catherine weir has produced a short film which summarises the residency and the process of engagement which developed. she captured perfectly the overall experience which led to the final outcome TREE CHURCH.
if i’m going to truly show process then there is no better way than to have an open studio policy. anyone is welcome to come into the studio when i’m there working and quite a few people regularly do just that. the artist studio process of collecting and making is a 3D extension of the sketchbook process and this is where the real intuitive connections are made. these photos give a snapshot in time of where i’m at right now for the members of staff at battleby too shy to come over or too busy to leave the building. i’ve been working with texts and with printmaking techniques – all the prints have been made here with spraypaint and bootlace fungus on found materials in my spray shed by upper battleby. the shed is freezing but well ventilated and this means i work very fast and completely intuitively to produce these aurora prints which are far looser than i normally work when i draw or screenprint. initially i set myself one strict condition, that the work must be created within the natural boundaries of battleby with the creative tools at hand. it changed the work and my process and was a great experiment for me personally but now i can relax these rules to sharpen the finish the idea requires for the final structure i plan to create in the grounds – the tree church.
in the first month or two of the residency i was experimenting with polaroids while mapping the gardens during my walking phase. as the residency moved on the polaroids became less part of my focus until they simply faded back into sketchbook development. now that i am really focusing on my artwork and the permissions required to install it in the grounds at battleby its given me time to look back over some of these stages and reflect. the images here are a sample of some of the explorations i was making back at the beginning as i got to know the place and the people who inhabit it. notes accompanying the images state that maps are representations of theories and views of the universe, representing space and location and responding to the nuances not the totality of the environment. this work is only process but it still seems worth placing here among my other research. demystifying the artists process is as much my goal for the residency as creating a piece of work.
adhocism is described by Charles Jencks and Nathan Silver, the inventors of the ISM, as “a timeless human process – the innovative manipulation of limited resources immediately to hand for the resolution of present needs”. its fantastic when you backtrack and discover that everything you do regarding process has a nice ism to study in more depth. everything about my practice regarding found and recycled materials in 3 dimensional form contextualised as shrines comes out of a deep love of dada, joseph cornell and the mixed media exploits of kurt schwitters with mertzbautten and the eccentricity of a handful of outsider artists. so its with great pleasure I’m currently studying adhocism the 1970s architectural and art movement.
adhocism is Charles Jencks and Nathan Silver’s 1972 manifesto which describes a philosophy where “a generation that took pleasure in doing things ad hoc, using materials at hand to solve real-world problems. The implications were subversive. turned-off citizens of the 1970s immediately adopted the book as a DIY guide. adhocism has always been around. ( Robinson Crusoe, making a raft and then a shelter from the wreck of his ship.) however it is also an undeveloped force within the way we approach almost every activity, from play to architecture to city planning to political revolution”.
i’ve lately been making prints in the grounds of battleby using spray paints and actual pieces of the bootlace fungus. its part of my interest to create using the tools of decay, the fungus being exactly that in their own contribution to the cycle of life.
bootlace fungus or honey fungus as it is better known, the bootlaces being the means of spreading the fungus from living trees, dead and live roots and stumps by means of reddish-brown to black root-like rhizomorphs (‘bootlaces’) at the rate of around 1 m a year. bootlace is a genus of parasitic fungi that live on trees and woody shrubs. it includes about 10 species formerly lumped together which are long lived and form some of the largest living organisms in the world.
in biology, an organism is any contiguous living system (such as animal, fungus, micro-organism, or plant). in at least some form, all types of organisms are capable of responding to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homeostasis as a stable whole.
the largest single organism (of the species armillaria solidipes) covers more than 3.4 square miles and is thousands of years old. some species of armillaria are bioluminescent and may be responsible for the phenomena known as foxfire and perhaps will o’ the wisp or spunkies as they are sometimes known in scotland.
will-o’-the-wisp are atmospheric ghost lights seen by travellers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes. It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached, drawing travellers from the safe paths. It’s a popular superstition world wide and in literature, Will o’ the wisp sometimes has a metaphorical meaning, describing a hope or goal that leads one on but is impossible to reach, or something one finds sinister and confounding.
The encyclopedia britannica summarises the manifesto call of this group of scientists stating their aims as “Rejecting the traditions of British natural theology and the privileges of the established church and its educational institutions, the X Club represented the naturalistic movement in science”.
While reading Edward O. Wilson, a Harvard University entomologist, who coined the term “biophilia”, referring to humans’ “love of living things” – our innate affinity with nature I ended up backtracking to Charles Darwin and his world changing “Origin of the Species” text.
This in turn uncovered the ‘X’ club who also make fascinating reading. In 1864 Thomas Huxley and eight fellow scientists formed an organization called the X Club, dedicated to the promotion of Darwinian theory and pure science by which they mean without the intrusion of any formal religion particularly the church of England and the creation theories it expoused. Its members were very active for almost 40 years, gathering respect and public influence. As Britanica summarise it “The X Club acted as the “power behind the throne” with respect to the governance of the Royal Society and other British scientific groups. It began as a private scientific dining club in Victorian London and was remarkable for the power that its nine members exerted on the scientific and cultural climate of late-19th-century England”.
The X Club met monthly from November 1864 until March 1892. Its members were Joseph Dalton Hooker, eminent botanist and probably founder of the club; T.H. Huxley, biologist; John Tyndall, experimental physicist; John Lubbock, banker, ethnologist, and entomologist; William Spottiswoode, Queen’s Printer and amateur mathematician; Edward Frankland, a leading chemist; George Busk, retired surgeon, comparative anatomist, and microscopist; T.A. Hirst, mathematician; and Herbert Spencer, sociologist and philosopher of evolution.
X Club members claimed cultural leadership for scientists rather than the clergy, defended Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution, campaigned for government support for science and jobs for scientists, and demanded a place for science at all levels of education.
The scientific eminence, social status, hard work, and political astuteness of the X Club’s members were all essential to the group’s success. By electing one another to office and through effective networking, these men were influential in scientific societies and became leading advisers to the government. As popular lecturers, contributors to elite journals, and textbook writers, they were among the prime interpreters of science for the industrializing and secularizing society of Victorian England.