Exercise 2.5 (Project – Land Art)

 The brief project concerns Land Art, with a quick look at Richard Long, but the exercise concerns text in art so it seems rather disjointed but I made the best I could of it, including re-visiting Richard Long who I already wrote about here

Interesting distinction between “Land Art” and “Earth Art”. The former having a conceptual basis through representation of the experience of visiting, travelling to or through the land. The latter being direct intervention within/or use of the raw materials of a landscape and the work being generally made or presented in situ.  I have done both on several occasions, the most lengthy being in July 2017   with an attempt to create an ‘installation’ in the local copse by weaving wool on around a dilapidated bench.  The project was abruptly brought to an end in September 2017 when the small area I worked in was ‘dismantled’ and re-created into a scene somewhat like a version of Stig of the Dump.  Since then I have paid attention to the ways in which other people leave their ‘mark’ on/in a place in various ways and will include my observations in subsequent posts where appropriate.

I read the article suggested which is Sean O’Hagan’s preview of the exhibition Heaven and Earth (2009). Long’s creations are often “as transient and impermanent as anything in the natural world around it”, for instance his 1967 In A Line Made by Walking exists now only in a photograph.  In the interview with O’Hagan, whilst acknowledging that he likes the notion of the visibility or invisibility of the work Long says that this was not his main interest which actually was to realise a particular idea. Also he might take very long walks yet the ‘work’ he creates may still only take up half an hour of his time.  What came into my mind when reading about this was the notion of apparently simple art stemming from a more lengthy contemplative process.

During my exploration of his work I found a 2012 video which interested me particularly because it was made at Box Hill Nr Dorking, Surrey. The video was made at night-time and on the eve of the Olympic Cycling Road Races.

In August last year I did a brief paper-making workshop right on the top of Box Hill, with Jane Ponsford.   This was just one small part of a collaborative project Surrey Unearthedwhich involved ten artists who explored and celebrated the materials that form the landscape of the Surrey Hills. I found out about this too late to see the outcome but this project has stayed with me as the type of project I would like to undertake at some point. At present I’m building up a resource list of artists and projects as inspiration and these in part or whole will be my working guides for Assignments.

Exercise 2.5 – Text in art

In a similar manner to Richard Long’s ‘textworks’  write down 12-24 brief observations during a short walk or journey by some means of transport. This may be the journey you intend to make for Assignment Two, or it may be a different one. You don’t need to take any photographs.

In fact I chose to write down a few observations from some short videos and images I created with my phone camera on a trip to London last October to visit Tate Modern.  I travelled by bus, train and on foot.

  • There are more cars than people on the streets nowadays
  • Edgelands are on the edges of towns but what do you call those semi-wild areas that form a barrier between the road and houses?
  • Cars and roundabouts rule our lives
  • We spend a lot of time queing and waiting
  • Travelling by public transport requires much patience
  • The creation of graffiti usually requires much effort and danger
  • Building densities increase exponentially the nearer one gets to London
  • I really don’t know much at all about the lives of buskers.
  • We live our lives in bubbles
  • It’s always a relief to arrive home.

The exercise brief provides us with three further artists to look at in considering how the observations might be presented.

Ed Ruscha: uses cartoon style lettering ; uses lots of different types of lettering capital or lower case; Overlays text or paintings include text on the buildings

Barbara Kruger: synthesizes a critique about society by using a short declarative statement. Merges slick facades with unexpected phrases to catch attention.  Aims to sell an idea that is meant to instigate a reconsideration of one’s immediate context. Appropriates images from original context and sets them as the background against which she emblazons confrontational phrases. They didn’t make me think so much as nod my head to agree.  Maybe they’re more self-evident from being more didactic/ because I’m more used to seeing them or because there’s no choice but to either agree or disagree.

Mark Titchner:

The link given in the Module handbook didn’t work,  in fact it froze my screen and did so on the three subsequent occasions when I tried.  His current website is here . His Instagram feed is here

Some early Tate information from 2003  though erudite didn’t give too much sense of the work being described Be Angry But Don’t Stop Breathing (2003) until the last paragraph

Titchner does not appear to offer judgement or critique of the theories he appropriates. Rather, he provides a secular reinterpretation, maintaining a freedom to mix and overlay ideas. He exploits the catchphrases and clichés that bubble to the surface while dispensing with the theoretical frameworks from which they emerged. Through this process, he simultaneously highlights the redundancy of once radical thought whilst acknowledging the potential for certain aspects to seep quietly into popular consciousness. By amalgamating ideologies, Titchner persuades us to accept the validity of opposing beliefs, underlining both the susceptibility and complexity of the collective psyche.

I then moved on to a TateShots video on YouTube. A visit to meet him in his studio.  Such a creative tangle; likely a reflection of all the art sources, theories, information, reading that he has absorbed, although I have to confess that seeing it made me feel a little better at my own crammed space.

I wanted to understand more about his approach and found  a video on YouTube from the Art Gallery of Ontario (2013) about the time he spent as their Artist in Residence in the Fall of 2012. It’s quite long at 10.35 minutes but put here as my reference.

Points from the video that struck me:-

  • “What I try to do is a reflection of how I feel about things”
  • What I try to do is take a larger idea or issue and then take it down to the smallest possible soundbite I can. It’s a challenge to create something that when one reads it one can absorb straight away but also to keep some of that ambiguity
  • The work comes from the point of view of lack of belief or lack of meaning. Depict a slight emptiness. They’re a suggestion but left there dangling and require the viewer to activate them.
  • Looks like advertising but doesn’t fit one thing or another. The single biggest element is the text which drives everything. Trying to use language which everyone can understand even though it’s complex. Even using four words I have to keep the ambiguity. Every word has to be refined.
  • Working in a collaboration with a group – a map is important. Mapping the City from the point of view of emotional interest.
  • How to start with nothing and to make a design to realise that.
  • Re urban change – sourcing background material – how historical areas have changed. The City as being a non-static, evolving place.
  • Messing around with a City slogan, producing a mantra. Ideas of how a City brands itself and how that can reflect on you as a resident.
  • His motto is “The World isn’t working”.

To be honest, I hadn’t previously paid much attention to Titchner’s work because it seemed more slogans than images but now having looked closer I think it’s brilliant. At the moment I’m thinking less of use of text as an overlay but more generally of how I use it. Do I want to retain ambiguity even with a few words or do I want to drive home a message more directly? On the whole I prefer to think that generally I offer a comment/narrative which is more observational than didactic, but I’ve become aware that that could be more difficult for me when I’m writing about my own immediate environment and what is happening to it. I’m most taken at the moment with those last points about how a City brands itself; how that reflects on me as a resident and, much more widely “The World isn’t working”.


2 thoughts on “Exercise 2.5 (Project – Land Art)

  1. Pingback: iii.Context | Portraying Landscape

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