2004 to Present
IIII or the Circum Parameter - A multidisciplinary project in creative thought through participation.
This work is the parameter for an ecology of works which relate to the pursuit of ‘a new diplomacy with nature’. It is an attempt to avoid engaging, or at the very least mediate, the problematic approaches common to historic concepts of ‘naturalism’, which objectify nature as subservient to humanity, it attempts to approach naturalism through a participatory / integrated standpoint.
The circum parameter is first and foremost just that - a set of constraints to act as a limiter, a boundary, a frame work. It attempts to span a broad spectrum of pursuits, practices, approaches and knowledge that relate to human relationships with nature and I consider it an ongoing and ‘permanent’ performance.
The parameter intends to engage and relate to the land utilizing numerous possible methodologies. It is in ways symbolic, ritualistic, creative, participatory, it is intended to have no set parameters but the set of lingual forms. Certain aspects of the project allow for activities to occur extant of the locus. Although this approach is excessively abstract in the nature of it’s discipline it does not deny ties to traditional and contemporary methods of creative process. The structure of the project is intentionally set to encompass both positive and negative aspects of how human being relates to and affects the land and in turn ‘nature’.In a more solid sense it is a map into which all work is conceptualized, related to or defined by.
An approach toward land-based work (2003 - 2005)
In my approach to working on/with the land I accepted very early on that no matter what our interaction with the land, it is inherently aggressive, we alter, mark, damage, in our activities on the land. Even the simple act of walking results in a path of damage. To pursue an active role on the land as an artist questions of ‘right’ and ‘permission’ became important to me.
During this period an ‘immersive’ approach within the environment was established in which all but necessary connections were severed and as much time as possible was spent in solitude on the land in consideration of ones place / position there.
It was in this stage that the question arose relative to my intent to pursue a land based practice. “Would one do to oneself what one does to the land”?
This question is a major defining aspect of this work and led to the first set of markings.
In order to damage the land in pursuit of my artistic goals I decided to equate my body with the land, my skin equated to that fine layer of biomass upon the planet. There is a wide berth for interpretation here and though acknowledged, specificity and analogy were not pursued in detail. Rather it was approached conceptually, ritualistically.
Before marking the land, I would first mark myself. It was this decision which led to the first tattoo works.
As the concept of this is most integral to my intent I decided on the simplest of forms - the line.
It was then a question of I wished these marks to be simple and initially with little to no meaning. I wanted the meaning to grow, develop, morph from the simple conceptual seed of that initial intent/question.
(I often feel that I am incapable of communicating/ thinking without a line)
The intent was to take the specific form - the line and then expand it as I was aware that if I wished to pursue a series of works and be responsible to the idea of that initial question I would require more than a single line. The next step was then to engage that simplest of human communicative forms in the next - a pattern.
Again in an attempt to limit initial ‘meaning’ the specificity of that pattern was arbitrarily designated by an attempt to define and be responsible in a cultural context. As the work is based in examining the human relationship with the land a specific start point was defined by the tattoos which were a part of Otzi ‘better know as the ‘iceman’ - There is a shared cultural heritage there as well as an iconic human/land representation. Though there are speculations as to the meaning/purpose of these tattoos the fog of time has erased any claim to truly ‘knowing’ their intent and meaning and so were adopted as the markings of a human of the land returned to the land.
It was also decided to engage this pattern of lines in a context relative to time and age. The first set of marks was applied in a set of 27. Each mark would be representative of a year of life on the land and each consecutive year would allow for the addition of further marks. In this way the ‘license’ to purvey my practice would progressively expand over time. Beyond this there was no further ‘intent’ I would mark my skin and in turn mark the land. It is important to note that I do not see this as ‘self flagellation’ it has always been about equating the two, about Acknowledging that what we do to the land has affect and consequence. It also allows my mind to move more freely in approach, though I will admit it has changed how I work on the land and has made my work much less invasive.
The Naming of Names - A Taxonomy of Circum caesura (2005 - present)
Over the course of the first year after the first set of marks was laid out concepts and layers of meaning began to creep in. I became intrigued by the linguistic potential of the marks. The human desire to understand and apply meaning began, at first taxonomically and then potential underlying meaning, always focusing on the relationships inherent in human/land relativities.
This application of meaning began simply as an attempt to ‘name’ the work I was doing. In doing so practices of taxonomy within naturalism came to the fore. As I saw the classification of the forms and patterns as ‘scientific’ I turned to the standard of using latin to generate ‘names’ based in the Genus/Species pattern. Coincidentally the prefix ‘Circum’ is quite broad within latin and allowed not only for a direct reference to ‘that which surrounds’ but also for an elaborate set of terms when the prefix was applied. Using this methodology each mark (now defined as Circum signum) and each progressive ‘set’ (Circum caesura) was given a name.
The Numerics of the Parameter (2005 - present)
The numerics of the C signum and their groupings were also of interest and served to define another layer of meaning. In addition they served to solve another issue which I had always had in my practice which was a lack of a limit to what I was doing. So often meandering through projects and ideas which were discordant and constantly never tying together, in ta sense the horizon was always moving away as I moved toward it. In a sense in defining this pattern a set of conceptual ‘roads and fences’ were established to define groupings of works and ideas.
The initial two began to define the methodologies of human understanding of the land/nature and resulted in a parameter.
The basis of the numerics were grouped in sets of five with the sixth implied creating an infinite kind of loop - a beautiful reference to the vastness of existence around us. In this works which have been made since the inception are limited to a maximum of five works in any one mode, thou each section of that mode can be broken down into five more sections to a maximum of five. The sixth is an acknowledgement of that which is unknown/unknowable. Though this may be seen to limit the work I see it as a consistent reminder/instigator that there are limits to all things. In a sense it creates a ‘life-cycle’ of creative process with each body of work moving through stages of development toward an end.
Circum corpus / Circum viniculum (2005 - present)
After the initial marking of the body was done an awareness of how it acted as a symbolic linkage. In sense it was a potential conduit to the land and path of flowing energies between the body and the land. We were being marked in unison. As the key place for my work at this point was the land I was raised and grew up on I sought out a large glacial erratic on the land, a stone which I had often spent many hours with as a child. On the surface of the stone I scratched the markings in mirror image, when the body is against the stone the pattern lines up and creates a ‘full image’ unseeable but present. This became tether of sorts, a dock for the body and the land to come together. These marks are made only slightly on the surface of the stone and through the demineralizing activities of lichens and mosses are slowly eroded from the stones surface, much in the same way that the ink is slowly fading into the tissues of the skin. In this way we have a shared experience the stone and I; both have been taken up by ‘glacial’ forces and deposited in this place. We are unable (for different, or possibly not, reasons) to move/leave this place and though that may seem limiting there is a contentness to it.
The Second Set 28-33 34-39
Unlike the first set of markings the additional markings were subject to the preexisting concepts and taxonomies and as such became more about the intermediary spaces/mediums between human/land in the period of time the idea of ‘human’ has been expanded to entity in an attempt to equalize with other entities. The reasoning for this is multifold. The forms within this group diverge from the specifics of the otzi set and begin to address the corollaries between entity and environ. breathing, perception, consumption, those processes by which the land and human are integrated and literally linked. They are also defined by direct interactions with entities within the environs. This is the current phase of the process.
There are a set of five specific ‘tools’ as it were within the circum project.
- corpus (body/being)
- signum (symbol sets)
- viniculum (conduit stone)
- vitae (inhabitants of the land)
- locus (land)
Additional Thoughts on the Parameter
The marks are simple groupings of lines / bars, which signify human / cultural systems developed toward / from nature.
Each grouping can correspond to an area on the land in which participatory works take place related to those systems.
The interventions are meant to be, as the land, inconsistent and always in flux. As they are based on human/cultural systems they pursue questions of consciousness.
Owing some basis to the workings of Jung’s concepts of 'S'elf and 's'elf., the work approaches these ideas as relative to ‘N’ature and ‘n’ature’
The land-based works are in turn assumptions / impositions of our linguistic / cultural creation of ’n’ature and are meant to develop an ongoing discourse on ideas of humanity as a single component of a greater ecology.