Friday, 12 December 2014

Bone picking


I began the project by reading around the subject and considering what it is about the bones of animals that interests me.

In my reading, I came across a number of interesting articles and books about archaeology and art, materiality and how we perceive objects. All very interesting, but one thing struck me – in all my reading, animal bones were always considered in the same vein as other archaeological artefacts; bones appeared in lists of finds amongst things like pottery, tools or items of jewellery, without any acknowledgement of their difference.

For me, bones are different. They are not artefacts in that they have not been crafted by humans (although some are used to make other artefacts such as tools or adornments, but are modified for this). Animal bones have had a former life, possibly untouched by humans for all or some part of it. The animal itself had agency. It had its own biography. It had relations and an origin.

Interestingly, the field of archaeology is, in the USA, considered a branch of anthropology. Archaeology is the study of human lives through the discovery and interpretation of remains. Thus animal bones have come to be seen through the lense of the study of human culture, and have been thought of and written about as just another kind of object in the human story. But there is animal story there. What happens if we look at the story from the point of view of the animal?

I’ve been rummaging through the boxes in the collection at the University, sifting my way through like a bone picker looking for something useful,  intrigued by the curious interior shapes of all sorts of creatures.

I have decided to keep away from skulls for now. Skulls are already quite a fetishised object and perhaps too evocative; they appear too frequently in scenes of superstitious devilry or as gothic emblems or heavy metal t-shirts. For now I prefer the more abstract shaped bones, the ones that I’m not sure which part of a body they might be from, the ones that make me marvel at how they evolved and how alien some of the species of this planet are to me.

I will start by just getting to know them.

Monday, 1 December 2014

In Residence in the Bone Lab

Contents of a drawer in the Bone Lab
It's now official, I am Artist in Residence in the Animal Bone Laboratory in the School of Archaeology at the University of Leicester!

The project considers archaeological animal bones as relics, as objects whose perceived value change over time. I'm calling the project the "Reliquary Project".

I spend my time looking through bones in the collections in the bone lab and making work in my workshop. I've been learning from Dr Richard Thomas who is the zooarchaeology expert, as well as having fascinating conversations with the other researchers who pop into the lab.

The project will unfold over the next year and will include a blog to follow its progress here, workshops with schools and colleges and an exhibition.

It's taken a lot of work to get this project up and running, and I just want to thank Richard, Debbie, Clare and all the staff at the University who have made me feel welcome and supported (and I really love having a card for the University library!).

The project is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.





Monday, 20 October 2014

Monday, 15 September 2014

Moving Forwards

There have been substantial developments in my work over the summer. A transition, perhaps.

My thinking about walking continues, however there has been a re-focussing, taking me from wider views to details; from landscapes to objects.

Forward Footing is a new project by Miles and Dacombe. Developing from my work in collaboration with Carole Miles, we are now creating a Landscape Intervention Kit - a means of interacting with your landscape creatively by introducing new elements into it. We'll be trialling elements of this idea over the next few months.

Intervention as part of Refractal, Kings Wood, Corby, Northamptonshire, 2014
This is a development from a lot of work that I've been involved in for a few years now.  At first, for me, walking as an artist was about choice, freedom of movement to explore a space (Paths of Desire project). Then it became about being a human in a landscape, how we sense and respond to what's around us, how it affects us and how we affect it; how we interpret our landscapes and how we map them (Myth Maps project, Map of the River Nene, Dukes Wood project etc). This brought me to become interested in intervening in landscapes, creating temporary interventions and re-interpretations of our surroundings (A Walk Through the Underworld, Refractal etc).

One of Miles and Dacombe's own interventions is represented in The Art of Walking exhibition, currently on at The Museum in the Park in Stroud, Gloucestershire. A diverse collection of artists responding to walking are shown. You can read the catalogue here.

Bones of the Chillingham cattle, 2013
More significantly, I have been developing a project with the University of Leicester School of Archaeology. This has culminated in a proposed project I have called The Reliquary Project, which looks at archaeological animal bone finds and their significance within different contexts.

How has a project about bones come out of a walking practice? I have tried to explain some of this in an article I've written for Unofficial Britain, you can read it here: Found Things.

This could open up a whole new world for me, and nicely consolidate some of my ideas about the layers of history and time periods that exist within our landscapes, with ideas about objects. It would also give me the chance to make some objects of my own. I wonder how this will change my practice further.



Saturday, 12 July 2014

Refractal Revisited



On 5th-6th July I worked once again with artists Carole Miles and Kate Dyer to follow up our Refractal project.

Refractal was an installation and walk we created in the Kings Wood in Corby in March. Four months on, we turned up at NNContemporary in Northampton to continue exploring some of the ideas, this time in an indoor setting in NN's Project Space.


We didn't know exactly what we would do, the idea was to spend the weekend experimenting with the idea of reflections, refracting and bringing the woodland into the indoor space.




The Project Space is lovely and we were pleased with our results. We had some great visitors too, who interacted with the work; people played with our shiny pebbles, our mirrors and the light, wore our blindfolds and listened to the recording of the woodlands that I had made, and talked about the value of woodlands, the senses and personal connections with places.



We have developed some new ideas as a result of this short project so we hope to bring more woodland exploration to you soon!



Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Crossing the Bridge



For more details about the Bulwell Arts Festival, visit their blog or Facebook page.



View Bulwell Market in a larger map

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Reflecting and refracting in the ancient woodlands

In March I was invited (with artists Kate Dyer and Carole Miles) by Made in Corby to create a walk in the ancient woodlands of King's Wood in Corby, Northamptonshire.

For the artists, the project was an opportunity to continue the collaborative ideas that we started in our Walk North project, a short residency in Brinkburn, Northumberland.

We knew we wanted to create a short walk with art interventions in the woods that would draw attention to some aspect of the site. However, until we met in the woodlands we did not know exactly what we would do, we wanted to respond to what the site suggested to us.

This time of year there is very little leaf canopy in the trees, you can see the structure of the tree skeletons way above you. The cool sunlight of early spring seemed to give the trees a silver shimmer. This eventually metamorphised into our idea for using only silver and reflective material for our interventions.


Silver and mirror suggest a precious metal, a shining object, a jewel. It seemed the right material for alluding to the value of an ancient woodland such as King's Wood.

The mirror also suggests the idea of reflection and seeing things from a different angle. I first wanted to use mirror when we discovered the pond, hidden deeper within the woodland and off the beaten path. A still pool of water reflecting its surroundings.

We discussed the precariousness of what we were trying to do, create temporary installations in a public space where they could easily be removed by passers by. There was something about the temporary nature of the installations, the fleeting moments of the natural world's changes and the precariousness of nature and woodlands generally in our threatened habitats that suggested our artworks should be subtle, hard to spot, almost invisible.


We placed shards of mirror under a tree, reflecting fragments of sky and the network of branches above. Looking down to look up. It made me think of the inter-relatedness of things in the natural world - the earth, the air, the sun, all working together to create growth.


We made three mirror shards and sunk them into the pond, reflecting the reflections and becoming almost invisible. The three triangular points alluded back to the Old Law Beacons (the name that we have adopted for us three artists when we collaborate).


We came across the Old Law Beacons on our visit to Lindisfarne. Seen in the distance from the Castle, the Beacons are 70foot and 83foot respectively red brick elongated pryamids, standing like enormous spikes at the edge of the island. They were built in the early 19th century as a navigational aid for ships. We felt we had to create a work that referenced the idea of navigation, so we made three of our own beacons for the pond - three because, well, there are three of us, and together we are navigating our own new journey.


The final intervention I felt was particularly successful was the tree slices. Seen from a slight distance from the path, we wrapped several ash trees in mirror foil. The appearance was that they had had a slice cut out of them. (The image above has not been photoshopped!) Again, I thought about the precariousness of our natural world, and especially ash trees that have become so threatened in recent years by the ash die-back disease. The tree slices looked a little like a part of them had been erased, a portent of what could happen but has not yet. Having made this work, I have an ambition to wrap an entire ash tree in this mirrored foil and watch it become invisible - will ash trees be invisible one day, leaving any trace of themselves behind?


Our walk was well attended by wonderful creative people who got fully involved. To see some of the participants' own photographs of the day visit the Made in Corby blog.