If you are on Arran – or in the vicinity – on Sunday May 25, please do come to the Nature of Change launch. We’re meeting 2pm at the Reception Centre next to ‘my’ tree: Rhododendron k arranensis.The best bit of any residency is being there, in art-speak: ‘social engagement’ and/or ‘immersion’. For me it entails being open to the moment: someone passing through comes across the work happening in the glade – with camera and excellent eye – sees an angle I have missed and through the ensuing dialogue allows her photo to be used on our beautiful invite. Thank you Jackie!
“It’s funny doing everything remotely, firing things off into space and waiting for them to come back again…”
I love this snippet from the to and fro of emails with artist/film-maker Catherine Weir. After filming on Arran she has distilled – from hours of ‘footage’ (pixelage?) – this wee film:
Cut, spliced, chopped and shuffled, it’s been a quest for essence, a long process – with considerable patience on Catherine’s part – through which I have come to realise I prefer being behind the artwork (and not spot-lit; describing what I’d really prefer others to find – or seek – for themselves). But I’m curious to know what others think.
The Gardeners promised to make a planter and find a specimen tree that would ‘advertise’ the artwork at Reception. They are busy people – my expectations weren’t high – but I was taken aback by the loveliness of their choices.The planter is bespoke and ‘charred’ (we had talked about burning as a transitional process in the nature of change: tree to wood to charcoal), the tree is perfectly proportioned and – not least – the surface beneath is of undisturbed moss, grass and fern.
Gardeners, rangers and farmers: all choose their work – I assume – for the love of being outside. But where they may wield saws, loppers and secateurs I have been tackling rhodi’s with a pair of children’s scissors. Neither topiary nor forestry – my aim is neither management nor adornment – I modify, selecting one leaf where it nudges another, as if a genetic mutation were at work instigated through touch.
I’m thinking about slowing down, normally associated with ‘getting old’ – check – but in this instance taking more time to really look.
The artwork is slow-burn and needs ‘different’ eyes to process its qualities (which are partly about just being there).
So as well as ‘rowanising’ magnificum leaves, I cut apertures into a heap of fallen ones in the hope visitors might tarry a while, pick one up and focus using the limiting frame (of vision) to capture detail otherwise overlooked; the nose-up-close-style seeing of an attentive bee, rather than the ‘glance and move on’ of a regular human’s woodland walk.
I’m hoping for more. After the launch, opportunities for me to visit the work will be limited and yet it will continue to change. So in the hope others might lend me their eyes, I have set up a Flickr site to collect ‘framed’ images of the work. If you visit please tarry, take a photo and upload it to: https://www.flickr.com/groups/natureofchange/
Leaves sliced, stumps charred, moss, logs and leaf-litter lifted and shifted; we are almost there, almost ready for the official launch.
But where is ‘there’?
The site hasn’t got a name. On first visiting I wrote ‘Jo’s Rhodi’s’ in my notebook – on account of the volunteer who first suggested the spot. Then it became ‘The Glade’, but the estate is full of ‘glades’, so something more defining was needed. At the head of the Ryden Trail: ‘Ryden Grove’ became an option (‘grove’ sounding more Scots than ‘glade’) only it’s rather mundane – suggestive of a housing estate in Hull.
With five of us mulling over possibilities ‘The Grove Clad in Green’ adapted from a song by Rabbie Burns became a favourite. Though a tad long for printing on maps; so I imagine either ‘Ryden’s Glade’ or ‘The Green’ hosting the launch at 2pm on May 25.
The grounds of the estate host many exotics in amongst the natives. And for a few days this week, there were two more than usual to be spotted wandering paths, admiring views and sticking noses into mosses; basically turning up in all manner of unlikely places.
Proving difficult to identify were ‘incomers’ Sara Maitland and me. Not ‘staff’ and not quite ‘visitor’, the real staff coped admirably well with having a couple of potentially ‘difficult customers’ at large within their habitat: helpful, informative and knowledgeable, they looked after us seemingly quite unflustered by the oddest requests or questions.
Perhaps – like other ‘aliens’ that need identifying – we should have worn tags (similar to the little numbered metal discs all the larger plants in the grounds wear). Though here, Sara looks quite ‘naturalised’ basking in our sunlit glade. Whilst – spotted through a rhodi-leaf viewing-frame – I have been captured ‘predating’ on magnificum leaves. After one walk we were curious to know more about a pink flowering plant we’d seen dotted throughout the estate, the response: argh, Salmonberry, INVASIVE!