26/03/2021 – Some thoughts after starting the first site-specific research walks for my Future Places Centre commission
I’ve started the first on site work for my “Cartographic Interventions” and I have many thoughts that will benefit from typing them down! So far, I’ve had three chats with experts relevant to my project and I have been out for 5 long walks on the intertidal mudflat area across from my studio space. Something else that has changed is an exhibition opportunity with White Elephant Gallery at the end of April! These have been the right steps to narrow things down and have a clearer view of the possible outcomes of the project.
There are two things to figure out now. One is what will my framework for data collection during these walks look like, and two, what will the outcomes of the project look like. This is key so that I can start preparing for it with enough time to have a good volume of data when it’s time to present it as a cohesive body of work. The pressure has increased now that I have an earlier date for the indoor installation to be finished in the gallery. (about 4 weeks!!)
Walking on the empty mudflats and talking through my thoughts while recording it on my phone has been a great tool (inspired by Erica Scourti’s artist talk with Lancaster Arts). Talking whilst walking both shifts my attention and maintains it at the same time. I suppose it forces my brain to stay on the topic of what I’m researching and not drift of… it’s a way to make sure that I am more present. The more I think about it, the more I want to keep this practice as part of the framework of data collection, even if I don’t show it to the public it seems like a very useful way to keep an “oral sketchbook” and to also keep myself accountable during these walks, or simply another tool for thinking and verbalizing the project which is something I tend to struggle with.
Other forms of data collection can take place during these walks (eg counting), with an interest in the sustained observation in the process of counting rather than the numbers collected. From walk 5 I figured that it might be a better idea to count using one of those gallery clicker rather than trying to figure out how to use a quadrant. This is a better option because it will be a number that represents my capacity for noticing, which would be interesting to see how it develops over time, and also because using a quadrant would disturb me from the action of walking which is something I am sure is an key part of the process.
GPS tracking will definitely be an important part of the final artwork. There is a very interesting parallel across scales between my GPS walked tracks and the sand casts as “tracks” created by the lugworms. An effective way to put it is that I’m layering human and non-human tracks, trying to understand how we are all acting in world making projects with the moving land (currently reading Jane Bennett and Anna Tsing and I can really see them influencing my word choices in my thinking!). Even the visuals are starting to come closer together, I even wonder if I could start (intentionally) making my walks have the shape of lugworm casts, as my way of responding to them… maybe the more walks I do the more I will start mimicking the lugworms, that would be an interesting process to document and see develop through GPS tracking.
I big realization I had on my forth walk (Jane Bennett again) is that the lugworms are moving the sand under my feet! Not only the tides and geological forces are shifting this non-static place but the little non-humans I’m looking at are the ones who are creating this constant movement by repeatedly digesting the sand – they are world builders. This makes me go back to Darwin’s research in worms, which explains how every bit of soil has gone through the body of a worm. This thought really breaks down the bodies/thing divide for me! It makes me think of land as something animate and full of vitality as it is deeply enmeshed with bodies.
At this point, because of the time pressure, I’m going to start thinking about the installation and the data collection together. This might be a good approach because It will allow both sides to influence each other as I make them and hopefully that will make them fit better together… the next blog post should start looking at the installation side of things.