Gone to Earth: Uncovering Landscape Narrative Through Visual Creative Practice

Posted on May 31, 2017


One of the last sessions we filmed from the TAG conference:

Session Abstract

This proposed session explores the materiality of place and the agency of landscape in unearthing historical, social and cultural narrative. Examining the role of the artist as facilitator, serving to bring hard to reach narratives to wider audiences, creative fieldwork from selected individuals will be presented and discussed in a practitioners forum. The work investigates a range of case studies, including a deserted medieval village, burial grounds and pilgrim sites and explores visual creative practice and approaches to making across painting, photography, drawing, mark making, printmaking, moving image and sound. The work will offer variations on ways of seeing and recording place, encompassing the interpretation, reading, uncovering and experiencing of landscape through varied methodologies. Positioning the artist as a communicator between past and present, the session will interrogate visualisation through memory, knowledge, experience, imagination, conceptualisation, reconstruction and speculation across visual creative practice within the following areas:

• Phenomenology and Embodiment
• Folklore and buried beliefs
• Mapping the unseen
• The virtual afterlife of place
• Remembering yesterday’s landscape in the 21st-century
• Places of trauma
• The archive
• Ritual landscapes and sacred spaces
• Personal and collective memory
• Pilgrimage and the liminal
• The Alchemical landscape
• Weather and memory
• Transient landscapes and the materiality of time

Wider points we hope to discuss after the presentations with the audience include:

• How can visual creative practice be used to unearth historic, social and cultural narrative in landscape?
• What role does visual creative practice and visual communication play in inhabiting, re-presenting and reconstructing these stories?
• How might visual creative practice exist as a nexus for landscape studies and humanities?

The session aims to explore approaches to landscape in visual creative practice, in order to understand how this unfolds and activates historic, social and cultural narrative. Another aim is to consider and employ visual creative practice for wider engagement with lost, hidden and unseen places through interpretation. We hope that the session will contribute to current academic research surrounding the visualisation of such spaces.

Leah Fusco, Kingston University

Visualising Entropic Narratives of Deep-Time: A presentation of fieldwork from the Broads

https://youtu.be/rjzK5UO3jaU Sinead Evans, Norwich University of the Arts

Funded by the Broads Landscape Partnership Scheme and the National Lottery Heritage Fund,myself and three colleagues at Norwich University of the Arts are currently contributing to a cross-disciplinary research initiative. Titled Mapping The Broads, the initiative aims to diversify and strengthen public engagement with the national park.

Capturing visual traces of entropy in the Broads landscape takes the eye to edges. Crumbling edges of banks, eddies of sand under the lips of lapping water, surface currents, piped torrents, submerged foliage, pools brimming with eutrophic matter. Geo stories are epic tales to human eyes, time runs differently here. It is slow, slower than slow, but micro movements hint at the macro epic as it unfolds.
Benjamin writes; the materials of memory no longer appear singly, as images, but tell us about a whole, amorphously and formlessly, indefinitely and weightily, in the same way as the weight of his net tells a fisherman about his catch (Benjamin, 1999). Materiality acts as a surfacer of memory, and simultaneously a revealer of entropic journeys. By reading this we can consider the past and the future in the present second of time. Illustration can allow us to time travel both back and forth in the same space. To consider time beyond our ourselves and our own comprehension of human life. Materials of the landscape present themselves as a combination of matter and form. The form is effected by entropic pressures. This is where the narrative starts to present itself, through tacit associations the materials impart their stories.
Benjamin, W.(1999). Illuminations. New Ed. edition. London: Pimlico.
How can reflexive indexical image making expand the visual communication of geographic liminal space?

https://youtu.be/72yi3bL4gsc Benjamin Hunt, University for the Creative Arts, http://www.benjaminhunt.co.uk

What kind of work is involved in the co-emergence of interpretation and reality, and what role do materials play in this process? Alberti, Jones, Pollard, J. (2013)
The paper makes reference to recent work I have developed that explores the themes from this recent research. My work attempts to fuse experimental photographic art with visual  anthropology/archaeology. The paper aims to outline the debates/ problematics/ catalysts that exist combining these two seemingly polar opposite practices and the hierarchies / consequences between making as process and as finite outcome.
The paper is divided into three segments as would be this proposed presentation. The themes within these segments are inexplicably linked and are at first separated out diagnostically, and then related in their complexities and overlapping’s.
Indexicality: An issue that has arisen is the relationship between the indexical and the iconographic. There are tensions between direct index’s, displaced index’s and the icon, thus complicating the notion of semiotic relativity / arbitrariness.
Reflexivity: A debate that has opened up is the tension between a Hegelian and Marxist Dialectic in relation to the indexical image and its referential space. A common misconception between the ontological nature of the image and its epistemological interpretation is opened up.
Between Art and Research: Relationships between the previous two segments are woven and related to archaeological and anthropological practices in order to tease out the mechanisms within my practice.
Alberti, Jones, Pollard, J. (2013) Archaeology after Interpretation. Returning materials to archaeological theory. Left Coast Press: Walnut Creek, CA.

The Priory Tunnels

https://youtu.be/LutUoTk3Y08 Mireille Fauchon, Kingston University, http://www.mireillefauchon.com

There are networks of tunnels under Streatham and Tooting. They run between the old sanatoriums, so that crazed inmates could roam freely without disturbing the sane living in the normal, healthy hustle and bustle above.
This isn’t true.
Inspired by schoolyard mythologies, local hearsay and archival materials sourced from local heritage centres, The Priory Tunnels present a series of interwoven historical narratives and local lore from the Tooting Common area. This is a satellite project within my current PhD research exploring the use of narrative illustration as a transferable social research methodology. This body of work explores the use of visual storytelling to document an alternative interpretation of our everyday surrounds. As a native Londoner, local lore features predominately in my previous research and practical work with the intention of questioning how and why local communities preserve specific knowledge. Rather than the grand historical narrative, it has always been the personal and immediate that has compelled me, the anecdotal, vernacular or unofficial story. Far from the practice of the formal historian, it is not the rigour of accuracy that captivates but the muddles that ensue from the converging of fact and fiction as details distort through continual recounting; this is ‘history’s nether-world — where memory and myth intermingle, and the imaginary rubs shoulders with the real.’ (Samuels, 1999:6)
An exploration of the marvellous within a seemingly mundane setting, The Priory Tunnels draws together stories of underground tunnels, a Victorian murder mystery, the disputed existence of a C14th priory and recently deceased local resident infamous Cynthia Payne.

Reclaiming past, present and future stories of a deserted medieval village

https://youtu.be/GMuPSxNeV1o Leah Fusco, Kingston University, http://www.leahfusco.co.uk

This practice-based research explores challenges in documenting the physically shifting site of a deserted medieval village, previously an island and now a reclaimed landscape, located on a saltmarsh in East Sussex. Marshlands are areas of transience; geographic and human details are revealed and concealed repeatedly through dynamic water levels. I’m interested in how illustration can explore and capture alternative timeframes and readings of place.
Scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, Northeye DMV has experienced significant change since documentation of the site began in the 13th Century. Tsunamis, salt mines, the Black Death and smuggling have shaped the physical geography and socio economic history of the area, with a series of shallow trenches remaining as the only visual evidence of the village foundations at the site.
Reclaiming stories across 1000 years, from Holloways and smuggling routes to soil profiles to drainage management, I propose to reveal shifting, overlapping and converging stories from above, below and ground level at Northeye DMV.
I’m interested in scientific and experiential modes of measurement through fieldwork, encompassing oral histories, drawing, archival research and geoarchaeological information.
This submission forms part of my practice-based PhD research exploring lost histories in landscapes, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and seeks to build on developments between visual creative practice and humanity disciplines. I am currently initiating a new educational project that involves cross disciplinary fieldwork methods for the visualisation of site.

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