I've been back and fore to the 'graveyard of the elders' many times in the last few weeks, filming, sound recording and taking pictures using digital, film and polaroid cameras. I now have about eighty percent of the footage. As you can see from the image above I've decided to return to the coloured gel technique I used in Is It Beautiful? described here. These shots will be juxtaposed with black and white shots and stills relating specifically to the formal properties of the stumps (or if you prefer, the listening elders) and to my arrival at and ritual communication with these fallen trees.
There are still some pieces of the puzzle that I haven't finished putting together yet, including the musical, sonic components which always require careful attention. I'm asking friends and colleagues for their ideas on what they might say to the forest and what the forest might say to them, were such a thing possible in language, with a view to using snippets of these 'conversations' as text within the film, much in the same manner as I did in Is It Beautiful? The final piece of the jigsaw is the idea that one of the most meaningful communicative acts between us and forests is in the domain of biochemistry, respiration, the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen. As we breathe out, the forest breathes in, as the forest exhales we inhale. The sighing forest. Just imagine what a sound artist might do with such a notion....
I continue with my photographic practice and research alongside the usual fretting over the live performance of electroacoustic music. I thought here that I'd tie together these two practices by referring to an excellent interview I read the other day. Tim Carpenter is a photographer, a writer, and a co-founder of the photography book publishing imprint TIS Books. In this era of fast and dirty results in photography, and to an extent experimental music, his work might not be to everyone's taste because it eschews single image impact, focusing instead on the series, which requires a slow appreciation, a deep understanding of form and a respect for the history of the medium, three approaches which, as I've said, are not much in evidence these days. But his work and ideas have much to say to someone (like me) still learning the craft of photography and also to someone like me who spends most of his life managing the emergence of form in musical composition.
The article can be read here.
I'm simply going to take extracts from the article which mirror very well (and articulate far more effectively than I could) my own notions around artistic practice, formal considerations and even beauty, yes that. Finally he talks of 'new rurality' which, although reductive, wraps up very nicely most of what I'd consider myself to be doing as photographer from day to day in and around the Scottish Borders.
As I’ll explain more, my primary goal is to use a camera not as a recorder of thought, but as the instrument of thought.
I do think photography is the medium of the walker.
When one seeks to illustrate ideas, there’s rarely (never? maybe) any friction from the real world; nothing is transformed and nothing refuses to be transformed.
So, no, I’m not simply taking photographs; I’m calibrating the inside against the outside. And every once in a while, through constant shooting, I come upon a way of calibrating – a form – that seems true to both self and not-self.
..form IS the underlying pulse. We are form-making creatures; it’s the way we manage the chaos outside and are able to live moment by moment. We abstract from both inside and outside to create something in the middle, which is meaning. We are in a constant state of poesis – “the activity in which a person brings something into being that did not exist before.” This constant meaning-making could also be called “thinking.” Form-making IS thinking, the epistemological act. It’s also the calibration I was speaking of before. The problem is that the gap is unbridgeable and our desire for formal coherence is unquenchable. The longing for completion will never be satisfied.
When a person makes a thing that expresses the process of form-making, we have an aesthetic object. My belief is that the primary objective of a work of art is to communicate the ineffable from one idiosyncratic self to another. That which is effable – politics, economics, science &etc – can be adequately communicated outside of art. Which is to say that subject matter can be adequately communicated outside of art. So for me, the aesthetic object is to be judged a success or failure based on its formal ability to evoke cogency. Coherence. Beauty even.
The successful poem or song or picture is a fleeting connection between self and world. And it helped me immensely to calm that external flux in at least one way, by looking at the same streets and buildings and fields throughout the days and seasons and over the course of years. I really noticed when small things changed: a tree cut down, a house painted. But I also was made to focus more on the internal flux: what made me different on one day versus the next, or the next year.
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