Gathering my thoughts in the woods today, also seeing and hearing interesting things
what is a book of the dark?
having no idea how to answer this, I have made one
it is a test or a draft
a starting point for myself
something to work from
bare oak reflected
between sunset and moonrise
in the heart-shaped lake
self-portrait shadow this morning
winter sun on my back
listening to the river
A thread of thought today, about an artist who connects imagination with hope:
The photographer Janelle Lynch has recently made a series of photographs called Another way of Looking at Love, photographs that I saw at the Prix Pictet ‘hope’ exhibition. The photographs are displayed as large format colour prints portraying plant communities. The pictures are taken from a low viewpoint, which has the effect of immersing the viewer in the radiant beauty of the environments she is photographing. The Hudson River Museum website explains a little about the background of the piece:
“the title of the series is a quote from contemporary British philosopher Alain de Botton, who believes that love is about making connections and about long-term, pro-active commitment. His ideas resonated with Lynch, who related them to her own work re-imagining our relationship to nature, the planet, and each other.”
It is so important that Lynch sees her role as that of ‘re-imagining’, and explicitly articulates this in talking about photographs exhibited under the heading of ‘hope’. Lynch clearly sets out in a way that can inspire us all where it is that she holds her hope:
“We are hardwired for connection and our elemental sameness unites us and transcends our apparent differences. Our wellness and the well-being of the world depend on healthy connections to each other and to the earth. Another Way of Looking at Love is borne of awe for the power of nature, and seeks to reimagine our connection to one another, to the planet, and to the generative possibilities of the moment. “
I really encourage you, if you have time, to look at the some of the photos on her webpage:
Today, just some gleanings on emergence, some shapes I am trying to grasp and understand, some spirals of thought to follow.
adrienne maree brown, ’emergent strategy’:
“Ferns are a form of fractal. A fractal is an object or quantity that displays self-similarity, which means it looks roughly the same at any scale. Small-scale solutions impact the whole system. Use similar principles to build at all scales.”
“Small is good, small is all. The large is a reflection of the small.”
Mark C Tayor, much harder to understand, on perception, in ‘Refiguring the spiritual’:
“…the brain is not a centralised processor but a distributed network. Perception and cognition are not simply the product of the cogito; to the contrary, the cogito is an emergent phenomenon that is the product of the information processes consitutive of perception and cognition…”
“as we have already discovered, mind and matter – or in this context subject and object – are not separated by an unbridgeable gulf but are coemergent and codependent and function according to similar rules.”
Today, I’m thinking and writing again about hope and contemporary art.
The thought which I want to follow up just a little today is that an art which is hopeful must address trauma also. It must look at the past and it must look at violence, and it must seek to be with the pain of it, to do something with that pain.
In 2019, the Prix Pictet photography prize took as its theme ‘hope’. One of the nominated photographers, the Côte d’Ivoire artist, Joanna Choumali, exhibited a series of photographs taken within several weeks of terrorist attacks at the beach resort of Grand-Bassom, Côte d’Ivoire in 2016. Choumali had taken the photographs on her i-phone, had printed them in small format on canvas, and then had embroidered on top of the canvases with bright threads. The embroidered series of photographs ‘ca va aller’ are shown on her website:
I saw the exhibition of these photographs in the V&A Museum in London in 2019. Choumali’s photographs are small in scale but very powerful. You must come close to see them, and the scale gives an intimacy, a direct connection to the artist working on the photographs, purposefully going towards the pain and trauma of what has been left behind after the violent attacks.
Choumali comments about her process that:
” Each stitch was a way to recover, to lie down the emotions, the loneliness, and mixed feelings I felt. As an automatic scripture, the act of adding colorful stitches on the pictures has had a soothing effect on me, like a meditation. Embroidery was an act of hope, as well.”
In my post today I just want to share with you a little bit about my research into an artwork in Liverpool called the Granby Winter Garden. This is part of my writing work about hope in art.
The writer Rebecca Solnit, talking about hope, and its relationship with the past and with grief and loss, in her book ‘Hope in the Dark’, quoting Patrisse Cullors:
“Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of Black Lives Matters, early on described the movement’s mission as to “Provide hope and inspiration for collective action to build collective power to achieve collective transformation, rooted in grief and rage but pointed towards vision and dreams.”
(Solnit, Hope in The Dark, p.xii)
Granby Winter Garden is hopeful, because its makers understand hope as a practice, an orientation. I encourage you to look at the images in the links after you read this. They show something that people are doing together about something that has been done to them, something that we can all recognise to some degree, something that hurts.
In 2015, the ‘Assemble’ collective won an important mainstream UK prize for contemporary art, the Turner Prize. As a multi-disciplinary architecture practice, Assemble is an unusual winner of a contemporary art prize.
Assemble had been involved in a number of projects that grew out of the work and the dreams of residents of Granby in Liverpool, and which supported the empowerment of community members and community groups. The overall aims were to regenerate, rennovate, green up and refurbish streets in a degraded and devalued urban area, such that people could live in pride, dignity and connection with one another.
The work for which Assemble were nominated for the art prize was the ‘Granby Winter Garden’, an indoor garden made from partly demolished Victorian terraced houses, in which the group were working collaboratively with local residents and grassroots community organisations. The garden is ongoing, and is run by a Community Land Trust in partnership with the gardener Andrea Ku and local residents. It shows us what happens when something that has been devalued is valued. It makes a dream into something physical. It has made the condemned and gutted houses into a sheltered and covered garden, a place for connection and transformation.