14 Feb 2012

The Dark Side

Fields and the River Torridge, Torrington, November 1983: James Ravilious © Beaford Arts
On the subject of 'shadows', and delving into hidden landscape realms, there is - in an eco-symbolic sense - perhaps also a parallel in the human unconscious? Jung credited Gustav Carus (1789-1869) with pointing to the unconscious as the essential basis of the dark side of the psyche. A contemporary of Goethe, Carus was a physiologist, writer, geologist, naturalist…and a landscape painter. A true polymath, he urged artists to study the 'physiognomy' of landscape and 'learn to speak the language of nature.' There is a darkness (a crepuscularity?) to many of Carus' paintings...

Carus coined a new term for the ideal landscape art - 'earth-life painting' (Erdlebenbild), finding the word 'landscape' too restrictive. In turn, this thinking draws me back to my earlier ruminations on 'ecophilic' or 'biophilic' creativity. The 'Confluence Project' is about a particular landscape - the catchment, or watershed, of the River Torridge, North Devon; but in essence it is about understanding biodiversity and planetary life-support. Many recent studies (example1, example2) demonstrate the importance of biodiversity in keeping ecosystems functioning, in a world that is changing at an ever increasing rate. The protection of such diversity is a crucial factor in maintaining the Earth's life-support capacity.

As well as addressing environment/ community/ art/ technology, for me the 'Confluence Project' is very much a fieldwork-based creative research residency. Breaking this down, one may ask: What is 'creative research'?; what is a 'creative residency'; or what is 'creative fieldwork'? On the subject of fieldwork, Robert Frodeman's argues (in 'Geo-Logic: Breaking Ground between Philosophy and the Earth Sciences, 2003) that geological field science - which formed a big part of my science-based background - employs approaches and practices traditionally ascribed to the humanities (eg intuition, subjectivity, imagination).

Time, motion and receptivity/sensitivity are important here. This is the 'slow residency' or 'deep/encounter mapping' concept: taking time, moving with/in the space/scape and being attentive. Archival and ecological/environmental research form part of the mix, or the re-mix, as well. There is is a sense of interweaving, layering, opening new vistas, of being - or becoming - a catalyst. With a focus on the twilight world of bats and the equally mysterious (and unsettling?) underwater realm, there is now an emerging visual collage embracing the Nosferatu vampire-world, infra-red footage of 'bat caves', the work of James Ravilious (renowned local photographer), underwater video footage, acoustic ecology and much more...

"There have always been two kinds of arcadia: the shaggy and smooth; dark and light; a place of bucolic leisure and a place of primitive panic" Simon Schama, 2004

On the subject of ecology and bats, I want to point to an example of an innovative and creative biodiversity-supporting design project - 'Bat Tower':

'Bat Tower', a sculptural installation: link to Youtube Video