At last, my chance to work on the Jurassic Coast! I am really happy to have been awarded the Exploratory Laboratory commission for the Isle of Portland, part of the Cultural Olympiad. (Portland and Weymouth harbours are the venue for the Olympic sailing competition next year.) The commission theme is ‘observation’ and is linked to the three lighthouses at Portland Bill. This aerial picture is taken from the north, with Chesil Beach on the right, linking the island to the mainland, and Weymouth is off to the left. Can’t wait to get started! (Photograph © leftwingover)
Over the past couple of weeks I have been thinking about suitable structures for a mobile artist studio, something I could take to a residency as my base. Then this turned up on my way to an interview for a commission on the Jurassic Coast. Sited on top of a small hill, it was quite startling to find it in the depths of the Dorset countryside. I was going for a commission on the Isle of Portland, a huge block of limestone tied to the mainland by a gravel beach. A fascinating place, and the Jurassic Coast is somewhere I have wanted to work for a few years now. Fingers crossed!
Some pictures just take my breath away, and this is one of them, taken from the International Space Station passing over Antarctica. For my project Birds of the Antarctic I researched the southern borealis and Dr Andy Smith of the British Antarctic Survey, with whom I collaborated, showed me images of it from his research base on the ice sheet. But it is something else to see it this way around. Really makes me feel earthbound. (Photograph: ISS/NASA)
It is quite a moving story. The church is sited on the alluvial floodplain of the Thames and got wet too often for the villagers, so they decided to move it, brick by brick, all that is except for the chancel. Today, in a small field some way from the road, you can find the chancel, still a consecrated space, and still attached to the high end wall of the main body of the church, now supported by a couple of buttresses. A fascinating remnant; but the whole area, the Cotswold Water Park, has a very unsettling feel to it, sited as it is on the alluvial floodplain of the Thames. You can jump the Thames nearby, it is that small. When you become aware of this watery nature, and see all the drainage channels criss-crossing the land, and into the villages, and you have been told that when the local mining company finishes with one of its gravel pits all it has to do is turn the pumps off and within a few months the pit becomes a lake, the water just bubbling up through the ground, then you realise that this is liminal territory. This place reminds me of walking across a sphagnum bog in Ireland, the whole thing wobbling and rippling like a water mattress. I am here investigating for a project in the Water Park. There is plenty to work with in this strange land.
Swimming in the lake here in northeastern Germany has its own quite distinct feel. The water is silky, almost thick, and there is a top warm layer that sits above the cold beneath, not mixing but staying quite separate, about 30cm deep. Then also at times the eddies that I create as my hands move through the water are so strong that as I swim past them they feel, touching my skin, just as a fish or something solid would feel. They have a firmness that is quite startling. The water also has a musty smell; the smell of each lake is different, and the feel of the water too, even though the lakes are interconnected. Turning ideas for the Cotswold Water Park over in my mind, I have been reading Theodore Schwenk’s book on water called ‘Sensitive Chaos’. It contains a lot of interesting ideas, but is is now great to add the bodily experience of swimming here to that research. Water as the messenger, and an intimate companion. But I still find swimming over dark watery depths scary. The middle of the lake here is some 40m deep, and I am still trying to drum up the courage to swim right across!
Shadows are once again in my thoughts. Once you start looking out for them you begin to see just how many different types there are. Also, that they have little to do with darkness as such. But what is also apparent is that a shadows relationship to time is not a simple one: sometimes it appears as if in the future, sometimes as if in the past, following.
This last weekend I attended at workshop on how water moves by Simon Charter. Fascinating stuff, and so much of it counter intuitive, such as that water isn’t a homogenous mass but can divide into separate flows that move along beside one another without mixing. The water in each flow is identical, but somehow they stay separated. This really came home when Simon created a vortex and dropped some ink into the top, open end. Rather than colouring the whole body of water, thin veils of ink appeared, completely separated, extending downwards and then pulsing back up to the surface, which reminded me of Tatlin’s tower (upside down, of course) in the way that they wrapped around each other. But where is all this leading? I am looking into the structure of water at the moment for a potential project at the Cotswold Water Park.