Epic Soundtrack #2 – The Dance of Our Days – is a zine-style book about walking a one-hour circuit in Dedham Vale, soundtracked by the song ‘The Age of Miracles’ by English guitar group The Clientele. It documents this walk as its landscape is transformed by repeated listening to a single piece of music, through my text and photographs, with design concept and production by Julian Hyde (Voices in a Lane) and design by David Banning (Chroma Editions). Ten loose cardstock pages, black-and-white, in a string-and-washer envelope.
This edition of The Dance of Our Days is limited to 25 hand-numbered copies, and costs £12 (incl. postage) within the UK.
For availability and to order contact julian [at] voicesinalane [dot] co [dot] uk.
I’ve recently been reminded of this fantastic work of contemporary landscape art by the Irish artist Gerard Byrne. A Country Road. A tree. Evening. is a series of lush, baroque photographs of locations in Ireland and France that fit Samuel Beckett’s brief stage setting for Waiting For Godot, consisting of those nine syllables.
The idea that Godot takes place in all these locations, that these photographs are landscapes of waiting; charged landscapes, whose energy comes from a literature connected to them only in our individual imaginations as catalysed by the artist: it’s definitive to me of the relationship between art and landscape – and ownership, climate and heritage. Beckett lives in these places thanks to Byrne’s works, and these places – in the photographs, if not ‘real life’ – become something they might never have been without our conversation.
I’ve got quite a bit of work to get through at the moment, and as always, have found myself in need of newly compelling-yet-not-distracting instrumental music is what’s required to make it happen. Here’s what’s been going ’round and ’round in the speakers and headphones.
David Wheatley looks out the window of his adopted Aberdeenshire home, surveys the ring of mountains that surrounds him in his lockdown and sees in it Patrick Kavanaugh’s own sense of the impossible innocence of insularity: “I cannot die / unless I walk outside these whitethorn hedges.” The mountains, however, have different ideas. They move. The Zen masters tell us that if you doubt the walking of mountains, you doubt your own walking. Perhaps, in lockdown, unable to walk, this doubt was reversed: without traversing his Scottish residence nor his Irish homeland, Wheatley may have doubted his walking, only to be reminded by the mountains of its essence.
This brief essay and photographs stands as a reminder not to doubt the mountains nor ourselves. But the movements here are shifts in toponymy reflecting shifts in the human, more than the earth: the gap between square-meters of momentary dirt and daisies and the eons of interaction that comprise a ‘place’. These movements, wanderings, are the essence of the uncanny nature of landscape – of, indeed, ‘home’.
At the heart of this text is an unspoken (except through its section-defining quotations) tribute to Tim Robinson. Certainly one of the most breathtaking chroniclers of place over the past few decades, Robinson – an Englishman who walked, mapped and described Western Ireland as well as any person – died in April, weeks after his beloved wife Máiréad. Robinson believed in people creating ‘roots’ rather than being gifted them, and imagined the human node on the networks of landscape as being an ever-transitioning role.
“A place name,” Robinson once said, “is a few words piled up to mark a spot, draw attention to it; differentiate it from the unmarked. A few stones that fall down after some generations, perhaps for someone else to pile them up again into a different shape.” These tiny stories we tell that designate one place from another – they are the stories that generate home, and the un-home; roots and the rootless. Wheatley’s mountains wander when he is unsure of their names, and they focus when comfortable with their wanders. The names, when joined to the dirt and the daisies, become the intersection: the key. Everything to our setting, even as they are nothing.
This has been imported from an old website from 2020.
David Brooks is an American artist making work that often dovetails with many of the concepts behind The Uncanny Landscape. I came to his work thanks to a fantastic piece at Cass Sculpture Foundation, Picnic Grove, which played around with ideas of ruination and the human/non-human interface and was also simply a beautiful and simple piece of sculpture. I was reminded of Picnic Grove recently thanks to the paintings of Paul Smith, and have since been navigating Brooks’s website, breathing in his combination of uncanny taxonomy and landscape hauntology with a healthy dose of small-town Midwestern plainspoken heartiness (and, of course, a bit of irony).
There are a lot of works to come back to, time and again, with Brooks; one I keep thinking of at the moment is A Proverbial Machine in the Garden – a landscape sculpture made for Storm King Art Center in New York’s Hudson Valley. The piece revolves around a tractor buried in the landscape, visible through a series of disjointed shafts, creating a series of “anatomically separated” and “fossilized” views of archaeological objects; a thing that is both in and of, and active upon, that landscape.
But Brooks himself, in his writing and in this video, is better at this stuff than I could be. The link below the photo will take you to his webpage for the piece; the Outlooks / Storm King video is below that.