Entries in landscape (87)
It is a long life, art. Penone did beautiful deconstructions of trees in the 1970s, cutting away tree rings to reveal the young tree inside a massive trunk. Recent work, a series at Versailles in 2013, is still about trees, but there is bronze, there are castings, there are interventions in how a tree grows, there is Versailles and its Le Nȏtre landscape, there isn't much povera any more, other than the insistence that trees grow and resist sculptural intentions. Weather intervenes; the cast tree bark is from a cedar that grew at Versailles, damaged by a storm. And as we in the boreal forest know, beetles and climate do more to shape the environment than any number of landscape architects and gardeners. There is an existential reality to trees – the remaking of trees/nature in the image of the divinity of man is what Penone has always resisted.
Sinji Turner-Yamamoto, studied in Kyoto and Bologna. Hanging Garden is part of on ongoing series (so far eleven), the Global Tree Project, with installations around the world that put trees into iconic spaces. His website is a cloud of poetic fluff about wisdom, life and meditation; the work is more interesting.
Arte Povera is a clear influence in this piece: the tree itself containing its own history in its structure, its surface form a tip of an iceberg of biomass. Here it is two trees, one living and one dead, meeting at the point they enter or emerge from the earth. A built mirror, both a small tragedy and a clever statement.
The deconsecrated 1889-1901 Holy Cross Church in Cincinnati? What a beautiful thing. An Irish immigrant church and an attached monastery, it suffered in the decline of the Catholic priesthood and closed in 1977.
Found a series of these Ed Freeman photographs of abandoned highway buildings in California. Not quite real, the original background has been removed and replaced with a series of moody skies and deserts. Clearly Eddie's Cafe is in a city, at 1208 Something Street, not in the middle of nowhere.
In the past, I would spend the third week in August driving from the cool nights of the eastern slopes of the Rockies at 52° N to the obliterating heat of central Texas which never seemed to cool down at night from its late summer daytime 100°F. On the way I would pass dozens of places like Eddie's Cafe, truly in a desert with nothing before it or after it, no photoshop needed.
Perhaps one of the reasons such cafes, gas stations and motels stand boarded up is one of distance and vehicles – my first trip to go teaching in the States was in my elderly 1957 Austin, top speed 50mph. Compared to real cars and trucks whose tanks of gas would take them 500 miles, I didn't want to ever be more than 15 miles away from help. It is something like the old placing of grain elevators every 6 miles along the railway tracks: a function of time and distance for horse drawn wagons delivering grain.
But these long driving trips were beautiful — an America off the freeway, out of the cities, quiet, deserted.
35mm Film Installation
Duration: 10:18 Loop (this is a lower resolution edited trailer – just a taste)
from Stankievech's website:
Gerhard Marx, a South African artist, seems interested in the underpinnings of the commonplace, in this case the map of Johannesburg which becomes reinscribed with the surface materials of Johannesburg. Not quite geology, more dirt, as if the gleaming towers and freeways of the modern city are just this: dirt, roots and grass, the map itself scratches on the ground.
The Tate catalogue entry says this sketch is one of Nash's rare unfinished paintings that he saved, then goes on to point out what it wrong with it: the curved shape in the centre is too large for the sun or moon, too precise for a cloud, probably the beginning of a parachute; abandoned as unsatisfactory. But he didn't paint over it, so it must have said something to him worth retaining.
The trees on the top of the hill he had painted in 1914, revisiting it in the mid-thirties and again in the mid-forties. The trees sit like a fort on the rise, or pillboxes, or gun emplacements: this was the middle of the war. Was it possible to view a landscape after two wars as anything but strategic terrain? Was this painting left unfinished as the curved shape had entered the painting as an unwelcome visitor? Nash was a surrealist: the curved shape doesn't have to be anything other than some harbinger of dread. Perhaps he couldn't go on with it.
It reminds me of Man Ray's Observatory Time, a painting done in the 1930s where Lee MIller's lips float in a mackerel sky, and used here in 1936 in a photocollage of nude and chessboard. There were no rules, however lots of people still try to tell us what things 'represent'. They represent nothing accessible, but they do tell us things.
Very curiously, Paul Nash has come my way twice recently. One contributor to On Site review 31: cartography + photography, Robin Wilson, found us through a post I'd done on Nash (the surrealism of ordinary things) in 2010, and Will Craig is writing a piece on the contradictions of modernism and nationalism as found in Paul Nash's work. The time must be right to look at Nash again.
Wang Shu's lecture when he was Harvard's GSD Kenzo Tange Professor in 2011. Almost two hours, it shows the difference between someone who is deeply embedded in a culture with a thousand-year old relationship between landscape and occupation, and our immigrant multiculturalism, dislocated from any sort of visceral understanding of either the past or landscape, and easily captured by ephemera.
Clearly he is distressed by the last twenty years of extreme development in China; traditionally there were no architects and planners, just builders within a system of landscape and landscape interpretation by poets and scholars. It explains Wang Shu's practice completely: he is not an architect, he is Chinese.
More ways to make a tree not look like itself. Pleaching, more or less, is where a hedge is elevated on bare tree trunks, to provide shade or privacy while leaving the ground plane free. How it differs from pollarding is that branches above a certain point are bent and interwoven, much like an espalier, so that the individual crown is lost, and all the crowns work together to form a solid whole.
Invariably, the images for all these ways of using and reshaping trees come from Europe, and Britain in particular, from classic avenues to agricultural hedges. Space is tight, people are close, edges must be maintained, land marked. It is almost a form of manners, necessary to the functioning of civility.
But we don't do it that way here. I live in an old inner city neighbourhood with a picket fence. Twenty years ago, the entire street had picket fences, one by one they have been removed, and new infills don't do fences at all. It seems a suburban kind of thing: no front fences, your front yard bleeding out onto the road, little delineation between private and public realms. But nobody uses their front yards anyway, so perhaps it doesn't matter. Prairie city hedges tend to be the ubiquitous caragana which can take a good four feet off each side of your lot, eight feet sorely missed. I've never seen one such hedge pleached; however, my hedges are now on notice: pleaching ahead.
We seem strangely reluctant to shape nature – is it a North American new city thing? Simply planting something is enough, then we let it go. Our relationship with trees and bushes is quite laissez-faire until the tree becomes annoying and it is chopped down altogether. What a relationship. I like you till you become too big then I'll kill you.
More ways to torture trees. Coppicing was for woodlands where new shoots are easily harvested, springing as they do from ground level. Pollarding is similar except that the original tree trunk is cut off at 8-10 feet high. This was used where the land was used for grazing and new shoots at ground level would be grazed off.
Stobbing is when you cut a tree off at head height and so do not have to use a ladder. Ancient practices these, all meant to control the height of a tree to lessen the shade cast by a large canopy, to structurally strengthen the tree by reducing the proportion of canopy to trunk girth, or to provide easily accessible building materials.
Both coppicing and pollarding are finding new life in permaculture management of biomass, but pollarding's longer history is, like coppicing, that of harvesting even, small-diameter trunks off an existing and vigorous root system. This is incredibly ugly looking in the winter – massacred stumps, and when in leaf, extremely formal, pollarding being one of the methods used to control avenues of trees in nineteenth century gardens. When you think of it, it is rather like turning tree trunks into pilotis: the open ground plane, buildings floating above.
Why do I feel I need to know about coppicing? Because trees grow, often in the wrong places in a small yard, and one must do something about them or they will take out your foundation.
We are a country of forests and timber, most of which goes for dimensional lumber and pulp. However, in countries with hardwood forests, ancient forests that have cohabited with centuries of settlement, forests are managed.
Coppicing is where a single-trunk tree which normally would fractally divide and subdivide from tree trunk to twig, is cut off at the base allowing shoots to sprout from the still-living roots. These shoots differ from the original tree trunk, in that there are many of them, they are thin and straight and, because of the vigour of the root system, literally shoot up without dividing. Then they are harvested, which is interesting, as there was, and is, a need for straight pieces for rails, poles; whippy shoots for wickerwork: this is using wood without re-shaping it in a mill.
A coppiced tree can last for centuries, perpetually young if harvested regularly with none of the shoots actually allowed to mature into a full tree. I'm sure there is a rather brutal metaphor there, if one cared to work it out. It is a dying practice, the need for hop-poles and thatching spars sadly diminished. Ray Arnatt once showed me his car from the 1920s he'd brought from England when he emigrated, which had a wooden frame and was sheathed in painted canvas: the frame was bentwood, like bentwood chairs, steamed into shape. This would have been coppiced wood, probably ash — strong and inviolate, the integrity of the whole cross-section of a tree complete.
In comparison, our clear cut treatment of softwood forests seems shockingly impatient. It is a habit we do not investigate, perhaps because we don't inhabit our forests with any kind of intimacy, they are a hinterland to our cities or our agricultural territories, a backdrop we don't know very well. Aboriginal peoples knew the forests well, they had those centuries of cohabitation, but the proportion of people to trees was low. There were many trees they did not know individually either.
But we have the tools and technology to harvest full trees and make them into any kind of shape we want – it is a luxury of excess product and we are profligate with it.
There is something so geological about Thiebaud's view of the city: buildings and roads are like shards of rock, as vertiginous as cliff faces. These are drawings where the x-axis has been multiplied by 10, the unbuilt landscape is mysterious — an enormous clamshell holding itself to itself, the road is both brave and intimate: a tremendously exciting place to live, as San Francisco is. Thiebaud introduces a powerful scale with which to identify one's place in this city way beyond the vocabulary of urbanism. The city is like a Krazy Kat mesa: a figure in the landscape that one lives up against.
Looks like Castle Mountain and the highway to Banff before the Trans-Canada was built. It is paved; even in the 1960s most of the Trans-Canada through the mountains was still gravel. It certainly reduced speed. What I do now in a day used to take two at the minimum, three if one was being leisurely.
The station wagon looks roughly like a mid-50s Pontiac, but people kept cars longer then.
Alan Bennet wrote about visiting Temple Newsam, a 17th century house just outside Leeds, when he was nine or ten, in the London Review of Books, 8 November 2012 :
Visiting Temple Newsam was always a treat, as it still is more than half a century later. Back in 1947, though, with the country in the throes of the postwar economic crisis, the push was on for more coal and the whole of the park in front of the house was given over to open-cast mining, the excavations for which came right up to the terrace. From the state rooms you looked out on a landscape as bleak and blasted as a view of the Somme, an idyll, as it seemed to me then, irretrievably lost, and young though I was I knew this.
This is the Ordnance Survey Map for 1945-1947 that shows Temple Newsam: clearly the house sat on the top of a hill, surrounded by woods and collieries and remarkably close to the sewage works, canals, and railway line of Skelton.
Bennett continues: But of course I was wrong. It wasn't irretrievable and to look at the grounds today one would have no idea that such a violation had ever occurred. And it had occurred, too, with even greater devastation at other country houses south of Leeds: Nostell Priory was similarly beleaguered, as was Wentworth Woodhouse, both …, smack in the middle of coal-bearing country…
Yorkshire has lost more large houses than any other English county — 253 and mostly in the 1950s, usually by fire or insufficient wealth. This is yet another back story, or rather future story, behind Downton and all the lovely dresses.
Anne Purkiss started in 1985 to photograph members of the Royal Academy of Arts. This one, of David Nash was probably taken in 1999 when he became a member. He is in his studio next to a mining tip in Blaenau Ffestiniog, a Victorian slate mining town in Gwynedd, Wales. It is no surprise that with the decline of the use of slate, there would have been many industrial spaces surplus to requirements; many of which would make capacious studios.
His material isn't slate, it is trees. From wikipedia's description of Wooden Boulder: 'begun in 1978, this work involves a large wooden sphere carved by Nash in the North Wales landscape and in 1982 left there to weather. Over the years, the boulder has slipped, rolled and sometime been pushed through the landscape following the course of streams and rivers until finally it was last seen in the estuary of the River Dwyryd. It was thought to have been washed out to sea but, after being missing for over five years, the boulder reappeared in June 2009. Indications are that it had been buried in sand in the estuary.'
Isabelle Hayeur: Au milieu de nulle part
As part of Paris Photo at the Canadian Cultural Centre
5, rue de Constantine 75007 Paris
November 14, 2012 to March 22, 2013
Opening reception on November 13, 6h30 pm
From Isabelle Hayeur's press release:
"in the middle of nowhere", which, come to think of it, raises the idea of a strange encounter between geometry and geography. A paradoxical expression that has a wide range of connotations (from irony to poetry, from disenchantment to contemplation), it is used to refer to an object or a place from a relatively unplaceable space. Here, photography demonstrates its power to represent space-time continuums outside our everyday world, outside its flux, noise and inattention. The subjects seem to be uprooted, deprived of rooting in nature, of links to the earthly continuum. For Pascal Grandmaison, Isabelle Hayeur and Thomas Kneubühler, the framing is a crucial process that proposes another way of dividing up reality to take us elsewhere. Not towards some form of exoticism but, on the contrary and more colloquially, to the middle of nowhere.
« Au milieu de nulle part » est une expression qui pointe une chose ou un emplacement isolé, qui sort de l'ordinaire ou qui fait saillie de manière inopinée à partir de l'immensité plane. Littéralement une situation insituable – une absurdité, un paradoxe, une tromperie, un leurre, un éclat – qui représente un objet fabuleux pour la photographie. Les photographes Pascal Grandmaison, Isabelle Hayeur et Thomas Kneubühler, réunis ici pour la première fois, ont en commun cet intérêt manifeste pour ce qui n'est pas censé être au centre de l'attention. Par le cadrage photographique ils proposent un autre découpage du réel pour nous emmener ailleurs. Non pas vers quelque forme d'exotisme mais, bien au contraire et plus familièrement, « Au milieu de nulle part ».