Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Of a Dwelling Perspective

Dwelling, of course, belongs to the philosophical toolbox of Heidegger and expresses the most essential dimension of Dasein, that of Being-in-the-world. Indeed, writes Heidegger, “ the basic character of Being, in keeping with which mortals exist.”30  “To perceive the landscape,” wrote social anthropologist Tim Ingold in an influential essay published in 1993, “ carry out an act of remembrance, and remembering is not so much a matter of calling up an internal image stored in the mind as of engaging perceptually with an environment that is itself pregnant with the past.”31 Calling for the adoption of a “dwelling perspective” on landscape, Ingold develops metaphors of visuality and aurality that…bring together the qualitative aspects of lived space and time.i
Once again I find myself circling around the same set of ideas that have preoccupied me for a good while now – but with each new space I work in, the direction shifts a bit.  This notion of dwelling, of being, is a critical component.  When people ask me about my projects (although I hesitate to use that term much), and what exactly it is I’m doing, I generally tell them I’m responding.  Acknowledging and embracing this has led to the particular approach I seem to have developed beginning with Goldfield Studies that naturally carried into the Airfield Studies.  The working title for the Icelandic segment (chapter?) of these field studies is currently, Mountainfield Studies.
To be open to response can be tricky as, to a certain extent, it discourages advance preparation, at least of the sort one might engage with to prepare for the undertaking of a particular project, story or idea.  I absolutely admire my fellow artists (many of my closest friends work in this manner) that undertake ambitious bodies of work that are anchored in factual research and rely on extensive analysis of archival materials (I’m thinking right now specifically of Jessica Auer – currently trekking through the Yukon territory, making work related to the 19th century gold rushes in relation to the role photography played at this pivotal point in history – and also of Ann Shelton, whose project, in a forest, had her travel around the world making photographs of a heavily researched group of trees, given out by Hitler during the 1936 Olympic Games).
I think I just have a different way of dwelling, and of coming to know the content of a space.  Sometimes I worry I’m just coming at things in a half-assed manner, but it’s the only authentic route I’ve yet to find, for myself.  Any rate, all of this blather is really just to say that I’m excited to continue my post-response research through a new stack of readings, including the Tim Ingold book referenced in the Lefebvre essay above, The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill, as well as the various books dealing with mountains mentioned in an earlier post, and most likely a revisit to some old favorites (Schama, Bergson, Merleau-P…).
It’s been a bit difficult to get a sense of how the images I’m gathering here in Iceland will come together as I really need to print them and pin them on the wall, move them around, but there are a few things happening that I’m paying attention to already – the junctures between spaces, heavy visual fields of undulating matter – and the perceptual unease (for lack of a better term) evoked. 
Imagine a film of the landscape shot over years, centuries, even millennia. Slightly speeded up, plants appear to engage in very animal-like movements, trees flex their limbs without any prompting from the winds. Speeding up rather more, glaciers flow like rivers and even the earth begins to move. At greater speeds solid rock bends, buckles and flows like molten metal. The world itself begins to breathe. Thus the rhythmic pattern of human activities nests within a wider pattern of activity for all animal life, which in turn nests within the pattern of activity for all so-called living things, which nests within the life-process of the world.ii
i From Martin Lefebvre’s “On Landscape in Narrative Cinema”, see Lefebvre’s essay for his noted references, available HERE. 

ii Tim Ingold, as quoted in the Lefebvre essay.

A few more studies are below.  
Click on image for larger view.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Unique Appearance of a Distance

Mountainfield Study (Tinfoil, Snow and Earth), 2014
I haven’t thought about Benjamin’s discussion of the aura in this manner for a while, for some reason.  But, I’m going to a conference on Landscape and Environment next week in Scotland (Screen Studies) and it was referenced in an abstract.  Now, I’m FAR too tired to write carefully about this at the moment, having spent most of the day either running or hiking through the mountains here in Ólafsfjörður, but I’m going to try to get back to it in a subsequent post. 

Suffice it to say, yeah, that’s got a hell of a lot to do with what I’m thinking about in this space/these spaces. 

Here’s part of the passage from Benjamin’s Little History of Photography:

And thus such pictures, too, … suck the aura out of reality like water from a sinking ship.  
What is aura, actually?A strange weave of space and time: the unique appearance or semblance of distance, no matter how close it may be. 
Now, to bring things closer to us, or rather to the masses, is just as passionate an inclination in our day as the overcoming of whatever is unique in every situation by means of its reproduction. The peeling away of the object's shell, the destruction of the aura, is the signature of a perception whose sense for the sameness of things has grown to the point where even the singular, the unique, is divested of its uniqueness—by means of its reproduction.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Something Moves Between Me and It, Until the Nature of Both Are Altered

Fiddled around with a few bits of raw footage today as I wanted to see how the heavy and disorienting intensity of the waterfall (recorded on Tuesday at Dettifoss in Vatnajökull National Park) would relate to the shifting patterns produced by movement across reflective surfaces in the studio, you know, the tinfoil – again – and the plastic.  I have to say though, as stupid as they are, I’m really liking these materials.

Any rate, I don’t have any editing software on the computer I have with me (and I can’t be bothered to bang around with iMovie) so I simply trimmed up a couple of clips and strung them together – just to see.  Something there, I think.  I’ll keep going. 

The title of this post is taken from a line in Nan Shepherd’s book, The Living Mountain.

Click HERE to watch the video below on Vimeo.

Monday, June 16, 2014

And You, What Do You Seek?

So, I’m in Iceland for a bit, continuing my “field studies” series/project (suite of works? ongoing saga? relentless meandering?) in this insanely and amazingly varied landscape.  I’m currently situated in the north of Iceland at a wonderful artist’s residency called Listhús in the very small town (population appx. 800) of Ólafsfjörður.  Prior to arriving here, I spent a couple of days based out of Reykjavik and traveled around the southern portions along the Ring Road to the famed glacial lagoon Jökulsárlón, surrounded by Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. Any rate, I don’t have a particular plan for the nature of my work while I’m here – as usual, I’m looking/thinking/responding.  I expect I’ll amass a fairly large archive of still images and video clips that I’ll get to spend a lot of time working with back home in the studio.  I’ll fiddle with things a bit while I’m here, and will post a smattering of stuff, to offer a sense of what I’m being drawn to. 

So far, I’ve been really intrigued by the almost hallucinatory effect the landscape is having on me – I don’t necessarily mean the perceptual illusions that result from immeasurable and/or difficult to discern distances, or tricky mirage type effects (although that’s part of it) but more so the disconcerting feeling of simply being out in the space.  Part of it has to do with the otherworldly qualities of particularly barren spaces or those dotted with anthropomorphic forms – but as well, there is something about the intense presence of geologic time surrounding you at every glance – up/down/forward/back. And, for someone as clumsy and uncoordinated as myself, wandering around and within these hills - and much further up into mountains than I’ve ever been inclined to go before – produces a bit of vertigo and, in some instances, outright fear (the random encounters with various wildlife has contributed to that as well).

Anyway, here in Ólafsfjörður, I’m looking a lot to the ground and sky, and thinking about reflection and refraction as well as diffraction, I suppose – there is something really intense about the hot, white of the snow coating the mountain tops and how its appearance can shift so drastically depending on what’s hitting it (the really close by sun ball) or what’s covering it (various layers of cloud, mist, ocean air).  And sometimes the streams that run down from the mountain gush so quickly they turn white too, at least from afar.  And then the larger pools of water (the lake, the pond, the ocean) serve as mirrors, or secondary skies.

Noticing this led me to think about incorporating common, man-made materials that share these visual qualities into some of the images.  So far, I’m fiddling around with tin foil, bits of sheer, semi-translucent plastic and crystals of sugar.  As I generally do, I’m capturing imagery in a relatively straightforward manner and am also toying around with materials in the field and in my make-shift studio in the residency apartment.

Lastly, I’m trying to think about linking this space (and this imagery) to my other "field studies" (Goldfields and Airfields) and am thinking about the commonality of earth chunks/dirt and the piled forms it gathers in, and have decided to read a few books that deal specifically with mountains in one way or another.  I’m venturing into territory I don’t normally go (such as sci-fi with an H.P. Lovecraft novella, At the Mountain of Madness, as well as a bit more mystical style with Rene Daumal’s Mount Analogue – the book that Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain was based on, yeah, I know, very unlike me…).  But, I’m starting with Nan Shepherd’s, The Living Mountain, which is (I gather) a bit more of the nature writing/philosophy type.  As well, I’ve got a book of Icelandic Folk Legends I’m dipping into.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at right now.  As I said, I’ll post some images into various groupings now and then, and more when I get back to the states.  A few single images are below – I’ll end up combining these with others, or similar versions, and will post those combinations as I work them up…

Click on images for larger view.