V is for void

Verne missing sm2Look at how much land is missing! The rock stack sitting on the top of the cliff shows where the land surface used to be. So if you imagine the hole filled in from that stack right up to where I am standing at about the same height as the top of the stack, then you get an idea of how much land was taken from the Verne to make the breakwater in the harbour below. All hacked out by prisoners. I am finding this everywhere, the Verne is as much about what is not there, about the voids, as it is about what is left. I believe that this land used to be common land, for grazing, perhaps for foxy-faced Portland sheep. A missing common: a hole not only in the land but also in the social fabric. I must see what I can discover about Verne Common. Do get in touch if you can help!

Night light

Verne night light smWhat’s happening up there at night? It looks like the top of the Verne is on fire: a volcano of electric light; a beacon for miles around, the orange glow reflecting off the clouds, with the house lights of Fortuneswell below. I am due to meet the Governor in the morning for a tour around the prison. A bit apprehensive…

Approaching the Verne

Verne approach smIt is so good to be back on Portland today, for the first few days of my residency on The Verne. It is the highest piece of land on the isle, and includes a prison, quarries, farm, old military gun emplacements, nature reserves and more. From a distance it has such an distictive shape, seen here from the land side, from the north, half way up Chesil Beach, flat-topped and with one of these at the left-hand end. Onwards to the Verne…

Resonant Isle revisited

VerneSymposiumFliersm“The way Portland seems to quiver, shake and respond to the elements makes it seem more like a small protruding sense organ, sticking out into the sea resonating to the world on behalf of the mainland, rather than an inert solid piece of rock.” This was how I started a post about my research on Portland just over a year ago, in the depths of a blustery winter. Next month I am going to revisit the resonant isle, to start my Verne residency but also to talk at the Resonant Terrains symposium (pdf download: Resonant Terrains flier). Really looking forward to spending time there again, and the symposium has a great selection of speakers, tours, performances, so do come along if you can.

Giving form to thought

Old WaysDeep into Robert MacFarlane’s The Old Ways at the moment, and I came across this passage where he is talking about the writer Anna ‘Nan’ Shepherd and her book about the Cairngorm Mountains in Scotland: “…the power of the HIghland landscape to draw people into intimacy with it, and [she] showed how particular places might make possible particular thoughts.” This connection between a place and the ideas that it ferments brought me back to my Goodbye Portland post, and how perhaps the isle and the idea of the pseudomorph are somehow entwined. It has also started me thinking about what associations there might be between The Verne prison on Portland and its location, at the highest point of the isle. MacFarlane continues: “…landscape has long offered us keen ways of figuring ourselves to ourselves, strong means of shaping memories and giving form to thought.”

Do not pass go…

Verne monopolyWell, I just couldn’t resist using this image to launch this new blog! From October, I will be artist-in-residence in HM Prison The Verne on the Isle of Portland, researching and then making work for the b-side arts festival the following September (2014). I really don’t know what I am going to find, how I am going to react to this extraordinary location, but I am looking forward to the challenge…just visiting. I will keep you posted. For a direct link to this blog just put ‘blogtheverne.info’ into your browser.