Wednesday, 30 July 2008

map making

a couple of days focus on the reality of the website : this is a new area of work for me : i have never designed a website before, or made it the 'outcome' of the work : usually i make live performance : so i'm dealing with all sorts of new questions : file sizes and types : loading time : the relationship between my artistic desires and the practical and structural needs of the web : accessibility : the file size of the 'background map' : it all feels quite sculptural in my mind.

this is what i've imagined :
a 'map' which works something like google earth / google maps which has all the waterways, brooks, streams and rivers, with around 20 portals / buttons into pop up windows for specific materials - images, text, sound file or video - on migration and transience through the neroche.

i spend the day tracing OS 128 1:25 000 scale which has the detail i want : using carefully selected coloured crayons and experimenting with washing over some lines and areas. quite quickly i'm bored by tracing the rivers : and i'm also thinking what is the difference between 'my' map and the os map : what have i processed? : i begin to trace complex road junctions in the centre of the villages : churchinford has six equal spokes : quite beautiful, and then move onto just following some of the lines of field boundaries, roads and streets with the pencil : i like using the stationary i've collected : and then the names stand out to me, so i start extracting words out of the names of farms, parts of words, looking for words that include animals, moving or changing forms, weather. something starts to take shape : i realise i've only just begun.

i fold the map within the os map to get the creases and marks : i want this map to have a handdrawn and paper feel on the web, to retain the traces of its origins : scan parts of the map and look at them in photoshop : at 66% there is some of the texture and feel that i'm looking for : this is where i have to start.

these images hold some of the elements i think will work :

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

otter swim

otter otter otter otter otter otter otter otter otter otter

filmed at buckfastleigh butterfly and otter farm

Monday, 21 July 2008

staple fitzpaine : cornfield : turning circle 2

on landscape art

Reading the chapter 'Elements of a new landscape' in 'As Eve Said To The Serpent' by Rebecca Solnit:

'In making landscape art, contemporary artists recognize landscape not as scenery but as the spaces and systems we inhabit, a system our own lives depend upon. In other words, there was no need to return to a landscape that had never been far from anything but our thoughts: it was the thoughts that had to change. The landscape is now thought of as ubiquitous - as the environment, a landscape that includes the microcosmic as well as the macrocosmic, economies as well as ecologies, the cultural as an extension of the natural, our bodies as themselves natural systems that pattern our thoughts, and our thoughts as structured around metaphors drawn from nature.'


'When the natural world ceases to be perceived as the scenery out there and becomes the systems and substances all around, we've moved from a mechanical to an ecological worldview, one that is implicit in many installations dealing with substance. In concentrating on substance rather than form as the bearer of meaning, artists assert the decisive significance of substance rather than regarding it as a neutral matter that takes on meaning as it is given form. The very notion of giving meaning to something is premised on a cosmology in which things don't have it yet, in which form is to content as spirit to matter, man to women, God to nature. Substance suggests that meaning is inherent in the world rather than something that needs to be inscribed upon it, and it proposes meanings that can be read in the world itself - the world as language.'


'There are a number of parallel shifts, which together constitute a huge gesture that reverses modernism's gesture upward, out of Plato's cave - a retraction of that gesture of purity and transcendence against the body, the senses, the maternal, and against origins, mutability, ambiguity, a gesture of absolutes and universals. The countering gesture celebrates the sensory, the tangible, the feminine, the complex, the impure, the contextual, the local, the specific, the contingent, the fecund; it is mutable, shifting, ambiguous, immanent (generating what once would have been a contradiction: a spirituality that emphasizes the bodily, the mortal and the material).'

Solnit, R (2003) 'As Eve Said To The Serpent', University of Georgia Press

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

meeting : a transect

I met up with Mike Ridge from the Somerset Butterfly and Moth Group. i'd made contact with him on Gavin's recommendation as i wanted to track some of the migrants coming into and passing through Neroche. Mike very generously offered that i join him on a 'transect' - a set route walked over a specific length of time, during the main part of the day to record the butterflies seen.

Thurlbear Wood is a disused quarry, and the low grass and scrub and plentiful thickets have encouraged butterfly populations. the summer has been so wet, i don't hold out much hope of seeing that much, but the sun breaks through for us, and a flurry of butterflies respond immediately to the heat.

I follow Mike around with a camera, recording our conversation - any attempt to 'capture' a butterfly so reminds me i'm not working for the bbc wildlife unit - i remind myself i'm here to map the journey with Mike, watching him observing, recording.

i slow him up i can tell - the whole point of a transect is that you keep moving, so you repeat the pattern of recording each transect as closely as possible, and partially so that you don't see the same butterfly twice (although you can't tell). i have a tendency to dawdle, wanting to stay still to see what comes towards me, to watch at close range a feeding Gatekeeper, and to feel the passage of the sun in a heliotropic kind of way. i fast realise i have to keep up, and the purpose of this moment is to follow the butterfly recorder and his notebook.

Mike reminds me of my dad who was a steam railway enthusiast; there is a dedication, a persistence, a way of acquiring and giving out knowledge, a factual recording and collecting of data that is very particular to this generation somehow. (
I hope i'm not 'over-grouping' these kinds of men together here - yes i am - for it seems to be quite a men kind of thing to do). They are very pragmatic, and don't seem to spend their time endlessly questioning the nature of the universe, but devote themselves to practical tasks as a way of living in, and perhaps coping with the world. This kind of tenacity has a 'get things done' thing happening, as compared to my zen like heliotropic state which is all based around awe and wonder.

"entering a situation with a 'mind of don't know' privileges process over outcome" (Lucy Lippard)

I pause on a faded and worn out Ringlet, and photograph it. Mike suggests there are better examples in the next field, this one is not a good specimen. I'm thrown back to my young ornithologist days with Rachel where we would carry our bird book and binoculars to call out species seen - a sense of the world as a list of things sighted rather than of things observed in process; object over experience. Our ornithology didn't last long i don't think, but now i'm glad of it when i watch the birds feeding out the window. I like to know the patterns and shapes and to distinguish them, so i attempt to both name and experience. We see what we want to see, we stack up our desired order of things and lean on it.

"There's a learnt behaviour, an accumulated conditioning about our world - name and form. The activity of deluded consciousness is naming and forming. 'I' become the subject and give the object substantiality. I've made it solid when it doesn't need to be. Name and form are peppered everywhere - they indicate how all things are delineated and differentiated.

Take something on the move - a flowing river. You place a grid over it to view it, and you try to make it solid, to see it and delusion is seeing that conceptual framework as all of reality rather than purely for what it is. It is not that we cease to use name and form but that we are no longer enthralled to the pictures and the realities that gives us. There is a freedom there, from the image. So the grid over the river gives us a way of seeing it, but it's not the whole way of seeing it, just a temporary perspective - it gives you a certain amount of information but not the actuality or reality of what the whole might be, or what is really going on, or all the possibilities."

Notes made during talk by Dr John Peacock on 'The Structure and Limits of Experience - Self Identity and Continuity' at Sharpham Centre for Buddhist Studies, March 2007

I like staying at a distance and following Mike's thorough notation through the frame of the camera; he has a strong and inspiring knowledge of species and habitat and i quizz him thoroughly about migrants, climate change, conservation and human intervention
(yes yes here I am naming and forming).

178 butterflies seen this morning. 7 species: Ringlet, Marbled White, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Small Skipper, Small Heath, Large White, Comma

A lunch stop with a beautiful tortoiseshell landing on the gravel in the car park.

Then to Staple Common for another quick transect, a passing below some of the oldest oaks in the Blackdowns (the images here do not do justice), and a forest clearance by the Neroche Scheme as part of their programme for bringing back native species. yes brutal it looks, and only time will tell.

It's hard to see why i've included this photo below, but if you enlarge it, it's a striking example of a new sapling growing on a dead fallen trunk.

"...And dead are their children and their grandchildren and all those rolling rows of generations between them and us who got born, grew old, and died; they turned up and around like teeth on a hay rake, and then down, and we are the front row now."
from Annie Dillard -
'The Living'

Friday, 11 July 2008


i went to see 'the unwinking gaze' the other night, a film following the dalai lama over the past few years during his negotiations with china over tibet. then reading a connected text today, i found this:

"'s impossible to find any object not related to all the others. In his book The Heart of Understanding, contemporary Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh uses a simple sheet of paper as an example to illustrate this idea of interbeing. Everything has some connection with this sheet of paper. If we follow all the constituent elements to their source ... we find that in reality the sheet of paper is empty. It has no separate self. It is made up entirely of non-paper elements, and is empty of an independent identity. Empty in this sense ... means that the paper is full of all things, full of the entire cosmos.

Needless to say, what holds true for a sheet of paper also holds true for an individual. We are each made up of non-individual elements. Thich Nhat Hanh also tells us that when we meditate, we are in no way cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world. The suffering that the meditating individual transports into his or her heart is society itself. When we meditate we do it for all beings. We do it even for things that are incapable of meditating. To echo an ancient saying, we are now at the very heart of ecology itself."

The Power of Buddhism,
(1996) HH The Dalai Lama & Jean-Claude Carriere (pg 26-27)

Thursday, 10 July 2008

blog : 'geological'

...zooming around looking for like-mindedness, i came upon quantockdreaming, a project about the romantic poets and the quantocks which i remember being launched last year, but didn't know who had won the commission. this site by ralph hoyte and antony lyons is very interesting, and i came upon this striking quote and reference:

"A thought on the nature of blogs - including this blog - is that they are ‘geological’, or more precisely - sedimentary, they build up as layers, as does a geological sequence. The ‘axis’ is vertical; the past is buried, but also exposed to the prospector, the seeker. They tell a story - of a changing (mental) environment, and are open to ‘mapping’. I expect this seam to be explored further, and to emerge in the finale expo."

antony goes on to write about edward tufte:

While on this topic, it is impossible not to mention Edward R Tufte, and his beautiful assemblages of ‘informations’.

“The world is complex, dynamic, multidimensional; the paper is static, flat. How are we to represent the rich visual world of experience and measurement on mere flatland?.....To envision information - and what bright and splendid visions can result - is to work at the intersection of image, word, number, art. The instruments are those of writing and typography, of managing large data sets and statistical analysis, of line and layout and color”

One of the challenges in ‘Quantock Dreaming’ will be to consolidate the year’s explorations and journeys into a concise presentation which retains the essence of both place and process. An aspect of this is the search for a fusing, or juxtaposition, of on-the-ground response (i.e. local) with a remote-sensing element (eg satellite, aerial photos, web-search). The ‘remote’ is also the time away from the Quantocks, yet still thinking of the Quantocks. (All thinking is anyway ‘remote’)"

quoted from Antony Lyons
Blogging : Winter Walking + Map Musings (AL)

i feel very similarly about the neroche project, and it was good to read antony's insightful thoughts.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

passing through : rain storm

high summer in neroche.
after a day of heavy rain i went to the bbc weather site to lift pictures of the rain as it passed down, through, over.