Following work undertaken on the ‘Law, Arts & Island Resilience’ project, Susan Brind and Monica Laiseca (GSA) invited visual artists living on Scottish islands to apply for a Residency and Commission responding to the development of Scotland’s first ever National Islands Plan. The selected artist, Saoirse Higgins, joined the consultation team on a number of events taking place on different islands in the summer of 2019. Higgins is producing new work based on this experience for exhibition.
Monica Laiseca, Susan Brind, (The Glasgow School of Art), Islands Team (Scottish Government)
Saoirse Higgins, the artist selected to be National Islands Plan – Embedded Artist, is based on Papa Westray; a small island in Orkney with a population of 88 people. She brings an environmental focus to her work as well as extensive experience of working in community settings. Her work is directly focused on environmental concerns and the sustainability of island life. In addition to undertaking this commission, she is currently in the process of completing PhD research by practice under the title, ‘Survival tools for the Anthropocene’.
To find audience-facing forms for translating an ongoing dialogue, between artist and writer, around ideas of the invention of a romantic mythos of a specific landscape.
Alan Currall (The Glasgow School of Art) and Professor Emeritus Colin Cruise (Aberystwyth University)
Over the course of a year, and along a regular walking route, Currall produced a series of photographs of small, but modestly spectacular, hill pools in the Scottish Southern Uplands. These pools, formed as a result of historical lead mining activity in the area, sit atop the hill that stands behind Currall’s home.
When a friend and former tutor, Emeritus Professor of Art History, Colin Cruise saw these photographs he felt compelled to respond through a collection of poems written from the perspective of these pools. Currall’s own existing research around ideas of knowledge, belief and perception found a provocative foil in Cruise’s interest in the Romantic, and the imaginative potential of invented mythology. During an extended period of dialogue they worked on several ideas for the future development of this project, which may include a publication and/or exhibition.
Susan Brind and Jim Harold’s contribution to Practicing Landscape: Land, Histories and Transformation comprises three elements: ‘Looking South – Facing North’, a painted area of wall and vinyl text; 3 x Digital Photographic prints from within the Cyprus Buffer Zone, also known as the ‘Dead Zone’; and Letter works, a selection of letters specifically relating to Cyprus, extracted from a larger series of works known as ‘Coffee Letters’. The artists are interested in the politics of landscape and our physical experience of place. This specific body of work relates to their visits to the UN De-militarized Buffer Zone in Cyprus, a country which has been divided since 1974 and contains the only politically divided city in Europe. This new configuration of work is part of an ongoing collaborative project with CCFT (Creative Centre for Fluid Territories, People, Places and Processes, an international research grouping started in 2016). The differing modes of representation presented here aim to de-stabilise any singular reading of place within what is a very complex political history. It also enters the Buffer Zone itself as a liminal space of otherness.
TOP IMAGE: Susan Brind and Jim Harold,‘Untitled – from the ‘Buffer Zone’ series’, 2016; Three archival digital prints. Photo: Jack McCombe
How can the process of practice-led research make visible the contradictions of a wild and beautiful landscape punctuated by weapons of mass destruction secreted deep within the military industrial complex? What could be the most appropriate ‘voice’ through which to reflect the complex paradox of questions emanating from this heavily coded landscape?
Ross Sinclair aims to interrogate the agency of an individual art practice set against such a coded landscape, proposing a new constellation for the Lighthouse, seeking to explore empathetic formal manifestations conjured by these questions where certain forms, for example, the photographic or aural, may be too fixed or formalised to simply readthis particular landscape.
Over a full Calendar year, Sinclair repeatedly walked a 10km route along the spine of the Rosneath Peninsula in close proximity to the Nuclear Submarine Bases at Coulport and Faslane, on the Firth of Clyde – Gare Loch/Loch Long. This investigation was undertaken in all seasons and in all weather, with Sinclair observing and documenting the changes in light, weather flora and fauna at the destination of the walk: Trig Point OSBM S5140.
However, for this manifestation of the research the images and sounds collected are put to one side and instead a vignette is created conjuring a palimpsest of reflections and reveries conjured by this repeated journey. The works are further informed by Sinclair listening, while walking, to a series of audio books and lectures charting one paradigm of the culmination of human knowledge and understanding; The history of Philosophy, from the Pre-Socratics around the 7thand 6thCenturies BCE, walking through 2500 subsequent years toward the 21stCentury. As the distances and the knowledge accrues, the landscape itself becomes a dark mirror reflecting the end game of this rarefied philosophical discussion of Epistemology and Ontology. This knowledge and sense of being and ceasing to exist troubles our thoughts, as the cognitive dissonance of this sublime landscape with its invisible underground stores of Armageddon repeatedly fails to resolve into focus.
A series of T-Shirts are displayed announcing,‘The Real Life Nuclear and Philosophical Resurrectionists Research Ramblers Society: Faslane & Coalport Chapter.’
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Sinclair sees this new work as a manifestation of discussions around coded landscape themes undertaken as part of ‘Reading Landscape’ Research Group’s enquiries. Practicing Landscape: Land, Histories and Transformation offers an opportunity to further develop this research through public dissemination and engagement.
TOP IMAGE: Ross Sinclair, ‘The Real Life Nuclear and Philosophical Resurrectionists Research Ramblers Society: Faslane & Coulport Chapter,’ 2020, (Detail). Photo: Jack McCombe
Frances Robertson’s landscape observations to date have been carried out in both words and images—in parallel investigations of the interactions between landscape representation, notions of national and regional identity and the cultural politics of design and landscape shaping in Scotland, such as ‘Power in the landscape: Regenerating the Scottish Highlands after the Second World War’ (in: The Culture of Nature in the History of Design, Routledge, London, 2019). She has also been involved in organising and presenting in the Through a Northern Lens, series of annual symposiums (Bird, Robertson, and Brownrigg), looking at different aspects of landscape (An Auto-Ethnographic Turn’ (2018); ‘Place, Image, Archaeology and Heritage’ (2017); and ‘Women, Picture and Place’ (2016). Here in the exhibition Robertson investigates landscape through a long-durational observational drawing of a tree body, acknowledging the structural and intellectual knowledge fostered in Western traditions of drawing. This new work in Practicing Landscape: Land, Histories and Transformation depicts a foreign introduction brought here by Victorian imperial plant hunters, the monkey-puzzling araucaria, indeed a particular specimen standing over the ancient Egyptian-style tomb of one of Glasgow’s more successful merchants. This work is the latest in a series of drawings that Robertson has been making since 2005.
Lesley Punton is interested in how we experience scale in landscape, multiple temporalities, and the interplay of the subjective alongside the monumental. The works in Practicing Landscape: Land, Histories and Transformation are informed by her ongoing interest in the ontological repercussions of walking and ‘being’ within remote landscape, and in relation to deep time. The work is made over an extended time, collecting rocks and minerals on her travels primarily in Scotland, but also meditates on rocks that have originated in Sweden, Iceland, Algeria, The Netherlands, China and England. These initial rock samples were collected somewhat casually, but as the project started to coalesce, Punton became more systematic in her collecting. The accompanying written narratives emerged from a broader writing practice seeking to contextualise these ordinary objects by text that shifts across personal meditations on place, experience, science and literature. The work on show at the Lighthouse includes, and builds on ‘Collection’, and other pieces in a body of work related to geology and time, 2018, Studio Pavilion by the addition of a new studio drawing, considering drawing as a process analogous to walking, where the traverse of a landscape is equated to the traverse of a line on paper. The informal, exploratory nature of drawing as a creative practice, and exploration as an embodied process could be seen in parallel terms in this work.
TOP IMAGE: Lesley Punton ‘Collection’, 2018 (Detail); 3 parts: vitrine case with rocks, inkjet print, and A2 poster stack. Photo: Jack McCombe
Two research outputs were presented by Michail Mersinis in Practicing Landscape: Land, Histories and Transformation. These built on Mersinis’ research enquiry on the questioning of a Photographic image when the site is subject to liminal changes. The first, ‘The going of snow’ takes the form of an analogue slide show made of 80 images. The work was made in the duration of a day during the research trip to Loch Ossian, and is a response to the landscape directly, the conditions that alter the perception and its appearance. The images progress from light to dark to light and attempt to address the Deleuzian notion of time-image, albeit in singular form, the optical qualities aspire to speak to the qualities of recollection both as manifestations of image as well as manifestation of the appearance of the landscape in transition between seasons.
The second work is made of a composite of 7 individual works, all made in the summer of 2019, as part of an ongoing project that questions the agency of the photographic image. These works were made during earthquake season. The works question the apparent subject of the photographic, as each was determined (optically and technically) by the duration of an earthquake. Negating the immediately unidentifiable subject matter, the coexistence of fragments of time-exposure and space propose question of the simultaneity, coexistence and fragmentary representation of events that take place outside of an image plane, and find themselves in an uncertain representational state.
Following a solo exhibition there in 2018/19 entitled ‘La Tierra de Rulfo : Ficciones Mexicanas,‘ she travelled south to Oaxaca to expand on more specific strands of this research. The work within the exhibition, concerns itself with the interweaving of time and highlights time as a construct for narrative. Focussing on the mnemonic role of trees and their potential to link the sub-terrain, with the earth’s surfaces and skies and the past with the present and future, she responds to a number of specific trees which hold great cultural and spiritual significance. This includes El Arbol de Tule (The Tule tree) which, with a circumference of over 46 metres has the widest trunk in the world.
A subtext to the work concerns itself with medium specificity and a questioning of the relationship between the image, the material and the process. Works have been made using a range of Alternative Photographic printing processes that use the elements from the landscape (e.g. silver, salt, sunlight) to create the image. Additionally, some prints have been made onto untreated recycled paper, reinforcing the cyclical connection between the paper, pulp, wood and tree.
TOP IMAGE: Christina McBride, ‘Silver Ceiba,’ 2018 (40cm x 40cm): Triptych (Detail). Scanned analogue negative digitally printed onto recycled paper. Photo: Jack McCombe
Gina Wall works in place, and through the memories of place, to explore the relation between land, photography and text. Sceptical of ocularcentrism, Wall practices photography as a kind of writing, engaging with the landscape as living archive. She explores the space between practice-as-writing, nature writing and archaeology to articulate place as event encounter. Recent work has focused on the development of a methodological approach that Wall describes as archaeospectrography which engages specifically with the hauntology of the archaeologies of the present and the practice of photography within the quantum entanglements of space and time. This methodology seeks to develop a photographic praxis in the broadest sense: to research locations and conduct fieldwork; and to interact with these places through a diffractive photographic practice of temporal re-cutting. Working in this way, Wall aims to disrupt anthropocentric paradigms of human-world relations, challenging the privileging of the ocular and visionary to bring to light a space in which practice-as-writing resists individual vision to inscribe the image as a diffracted, distributed, polytemporal array. For Practicing Landscape: Land, Histories and Transformation, Wall presents a combination of previousand new work which has as its connective tissue the question of landscape and time, expressed by her interest in synthetic and archaeological landscapes of the 20thcentury which hang on in the present as affective places. The complexity of time works its way through her practice in the exploration of the polytemporal, the spectral and, more recently, following Karen Barad, the notion of thick or queer time.
For over a year and a half, Amanda Thomson has been filming an alder by the burn outside her window, sometimes two or three times a day, occasionally once a week, sometimes just once or twice a month. The resulting work in Practicing Landscape: Land, Histories and Transformation reveals the slow and shifting changes of season, light, and time passing. Aar (a Scots word for alder) also includes notes from a shared diary of recording sightings – often the first flowers or migrant birds of the year: cuckoos, house-martins, geese; spring primroses, summer germander speedwell, late summer creeping ladies tresses. These aren’t necessarily systematically recorded but speak to what is simply noticed when there, and what is seen and heard in the course of the everyday. The diary also records the fleetingness and luck of seeing of residents such as eagles, crossbills, and hares, or a flock of redpolls scared up by a sparrowhawk. Aar is part of what will become a phenological exploration and reflection of a place and ongoing change, questions of attentiveness and care, and human and more-than-human timescales. It feeds into Thomson’s ongoing research and investigations which incorporate a visual arts practice and creative non-fiction and explore questions of slow looking and attentiveness, Scottish landscapes, language (as in her book, A Scots Dictionary of Nature), walking and reflections on the interrelationships of place with self, migrations, native/non-native/‘invasive’ species, and conceptions of home.