animal collar, and her cult aligned with that of the Irish saint, Ciarán mac Luaigne. These historic, mythic and folkloric vignettes are presented alongside examples of the customary persecution of animal life in old Cumberland and Westmorland, with particular reference to fox-hunting and bull-baiting.

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During 2014 the NRGCA undertook an examination of the manuscripts, conducting extensive research with a view to identifying the many references contained therein. Their findings are presented in Unindex Volume One, published by Lakeland Arts – the charity which manages Abbot Hall Art Gallery.

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In collaboration with the NRGCA, Richard Skelton created a temporary ‘Museum of Feræ Naturæ’ that was displayed at Abbot Hall Art Gallery from January 16th to March 14th, 2015. The exhibit took as its starting point a line from one of the manuscripts, ‘the double life of banal objects’, which alludes to temporary ritual assemblages contrived from everyday objects: a plumb-bob becomes the face of a hare; a wool-comb, the horns of a bull-deity; a pair of wool-shears becomes the ears of a wolf-fox, and another, intersecting it, becomes its open jaws. Artefacts for the museum were sourced from Lakeland Arts’ own Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry, as well as Kendal Museum.

www.corbelstonepress.com/unindex-1.htm

Mark Peter Wright ~ The Embracing of Failure

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Opening the large format booklet that comprises part of Mark Peter Wright’s latest work, ‘Tasked to Hear’, the reader is presented with the title, and then, turning the page, a table of different ‘data sets’ occupying the centre of the page, flush with the margin: time, date, temperature, wind, humidity, sound pressure. Accompanying these readings are a collection of altogether more personal readings:

N’wood wa hovering frail and thin; barking and piping high; somewhere, around; lapping and scraping on horizons far; flapping and turning on pages near; a phone call, whistling, whood whood whood whood skating; a sudden drop; the sky tearing above; two screeching plumes falling down my neck.

These are in turn accompanied by some ‘physical and psychological observations’, and a set of photographs, one of the ground, another of the sky, on the facing page. This format is repeated for twelve consecutive monthly entries, followed by a closing page which features another title, this time the author’s name, in large type, centre, flush with the page edge.

‘Tasked to Hear’ is therefore conspicuous in having no introduction, foreword, afterword or endnote. There is nothing to ground us, except the work itself, whose very theme is the difficulty of such a task. Wright’s use of language steers us away from easy referents. Is that a bird he’s describing, or something else? Machinery? It’s a fascinating encounter to read these descriptions whilst listening to the accompanying sound recording – to play a game of spot the reference. The enmeshing of sound and writing extends and complicates the idea of ‘field recording’ – it questions the purpose of such ‘capture’, and our ability to re-present the experience of place.

Needless to say, a Q&A with the artist can’t help but ground us in his work, and will therefore sabotage it, to some extent. Perhaps you should bookmark this page and read it after experiencing ‘Tasked to Hear’ itself.

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1. Can you tell us something about the genesis of the work? 

I’ve been thinking about this lately and although the project is practically framed within 2013-14, it actually began in 2010. I developed a problem with my back around that time which left me immobile for large periods over the following 18 months. It affected lots of things, one of which being the relationship to my own body: its limitations, potentials and sense of scale. I spent a lot of time lying on my living-room floor and I started to think about long-term studies of relatively small areas – literally no larger than what was under my body surface. So there was a definite scaling in, physically, but I was also aware that sound had the ability to pull me out of such parameters. There’s always this dislocation in being ‘here’ (body-listening) and ‘there’ (source-imagination) in my work. I find that a very creative space to operate between.

2. What were your criteria in selecting a location? It should be mentioned that you precis the work by declaring ‘no attempt to detail, in any immediately identifiable way, the specifics of what I listened to, nor where it took place’. For a site-specific work, this is quite a strange, and bold, move.

South Gare is a place I’ve been working with for over fours years now. It’s a 2.5 mile stretch of reclaimed land that houses Europe’s second largest steel blast furnace alongside a diverse ecology of fauna, flora and birdlife. The actual one metre-square area I returned to each month was based on a realisation that it was where industry and nature seemed to most audibly coalesce. So I wanted to locate myself within these margins.

I’ve done various projects around the area, some more directly referencing the geo-politics of the place than others. For this work, the idea was to play with the elasticity of place and experience. I wanted to work within a very specific time and physical framework, knowing that sound isn’t really a frameable thing or something that can be pinned down in such a way. So the parameters I set up were to encourage a generative constraint in relation to the more nomadic processes of the medium. Of course my body is the site as well as South Gare, but I was always straining or moving away from my body (site), as much as I was inside it, whilst listening.

I’m not sure if site-specificity is even achievable when thinking through sound and listening, at least when recording and re-presenting a place. The whole thing could be a piece of fiction, and I like that ambiguity and non-essential relationship to place. The quote you mention is mostly in relation to how I tried to describe what I heard in words. I was translating sound more as a verb, a ‘doing’ or a ‘going on’ rather than an identifiable (specific) object. This applied mainly to birds. I would write them as something more onomatopoeic rather than a traditional taxonomic naming process. I’m not an ornthithologist so it seemed more apt for me to represent such species and sounds in a way that focused more upon their own relational activity rather than a representational identity.

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3. So, rather than reduce that ambiguity through documentation, you actively embrace it – the writing, through its onomatopoeic quality, becomes an extension of the sound recording – it becomes a form of field recording itself? This idea of reducing the amount of identifiable referents in your ‘observations’ is – perhaps serendipitously – played out in the sound recording itself, when we hear you questioning whether it’s the 24th or the 25th of May. It’s something we all do, but in this context it seems as though factual certainties are becoming unmoored, and are being swept away by the breeze.

It strikes me as a brave thing to do, to include these private, vulnerable parts of a recording, which other field recordists would leave on the cutting room floor. In fact, the whole recording actively embraces these imperfections, and we can even hear you making notes, turning devices on and off – the whole thing is alive with the sounds of record making itself; sounds that are normally suppressed. What can you tell us about this, and how do you situate what you do within the broader context of ‘field recording’?

This embracing of failure and vulnerability came out of the back injury I mentioned earlier. I began to turn away from the idea of chasing or ‘capturing’ sound – I had no other practical option at the time. I also began re-evaluating the ethics and politics of what it is I do with a microphone and the recorded material; I moved away from ‘composing’ with environmental sound; I began to think about my work more as an attempt to listen to listening, or practically, record recording.

This is how I think of these moments you describe on the audio download. I wanted to leave all my presence and uncertainty in there amongst everything else. So, hearing me making notes, being confused with dates and positioning the microphone – it’s important for that to remain in the audio document. Having said that, it’s not all me that you hear thankfully: I certainly don’t think you have to be audible to be present in a recording.

Technology parallels this to some extent. For example the device beeping as I took my body temperature. Although these apparatus were audible, their presence was also notable through their own performative silence. They would constantly malfunction, give blank readings or tell me that it was clear blue skies above as I was being drenched in rain. So unhinging both human and technological veracity was very important. I like the idea of amplifying these things as a practice itself. It shifts the emphasis onto process rather than a final object and brings the whole notion of ‘truth’ into question. It was great to work these themes through with you in the design. The temptation was to remove lens specks and bend information when devices failed, but it just felt like all these anomalies were the point of the project – I’m glad you kept reminding of that!

As for the final part of the question. Field recording has been a great way to learn about my relationship to people, environments, animals and myself. There’s a pedagogical aspect to the actual recorded material that I find very interesting, but in terms of its function, as an artistic document, personally, I’m not always convinced. I like working over a diversity of media and throughout the last four or five years field recording has become more of a tool or method I use to explore an idea but it’s not necessarily what gets presented or shared publicly. So I find the activity, and material generated, a bit like reading a great book. It informs much of what I do and provokes ideas, which I might then go onto explore in other ways, forms or contexts.

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4. It seems to be the case that some kind of trauma can effect a shift in our perspectives. For me it was bereavement, for you it was a physical injury. There’s something about ‘wounding’ that opens up the psyche to revelation. Over the ensuing years I came to be acutely aware of the impact of my own ‘incursions’ into natural landscapes, and I subsequently turned away from making recording ‘en plein air’. You’ve dealt with the similar issues in your work – the aforementioned aggression implicit in words such as ‘capture’, for example – and you’ve even gone so far as to ‘release’ sounds back into the environment, and then deleted the audio files from your computer’s hard drive. Can you elaborate on the motivations behind such gestures, and describe how your position in relation to landscape and environment has evolved?

That’s really interesting. I’ve also become more economical with my body now, and I think that too has spilled into my practice in terms of re-assessing my views on amassing sounds. You know, the extraction of sound from an environment or species may not be mining a finite resource, nor for that matter leaving a tangible footprint, but does that mean we shouldn’t think through the ethics and consequences of its ‘capture’? It might sound absurd but sometimes I think sound is being treated with all the social responsibility of fossil fuels. Or conversely like a pest or exotic trophy, something to be hunted and re-animated as in taxidermy. So I’m interested in disrupting the assumed inconsequentiality of ‘taking’ sound. I use hypothetical propositions and fairly absurd actions like swapping language or chasing a microphone to explore the agency and dynamics of these subject-object relations.

When thinking through sound in the digital world it becomes even more ambiguous. I remember CDs being sold as ‘perfect sound forever’ and today it’s all about ‘lossless’ compression, but loss and decay are part of any attempt at preservation. The project you mention, about releasing sounds back, came about when thinking through how I access my own archive of recorded sounds. The answer was fairly simple: I don’t. I never pull out a hard dive, find some ubiquitous sound I can’t really remember recording, and have a listen.

I decided to re-hear particular sounds from my archive by taking them back to the place they were recorded and play them into the space. This re-broadcast method has quite a lengthy history within sound art or bio-acoustics. I like that, instead of me discovering somewhere down the line they have disappeared through inevitable hard drive failure, I actually get to re-visit them a new, in a physical space. There’s an active blend of past and present during the playback. It’s as though a new memory of that recording is branded upon the phantom presence of the original – like an auditory double exposure.

It’s fascinating how people interact with this process, passersby stop and talk to me about what I’m doing and I love that side of it. It becomes like an alternative gig or public intervention, depending on location of course. The deletion part is more problematic. But again, for me listening is 90% about loss, I’m often losing the meaning of a conversation, sound always seems to be exiting or transgressing an environment, sometimes I can’t even hear my own thoughts. So this final act is an affirmation of loss as a productive method: erasure becomes a poetic, symbolic device, yet one that is also a very real ‘action-gesture’. It also ties into a commitment to rejecting undertones of accumulation and possession. There’s a lot of leisure fishing that goes on in South Gare, where people catch and throw fish back into the water. I think that’s a practical analogy for the work in some way. I’m still figuring the project out. I’m an individual working with my own personal archive. I’m not a national repository so I have a little more freedom in that respect. The discussion and intervention aspect is most important to me so I think it will become some kind of social gathering project or alternative workshop based activity.

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5. Turning back to the title of this work, ‘Tasked to Hear’ – you draw attention to the process of listening, not as something automatic, like breathing, but almost as something willed into being. You make it sound almost onerous. With the accompanying download card is a suggested ‘listening scenario’ – so you’re tasking us to hear, as well. What would you like the listener/reader to come away with, after experiencing the work?

The accompanying audio download and its instructions came out of something I did for an exhibition in 2012 called ‘30 Minutes of Listening’. At the back of the gallery I had something resembling a recipe list for everything that was in the show. It was an attempt to demystify the process and offer a kind of do-it-yourself opportunity for anyone inclined. So, the instructions, much like the word ‘tasked’ within the title, hopes to use a potentially onerous framework as flint for a shared sense of inclusion and ownership once the work is out in the public realm.

Whether people take the recording anywhere and listen to it in their own site, I’ll never know, but the invitation is important for me and extends this idea of displacing and creating a collaborative site anew. What people come away with is up to them. All I hope to provide is space for the listener/reader to feel their own pathway and subjectivity is equally shared amongst whatever it is I do.

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Explore more of Mark’s work here:

www.markpeterwright.net

Buy ‘Tasked to Hear’ from Corbel Stone Press here:

www.corbelstonepress.com/taskedtohear.htm

Light Issued Against Ruin

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Light Issued Against Ruin
herbert pfostl
The Brother In Elysium

“What you are looking at are banners, formed by force and patience, a wounding by the wonders of this world. White air of hymns in fields of care, they are a gathering of signs, symbolic sympathies, abstracted revelations. To the paper memory of plants, of minerals and saints; for the recovery of light, I traced their form in fragments. As landscapes of last things, they are structured in silence. What we return to: a crystal rest.”

“Light Issued Against Ruin” is an exquisite book, printed and bound with great skill and care by Jon Beacham. It contains the work of Herbert Pfostl, whose Paper Graveyard is a treasury of visionary fragments.

These few words and pictures can’t do justice to the quiet, luminous power this work gently exerts. We urge you to support the work of a singular artist, and that of a very fine press.

http://www.thebrotherinelysium.com/publications.html

The Lull

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The Lull by Julian Hyde
Published by Voices in a Lane
20pp / 245 x 145 mm
Edition of 200

Julian Hyde has been tracking the ever-changing edgelands of the Lake District for over ten years – areas that the National Trust, Cumbria County Council and the heritage and tourist industries would rather you didn’t discover. This is Hyde’s ‘Lane’ – an ‘unseen realm between the main road and the church’, first documented in his sought after three-volume Book of Days, and now in The Lull, an oblique narrative of hope and despair, clarity and blurred vision(s):

“those old goalposts by the boatyard, the death threat graffiti on the derelict cowsheds. Pitch black, but I know the barb-wire wound woodland watches the sweat form on my brow, reads the notes I began to scrawl on a tattered copy of ‘Metro’, for what would become this accidental reverie: … faces of lost friends flickering beyond smeared glass … jackdaws follow the train – impossible; but i see their blue eyes glinting …”

The Lull is augmented by the stark drawings of Alasdair Maclean, and is accompanied by four A5 postcards featuring further work by Alasdair and photography by Julian himself. The typography is by Corbel Stone’s own Richard Skelton.

Enter The Lull “as the small town’s magic hour begins to envelope our histories, dissolve our maps”.

Contact Julian to order a copy for £10 (including postage): julian@voicesinalane.co.uk

Visit his website: voicesinalane.co.uk

An Interview with Hannah Devereux

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Hannah Devereux was born in England in 1988. She studied at University College Falmouth and Byam Shaw School of Art, Central St. Martins. She currently lives and works in London.

Her exquisitely fine drawings are featured in the new volume of our visual art journal, LINTEL.

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1. You produce drawings and photographs. Do you see them as distinct disciplines, or do they converge in some way?

The drawings and photographs run in parallel, I don’t think that one could exist without the other. I often feel in my photographic work that I am aiming to create abstract drawings as I do with pen and ink, and while drawing I am mimicking what is important to me in a photograph; the two strands of the work feed each other.

2. Given the nature of much of your drawings, ‘run in parallel’ seems a very apt phrase. Can you tell us something about how you came to this approach – the laying down of single lines along side each other?

I suppose it came about through feeling a need to pay attention to the fundamental principles of drawing. I became compelled with this manner of working when I understood I could not control the outcome of a piece, even though the process may be seen as rather regimented.

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3. We might expect someone who comes to that realisation to embrace a ‘freer’ mode of working – but your work is unarguably the result of extraordinary self-control. Can you tell us more about why you are drawn to such a highly ordered form of drawing? For instance, do you situate your work within any particular artistic tradition? Are there any points of reference that helped shape your aesthetic?

I am interested in what happens organically when working with a method that doesn’t allow much variation. My aim is that more space and attention is given to that which comes about naturally. The process itself could be seen as a kind of meditation, I don’t feel as though much self-control is required; it is usually a relief to focus on just one simple task, which is probably another element of how the process came about in the first place.

I think it’s difficult to situate your own work amongst an artistic tradition, even if it may seem clear to others. If somebody decided I were a minimalist I wouldn’t argue but similarly I’m not sure I would confidently label myself that way.

My father, Richard Devereux is an artist and I think he taught me to appreciate aesthetic subtlety.

I was living by the sea when I began drawing in this manner, and although I didn’t realise it at the time, that may be what prompted an obsession with the horizon line as a division, and as a tool for abstraction. The relationship between landscape photography and works of total abstraction is of great importance to me.

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4. The way your drawings occupy space seems very important – their positioning and relation to the surrounding white space, and the page edge or border. Rarely does it seem that your drawings are ‘centred’ – they gravitate towards the margins, and create an implicit relationship with ‘absence’. They even sometimes run off the page. Can you offer some insight with respect to ‘placement’ in your work?

I see the work as both the drawn lines and the space they sit within. It may often be that it is the division between the drawing and the space that is most central, like a horizon within a photograph of a landscape. Sometimes I enjoy placing a drawing down at the bottom of a page because I feel it makes it heavier.

The borders of images are really interesting – they are what distinguish a photograph from the landscape that is its subject. I play with borders in my drawings as I do in photography. Lines acting as divisions within the work are important, this applies to the boundaries of an image as well.

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5. Do you know when you begin a drawing how it will be orientated, and do you see any difference in the use of a vertical, as opposed to a horizontal, arrangement of lines?

I make a simple plan before beginning a new drawing, but I don’t know exactly how it will turn out. I’m not sure I can say much about the discrepancy between vertical and horizontal lines, they are like two views of the same plane. It is a quick decision when I plan a drawing, and I just do what feels right.

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6. You characterise the making of your work as a meditative process. Some of the drawings consist of a relatively small number of lines, and others of many more – it could be said that these works are ways of ‘marking time’. Can you elaborate on how you know when a piece is finished?

Some times are more meditative than others, occasionally I listen to the radio or music while working, particularly when I am making bigger drawings. Lots of people immediately interpret them as pieces of time and it is almost like they don’t want to understand a drawing until they know how long it took to make. I usually avoid the question; I want the work to support itself.

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7. Your ‘myvatn’ series of photographs is composed of horizontal landscape layers interrupted by vertical arrangements of fencing – are you seeking landscapes that are in some way reduced to these basic elements?

Not necessarily only horizontal or vertical lines, but basic elements yes. I prefer snow and ice-clad landscapes for that reason; it is like having a blank sheet of paper to draw on. I want to minimise the visual elements of a place to the point of abstraction.

8. I’m not sure if you’re aware of Alistair Rider’s & Thomas A Clark’s blog ‘The Single Road’ (http://thesingleroad.blogspot.co.uk)? It features the work of artists who have ‘taken the decision to repeat a single practice, or to make one ongoing piece, throughout their working lives’. It seems to me an incredibly brave act, to eschew the prospective narrative of ‘artistic development’. Moreover, it seems both modest and self-assured, as it suggests that the work itself – in its first instance – is fully articulated, and that repetition magnifies, rather than diminishes it.

With regard to your own work, this could be said of both the repetition of each line in a single drawing, and the reiteration that occurs throughout the series of drawings that you’ve made since 2008. Despite the fact that you came to this approach organically, have you thought about drawing in these terms? Do you think about development or change, or how you might continue?

Perhaps to continue working on the same series of work you need enough self-assurance to persevere but not enough to stop. The same applies to modesty, which I believe to be an excellent yet undervalued trait in art.

When I first understood Roger Ackling’s dedication of over 30 years to burning lines using the sun and a magnifying glass into pieces of wood and card, I was moved and it certainly struck a chord. Part of me feels I would be quite happy drawing lines for the next few decades, but I don’t think it will happen that way.

I received plenty of criticism in art school regarding the speed of my practice and subsequent slow development but I knew it was taking me forward, albeit at a gradual pace, and that it couldn’t be rushed. The lengthy process of the drawings provides a balance with the instantaneousness of the digital photography that feeds them.

I also make collages which usually come about relatively quickly; it feels dangerous only to produce time-consuming work and leave no room for experimentation. It is difficult to commit to a large-scale drawing if you just want to play and see what happens. Sometimes I think that the collages convey in the simplest terms what it is I am aiming for with my work, they usually consist of drawing alongside landscape photographs, and it is that comparison which drives me.

When I consider what I have made since 2008, I see a lot of changes in the work. It hasn’t stopped developing, though it does stay focused on similar themes and aesthetics. I don’t see it as ‘fully articulated’, which may be why I continue.

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LINTEL is available via Corbel Stone Press.

Farley’s Ark

Canadian author and environmentalist Farley Mowat sharing Farley’s Ark – 200 acres of wilderness looking out over the sea in Nova Scotia, Canada. As always, his work, his words and his actions are an epiphany.