Friday 8 October 2021

Materials from the Garden (1)


During lockdown two locations became a strong focus for me: my studio and my allotment. Their functions became intermingled, art-work and work-on-the-land becoming part of the same creative process. I started to experiment with video and projection in both locations. 

The work gradually came to channel for me something of the emotional complexity of my feelings about the pandemic and the threat of environmental catastrophe. Alongside the emotional uplift of natural surroundings, the satisfaction of growing vegetables and feeling connected to a community despite isolation, I experienced a growing awareness of the tension between the powerful, sometimes destructive energies of nature - their violence exacerbated by human action over the centuries - and our growing awareness of the need to engage with those forces in cooperative and restorative ways before it's too late.

At the centre of it all is water. The allotments are close to the river Usk which now floods on a regular basis, but nevertheless, constant labour is needed to ensure the plot is watered enough to produce food. Drought and flood, part of the ancient rhythm, wrestled with through the ages by the water-carriers and the dyke builders, a rhythm now accelerating and intensifying everywhere around the globe. Such problems can only be tackled on a communal scale, and the allotment ideal is a deeply communal one. The water container is part of our local allotment's solar-powered water supply - an ecologically balanced system of containment and distribution which requires a cooperative approach to function effectively. Amongst the live sounds heard in the projected videos are chanted words in different languages for 'water', 'flood' and 'to water'. Thanks to poet Lyndon Davies for the addition of this spoken element. 

The full versions of these videos can be seen at 

An exciting opportunity to develop this work came with an invitation from tactileBOSCH to take over their Cardiff city centre gallery during September. Collaborative approaches are integral to my work, and Arts Council Wales and National Lottery's programme Create allowed me to develop a new myriorama series, drawing on natural and constructed elements on the allotments (seen here being developed and installed in tactileBOSCH). 

Funding also allowed me to invite multiple voices/participants to go with the multiple narratives offered by the myriorama. I was delighted that artist/poet/performer Allen Fisher agreed to join me in parallel explorations with installation and performance: poet Lyndon Davies contributed poetry and soundscapes: Beth Greenhalgh for tactileBOSCH brought curatorial perspectives and expertise: workshop participants shared experiences of how the natural world helped emotional well being during lockdown and created a powerful temporary addition to my own installation. 
                          photo courtesy Beth Greenhalgh

photo courtesy Beth Greenhalgh
    photo courtesy Beth Greenhalgh

The members of Llangattock Allotments (LACAS) provided the inspiration for my work and generous support throughout, most particularly the loan of one of our water tanks.

Together we look to the garden, the allotment and the wider landscape for ways of thinking about our own place and the place of others in a world leaning towards disaster. Discomfort and anxiety are a part of it, but so are glimpses of paradise. See the next post for more about Materials in the Garden.

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