23 Aug 2014

Invitation to The Black Wood

This is a re-post of something recently published on EcoArt Dialogues, which is a record of my ongoing conversations with Glasgow-based environmental artist duo, Tim Collins and Reiko Goto, supported by an a-n Re:View bursary.

Waking up to Glasgow sunshine, I was transported by my generous hosts to the world of The Black Wood of Rannoch - 

– away from the city, from books, research questions; away from mentalism to direct experience of this forest field-site for their eco-artistic research. This first report is based on a sequence of photographs:
Arriving at The Black Wood, I was given the space to explore the terrain on my own. Very soon, I found myself tuning in to the rich soundscapes, resisting an urge to make recordings – which I felt would have partly removed me from the immediate experience. I was also drawn to the delicate fine-grained material textures around me, especially the abundant lichen growth. I was struck too by the strong yet subtle presence of human cultural artifacts, the juxtaposition (with the lifeworld of the woods) made all the more resonant by the slow gradual convergence of these worlds – artificial and biological.
When I re-connected with Reiko and Tim in the heart of the wood, there was a quality of at-ease-ness in our conversing, pondering, sensing, observing, touching. In the past, I have listened to Reiko speak of her deep empathic connection to the natural world, to the lifeworld. This has been central to her artistic practice and underpins all the work of Collins&Goto Studio.
There was ample time later for continuing our dialogues on eco-art and contemporary creative practice (to be covered in a future blog-post). For now, reaching the edges of the Black Wood, I was particularly struck by the incongruous presence of an abandoned indoor swimming pool, and some of its amazing ancillary structures such as a long timber flume. It was not so much the ruinous decay that interested me but maybe a sense that these architectural forms had gained something through their conversation with the living ecosystem of the wood. And yes, this is a watery site, revealing a facet of our deep social connection with water – for me a topic of ongoing creative research (such as this new Hydrocitizens project, my residency on the Severn Estuary Coast, and installation work I created in a village clothes-washing house in Portugal last year). I would like to come back to this place.
There is much more to be said, written, digested, but – in the spirit of the Black Wood – this will be a slow-blog process…