AN INTER-CULTURAL ARTISTS RESIDENCY
Harcourt Arboretum, July 2009
The arboretum contains three distinct and differing terrains; the wooded area, the more formal landscaped arboretum, with traces of the early Pineteum designed by William Sawrey Gilpin and the meadow area. The artist spent time moving round the edge of the arboretum, taking in the changes in the environment using processes such as listening, sitting, moving/walking and waiting. The arboretum is located alongside the A423, this influenced ideas concerning the construction of space, human intervention in managed locations of leisure and the environment.
The arboretum is a managed space and certain areas such as the meadow cannot be walked on due to the flora and fauna and insect life. Hypo-locate was an excavation of the terrain through dowsing, a way of defying these restrictions and a means of exploring another materiality. Narratives of non- presence developed concenring what happens in the arboretum behind the locked gates at night, is their danger in the woods; where are the eyes that see, what is constructed here and what is not? This was particularly pertinent to the wooded area where narratives became fears about the unknown, meeting someone and being carried away, or the childhood sense of the forbidden .
Draweography is a method of mark mapping on the move and was used to excavate the terrain. Temporal moments were documented through a series of drawings made with the body including responses to wind, bird calls, traffic and footsteps.
Proud as... was an intervention on the residency's open day that responded to the managed tree lined arboretum space and the peacocks which stalked the garden space. The artist wandered through the crowd dressed in a ball gown as host, responding to guests attending a dinner party or event of great importance.
Walking along the outer path, one is pulled off serpentine like, to small grassy areas tucked away, this landscaped area beckons you to move further into the centre but also brings you back again. Meandering grassy paths merge into each other, every now and then they open up into small or larger open grass staged glades; surrounded by trees and inhabited by peacocks. This ordered area is formal in presentation, each tree presented along winding paths - Witch Hazel, Redwood, Oak, Maple, and Acer. There is an expectation that a pagoda or plinth of a famous sculptured head perhaps of the Harcourt family might rise up in one of the amphitheatres. But the space is refreshingly empty of reminders of ownership.
The trees are the reminder of this place as a collection with their labelled Latin names and the odd tree showing signs of better days, old age leaving it with limbs missing. Some project certain personalities through name or physical presentation. Picea Breweriana the Brewers
Weeping Spruce a tree has branches drooping downwards to the ground as if it is carrying the
whole worlds on its back.
Benches and trees bear the names of loved ones
reminders of the new born
traces of those no longer present
in loving memory of
we miss you dearly
you are with us forever
Tress in cages
Young trees find themselves penned in by chicken wire, I imagine this must be to prevent deer eating the bark in their night time visits to the space.
Moving on --- The outer path moves onwards and is bordered by a fence and road longer grassed areas pull me towards the fence and the sound of traffic one cant help but feel one is walking between two worlds that heightens my sense of constructed manmade spaces that of the landscaped garden park space and that of the
the lane narrows and the path becomes wooded this area is covered with bracken and there is sense of being alone. Moving further into the woodland coppice, I am leaving something behind and the traffic is replaced with a stillness punctuated by the wind the sound of my own footsteps birds and a different type of breathing sound.
There is a vulnerability here. A muted light and sense of being watched, its that unconscious memory of woods being full of eyes; that those watching might just jump out and eat me up. I feel more enclosed here, the temperature and the myths of childhood - Brothers Grimm, Red Riding Hood and the warning to never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle. Would I be walking here if this was not a managed woodland?
Walking on one moves down a small hill past older trees penned in by metal fencing. looking rather lost and isolated, these trees are like some sort of experiment that is not quite finished. The land opens out into a vast sea meadowand looking up the sky is a giant and my body grows and meets the horizon. This area is looked over by the towering arms of electricity pylons holding up the land. The outer path skirts the highest point and from here you can hardly hear the traffic despite being only 5 minutes or so from the road. Very few people arrive up here, its a microcosm for other beings - umpteen grasses and butterflies, horse flies pierce through your clothing in a second of landing.
Gradually the hill flattens out to the car park and another space is revealed back to the path ......