a’a flow

 

The Destruction of Royal Gardens

“The future is but the obsolete in reverse”, Heraclitus once said. I quote him later on, in a voice-over for this film we’ve yet to make.

When we arrive in Breiddalsvik George Walker is filed into boxes in the basement of the primary school. We scan labels and lists and choose portions of him to get into. His footage arrives from Reykjavik unwatched in a small black brick: we set down with it, knowing we’re looking for golden moments and knowing that if we try to talk about what these are we’ll start to fight. It’s two o’clock and the sun is setting. A folder of diagrams is open on the table, something to do with non-Newtonian fluids. I mention that I’m still trying to figure out what the viscous shape is. C replies that it might be easier to figure out what it is not.

We watch for a long time until redundancy slides from endless landforms shot from above onto the surface of the film itself. Beneath a vibrating patina of scratches and dust, blasts of pyroclastic tephra settle on our macbook screen. “He’s close” I say, “It’s hot ash hitting the lens”. “Or” (Curtis) “a record of the number of times it’s been looked at?” Neither of us is wrong, and the geologist’s eye and our eyes seem stuck to this segment of footage in particular.

One’s mind and the earth are in a constant state of erosion”  wrote Robert Smithson, in an essay for Artforum in the year Walker travelled to document the eruption of Mt Etna.  

…mental rivers wear away abstract banks, brain waves undermine cliffs of thought, ideas decompose into stones of unknowing, and conceptual crystallizations break apart into deposits of gritty reason. Vast moving faculties occur in this geological miasma, and they move in the most physical way. This movement seems motionless, yet it crushes the landscape of logic under glacial reveries The most beautiful world is like a heap of rubble tossed down in confusion…

Amidst Walker’s rubble there’s a larger box in the archive labelled simply, “the book”. Christa tells us it’s a manuscript that he wrote and never published: the first page is labelled “Chp.1, Viscosity

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The Destruction of Royal Gardens (1983) 16mm footage + diagrams by George Patrick Leonard Walker (1926 – 2005)

For fifteen years in the 1970s and ‘80s GPL Walker worked as Chair of the Volcanology Department at the University of Hawaii, where he intimately studied and photographed the pahoehoe and a’a lava flows incessantly overtaking the local roads and coral reefs of Maui. Our second short film resulting from the work at Breiddalssetur Geology Center in East Iceland features a 16mm time lapse taken by Walker of one such flow destroying an inhabited area known as “Royal Gardens” over the course of an entire day. The almost invisible movements of the molten rock and lava are rendered lifelike and viscous in his time-condensed footage.

We intercut an animation created from thousands of diagrams and drawings produced by George for an unfinished manuscript, a project he was unable to complete before his death in 2005. Known only as “The Book”, these writings feature ten chapters rigorously describing different types of flow which emanate from volcanic action, from tephra clouds, falling deposits, and underwater landslides, to a’a rubble and pahoehoe lava rivers. Our work pulls from Walker’s text to appropriate the flow-dynamics of lava itself as a “sorting mechanism” and filmic treatment of the archival material.

Produced by Breidalssetur Geology Center (Christa and Martin Feucht)
Original Music by Hermione Spriggs & Curtis Tamm
Animation by HS
Sound Design & Editing by CT

This short film is featured as part of The Viscous Shape, an ongoing research and film project by HS & CT which seeks to warm up the textual and visual archives of George PL Walker.

Made with generous support from the Arts Council England International Development Fund & Skaftfell Center for Visual Art. Special thanks to the Walker Family and GPL Walker Archives.

Gobbles Sound OK

 

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Panel with Kevin Logan and Richey Cary at audibleVISIONS, Goldsmiths 

 

Gobbles Sound Ok

The real skill of the practitioner lies not in skilled concealment but in the skilled revelation of skilled concealment…

For hundreds of years philosophers and artists have lamented their incapacity to adequately copy ‘nature’, with frustrated attempts at representation only serving to accelerate the increasing fissure between polarized worlds of human and animal. On the other hand hunters and trappers use finely-tuned strategies for aesthetic and audio mimesis: decoy calls and Foley performances draw a hunter into intimate proximity with his/her prey.

‘Gobbles Sound Ok’ explores the critical difference between these contrasting approaches to discourse with and around the natural world. Via Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Essay on the Origin of Languages, Dijkstra’s theory of image substitution and online hunting instructables, Gobbles Sound OK investigates the production and performance of sonic decoys and hunting lures as multi-sensory, multi-species ‘artworks’ that utilize difference to undermine the boundary between human and animal.

Cyanometer

but how does each blue see the other blues?

cyan

http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/Issues/2010/October/SaussuresCyanometer.asp

“how to measure ‘blueness’? Using suspensions of Prussian blue, Saussure dyed paper squares every shade of blue he could distinguish between white and black. These were assembled into a numbered colour circle that could be held up to the zenith at a standard distance from the eye – the matching square established the degree of blue.”

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archive images from Land Art Mongolia 3rd Biennial, HS 2014 uurga-irregularloop.com

 

Flat Time Theory

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Last week I went to Flat Time House the once-home of artist John Latham (1921–2006) to meet with director Gareth Bell-Jones. The building now houses Latham’s archives and in many senses it embodies the cosmology the late artist proselytized and inhabited. Not unlike West African Batammaliba architecture, Flat Time House literally presents itself as a (social) body replete with ‘mouth’, ‘digestive system’, ‘brain’ and a ‘mind’ – the sunlit front room – choreographed to ensnare unsuspecting visitors in Latham’s dense philosophical dialogue. When he was alive the artist was known for his dynamic but often opaque and rambling mode of explaining the world through his work, and this tendency survives him in the concretized objects and diagrams that continue to populate the Mind and Brain of Flat Time House where Latham’s archives are kept.

Gareth had promised me ‘his version’ of a tour through these inner workings, and I went with a specific interest in learning more about Flat Time Theory, which I have come to understand as Latham’s proposition for a new conceptualization of reality, drafted with the utopian premise of shattering binary oppositions between subjects and objects by presenting All Things horizontally on a canvas of the artists own creation. The Flat Time Canvas, a sort of hyper-object, prioritizes the temporal dimension of things and – according to Latham – if one is able to experience all objects as durations in time, this lends them an equivalence without hierarchy, drawing them into undeniable relation with each another.

The tour was particularly satisfying because Latham’s works – which otherwise camouflage themselves fairly well in a more anonymous gallery context as straightforward ‘sculptures’ and ‘paintings’ – took on the role of performers or integral narrative props that literalised what might otherwise have been an indigestibly dense burrow through the diverse realms of influence that contribute to Latham’s cosmology. The point here is I suppose that, true to form, ‘flat time’ cannot be encapsulated in any single object or static sketch—moreover the objects that inhabit this world are not compliant representations that can be ‘explained’ or made sense of in isolation or through simple definition and it is therefore only in time, and probably only through some form of dialogical performance, that Flat Time might begin to unfurl itself and (if only for a fleeting instant) become legible. Perhaps this legibility then corresponds to Latham’s ‘Least Event’, discovered by the experimental spray-painting of a neighbor’s fence, the smallest possible action or moment in time that might refer equally to a single atom or an atomic explosion on a global scale. The Least Event exists inside the Mind as a one-second drawing made with spray paint, and again as a blank white canvas, alongside the Zero Event (materialized as a corresponding plane of glass). These are but two reiterating characters in a glossary that bifurcates the closer you look.

I’ve been particularly curious to discover the degree to which Flat Time, and Latham’s approach to mapping this 4D diagrammatic system, might correlate with the way I’ve been dealing with animal traps as durational objects and systematic assemblages, made of tendencies and capacities that relate to the umwelt (the sensory environment) of an animal. Traps are compelling and useful, in that they shed light on environmental relations in the context where they’re set, and have a tendency to invert general and personal assumptions regarding perspective, geometry and time. These inversions are, I suppose, a large part of what an Anthropology of Other Animals might really be about, particularly through the extended challenge that they pose to our collective reliance upon thinking of ourselves as humans in opposition to animals, subjects in an objective world, sentient beings in the context of an un-sensing material landscape, etc.

Continue reading “Flat Time Theory”

Anthropological Traps

captura-de-pantalla-2016-01-07-a-las-12-25-26“The trap is the first and the ultimate anthropology of itself.”

Alberto Corsin Jimenez

Alberto Corsin Jimenez + Rane Willerslev are heading up a panel on ‘Anthropological Traps’ at the EASA conference in Milan this July. I’ll be joining the tangle to talk about a Mongolian lasso and non-Euclidean drawing tools, and to preview a new collaboration with Rebecca Empson, a sort of cross-species stereoscope that holds the split perspective of a pole-lasso at work as it negotiates between the worlds of herder and horse.

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The panel

“The ethnographic record is replete with accounts of trapping as a technology of hunting. Yet they failed to engage the attention of scholars as objects of theory in their own right. This panel aims to correct this omission by centering attention on ‘traps’ as spaces of ethnographic and theoretical productivity. We believe that traps offer new ground with which to rethink the comparative project of anthropology. On the one hand, traps work as interfaces between human and nonhuman forms and agencies. They blur classical distinctions between prey and predator, subject and object, nature and culture, epistemology and ontology. Secondly, traps work as ecological infrastructures. They artefactualize the density of human and nonhuman entanglements. Third, traps are space-time technologies in their own right. They are framing devices where acceleration, anticipation or waiting take hold over bodies and environments in various capacities.

Continue reading “Anthropological Traps”

SPARAGMOS

 

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sketch for “recipe for trapping and eating oneself alone (with others)”, HS 2013

 

Sparagmos (Ancient Greek: σπαραγμός, from σπαράσσω sparasso, “tear, rend, pull to pieces”) is an act of rending, tearing apart, or mangling, usually in a Dionysian context.

In Dionysian rite as represented in myth and literature, a living animal, or sometimes even a human being, is sacrificed by being dismembered. Sparagmos was frequently followed by omophagia (the eating of the raw flesh of the one dismembered). It is associated with the Maenads or Bacchantes, followers of Dionysus, and the Dionysian Mysteries.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sparagmos