Walking on common ground

Tomorrow I am planning on making my next walk across the watershed of the River Torridge for the Confluence project. On the map the area is called Okehampton Common, but as is so often the case, where there is beautiful landscape there is an MOD firing range! So access is restricted, but it looks like they will not be firing tomorrow. Two tributaries of the river reach up onto Dartmoor and I want to keep within the watershed, shown here in colour. The walking will be very different from my earlier walk across the deep-sided wooded valley lower down the river, so I am looking forward to seeing whether this is reflected in the data (which is open access, so anyone can download it from the i-DAT website!)

Follow the intension

With the first data (breathing, pulse, temperature and galvanic skin response) coming through from my walks in North Devon, it is now down to the practical work of getting ‘good’ data, whatever that is! But  data is a slippery thing, easily detaching itself from its source and cameleon-like adapting to a different context. These lines could represent so many things, if I hadn’t already introduced them as coming from the a walk. The more I work on this project the more I realise that the only thing that you can rely on is intention. You have to trust the intention of the source otherwise the data is useless. The line between true and false date is so very thin. Trust me, I am an artist! More walks next week.

Hamish Fulton came this way

‘Walking in Relation to Everything’ is the title of Hamish Fulton’s latest show, and I went to have a look with my walks for the Confluence project in mind. He came this way, north Devon that is, setting off on one of his coast-to-coast walks. I really love his work and was looking forward to his show. But when I got there…disappointment! The graphics on the walls seem almost superfluous: great typography, strong colours, and such conceptual rigour, but so many together just formed a jumble, and that is one thing you couldn’t possibly associate with Fulton. But somehow I have come away with a much clearer impression of the artist, and I like his assertion that mountaineers, rather than other artists, have been most influential on his work. Keep on walking! [Detail from one of his graphics]

The many forms of tranquility

This is a map of tranquility of the Torridge watershed: red for less tranquil, green for more. Strange: I find it a particularly untranquil representation! Anyway, there is the estuary, and its two branches, the upper one for the Taw river and the lower for the Torridge, the locus for my Biosphere commission. This commission is beginning to take shape around the idea of tranquility: both the search for tranquility that is most often stated as the reason for visiting the countryside, but also a sense of tranquility from the overflow of data that surrounds us. Rather than seeing tranquility as a property of a site, I see it more as the space that it leaves within you to find your own equilibrium. A space that gives subjective rather than sonic quietness. And what to do with all the data I am collecting for the project? Hmmm

Data meditations

With a belt around my chest (measuring skin response, body temperature, heart rate and breathing rate, linked to this mobile) I have taken my first monitored walk for the Confluence project. At last, we are off! From this I hope to discover points along the walk where my bodily response was high. It will be interesting to see whether this corresponds to the bits of the walk that I found the most interesting. It didn’t take me too long to stop checking the screen to see if the equipment was still working, and let my mind wander off into a ‘walking meditation’ (to the rhythm of my footsteps) that can be so productive. Beautiful sunny day.

One hydrogen, two oxygens

For some time now I have wanted to tackle the element of water, but have been skirting around it trying to find a way in. But that has all changed recently, as you will realise if you have been following this blog: I am interested in The Race (mixing of tidal currents) off Portland Bill for Exlab, and think I might have found a skipper who can take me out to film it at close quarters; I am collaborating with Simon Warner on floating an Ecoid on the River Torridge in Devon as part of the Confluence project; I am just about to embark upon a research residency in the Cotswold Water Park; and I am reading Flow by Philip Ball. Working in the southwest on water you have to be aware of the work of Susan Derges; but in the meantime, where better to start than with Leonardo…

So this is an ecoid

For the Confluence project in the North Devon Biosphere Reserve, this is the basic piece of kit I am working with. Called an Ecoid, it is able to measure aspects of the environment (such as humidity, temperature and, through the loop of elastic protruding out of the top, stretch or movement) and to relay these recordings back to a computer, the information hopping wirelessly from ecoid to ecoid until it finally reaches the computer some kilometres away (hopefully in a warm dry room!). We, that is the four artists on the project, including Simon Warner, Anthony Lyons and Jon Piggott are all working on adapting this basic model to our needs. Simon and I are working on a floating ecoid – which we have dubbed ‘aquoid’ – to let free in the River Torridge. I am also looking into ways of measuring my own personal response to the environment, through the use of a wearable lie detector, against the measurements that ecoids would produce for the same environment. Well, it is early days…