Monday, 30 April 2012

Call Three: Sited/Off Sited


Being physical in the great outdoors has always been more than just a hobby to enjoy, for me it is a need. I have never been one to settle in one place for long, I get ‘itchy feet’. If I cannot move freely, make the change that is needed I become suffocated and feel constrained and restricted, mentally, emotionally and physically. Because of the way modern life is now, the way humans have adopted a way of living that encourages us to ‘settle down’, to find a permanent place to work and live we have neglected our nomadic instincts.

At one time humankind were in touch with the cycles of live on Earth and would move with the seasons to places where they knew there would be food and kinder climates, always aware of their connection with the Earth and the world around them, just as the other animals of the planet still are. By living this nomadic existence we would have had little need for material objects other than tools, clothing and shelter thus having a minimal effect on the Earth and its environment. We would have been conscious of our existence as part of the whole so would have been aware of the fact that by harming the Earth we would be harming ourselves. Claiming ownership of land would have been an alien concept. Now we are encouraged and conditioned by an industrial culture to own, use and consume with little concern of the consequences. We are very much aware of the destruction we are causing but the acknowledgement of the pain this causes is too much to face, so to make ourselves feel better we do what we are told will make us feel good again, consume. We are told what to buy, what to wear, what to eat, where to live, how to live, what is right, what is wrong, we are even told who we should and shouldn’t be. All this goes against our deepest, truth felt feelings of what and who we are.  

“ an almost total eclipse of the ‘life-world’ in a modern era is a nearly complete forgetting of this living dimension in which all our endeavours are rooted.” (Abram 1997 Spell Of The Sensuous p.41)

I have become fascinated by those that decide to go against what is considered normal, they have listened to their hearts and followed an instinct that drives them to want to go on a journey of self discovery to find a truth that feels real and right for them.

This search for something real and right is why I walk. My practice is about a search for something beyond the constraints of society and its expectations and a connection to that cosmic something that flows through everything. Often those that chose to ‘opt out’ get rid of all their possessions, other than the essentials and are drawn to the wilderness where they have space, solitude and freedom. They chose to live off the land and travel on foot, not having to rely on anything or anyone but themselves and their intuition. They try get away from the influence of a materialistic culture to reconnect with the flow of nature that we are all interconnected with in order to find an inner truth. However, these adventurers often come up against the harsh realities of living in the wilderness. They usually enter into such explorations knowing the consequences and challenges that this way of living entail and yet are willing to take the risk having said their goodbyes.           

As time goes on and my family grows up, I am becoming very much aware of my need, an inner pull and yearning that calls for me to rid myself of pointless possessions and make preparations for my ‘road trip’ of discovery. To do this I must prepare myself mentally and physically so that I can take on the challenge with confidence in my capabilities. 

“To the desert go prophets and hermits; through deserts go pilgrims and exiles. Here the leaders of the great religions have sought the therapeutic and spiritual values of retreat, not to escape but to find a reality.”
(Jon Krakauer 2008 Into The Wild p.25)  


With two colleagues form Studio 11 I plan to go wild camping on the Gower Peninsula in Wales 5-7th May. We will be taking all that we need for the trip in rucksacks so can only take what we can carry.  The experience will be documented through photography, sketches and a written journal. 

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Sleepy Head

Saturday 28 April: New Socks

I'm sat on a park bench, the sun trying to shine through the ever present cloud cover. The flask of  tea and the squawks of crows and playing children. The pedometer forgotten again....

I'm not the type to 'shop till I drop', for me its more a case of 'sprint around grabbing whats needed as quickly as possible and then making a hasty escape'. So I have wandered off whilst the girls spend a few girly hours looking at and no doubt trying on a huge array of clothes and shoes, saved pennies burning holes in their pockets.

I'm going for a walk to Malpas when I've finished my tea. After a brief visit to crowded streets and shops, a suffocating space, for some new socks the need for peace and a calm place is needed. I plan to walk, smelling and feeling the open air and take pictures of boats. There is something very beautiful about boats, especially the wooden ones and the worn out, neglected ones.


Having walked through Malpas which is pretty I suppose, its main attraction being the views over the River Fal, I then followed a footpath through some woodland with a path lined thickly with wild garlic being warmed in the sun. I was surrounded by the sound of bird song, the peaceful balance of green and the strong fragrance of the wild sat on top of a grassy hill under an impressive oak tree, new shoots growing from it's fingertips. My new socks are very comfy, unlike the roots of the oak tree I am sat on!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Beneath The Surface

Thoughts that underlie
That flow beneath the surface
The heart judders
To see vacancy in the eyes as she talks
Or not see the eyes at all
For they look away
Easily distracted
Her words unimportant
Of little interest, it seems
There is a confusion
Inner feelings acknowledged
Emotions fly high
Here and there
Bounced around by ruminations
They try to understand and put into order
An equilibrium striven for
An attempt to create balance and clarity
Stir up emotions that cause questions
Are blamed on.........
Anything but the truth

Call Three: Sited/Off Site

You are being asked to produce work that responds to a specific site or enables you to work off site.
A site can be: physical or theoretical.
Site specificity can relate to: The limits of site, fieldwork, action and public space and the cultural imperative.
Consider place and locality.
Does the work need an audience?

Your work should happen/occur during the week commencing 7th of May.
You are responsible for producing appropriate documentation that may be used in a group exhibition in Studio 11 Lobby space entitled: “Call3”, subject to group consensus.

The documentation should be submitted by 12pm on Friday the 11th of May, for group crit.

You should view “Call3” as an opportunity to work, alone, in a sited of offsite manner, bringing ONLY the documentation of this work/occurance/happening back to the studio.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Sea Spray On My Lips

I forgot my pedometer.... so today's wander hasn't been measured the usual way and its been a bit of an amble rather than the usual stomp. I walked a small part of the coastal path to a point where the rocks are high and looking like they're about to topple over. A place passed many times but not explored, a place for climbers. Like most outdoor activities climbing has appealed to my nature, however I'm not good with heights at all, no matter how strong the rope is. So I stopped, soaked up the wild weather and scared myself a little by going to the top of the rocks and looking over the edge.....all very exciting!

I now sit in a grassy alcove trying to shelter from the cold wind and drinking the usual flask of tea which accompanies me on all my journeys. I can taste the sea spray on my lips. The power and beauty of the ocean never ceases to inspire and impress me. A wave of gratitude is directed to where it needs to go.

After Saturday's exhilarating yomp I was determined to do at least 50 miles this Saturday but I wont be able to, which is probably best......the promise of moderation must not be forgotten. I didn't ache much after my efforts but the tiredness is there so shall leave it a couple of weeks before tackling the next Long Walk. Ideally I would like to have done a 100 miler before the end of term but realistically I there isn't going to be time and it would be foolish to try too soon....its tempting....that impulsive side of me is itching to just do it! I need to get a few more long ones done, including night time walks on my own. This is particularly daunting as not only is it dangerous walking the cliffs in the dark, I have a fertile imagination and spent much of my youth reading and writing horror stories....not a good combination for night time walking in isolated landscapes. I have walked the cliffs in the dark before and feel confident about my physical capabilities but I do not want to spend the dark hours constantly scaring myself with mind images of mad axe men and mutant flesh eating monsters.....both unlikely to be out cliff walking I know! Yes, I know they're not real bla bla bla but that doesn't help....any suggestions, please! One solution would be to have some company during the night time stomping....????

Anyway, even the wonder and beauty of such a view can not keep the wet and cold out and the flask is is time to move...........

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

14658 Steps: A Wander With My Camera

0 Steps

593 Steps
Waiting for the bus

2101 Steps
Face upturned
Sunshine flickers across my eye lids

2411 Steps
A moment by the water

2878 Steps
Feet and legs wet with early morning dew

Walking in the shadows

Sea froth
A cool wind

I stop
I sit
Cold hard rock
Soft warm bum
Flies crawl on my bare legs
I drink tea
I think
I question
I doubt
Decisions to make
I drink more tea
Foot prints in the sand

I walk.........

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Saturday 21 April: Ten Hours Of 63495 Steps With My Little Tent

0 Steps
A new companion for my journey
A 10kg pack.....
My little tent
A sleeping bag
Change of clothes, twice
Change of shoes
One and a half litres of water
One flask of tea
One sandwich
Two bananas
Three biscuit bars
Two oranges
An apple
Five blister plasters
A birthday present
Two birthday cards
A camera
A dictaphone
A torch
A warm hat
A map.....

2539 Steps
My place
A patchwork of green
Iridescent in the glow of the sun

15650 Steps
A quick look at the map
Banana and biscuit
A long hill to climb

22060 Steps
The smell of wood smoke
The shelter of trees
Bluebells, beautiful, purple in the shine

25681 Steps
Rest, briefly
Spelt bread, peanut butter and watercress sandwiches
A flask of warm tea.....

42345 Steps
A quick chat with a cow.....
Tiredness does funny things to the mind!
Another long hill
Hot legs

43697 Steps
Somewhere to be
A realisation.....
Time is running out
Its time to pick up the pace, again

52086 Steps
About fucking time!
Still seven miles (?) to go
A long haired loon
Like a soldier, I yomp

63495 Steps
Destination reached
Body and mind buzzing
Sweat dripping
A heavy pack, no longer heavy
The pain, no longer painful
Big hugs
Lots of smiles
A shower
A beer
More beer
The sense of achievement bed for the night!

Contextual Research Project: Contexts Of Practice 2; Mapping My Search

This contextual project, much like my practice is about searching. My research,presented as a ‘map’, is an exploration of what fuels my artistic practice, not an analysis of the final outcome or an object but what drives and inspires me to create.

My work is based around my love of being in and moving through the landscape and the easiest most instinctive way to do this is to walk. At one time I would walk to a place and create a stone circle or arrange a collection of leaves in an appropriate pattern, but over time it was becoming apparent that it is the actual process of walking and where the journey takes me on a spiritual level that is important to me. I may take photographs and write poetic or factual notes at relevant moments of the walk and often measure it by how many steps I have taken. I do feel there needs to be some evidence of my experience so that it can be shared and expressed, I therefore ‘map’ my emotional and physical responses to the journeys I take to use as a record. These shared moments are my inner, heartfelt, ‘of the moment’ responses to being-in-the-world. These walks have to be in the ‘wilderness’ of the cliffs, woods and moorland, not the grey, built up suffocation of urban territories where there isn't the space to think without there being someone else’s ideas influencing your perception of the world. There are walls blocking the horizon, concrete covering the earth and the constant reminder of the view that the world is a bad place and to make it better you should consume. The space and freedom to roam gives me the opportunity to think and just ‘be’, allowing a reconnection with an inner-self and also that big, cosmic something that we are interlinked to. This is the something that flows through everything, the life and essence of who and what we are.  
By becoming consciously aware of the essence of our being and the illusion of separation from the ‘whole’ comes a deeper understanding of our truth and what we want from life. Meaning and purpose to life becomes more apparent. I believe this brings a joy and knowing back into our existence and this need to search for the knowing resides within us all.

Through the research for my practice which has been over a period of a year and a half, I am realising that my work is about my search for a way of life that suits me, a way of ‘being’ that feels right to me. I want to live my truth. Walking, taking these journeys are my way of finding a freedom that allows me to be me, without the pressures and expectations of society and its rules of how we should and shouldn’t live. I feel that I am waking up and choosing life. 

What bubbles inside me is the need to want to ‘be’ not just for my own happiness and fulfilment but also for the benefit of the ‘whole’. The world is in a place of self-destruction. We are losing the will to live, becoming apathetic with numb hearts and minds. Our culture is driven by production and consumerism that is destroying our world around us, ecologically and spiritually. We numb ourselves to the pain and fear so lose the ability to trust in our own feelings and natural instincts. We have lost our way and our meaning. We cling to old ideas and notions of competitive individualism that create that void of separation and a disconnection with the living body of the Earth that gives us everything we need to live, from the plants that heal and nourish to those that create shelter. If we could become aware of our truth and our place in the ‘whole’, an unsustainable life of consumption will give way to an empathetic, interconnected life of sustainability, which is the inner desire of us all whether we realise it or not. “ an almost total eclipse of the ‘life-world’ in a modern era is a nearly complete forgetting of this living dimension in which all our endeavours are rooted.” (Abram, 1997, p.41)

Throughout history our culture has viewed pain and the expression of fear as dysfunctional. Religion and in more modern times the ‘new religion’, the mass media, inform society that suffering is good and should be done in silence. Showing fear and despair is a sign of weakness and we should socially ‘put on a brave face’ and to not do so would be a sign of failure. Ultimately the pain does not go away and eventually becomes worse. “The truth that many people never understand until it is too late is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer.” (Brown and Macy, 1998, p.34) I believe this bottling up of feelings leads to a lack of self-worth and self-destructive behaviours.

“Our society has turned increasingly through the century to a desperate pursuit of pleasure and short-term the consumption of goods, sex, entertainment, alcohol and drugs and an obsessive pursuit of money as an end in itself.....we doubt the possibility of happiness and the continuance of life. Feelings of despair over the world and our future may be pushed below conscious awareness, but they surface again in other guises. They may be expressed outwardly against society in acts of violence and vandalism and inwardly in self-destruction.” (Brown and Macy, 1998, p.35)
Our feelings are our natural instincts, our way of knowing what is best for ourselves and the world around us. Our feelings inform us of our truth and if we ignore them we disconnect ourselves from a knowing and from the whole of which we are part of, like a motherless child who does not have access to the spiritual and physical nurturing of the loving mother. Our instincts and emotions shape our perspective of the world we live in, they tell us who we are.  “Sensations, emotions, intuitions, concepts, all condition each other, each a way of apprehending the relationships which weave our world.” (Brown and Macy, 1998, p.42) It is through this world that we experience who we are, so to have the freedom to express our emotions is allowing us to express our truth. From an inner truth comes creativity, a place of pure expression. When an artist’s work comes from this place you are viewing a true expression of who they are.  

Because modern day society has become so contained and restricted, long walking is no longer a part of our lives. We are always in such a rush with so much to do, so therefore tend to drive everywhere. Walking is now a leisure pursuit that takes place at the weekend when there is time, if there is time. There are cultures where long walking is a natural part of their life and often an initiation into adulthood. An example being the “Australian Aboriginal behaviour known as ‘Walkabout’, usually understood in terms of some internal urge that results in Aboriginal people leaving a locality without notice to travel for travel’s sake.” (Bell and Taylor, 2004, p.223) These walks could last for years as the individual retraces his ancestor’s footsteps. These are spiritual journey’s that are done instinctively, a deep seated custom that runs through the blood. As someone that grew up in the sticks and then didn’t learn how to drive until they were thirty-six years old, walking was a necessity from a young age and so it became natural to walk everywhere. Eventually I discovered it was essential to my physical and spiritual wellbeing, so intrinsic to my creativity and art work, as states walking artist Hamish Fulton “No walk, no work” (Davis, 2007). It is a way of being, a way of life. The walking I do is not an amble or a derive but is strong and has focus. “....the walking of what I speak has nothing akin to taking exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours.....but is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day.” (Thoreau, 2007, p.11) I believe it is the restraints, pressures and shallowness of society’s ideals that impel people to follow their instincts, to ‘take to the road’ on a journey of self discovery, the challenge and rawness of the wilderness often appealing to their need for isolation and liberation.

My practice is the documentation of my journey to find and the result of feeling the connection with the ‘cosmic whole’, the essence of life, God and therefore myself. My vehicle to this place is my body and its physical relationship with the landscape. Through my body I experience and shape my reality. “Since the person is a being-in-the-world, the coming-into-being of the person is part and parcel of the process of coming-into-being of the world as a whole.” (Wylie, 2007, p.160)  I use walking as a meditation. Through experience I have realised that by challenging the body I can reach a place of euphoria and transcendence that takes me to my spiritual center. It is here that I feel at one with myself and the world around me. It is through this physical engagement with my inner self and the environment that I find a freedom to be myself, the realisation of my own potential and a reality that is real for me. These journeys into the ‘wilderness’ are pilgrimages. “To the deserts go prophets and hermits, through deserts go pilgrims and exiles. Here the leaders of the great religions have sought the therapeutic and spiritual values of retreat, not to escape but to find reality.” (Krakauer, 2011, p.25)

The Artefact: My Map

(Any feed back would be great, thanks)

Thursday, 19 April 2012

A Day Of 17231 Steps

Patterns in the sand
Lichen covered, rocky outcrops
A wind swept island stands solid
A place of prayer
Underneath a hat with a bobble
I feel troubled thoughts.....
The smooth white walls of culture
Phallic lighthouses
Seaside streets full of milling bodies
Everything under a blue shiny sky