I have been thinking a lot about space this week. What a space has to say and what it stands for and communicates in its relation to people and the landscape. In light of this I decided to photograph the space next to Jacob’s Ladder initially from across the valley like last week but this week I shot on a 35mm 1970’s Praktica film camera. I then photographed the space from behind the wall looking into it and the surrounding area, then I jumped the wall so that I actually went into the space and corner itself. Finally from that spot that I have been looking at for a while from the other side of the valley, I photographed in the opposite direction back at the place I’d initially seen it from. It was like a journey of breaking through layers and physical and imaginary barriers to finally reach a destination. Visualising these barriers or layers similarly to how I visualised ripples and layers in the past; layers that circle a specific point. I experienced stages of finally getting to the unnoticed, space in between and once I got there I wasn’t too sure what to do. I’d made the journey and finally made it into the space I’d been seeing for weeks, finally bridged the gap between a distant place or land of wonder to actually standing within it; quite strange. So I just documented it through photography.
All these concepts and thoughts seem to keep leading loosely to elements of migration. This coming to a new place imagined and seen from a distance, breaching barriers as the journey goes on and not quite knowing what to do once you are somewhere you’ve potentially imagined for a while. Another barrier present in my work was the presence of me sitting on the step on Jacob’s Ladder two weeks ago. I obstructed the flow of people on the steps and they unquestionably moved around me on that public place of passing. Like avoiding obstacles on a pathway. The place of passage offering obstacles or barriers that obstruct and change the flow of people passing through. I’m thinking maybe I could work with this concept and implement not me as a person but something else onto the place of passage that causes people to change their passage or root down the steps or on the pathway etc. I could insert my plaster cast copy of one of the steps onto Jacob’s Ladder and somehow document it’s effects of the public as they pass.
The most recent Frieze Magazine published this month (October 2018) is centred around decolonization and the migrant and refugee situation across the world. I have read most of the content and it has birthed more links between my work and the potential of it relating to these issues. Although I initially started off working with ideas on culture and the potential of it being an intangible archaeological palimpsest, my work has continued on these lines but has started touching on ideas on the displacement of culture and people, movement and overlapping of people over time and space. Which is why the migrant crisis is becoming increasingly relevant but my ideas over all rooted in the idea of the overlapping of people in one place in general.
Last year, I watched ‘Human Flow’ a documentary by Ai Wei Wei which was an epic documentary film observing and exposing the reality of the migrant and refugee crisis aimed at revealing its horrors and truth to the West. It was incredible but unimposing, an observational, calm undramatic exposure to the situation that I believe avoided fetishisation of the crisis and any overly dramatic cinematography and music to enforce ‘wow factors’ so often found in Western cinema and film. It let the content speak for itself.
With the reading, thinking and watching in mind, it made me see the area of Jacob’s Ladder and the empty space next to it as a kind of miniscule narrative discovered in my direct surroundings that embodies similar characteristics as the wider, hyperobject of the migrant crisis or colonialism. I am finding larger important narratives in the smaller local physical and social landscape to understand and communicate the bigger picture is a respectable way to inquire.
From what I can gather as a white person never having been to a refugee camp, they are portrayed as a kind of place between places. Like a place of passage between A and B just like Jacob’s Ladder is. A place of refuge or temporal settlement between two potentials just like the pub is. However, I am aware of the problematics of associating a refugee camp with a British pub, two extremely high contrasting locations, environments and histories.
It is interesting to consider the similarities with the palimpsest of culture in terms of refugee camps and places of passage. Places where people are brought together and create context, history and impressions on each other, time, space, objects and the landscape. Places of layers and a growing history and past. In a Frieze article called ‘Impermanent Inheritance’ by Suzanne Harris-Brandts, she suggests that “the camp is an artefact of the 20th Century” which does challenge the contemporary notion of the artefact and its parameters however does so under colonial circumstances once again. The West getting to decide the importance and unimportance of things and under it’s righteous identification system despite the impressive challenge of the notion. But it also caught my eye due to its use of its archaeological terminology. Describing a social and physical landscape as an artefact follows suit with being able to describe culture under the archaeological term of palimpsest; it is just another example of challenging archaeological terminology.
This week I have essentially learnt that my work aims to understand the distant by exploring the direct. Discovering local metaphorical narratives that help to understand the stories and lives of people outside of my own.
In terms of practical ventures I’ve had this week, they are still in development of previous work and ideas.
I have begun moulding the shapes discovered and unearthed from my pub table top rubbings from clay, giving them a physicality and presence within a 3D context to see how they differ and change. So far I have started to view them as creatures and characters birthed from the palimpsest, palimpsest being the mother that bares stories, history and narratives through the marks and traces she allows in her dimensional space brought to life through the fingertips and presence of people. A space between people and the physical world around them, the palimpsestal dimension giving life to history and time through physical traces. The space between the person and their surroundings.
For some reason I have the desire to cast the shapes in a metal of some sort for a heavier more tactile, definite presence in reality rather than in the illusive, conceptual world I talked about above.
I also did some collages in attempt to visually combine archaeology with culture and landscape with a slightly scientific overall feel however I found it difficult to visually link archaeological drawings into images of people and landscape to make it aesthetically pleasing.