The idea of Otter

I’ve been looking into the River Test (quite literally), well stocked with trout, thinking about how it will be impacted by climate change. I then went up to the cafe at Mottisfont and I came across this poster on the walls there. Dating from 1931, it caught my eye as it seemed to encapsulate so much about our paradoxical attitude to nature. It’s a great example of how we appropriate the idea of ‘Nature’ to promote, well, anything really, at the expense of Nature itself; here, the desire to drive out into the countryside at the weekends to be refreshed by some natural scene or other. Little did we suspect at the time, but those fossil fuels had a sting in their exhaust. So, I went to asked Neil, the river keeper, whether there were infact any otters on the Test. He responded by showing me some otter tracks on the Rectory Beat. So at least that part of the poster is real! [Poster courtesy of the Shell Heritage Art Collection.]

Huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’

It was for The Field magazine that F.M. Halford wrote about dry fly fishing under the pen name of the Detached Badger. The Field covered (and still does) anything to do with hunting, shooting and fishing – perhaps that is Halford himself fishing the Test there on the right of the magazine’s historic banner illustration. [If you know who drew this illustration then please get in touch as I would like to credit them.]


Heath Robinson & vinegar

Chalk vinegar filming smI’m preparing a piece of video for the performance on thursday evening. Every ten minutes I film for two. However hard I try, I always end up producing some Heath Robinson setup for filming: bits of cardboard precariously balance to block out reflections! A bit embarrassing, since the gallery is right next to the photography department here at the University of Gloucestershire with its professional studios. Oh well! I have no idea how long it is going to take for this piece of chalk to dissolve away, but in the meantime the gallery is nicely filling up with the smell of vinegar.

Beatboxing, flute-style

Chalk mouth xrayIn normal beatboxing all the sounds are made by manipulating the human voice box (as seen here in this x-ray of the mouth and tongue articulating the main vowels). What is different when using the flute to beatbox it that the instrument becomes the voice box. Why all this interest in beatboxing? Well, I am going to learn much more about it over the next few weeks as I work with the international beatbox flautist Tadek Chylinski-Reid to explore how we might collaborate to make something for the climate-change project ‘Deep Time Chalk Futures’. Our starting point is Jerusalem. (Image: Jones, Daniel. (1972). An outline of English phonetics (9th ed.). Cambridge: W. Heffer & Sons Ltd)

And did those feet…

Chalk Blake Jerusalem SmWell, it’s been awhile since the last post, but with the sun out and spring in the air it’s now time to get going again. It was in the preface to his book Milton that William Blake included this short poem (1808). Overlooked until a century later when it was set to music by Sir Hubert Parry, the anthem Jerusalem has since then come to represent all that is quintessentially English (not to mention those barefoot athletes running along the beach). I am starting to work with this song as the next stage in my ‘Deep Time Chalk Futures’ project, following on from Giants of Albion, and have found a musician to collaborate with. More tomorrow…

Procession for climate change

Bittern doneLove this! I am working with the artist Cedric Titcombe who is making a wearable bittern head for me at the moment, to feature in a ‘Procession for Climate Change’ that I am planning for next year. He just sent this through. It always get exciting when you have set something in motion and then you get to the point where it takes on a life of its own; you are not longer in control of what is happening, instead having to respond and adapt to what is appearing before your eyes. The way this bittern is shaping up is changing how I am thinking about the whole project. Ced, can’t wait to see it in your studio later this week.