Friday, 10 July 2020

Collective Territories - Danny Treacy - Residency Report #2


AirSpace Gallery is pleased to announce COLLECTIVE TERRITORIES as the first of our new programme's projects, we are working with UK artist Danny Treacy on a residency and exhibition. A 2-part project exploring memory of space and the significance of space. 

What makes a space special? 
What makes a space personal? 
What are the things that keep drawing us back to a space? 
How do we see ourselves in a space? 

And
What do we feel there?

This is number 2 in a series of residency updates. More details about the residency can be found here - and to download the PDF of this report, click HERE

COLLECTIVE TERRITORIES 
RESIDENCY NOTES: PART 2




MAPPING THE TERRITORIES: REFLECTING ON RESPONSES (1):

On several occasions I have been sent maps by participants of the places they are sharing with me. This has been a great way to generate a ‘picture’ of the place on one hand, while it has also illustrated just how overlooked these special places are.

Furthermore, it has given me an understanding of the extent to which the places that matter to people are in a state of flux.
On the previous page the small triangle of land serves as a place of contemplation and social gathering for one sixteen year old participant.


In her own words: 
There’s added poignancy to this space as housing developers recently received permission to build here. So my space will be lost forever, Eaten up by asphalt and bricks. No more brook, no more pooh-sticks, no more innocent laughter with friends. No more.

REFLECTING ON RESPONSES (2):

On the following page, a participant’s map of a location that is significant to them also became an interesting intersection in my understanding of place in regards to the residency.
Stoke-On-Trent’s identity as a City appears to be fundamentally tied to it’s industrial past. Stoke’s industrial role was significant as a producer of coal, steel and of course pottery. This industrial heritage diminished significantly over the last five decades.

While my enquiry is not significantly informed by the industrial legacy of Stoke, it is an interesting fact that several of the sites that my participants are sharing with me, exist as collective territories because they are ghost landscapes of the industrial past; for example, the territory circled in the image below is an old ‘Marl Hole’ - a place where clay was extracted, now an area that has been left to grow wild.

Therefore, it appears that Stoke’s industrial legacy and it’s subsequent decline has given rise to various sites of potential, usually termed ‘Edgelands’ (M. Shoard), while also given other names such as’Drosscape’ (A.Berger) ‘Crapola’ (P.Guston) and my favourite, ‘Bastard Countryside’ (V.Hugo).

Of all these terms, it was really only Marion Shoard who, as well as relating it to the British landscape, tapped into the positive potential of such areas and to acknowledge that to even see the potential in such places is a challenge, yet one that comes with rewards, such as freedom of expression, creativity and play. So it is good to see that in several participant’s relationships to place, there is a connection with territory via a process of engaging with the space, seeing its potential, ultimately discovering something that gives the space a significance, whatever that may be, the space facilitates.






The image to the right is an i-phone cover with a picture of a ‘bottle kiln oven’ - This structure suggests a fetishism with Stoke’s industrial legacy. 










REFLECTING ON RESPONSES (3):

The map on the previous page illustrates another participant’s shared place. This too was once an industrial site, now officially designated a ‘brownfield’ - “A brownfield site is an area that has been used before and tends to be disused or derelict land. Such sites are usually abandoned areas in towns and cities which have been used previously for industrial and commercial purposes.”
- slatergordon.co.uk


Seen from above, in the Google Maps view that we are now so accustomed to (I think probably too accustomed, as at times of research this view can pass for experience, which it certainly is not) it struck me that these places stand out on the map of Stoke in the same way as scars on a body. During a recent conversation with another participant about the industrial past of Stoke, part of the discussion led to a consideration of place as trauma, this discussion was about the City in general, but I think that some of these particular scarred sites can also become scenes of industrial trauma. 

The following text is from the same participant’s highly illuminating blog post on Stoke’s industrial legacy:


With the closing of the pits, pottery factories and large steelworks in the late 70’s up until the early 90’s the majority of the city’s people found themselves without work, without vocation and with highly specified skills they could no longer use. Redundant. To this day there is incredibly high levels of unemployment, deprivation and residual health issues in the city caused by this massive trauma.
- Nicola Winstanley.

On discussing this place with the participant who shared it with me, it emerged that this land is rich with diverse plant life, so much so that wild fruits and herbs are gathered here and cooked at home. (Recipes for these are forming part of the sharing process). This is the same place I mentioned that also functions at times as a place for rough sleepers to stay and where Uber drivers wait for fares. So in a similar context to the ‘Marl Hole’ site, here is a space that although being a space of economic and industrial trauma, now becomes a collective territory for a variety of (unseen/hidden/ignored) communities.


REFLECTING ON RESPONSES (4):

The image on the following page shows the way in which I have been mapping the various places that all of the participants are sharing with me. An exciting pattern that is emerging is the way in which the same places are relevant for different participants, illustrating another form of the collective use of these places.

What this map also highlights is the impossibility of any meaningful engagement with spaces as nuanced as the ones that I am interested in, without first forming relationships with members of the community,

I am deeply suspicious of any artist who ‘parachutes’ into an unfamiliar environment, responds to the environment, and then moves on. To me this says more about the artist’s ego rather than any attempt at engagement.












This map, generated by a participant, perfectly illustrates the complex personal narratives that form the territories of our past selves and just how important certain places are in informing our identities.














REFLECTING ON RESPONSES (5):

This participant’s image of a location also resonated. The rope swing appears to be a universal marker of a collective territory, this is something I had not previously considered. Since seeing this image, I have of course noticed more of this symbol in a collective territory close to where I live. I am currently responding to these forms in different ways, using photography, video and photogrammetry - as a form of research to consider my best options for the ways I could possibly respond to this and other such places in the second part of the residency.








REFLECTING ON RESPONSES (6):

Another consideration is the ways in which the texts that come out of the conversations I have with participants, and also their written responses to their places, could be utilised as a way to generate an understanding of these places, both for me and for an audience.
I have been experimenting with the ‘cut-up technique’ (incidentally a technique used on T.S. Elliot’s ‘Waste Land’.) My intention is to unify the various voices that I have had the privilege to be in conversation with, but also to fragment this in a way, so that it is clear that there is a group speaking - a collective.
The following examples of text fragments are all extracted from email conversations describing the various relationships with places.


So my space will be lost forever
its potential is still in my mind
Go here a lot when in need of a peaceful space
Walking around the field in the evenings during the recent storms
always based in the collective experience of how to nourish ourselves from our surroundings so who knows, perhaps it won’t be there anymore next year
the beauty of the brownfield and everything on it is that it doesn’t belong to anybody
Our place. My place.
With so little free time as a teenager
going with friends to the middle of the field
the little sanctuary where I can safely escape to
shocked into the ‘now’ with each high speed passing train
housing developers recently received permission to build here
So my space will be lost forever
Eaten up by asphalt and bricks
It looked like a mountain
it’s the sky that calms her
It was another escape from a very busy house
It was also the first place I ever found a fossil
I returned many times hoping to find a T-Rex tooth or claw
drinking cider and doing ouija boards
it was about being left alone
I like to wander around it myself
Some of us scratched our initials into the trunk
first stirrings of romance were felt
it was quite a while before I could get the image of a volcano out of my mind I used to sit there
Again, I’d climb it alone
Sometimes with friends, but mostly alone


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The following images are a continuation of the ways in which participants have been sharing and communicating in various ways on their relationships to place.




COLLECTIVE TERRITORIES – RECIPES FROM THE BROWNFIELD PT 1 

ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL (WITH OR WITHOUT WILD ROSES)
makes 800ml


12 large elderflower heads 3 medium lemons
325g caster sugar
500ml water

(1 wild rose)
day 1 | gently wash the elderflower heads to get rid of any bugs. shave the skin off the lemons (and pick the rose petals). boil the water, combine the skin and flowers and pour the hot water over. infuse for 36 hours in room temperature.
day 2 | strain the infusion into a saucepan, squeezing the flowers well to achieve maximum flavour. discard the flowers. add the sugar and lemon juice and cook together until the sugar's dissolved and the liquid is starting to simmer – about 4 minutes. pour into a sterilised bottle and keep in the fridge.

ELDERFLOWER ICE CREAM WITH WILD STRAWBERRIES AND TEMPURA serves 8
tempura:
8 heads of elderflower 120ml sparkling water 40g plain flour
1 teaspoon caster sugar pinch of salt
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pinch of salt
ice cream:
230ml of water
300g single cream
300g soured cream
130g caster sugar
60ml lemon juice
90ml elderflower cordial
finely grated zest of one lemon

a handful of wild strawberries for serving
ice cream | mix the sugar and water and bring to boil. cook for 4 minutes and let cool. when cool, add lemon juice, cordial and lemon zest. whisk the two creams together and slowly pour the sugar syrup in, whisking throughout the process. transfer into a container and put into the freezer. every 30 minutes for 2-3 hours, take the container out and whisk the ice cream vigorously – this prevents crystal growth. afterwards, let it freeze.
tempura | gently wash the elderflower heads to remove any bugs. pat dry with kitchen towel – this is essential for the tempura batter to stick well. trim the hard stalks and divide the heads into smaller pieces. heat up the oil in a skillet or pan till it's 160oC, or till a drop of batter in the oil crisps and browns up almost immediately. whisk the flour, sugar and salt and add the sparkling water. line a tray/plate with kitchen towel. quickly dip the elderflower in the batter, shake the excess off and throw in the oil. it should take seconds to fry each bit. drain on the kitchen towel.
serve! | let the ice cream defrost for about 7 minutes on the counter. wash and pat dry the wild strawberries. divide the ice cream between 8 bowls ( you can put the bowls in the freezer beforehand – this will prevent the ice cream from melting too quickly), add the strawberries and tempura elderflower.

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