WALK 5: WERRINGTON TO BRETTON
‘…every historical era is likewise multi temporal, simultaneously drawing from the obsolete, the contemporary, and the futuristic. An object, a circumstance, is thus polychromic, multi temporal, and reveals a time that is gathered together, with multiple pleats.’
The fifth walk took place on the day of a partial solar eclipse. The last time I had witnessed an eclipse was in the loading bay of the Peterborough Virgin Megastore. In the days leading up to the current eclipse the media had of course chosen traditional sacred places and settings like Stone Henge to do their reports from, but there was something memorable about seeing a celestial event in a more mundane and man-made setting like the loading bay. I think we borrowed the washing up bowl from the sink and watched it in the reflection and oily soapsuds.
I am on a train this time as the sky darkens. The event was apparently a triumvirate of celestial events as it coincided with the Spring Equinox and a ‘Supermoon’. A Supermoon is when the moon is closest to the earth and so appears larger and the Spring Equinox refers to when the periods of time roughly equivalent to day and night are of equal length. These notions of time and distance have made me reflect on the way in which I am using photography and video. My use of video in a traditionally photographic approach with static distanced framing is perhaps worth reflecting on. The method is not concerned with distancing myself from the subject matter, but of not interrupting the subject matter, the reality of that particular time and space. In essence the walks are all about reflecting on time and space. The video representations of the walks for me are windows back into that space and time of which I have been only a transient spectator. Landscape photography adversely stops time and in effect interrupts it.
I have become conscious that the video also has the benefit of recording the audio of that space at that time of year. On the Werrington walk, the sound of cars and trains often gives way to that of songbirds. The eclipse and equinox therefore, appear timely in marking a move from one state to another, from the stasis of winter and early spring to the explosion of life that occurs at the end of spring and into summer.
It is difficult to locate landscapes and areas that have not been used or churned over from one thing to another. An understanding of ‘deep topography’ as Nick Papadimitriou calls it or Pyhchogeography as it is more widely known can lead you to experience a place with more of a sense of folded or ‘crumpled’ time than the ‘flat’ experience of those merely passing through. The video image is of course as flat as that of still photography, however it can ultimately be presented and edited in a more three-dimensional way, which is how I see a completed work being presented. Through presentation and editing I might be able to present the folded sense of time that we experience when walking through a landscape.
Michel Serres suggested. ‘We experience time-as much in our inner senses as externally in nature, as much as le temps of history as le temps of weather – it resembles this crumpled version much more than the flat, oversimplified one’. Even walking down a suburban street it is possible to be overwhelmed by the concentration of other lives, buildings and events both past, present and yet to come that are crumpled and folded together. Developing this knowledge through looking and local research can lead to an opening up of the abstract feelings we perhaps all feel on occasion. The ability of video to capture slices of time and then be reformulated and layered with other sounds and thoughts is therefore preferable to the flattening effect of photography in this instance.
On the train to Peterborough during the eclipse, the train hurtling through the countryside briefly rustles into life and pulls along with it the seeds and litter from along the tracks. The cabin darkens much like when a storm approaches and a field of pigs briefly look up from their troughs. I always find myself more thoughtful on trains, partly due to the experience of being in an indeterminate space, where the present landscape rushes by and quickly becomes the past.
The in between spaces of the outskirts somehow have a freshness and vibrancy. They are youthful and contain concentrated energy. Perhaps the outskirts will be eternally youthful, where fresh buds continually scrape up against the edges of concrete paths and roads. These wild areas are however only ever allowed to grow for a decade or two, before the suburbs extend again and they are chopped down and torn up. This brings into question whether the out of town developments of housing and shopping are as empty as they seem. They are artificial and often ill planned, but they have a certain geographical alleviation through their proximity to the scrublands, fields and woods.
Off the Hurn Road and at Marholm crossing I meet a small group of train spotters. One of the men has taken a day off to see and document his first glimpse of a Virgin train, now that the company have taken over operations on the line. I pass down Werrington Junction and around Belham and Pocock Wood. At no point is it possible to feel remote, despite being surrounded by woods and fields. Distant edges of suburbs peak into view and evidence of human activity can be found wherever you look. These pieces of litter dropped or hustled together by a storm or lost items snagged on a branch have a frozen beauty. Their stillness is melancholic. They are uncanny or out of place and time – lost in the landscape without their owner – They have a vertiginous temporality that sucks you down into them like a vortex reminding you of the inevitable loss or ending of each present moment.
I have mentioned before about the symbolism of fields, but they are inescapable in a consideration of the Fen landscape. Here the fields freshly ploughed almost have a terrifying quality. They are a constantly disrupted space and a reminder of our impact on Nature. Recently it has been reported that through human activity (Pollution and construction) and impact on the Earth we have moved into a new geological epoch – Anthropocene. The fields themselves reflect on this for me. They are unnatural and marked by human traces and patterns. Truly wild areas do not have a threatening feel and can fill you with awe and wonder. The edgeland areas however, can be frightening. They buzz and tremble with alternate currents of stasis and activity – they froth with new natural life and are scattered over with our cheap plastic droppings left like offerings for the dead. These activities over time have been compressed and compacted everywhere you look and occasionally their significance is too much to bear.
Shots ring out constantly on the edge of the city and I return back to memories of exploring the Fenland fields on the edges of the village of Coates. At the time I had always presumed that the shots were aimed at me, as warnings from an unseen farmer to ‘get off his land’. There are frequent signs informing you that an area is private property or a private wood. I am not sure why a wood needs to be private, but I do not trespass into them.
I find an old sleeping bag in a field near the crematorium. As the grieved lay flowers, some whilst talking on their mobile phones (life goes on). I wonder about the homeless person that chose to sleep on the edge of the field next to the cemetery. There he must have sat night after night between different worlds – the churned over space of the field and the resting place of the dead. You cannot help but wonder if this drifter, perhaps still wanted to remain close to a loved one or perhaps was drawn to staring out at the fields with an understanding of what they foretell.