moments, pauses, memories and observations – with art.earth

 

Now showing at Space, Dartington, until June 13th. Curated by art.earth

Rhyne & Huish is a long term project which seeks to uncover secrets within the Somerset landscape that can help us to be better prepared for living in a wetter world. Spending time around the RSPB Ham Wall Nature Reserve in particular, walking the rhynes and ditches, across board walks and along very long and very straight footpaths that follow these man-made waterways led to the development of these drawings.

 

The process of mapping the experiential and sensory responses to this unique place – bearing witness to the people, wildlife and elemental aspects of the environment – water in particular –through visits, collaborative walks, and periods of solitude, demanded some kind of punctuation – a record of ‘moments, pauses, memories and observations’.

 

This capture of sensory data feeds into the larger and longer body of work within the Rhyne & Huish project by suggesting a series of scores, using simple mark-making onto (found) brown card, which is perforated to suggest amplification. All my visits to this area, whether alone or as part of a collaborative walking exercise, have included sound recordings which will be edited later in 2019 to create ‘Sonic Rhynes’. These drawings will guide that editing process.

 

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Field Notes and Frozen Footsteps

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Thanks to the fantastic support of the Gala Network, I am halfway through a two week field trip in Montreal, working with Eric Powell of Concordia University to harvest the sounds of, and about, the St. Lawrence River.

Temperatures have ranged from minus 17 to a balmy 4 degrees, and the river as it runs south of the island of Montreal remains mostly frozen. Dog walkers stroll upon the surface of the water. The waters edge is indistinguishable from the river bank as both are covered in drifts of snow that reveal no demarcation.

Eric and I are strolling the shore between Place Des Armes and the Rapids, little by little, aiming to capture the sounds of the river – the dampened footfall onto deep snow, the crunch of tread on frozen snow, sounds of far of traffic and industry, people walking with their dogs.

Alongside this, I have been recording conversations with resident Quebecois, talking about what the river means to them, capturing first person narratives, anecdotes and forecasts.

Eric and I are talking about Desire Lines (after De Certeau), Ecotones (after Neimanis and McCartney) and Research Creation. I’m getting a masterclass in technical considerations for soundscape design directly from Eric, and meanwhile we are both aware that we are capturing a changing climate that is poised at the edge of catastrophe. Our small wish is that this work adds, in a small way, towards efforts to make a positive difference.

Scores? Spectrograms? Maps?

I am engaged in an ongoing project called Rhyne & Huish, using Experimental Geography to uncover transdisciplinary responses to the Somerset Moors and Levels.  A significant aspect of my work uses sound and experimental geography to capture and re-present unique landscape qualities. Sound recordings of people (anthrophony), wildlife (biophony) and elemental aspects of the environment – water in particular (geophony) – are raw materials for a process of place making. Production is guided by a series of spectrograms, which also operate as stand-alone works, using simple mark-making on a range of scales – from intimate hand-held works to large scale whole-wall works. An initial set of framed Spectrograms will be exhibited in May 2019 at Dartington via artdotearth and CCANW.

Having recently carved out a studio space in my home I have set about creating this work, but remain ambivalent about ‘what’ precisely they are. Playing with language and with labels can help to direct work in particular ways, but can also set limits that might not be useful.

So be it; there is already a rhythm to the works-in-progress. Using simple mark-making (drawing and monoprinting) onto brown card, which is perforated in circular patterns to suggest amplification, and by limiting my palette, a movement is revealed that can be further developed.

Think(ing) Tanks

I am  currently in Bangalore (India), undertaking a month long project with local art students, exploring the water crisis in the city and developing problem-solving strategies through the arts. Bangalore has a population of nearly 12 million and faces an imminent water crisis within the next 5 years. Only a generation ago, the city had over 900 lakes (reservoirs) providing clean drinking water to the population. Today there are less than 100, and the river which fed them is highly polluted at source, and beyond.
The art students are developing collaborative sensory maps of the city, making site visits, and thinking about their future. The maps require students to negotiate a shared space, whilst developing awareness of all the senses as a way of encouraging people to connect with their environment and therefore take part in caring about the lakes and the water which is so vital for their future.

Beautiful, uncomfortable, informative and humorous

With just over two weeks to go until Hydrosapien is unleashed on the public, everyone involved is busy, busy, busy rehearsing for what will be a unique and memorable performance. The Silent Choir grows daily, with 5 schools now running lunch club rehearsals, and about 40 adults attending weekly signing workshops at the Duke of Cornwall Hotel. Their focus and commitment is awe inspiring, and the results are mesmerising. Meanwhile, deep in the labyrinths of Goldsmiths University, Joseph Kohlmaier and Iris Garrelfs work through ideas, bounce sounds around and have me in rapture with their astonishing playfulness and range.

The domino effects are beginning to surface too, with the Harvest Festival at Plymouth Methodist Central Hall presenting the signed poem as part of their service on October 28th, and with a teacher at Eggbuckland Vale Primary School sending this message:

The rehearsal this week was very enjoyable, and I am beginning to understand how the performance may look. Yesterday I taught two of my profoundly deaf 7 year old children (BSL signers) the first verse after a discussion  about what a poem is (words which describe an idea and a feeling but not a story!) And in very simple terms we began to discuss climate issues. In response to this they each drew a picture which I have attached  for you to see. I was truly moved by the power of your poem, translated into sign to teach these children about the environment. Thank you for enabling this learning experience for these children.

Meanwhile, Astrida Neimanis, the author of the text – Hydrofeminism – that triggered the project, is watching the project develop via Twitter and encouraging us as we work to perfect our shared endeavour to find creative ways of putting research into the public domain. Astrida’s support is the icing on the cake!

Hydroscore for a Silent Choir

Mark-making, through monoprinting and drawing, allows me to think through ideas and processes in ways that release me from the tyranny of ‘the list’. Having already produced a workbook for my collaborations with Iris Garrelfs and Joseph Kohlmaier, this week I started producing one for my work with members of the Silent Choir. These workbooks are simple sheaves of blank paper, interspersed with the monoprints and drawings I’ve been doing.

Earlier this week I went to Goldsmiths University for the first of four sessions with Iris and Joseph. This introductory session was a wide ranging ramble through ideas, triggers, and methods, and was important for establishing a shared sense of the project going forward. Also this week, I applied to attend a workshop with Astrida Neimanis (at Goldsmiths also) around ‘Weathering’ – a practice or tactic for understanding our inter-implicatedness, for interrupting existing patterns and notions of resilience and vulnerability, of thinking about the weather as more-than-meteorological.

And last but not least! After much hair-pulling over the years, I am finally (finally!) the recipient of an Arts Council grant, for Hydrosapiens. The entire project is ambitious, and therefore the funding application felt immense. Clearly this strategy has paid off, and now Hydrosapiens can embrace its full potential. Many thanks to Arts Council England, and especially to the individuals who guided me through the process, and particularly to the individuals participating in Hydrosapiens.

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Hydroscores

Hydrosapien for Plymouth Art Weekender – a live Silent Choir performance adaptation of the essay Hydrofeminism (@AstridaNeimanis), accompanied by a duo of experimental voice artists who will use the same text as the basis for their non-linguistic contribution. It even has its own website now.

Half of the project involves me workshopping at Goldsmiths, with Iris Garrelfs and Joseph Kohlmaier, to develop  a ‘score’ for their contribution to the performances.

Influenced by (amongst many others) Hanna Tuulikki – Spinning in Stereo, Liz K Miller and Kim Macari – Circular Score: Round Two, and the scores used in the live performance of Jim Finers’ Long Player at St. Martins Church as part of Art Week Exeter, I am starting with visual experiments before heading to London for the workshops. Using drawing and monoprinting to develop an abstracted yet structured relationship between the essay Hydofeminism, water, and imagined sounds, I am finding that I’m mapping, and re-finding the relationship between mark,  sound and gesture.

Joseph Kohlmaier’s practice crosses a broad spectrum of disciplines, bringing together writing, design, teaching, performance, editorial and curatorial work, and composition. He founded Musarc, one of the UK’s most progressive choral collectives, in 2008, and acts as the ensemble’s creative director. He is a principal lecturer and head of Critical and Contextual Studies at The Cass, London Metropolitan University, and one of the founding directors of graphic design practice Polimekanos and its associated imprint Cours de Poétique.

IRIS GARRELFS works on the cusp of music, art and sociology. Investigating sites through listening she creates responses that often combine field recordings with voice and are not just explorations of geographical, historical or sociological aspects, but also poetical evocations of presence. As one of the pioneers of digitally augmented vocal performance, her vocal work has has been described by ATTN:Magazine as follows: “Garrelfs’ gymnastic flexibility is remarkable. Her falsetto has this incredible pinball elasticity, zipping suddenly upward in playful excitement or sudden shock, reaching pitches that seem to shrink her into miniature.”

Her work has been presented internationally, for example National Gallery, Royal Academy of Arts London, Visiones Sonores Mexico, Onassis Cultural Centre Athens, Palazzo delle Esposizioni Rome, MC Gallery New York. Residencies have included Grizedale Art, Institute of Modern Art Celje (Slovenia), Tate Britain. Recordings were released on
Linear Obsessional (UK), Pan Y Rosas Discos (US), Audition Records (Germany), Gruenrekorder (Germany),  Baskaru Records (France) and more.

Elsewhere Garrelfs is lecturer in Sonic Art at Goldsmiths, University of London and editor of the open access journal Reflections on Process in Sound.

Transgression and Ephemerality

Marine Transgressions was an environmental humanities conference that took place on June 7-8th 2018 at the Create Centre, located on the banks of the river Avon by the entrance to the historic floating harbour in Bristol, UK. I presented a short film entitled ‘Detention Centre’ which explored my emotive response to marine aquariums. There were many wonderful presentations, and memorable work  included presentations by Mirjami Lantto (Rivering), Kelly P Bushell (The First Captive Whale in Britain), Sarah Hymas (Bookworks) and Lisa Blackmore ((De) Colonising Flow). Marine Transgressions was  a collaboration between the Environmental Humanities Research Centres of the University of Bristol and Bath Spa University.

24 hours later I began a 10 day immersive residency called Ephemeral River. This extraordinary experience included workshops across a range of disciplines, trips to Wistman’s Wood (Dartmoor) and the galleries of Newlyn, Penzance and St. Ives, hours and hours spent in and around the River Dart, and creative experiments alongside an international range of inspirational artists. The provocation was to make work in response to our lived experience with the ephemerality of the River Dart. We all made wildly different works, and across the course of the ten days made wide ranging collaborations and relationships. Alix Rothnie’s blog tells the story beautifully.

We surfaced from this unforgettable experience as participants in Liquidscapes, a three-day international gathering bringing together creative thinkers and doers to explore physically and figuratively our watery worlds and fluid states. Tristram Gooley (How to Read Water) and Amy Sharrocks (Against Dryness) opened the event, and many wonderful presentations, performances and interventions followed, including a performative photo-essay called Bank by Carolyn Black and Carol Laidler, Jess Allen: Drop in the Ocean, Sylvia Crawley: Writing the Mudscape: Lives at the Fringe of the Sea, Charlotte Price: Falling Tide, Rona Lee: Truthing Gap – artistic encounters with the scientific deep, and Hanien Conradie: The Voice of Water: Re-sounding a silenced River.

And all this wet wonderment was made doubly exquisite by a night paddle in a canoe in silence down the Dart, followed by a night sat in silence through till dawn on Summer Solstice Night as part of a group.  Lost for words, I sincerely thank those listed below for these life-changing experiences, but most of all I want to thank Richard Povall, again and again. And again.

 

Deep Time, Shallow Water.

Collecting submersive testimonies.

To walk on land below sea level,
As if…ankle deep (another manual for nomads?)
Minor trespass may be necessary.

 

 

 

The second walk in the #ethnohydro series will take place on June 24th. We will be walking through Andersea and Othery, mostly below sea level (and roughly 10 miles). If you would like to get involved, email me on lauradenning2@gmail.com.

In the meantime you can catch two short sound works I have recently created at Canteen (part of Art Week Exeter) and at Murmuration (part of Fringe Arts Bath).  My work is also screened at Green Park Brasserie as part of Bath Fringe Festival (see page 35) – A one hour loop of silent films exploring watery worlds – from rivers to rhynes, from puddles to pools, from oceans to altogether other worlds. This installation uses moving image to present a provisional glossary of sites of special wetness.

And behind the scenes I am busy preparing for a research trip exploring the St. Lawrence River in Canada, a month long teaching studio, at Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore, and a major commission for Plymouth Art Weekender 2018. Busy times!