Saturday, 23 August 2008

moth watch

into the car park at quarts moor at 8.30pm. mike and robin from the butterfly conservation are here for a moth watch - their first at this site - and the national trust warden for this area is here too.
and me - to see if there are any migrant moths pulled in by the lights,
(and to continue my fascination with how us humans choose to observe, record and understand 'nature').

extension cables, small generators, nets, 125w mercury vapour lights over containers full of egg boxes and perspex (the moths fall in, protected by the egg cartons), plastic collection pots. two moth lights set up - one in the woods and one on the edge of the car park.

we're alone yet entirely visible due to the power of the lights, overlooking the escarpment facing taunton, wellington and the m5, the light fades. the edges of the landscape dissolve, travelling and static lights mark routes and lines, pale clear sky, light leaking to the west, cold wind; moths prefer warm cloudy nights.

moths don't tend to eat once emerged, only the caterpillars feed. once airborne, they reproduce, hibernate, die or migrate. we tend to associate them with darkness, even horror, looping them in with bats rather than butterflies,
and watch them flapping awkwardly against the lightbulbs or windows, and wrongly assume they all eat clothes.
there is a nightly genocide going on below us now on the m5 - thousands of moths
drawn by headlights broken up on metal and glass. would we let this degree of destruction happen visibly to butterflies? or birds? right now, our culture doesn't see moths in the same light.

at the time the moths are supposed to emerge into the night, so do the cars.
they pull in and park up right beside each other one at a time. dogging, i guess. it's quiet, discreet, very present, 5 or 6 cars, more arrive, some leave.
the national trust warden says "there are more cars here at night than there are during the day" and jokes about shifting the car park charging hours from 9pm to 9am. the daytime face of the national trust looks incongruous here.

four very loud men in a spoilered car pull in next to us, lager cans, drum and bass, two come over to ask what we are doing - the incongruity of it all, i can't look at them in the eye, so loud. we can hear their car go all the way to taunton after they leave. these worlds are hard to reconcile: mike scoops a yellow underwing off the grass as the clumsy lads touch the bulb he asked them not to. there are heaps of empty lager cans an arms throw from any car park.

here we all are : hunched figures staring at bright light bulbs, white sheets spread, arms folded against the cold august night, casting giant shadows over the mysterious cars lined up on the other side. a vanity light, interior light, hazards flash, moths crash land on the sheet, drawn to the light in the dark, signals, calls, messages, acts of attraction, sex, things of the night, human watching, moth watching. there's a strange symmetry to all this that i can hardly hold in language -
the ecology of the rural car park.

mike and robin tenaciously stick to the task of recording and naming the moths that flutter in - they collect them in the plastic specimen pots, and they all go into a plastic bag to travel to houses where they are specifically identified and released alive later on. sometimes they get 90 different species up in the blackdowns, tonight it's more like 9. it seems harsh to my mind to take them away from here, yet i understand what they're doing. like all conservation, recording of species and proving of territory and activity seems to be a vital act in our culture - i wonder when and if it will not be so. one moment they are glints of a magic kind of light emerging out of the night, like the brimstone, all yellow and veined delicacy - we could see them and watch them go, why not ? - but then they are put inside an incomprehensible environment, and transported away from all things of their world. what are we, us humans?

yet there is a strange beguiling beauty to this collecting: standing in the woods by the moth trap with robin, we
intensively study a migrant moth sat still on the bottom of the trap in our torchlight - a rush veneer. the name lodges in me like the title of a favorite song, a dreamy surface, a foreign place. i want to release a single with this title, or use it as a pseudonym. this moth, nomophila noctuella (nocturnal name-lover?), has certainly arrived from france, or spain even, definitely from across the channel robin assures me. i kind of can't believe it, something so small carried on the wind all that way to 'fall' here whole, complete. what kind of language can i use? what kind of language does the moth use? what can we call knowledge? the rush veneer, here in our torchlight, is a kind of miracle. and in the clumsy beautiful attention of us human beings, there is a bewildering compassion and elegant connection.

on the way home, moths flap around in the car - they must have come in on our clothes - i can feel one moving around in my hair. the next day, it's flying around at the car windows, bidding escape. i pull over, and wind down the passenger window. it's a small pale moth - i have no idea what particular name it has been given by humans, but it's miles from home, no matter i hope - it flits off over a house.

later, i sit at home with a very old 'moths of the months' book that megan gave me. the list of names are entrancing, and i speak them quietly to myself over and over

northern swift
black arches
scalloped oak
july high-flier
frosted orange
buff ermine
pale tussock
beautiful carpet
the quaker
spring usher
the feathered thorn
lime hawk
waved umber
silver y
hummingbird hawk
scorched carpet
scarlet tiger
the dot

a list, like walt whitman's list of trees used to speak to dying soldiers in hospital (and spoken by bryan saner in goat island's performance 'it's an earthquake in my heart') or the angel who speaks to the dying man in wim wender's 'wings of desire' of life-ful things to bring him back to the world: along with the many other lists, collections and taxonomies made by humans, this list
draws the moths into my imaginative life.

List. n. A border; a boundary (obs.); a destination (Shake.). A catalogue, roll or enumeration. Desire; inclination; choice; heeling over. (thank you, dw)

Monday, 18 August 2008

'the broken world'

just finished reading tim etchell's book 'the broken world'. it is really good - completely enjoyed it - and very absorbing in relation to the stuff that i often end up thinking about (the world - what is it), but from a different direction. 'the broken world' is a walkthru or guide to an imaginary computer game, and the novel navigates a fine journey, intersecting the 'game' world with the 'real' world, particularly in relation to the city/suburbia, and allowing those worlds to reflect and comment on each other. i was really struck by the stuff around the glitches in the programming, the lists of characters and 'items', and the imaginative and human landscape of the story. this passage from the book particularly stood out to me (pg 94/95), which i've been thinking about, and cross-referencing to, ever since.

“Listen up. There are TWO glitches I spotted in the Colony section including the one in Ray’s room where he should at this point be resting … Ray’s quarters are cramped. There is a cot, a chair, and a table with a vase containing as Moon Orchid (BugMap says it is plastic, not even real). On the far wall you see a pretty non-spectacular porthole/window. You cannot see much out there, only moon buggies stacked high with ore and a few Rogue Drones (?) headed off in random directions. But if you take a close look you will see a pixelated shimmering by the left-hand side of the porthole. Bro - it is a tiny gap (maybe one pixel) between the texture mapping of the window and the green stuff below. OK. I am not an expert but when I showed the glitch to CW he told me that cool green line you can see is a part of the wireframe, i.e. the skeleton that they build the whole world onto. Texture mapping is how they make the porthole look like it does (with colours, paint, and textures, etc). Anyway. Look hard between the two and that gap of darkness, and you will see it is somehow different from the night. My friend, when you look in to that gap you are seeing right thru to the nothing that the world is drawn onto. HINT: Do not spend too long looking in there coz you soon start thinking much too much about that nothing. Like what is it? Or what would happen if Ray could get inside it, i.e. not if he went out thru the porthole into space, because then obviously he would die (unless he was wearing a spacesuit) - but what would happen if he could somehow prize open the tiny gap in the world and go inside there, into the nothing that the world is drawn onto? Where would he be then? These are the kinds of thoughts that can send you crazy.” "

and another that threads through the book, is the continual reference to the programmers as the makers of the world: "the way they do the trees is beautiful"

this may not be an obvious connection to my blog which focuses on the neroche landscape, but it's important how other work relates / provokes thought / invites perspective, and 'the broken world' has certainly done that. and not least, reminded me of all the people, teenagers and kids in the blackdown hills right now who are sitting in generated pixel worlds while the rain pours down, fighting the demons, gangs and zombies and rescuing the world from certain disaster.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

staple fitzpaine : cornfield : turning circle 4

farm pets, flood water & turned chair

august 13th :
a visit to wallace's farm shop for the artists meeting.
the animals are in their pens for the visitors to see...

i go out through hemyock and culmstock, retracing earlier routes to see what's changed:
floodwater hits the bridge in hemyock just beyond the neroche and aonb building,
this is the middle of summer
how do the fish deal with this?
where do the bank dwellers go?
how long can the butterflies wait?
the swifts left before the end of july, they must have sensed something
i wish i'd picked it up in the air too and made my exit
it's only 14 degrees c as i descend from hemyock

and the chair i photographed in may at a road junction outside culmstock...

... up-ended

Saturday, 2 August 2008

returning again : banksy

leaving hemyock yesterday, i called through the car park to see if anything had happened to the 'banksy' on the car park notice. it had gone!

here are a couple of photos i took march 14:

...and the ones i took august 1:

...someone had it...

or perhaps it wasn't a banksy after all
perhaps it was an imitation (would banksy let the paint run like that?) and someone tried to flog it and got nowhere...
perhaps it was an original and someone made their fortune
perhaps mid Devon CC just thought it mindless graffitti and naively cleaned up the car park
perhaps a parking attendant cashed in....

Friday, 1 August 2008

staple fitzpaine : cornfield : turning circle 3

meeting / returning

met up with megan at the bus stop in staple fitzpaine just after a partial solar eclipse which was barely visible from here and goes unnoticed. megan calver is the 'placement artist' with the neroche arts project. i took her to the cornfield i've been returning to, filming at different points of the year, to perhaps make a short film where the seasons change visibly around me. we talk while staring at the field and watch the rain approach from the escarpment.

megan noticed a sign out for tea in the church, so we go in: a friendly welcome, tea and donut, rambling conversation. they organise a cafe on friday and saturday mornings so that people from the village can meet up. i mention the listing in the doomsday book for staple fitzpaine and the conversation rambles around village life.

we head up to staple common. i've been wanting to return here since the herepath walk - it invites historical reflection around common land, people, agriculture and the enclosures act. this land has a different feel to it, the grass looks and acts as if grazed for centuries, the trees are kind of wise looking, and the banks around the edge of the field are mossy, and the right height and width for sleeping on. we go as far as a fallen pine.

lunch stop

second meeting with kate about the website design, where all my hard work over the past few days preparing materials pays off. we can both 'see' it, and what is needed, and after much talk of resolution, pixel size and load up time, i fully understand that the pragmatic issues will determine many of the artistic choices.

i want to map the entire neroche area, even though much of it has been beyond me in terms of contact, i want it to be there through the road junctions, names and waterways. but a background map (flash image) of this size (equivalent to size A0 probably) would simply take too long to load. so i am left with the notion of needing to collapse the 'real' map into fictional space somehow - to make a landscape with gaps/other connections. this seems reasonable in relation to an artistic process - but i'm resisting it. i can see that kate likes seeing the way i've mapped the area of neroche where she lives, and it is this sense of familiarity-unfamiliarity that i know will connect, particularly to people who live in the area. so i will have to live with the problem, and see how it unfolds.