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.

Buddha in Nirvana (oldest known depiction), Freer Gallery, Washington D.C.

No goals-only play.

4 thoughts on “Documentation

  1. Anonymous

    What are your expectations of your destination, Mark Zygadlo?

    What are my expectations of my destination?
    I hadn’t thought of it. The journey occupies all my attention,
    Only the journey,
    and my question is still:
    How on earth will I get there by water only?

    And what vessel,
    what vessel is right for this journey?
    Am I a vessel? Is my body a vessel? Is that enough, the arrival of a flesh and blood vessel,
    the vessel of – do I have a soul these days?
    A somewhat archaic cargo.
    What do I carry then?
    My past, my memory, my well edited document, my history – I made it up as I went along –
    my expectations then?
    Or am I the cargo?

    I am 90% water, apparently, and I am 90% trepidation; I have no fucking idea how I am going to get there. I fill my time with mending broken boats, broken vessels that will spill their waters inside, and when a vessel is filled it will sink.
    Sand falls through the vessel’s neck, it empties towards departure and I am 90% unready, unresolved.
    I am 90% trepidation.

    The ship, as a vessel, is contradictory, it withholds water. Yet the ship is a perfect vesica, the intersection of two identical circles whose circumferences pass through each other’s centres. A perfect geometrical form. Taking one circle as water and one as air, the vesica inscribes buoyancy, an equilibrium.
    That’s okay, then. It must be a ship.

    Then, where does it start, this journey?
    This journée, this day, this documented day.
    And: Destination?
    Destiny, what is destined. What is intended, what is meant to be?
    How can we know that yet?

    Expect? Wait for something to happen. – What?
    Expectation of my destination? – Bollocks.
    Expecto resurrectionem mortuorum.
    That’s the trouble with optimism. The promise that everything will be okay if some orthodoxy is observed. Well, it bloody won’t. Not for that reason anyway.

    The journey is all there is, and the will to make it.


  2. Hi Stephanie,

    You asked ‘What are your expectations of your destination?’

    We made a site visit in January so have memories of the site with a sideways sleeting rain so hopefully this August the weather will be more clement! It was however and no doubt will be extraordinarily beautiful. I love the Loch and the Castle.

    I will ask my colleague Tabitha to write separately about her expectations.

    You mention in your blog about the value of documentation. Certainly the EAFS 2015 website is already a beautiful intriguing entity in itself. It was the compelling nature of the EAFS 2013 website that encouraged us to make a bid for the commissions they were offering, last Autumn.

    And so reading the brief details of the upcoming artist led events, I anticipate getting involved. The onsite dark room sounds great as well as journeying on horseback and by canoe. I hope there will be time to play as well as explore what the Urchin is and could be.

    In many ways the destination has changed for us. Originally we were commissioned to create a large piece of public artwork journeying through the landscape. Now, we are bringing a single Urchin to Dumfries and Galloway for the first time. Though we have taken the Urchin out onto the sea for a performance in Wales, we won’t have had a chance to play on the water in Scotland. We will be offering an exploration of the work rather than a fully developed piece of performance art. Projects change, budgets change, expectations change.

    I think this will be a good chance for Tabitha and I to look with fresh eyes at what the Urchin is. To decide how we want to develop her. We may create two small flatter spheres to mimic hydrogen atoms to play with the larger, pre-existing oxygen atom. We may decide that she works best as a stable floating shelter rather than as a rolling, submerging, dynamic performance piece. We don’t know. We have discussed our desire for the Urchin to be more of a space for the public to be inside than as a spectacle viewed from the outside. We hope that there will be resources and liability in place to enable this.

    And that’s probably what I am expecting of the destination.To arrive with some questions surrounding the mechanics of the performance potential and to leave with some of those questions answered. To learn more about what is compelling and what is not, and why.

    And of course, to be receptive to all that will be on offer. And hopefully not too caught up in ‘delivery’ to miss the great gift that EAFS will be.

    Thanks for asking,


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