During friday to saturday night, not quite sure what time it was maybe between 1 or 2 in the morning, I woke up in my tent to someone singing this song.
A beautiful moment of randomness, for the last thing I expected camping near a 14th Century Castle in Dumfries, Scotland was the rendition of a German classic from the 80’s, a ‘movement’ and explosion of German Pop songs called ‘die Neue Deutsche Welle’.
The songs lyrics: ‘somehow, somewhere, sometime’
‘Im Sturz durch Raum und Zeit- Richtung Unendlichkeit – fliegen Motten in das Licht – genau wie Du und Ich –
irgendwie faengt irgendwann irgendwo die Zukunft an ich warte nicht mehr lang – Liebe wird aus Mut gemacht – denk nicht lange nach – wir fahrn auf Feuerraedern Richtung Zukunft durch die Nacht…
Gib mir die Hand, ich bau Dir ein Schloss aus Sand – irgendwie, irgendwo, irgendwann-
die Zeit ist reif, fuer ein bisschen Zaertlichkeit – irgendwie, irgendwo irgendwann…’
Falling through time and space into infinity – like moth fly to the light…
somewhere, sometime, somehow the future begins – and I won’t wait much longer- Love is made from courage – don’t hesitate – we journey to the future through the night:
Hold my hand – I build you a castle made of sand – somehow, somewhere, sometime – the time is now to be kind somehow, somewhere, sometime…’
(sounds better in German…)
Made a lot of sense to me now- 31 years after I first heard it…
Thank you ‘stranger’, whoever you are for reminding me!
This is the second question I like to pose in the context of the ‘documentation’ of the journey to/ at/ from EAFS…
Just like before whichever way you interpret, read, or think about the question or individual words – it’s all valid. Long answers, short one syllable words, whichever answer it may trigger. A poem, a picture, a song, a manifesto…the only thing I would ask you is: please share it here!
You can also share pictures and comments, posts, etc…on this blog under which ever post or page you feel you like to respond to or leave your ‘footsteps’.
So this is the evening before I will set off…there is still time to contribute to the Question: ‘what are your expectations of your destination?’, before you set off.
I got the old tent out of the cupboard, the sleeping bag and my mental list of things to take.
There is one more day at work and after that I’ll set off. I will be journeying by car, for time and transport (of stuff) with a wee camera attached to it as I thought I film the entire journey. My initial idea was to hire a scooter- a Vespa- but that failed as I didn’t come across any scooter hires here in Scotland.
When I moved up to Scotland from the North of England in 2002 I did so on my Vespa (which got stolen a year later and trashed by being set on fire by some kids). What takes about two hours by car took me about 9 hours on my 50cc scooter. But it was fun; a beautiful September day, and I had various stops at small cafes and it felt a bit like I imagine going on a journey on horse back.
I hope I’ll get to the site before darkness (I’ll take my daughters torch with me) and that the weather won’t be too ‘Scottish’ over the duration of my stay.
I expect to wake up with some aches and pains the morning after the first night and hope there may be some sort of ‘a cup of tea’ brewing somewhere I can get hold off.
I am currently baking some ‘Cinnamon Swirls’ I hope to enjoy and share and exchange for other little treats.
I am very much looking forward to it all- but in particular to experience people in a non urban environment, with none of the usual distractions. Being in the middle of a rather stressful work schedule this Festival couldn’t be at a better time- I expect to unwind and simultaneously re charge- and when I return I will be right back at work installing a big exhibition.
Contrasting experiences and conditions but nevertheless processes and dynamics between and with people in different environments; from experience of culture to the display of physical manifestations of contemporary culture.
It’s all about people, processes, dynamics, environment and conditions – journeys shaping, and creating experiences of and with Art.
Eight people and three dogs set out on a hot, breezy Sunday morning, a week before the Environmental Arts Festival Scotland, to journey on foot and by bus from Moniaive to Morton Castle. We planned our journey as a ‘secular pilgrimage’, as an appropriate offering to the festival, without preconceptions of what this might mean, beyond following our chosen route. Instead we travelled with the intention of being open to the connections and revelations that might be offered up by the landscape and by each other in our ad hoc little community.
We walked over Bardennoch Hill and Tynron Doon. The local community bus took us across Nithsdale, stopping for lunch at the community-run Penpont Tea Room, to Kings Quarry above Carronbridge, and we completed the journey by walking through Morton Wood to the Castle.
Walking with attention has a way of shaking out the self-imposed demands and expectations that often cloud how and what we see, allowing space for new insights and perceptions. Maybe the essence of pilgrimage is in this process of moving and changing perspective, rather than in the destination alone. Where pilgrims of old (and parts of our route ran on or close to the old pilgrim way from Edinburgh to Whithorn) might express this experience in religious terms, our contemporary view can show us our place as part of nature rather than separate, subjective observers of it. More importantly, we can come to value the world intrinsically, for what it is, rather than for how we might make use of it.
So what connections and revelations did we see? Well, most striking for me was the temporal dimension, the sense that our route connected our present time and community in Moniaive and Glencairn, through the complex layering of the past evident in the landscape, to the anticipated exploration of possible futures at the festival: connections of land, people and communities through time.
More than two millennia of human history punctuates our route, from the Iron Age Hill Fort of Tynron Doon, the ancient stone pits of Stenhouse Hill, the abandoned steading on Bardennoch Hill, the medieval cross at Nith Bridge, Andy Goldsworthy’s millennium cairn near Penpont – like an exclamation mark drawing the landscape to attention – to the contemporary farming and forestry of Nithsdale. And all of these human marks are but the anthropocene blink of an eye in the long evolution of the Dumfriesshire Glens. Can we find ways, within ourselves rather than through technology, to add our own layers to this complexity rather than erase it?
We came to know each other better, listening to each other’s stories, sharing the experience of the walk and learning from each other about what we saw, from ferns to redstarts, an exotic beetle carrying a dead mouse on its back and a remarkable crop of fly agaric and ceps in Morton Wood.
And besides all that, we had a good time! The walkers were John Wheeler, Jess Shackleton, Anne Maxwell, JoJo, Wendy Stewart, Frank Hall and Peter Roberts; the dogs were Mabel, Bella and Dexter; Alan James drove the bus.
Next week at this time I may be on my way to Morton Castle. I am not yet quite sure as to when I should set off.
I would appreciate some degree of daylight while embarking on putting up my tent. And I psych myself up for the weather or more precisely I am hatching various contingency plans to prepare for what ever the climatic conditions above Morton Castle may conjure up over the weekend.
‘Waterproof’ is of importance, for three days and two nights in rain are testing enough even with the knowledge to be able to seek shelter inside a warm building…a thin layer of fabric between myself and the elements will neither be much use of retaining any warmth and dryness. ‘Warmth’ and ‘Dryness’ shall be what I am aiming to achieve over the weekend; so fleecy top and wind and waterproof jacket, spare pairs of woolly socks, and a soft and fluffy pillow are essentials.
On the other hand I am looking forward to experiencing the elements, the weather and the flora and fauna in the environment as the backdrop or ‘gallery space’ for the performances of art projects, works and participants.
So I have been thinking as to how I prepare for this event. I quickly discarded the attempt to remain the objective conservator during this festival, simply because it wouldn’t be possible anyway for any subjective being- but also I would just impose barriers on myself hindering my experience of it all. And that would be a fundamental flaw in attempting to capture it.
I am also attempting to travel and camp ‘light’, for practical and philosophical reasons. The plan is to challenge myself to take the absolute bare minimum required to allow me to take care of myself and others (out there in nature!), while being engaged and focused to document the dynamics and their energy conversions.
I am also planning to test my ingenuity in adapting what is around me to create comfort and to appreciate the short time away from everyday distractions to recharge my ‘soul’.
I didn’t and still don’t know what exactly my expectations of my destination are, I don’t even know what the destination actually may be?
I do realise however that my thoughts and preparation for the festival are akin to a pilgrimage, a journey or search for moral or spiritual significance.
Art, environment, people and festival make for an inspiring destination.
As this blog is attempting to record the journey(s) to the Environmental Art Festival Scotland as a document of one event in Scotland at a point in time (last weekend in August to be precise) “how and why is this to be achieved ?” you may ask.
“Good question” I reply, and probably ask: “What’s the alternative? Or what makes this challenging and why wouldn’t I (or others) want to document?
We are constantly documenting and recording, we can’t help it. If it is those 40.000 year old cave paintings, hieroglyphics, rock formations of long gone human settlements, parchment with ink markings, stained glass windows, tapestries, wood carvings, paintings, books or the ruin of a 14th Century Castle in the South West of Scotland, they all fulfill functions as a now historic manifestations that references the many narratives of events, environment, community, individual, tastes, fashions, skills, practice, concepts, ideas, emotions, etc…
Some were created consciously as documents with the sole function to make permanent and/or communicate a message of meaning of some sort beyond the direct community and/ or present (now the past). The act of ‘recording’ making a meaning tangible and accessible. Over time and changing environment, conditions, human interactions, other narratives and meanings become evidenced in the alteration and/ or change of the physical media.
In addition hindsight may also in retrospect value these documents as they may be viewed or interpreted as a ‘witness’ to what today may be valued by association to an individual, community, environment, event, and location of some historic significance as part of the wider narrative for a region, society, ideology, religion as a shared and valued identity.
Quality, quantity and availability of documentation determine the interpretation and subsequently meaning of recorded data.
What exactly is documentation? I am sure there will be various definitions for this, I expect them to be as diverse as the number of individuals who have bothered to define and communicate their definitions of ‘documentation’.
Whatever you may think of documentation it is always an activity, sometimes accidental, sometimes targeted, sometimes desperate and sometimes ‘invisible’.
For documenting your journey to EAFS, I want to open up the thinking of and behind ‘documentation’.
Apart from utilising a media with which to make permanent markings on (stone and chisel, pen and paper, textile and pigment, celluloid and chemicals, binary code and micro chip,etc…) the recording of information- there is the other significant part of documentation: the communication or transmitting of the information to a recipient, most commonly not direct but indirect- across time and space. Perceiving and communicating a message directly is a conversation, relaying the message at a later time and in a different space is a story (history). Regardless it will still require a human to perceive-interpret to understand- and communicate/ transmit the message. In reality the human is therefore always the medium transmitting/ communicating a message.
The other significant action is that of ‘recording’, which the individual(s) arranging lines, shapes and colour over the stone surface of a cave (40.000 years ago) is one example of.
We all record and utilise other recordings continuously, perceived and expressed through our five senses and ability to shape, arrange, model, manipulate physical media. May this be to be up to date on the world news, study a specific subject, converse with the neighbor, mark an event, or wanting to influence others.
Documentation as an activity is neutral, the medium (a human being) however is always subjective which defines any documentation as relative and never absolute or ‘a true account’.
You may wonder where all this thinking on my behalf concerning documentation is coming from, well I am a professional ‘documentor’ so to speak, as in my professional life I have trained, studied and practice the conservation of cultural heritage-past and contemporary.
I am ‘geared’ towards perceiving, creating and using documents – physical objects, books, electronic literature, conversations, in order to gain insight and understanding of an object entrusted into my care- to not only preserve it’s physical material culture for longevity but to also to reveal avenues to it’s hidden narratives-the intangible culture- for present and future generations to access for learning, study, inspiration and subsequently care and appreciation of our shared cultural heritage. Everything I do, the sources for research, study of associated historical, art historical contexts, and resulting decisions for intervention such as cleaning, repairing or stabilising the physical and chemical condition of an object I document.
The purpose of documentation as a methodology goes beyond the recording of facts, tangible evidence and bibliography-it is the process of placing and connecting the quantitative data into and with the qualitative contexts. Information is communicated as narratives, and it is the story telling-rather than facts and measures-that allow us to comprehend meaning rather than fact.
Conservation is a funny profession, it is difficult to describe. In a nutshell it is both science and art, philosophy and experience, theory and practice.
The motivation for conservation (and in a broader sense conservation as a philosophy applicable to wildlife, and environment) is reverence, expressed as value through care.
Values are relative, subjective and continuously transitioning. In our present time we have experienced an overwhelming focus on the value of money. It is of such significance in our contemporary daily lives that it even defines the purpose and value of education, health, culture, art and environment in the thesaurus and quantifiable language of business.
In my understanding the nature of how and what we communicate shapes and manifests our reality, our values and perceptions.
There is a lack of quality and meaning in so much of our daily communication which determines our values.
It is not much of a coincidence that Art has become marginalised in societies that increasingly communicate economic driven values, where the measurable outcome (ideally in monetary terms) matters and success (profit/commodity) validated as ‘beneficial’.
The contemporary Art market may be seen as a somewhat disturbing consequence of the value of outcomes: the physical manifestation of ‘art at work’ is often disproportionately valued as a commodity over the dynamics of engagement, conversation, empowerment, inspiration, and community art facilitates.
The Environmental Art Festival Scotland is an opportunity to document not only the outcomes (locality, program, art projects, performances) as the final destination- but to document the dynamics, conditions, and energy that facilitate and nurture values, practices, opportunities, collaboration, engagement and networks to be recorded as a map for charting and navigating the journey towards a shared sustainable future and to sustain our ability to art and care.