There has been a lot of discovery through process in the past week. I really latched onto the concept of palimpsest and have been manifesting its parameter and circumference in order to translate it into my own context and to understand it in my own way.
As of this, I have begun taking rubbings from pub table tops using newsprint paper and a soft pencil. It came to me that pub table tops are palimpsests; they have been marked and edited and stained over time by many different people, they are artefacts of contemporary culture.
Below are some of the most interesting rubbings. I’m not sure what I will do with them yet and how I will manipulate them further. I just know I’d like to transfer the marks somehow.
It is also interesting to consider the origin and history of ‘the pub’. Obviously ‘pub’ stands for ‘public house’, a place of all people meeting, a place of gathering. The home for the public, which relates back to thoughts I had on the domestic, and communal, universally relatable materials such as the dough, straw and clay. I like these links to the coming together of people and the communal place where history, background, ethnicity and identity are blended.
Pubs originate from Roman times however, and were more commonly named taverns or ale houses. They were often built on the sides of long Roman roads so that the legionary troops could stop for a drink. And it was ale and other alcoholic drinks served as they were safer to drink than water due to their brewing process. So pubs were originally just a place of passing – just a stop off point on a longer journey.
In light of palimpsest, places of passing through and pubs, I decided to cast one of the steps on Jacobs Ladder just off the moor in Falmouth. The notoriously steep and long old staircase lead to the Jacob’s Ladder Inn at the top.
I see the steps as palimpsests in themselves. The concave dips worn away from the original step shape tell of people and time. The thousands of people who have walked up and down the steps since their creation makes them a kind of slowly manipulated collective art piece. An abstract physical timeline. I was also attracted to Jacob’s Ladder as of course the steps embody the layering element of the palimpsest concept. This is a seemingly simple observation but its interesting to think of the staircase as a whole but also as individual layers carved separately from the soles and feet of people and animals. Each individual palimpsest layered up to make one very large more complex one.
I think it is important to mention as well what the origin and reason for Jacob’s Ladder to be made was and the fact it has no biblical relevance or associations, despite there being a greek mythology about Jacob and his ladder – expand! It was simply installed by a man named Jacob Hamblen in…. , a builder, tallow chandler and property owner to facilitate access between his business – at the bottom – and some of his property – at the top. It was just a means of getting from A to B, just simply an access root for passing from one place to another quicker than going round.
It is interesting to consider Jacob’s Ladder as a place of passing through – the people and interactions I had whilst on the step for 6 hours were varied. Some people passed multiple times; walking with a group first, then running down then walking back up and running down again with someone else. One woman was going up it for exercise and said that last year she did the ladder 10 times one after another! Many, almost all people asked what I was doing and although I was making an absolute mess, no one commented on it in a negative way. There were also people who completely ignored what I was doing. I had a very uncomfortable encounter with a 70 year old man who insinuated the gross things he would do to me, to warm me up, had he got me “behind the wall”, which was extremely unpleasant and shocking. Over all I realised that the activity I was doing gives a reason to communicate, such a narrow pass that you are almost forced to interact. Because it is a staircase, it is maybe easier to talk because it is inevitably going to be a short encounter making it easier to start one – the place of passing bares no obligation to chat or stay for a while if one does not want to. This is a well known stereotypical observation of the british awkwardness and reluctance to have anything more than small talk, as more than small talk is out of the comfort zone. It also made it a kind of safe place for the old man to make an oppressive comment as there was no one else around at the time and I feel he would be less likely to say something like that had I been on the street at the bottom of the ladder.
Down a slightly different root, I have begun re-looking at the photos and sketches I did at the archaeological dig I went to in August.
At the time I was thinking a lot about the fact that Anthropologists’ job is to watch, research and observer other people! I began finding this concept quite bazaar and frustrating as I’d never heard much about anthropologists who study anyone other than indigenous or native tribes men. I couldn’t help considering the kind of colonial undercurrents of the ology, the appropriateness of it and the potential interference, false informity and the historical eurocentrism that comes with treating these communities and cultures as ‘the other’ then continuing to represent them as ‘the other’ throughout the entire Western world. After some research, I realised that now there are studies done by anthropologists of non tribal or native peoples; a lot in fact. But I decided I wanted to be a part of this and challenge the entire concept of anthropology. My ideal setting would have been me studying a group of Anthropologists, and to study them in a way that encompassesses anthropological processes but also to use more artistic ones and explore the ways I could study them as it to treat them as a tribe themselves whilst they are at work carrying out research on another group of people. I wanted to collect data and research on the way they interact with each other, the social hierarchy, common language, common background, beliefs systems and thoughts, gestures, eating habits and anything else that became important during the research project. I wanted the anthropologists to in a way get a taste of their own medicine, but despite this still being a dream project for me. It meant that I’d have to arrange going on a research trip with a bunch of scientists along with all the barriers that come with that and I didn’t feel like I had the time frame to do it in my last year of study.
This is why I decided to at least do a practise on a group of archaeologists down here in Cornwall. To do a study of a arguably similar group of people doing slightly different work but their practises overlap and include practical field work in a changing environment.
Although this was my original idea, I started thinking about the sketches I did there for a different reason. I photocopied the sketches and drew gradients like what you find of maps onto the figures as if to map their bodies like you would a landscape. This then instantly looked like ripples and of course portrays a layering effect on them making links between the figures as a landscape with layers just like the earth. Ripples are things that spread in waves of energy, weakening as they get further apart from the epicentre or source of the energy flow. Places and people become connected by the effects of a ripple, like people affect other people in their actions, interactions and movements in the world which affect others who could be close by or far away. The energy of our existence affects other people by the way we use it, who we make connections with and where we travel in time and space.
I’d really like to create something that people interact with that will alter as a result of human interaction as it’s passed from person to person; whether a space or object. This will be a creation of a palimpsest and is done so from the ripple of energy that will manipulate it.
I looked at the work of Pierre Huyghe this week and he uses similar ideas but in a slightly different angle. He conceives the conditions for an environment but leaves it at that. He creates spaces where an unpredictable non-regular cycle of events will ripple out from its centre to create variations avoiding linearity. People and other living animals are essential to his environments as they basically have a mind of their own that will in-turn, form the present moment of the exhibition or art piece just from chance. It is also considered that due to the environment having been given space to grow and breath will take on its own life and events, it is difficult to distinguish what is ‘meant’ to be happening in the space and whether something is an accident or a result of the outside world of the art piece coming in.