Writings and Proposals
Proposal for an installation/intervention by Russell Mills
and Ian Walton
To most people the Lake District is perceived as being merely
picturesque, pastoral, beautiful, quaint, - a chocolate-box
Arcadia. Whilst these terms do apply to the region, especially
to the Lakes and mountains at its core, Cumbria also comprises
the industrial coastline of West Cumbria (from the historically
and economically important seaports to the present implications
of Sellafield), the rich farmlands of the Eden Valley, the
bleak fellsides, Hadrian's Wall, the twin capitals of Kendal
and Carlisle separated by the massive Shap Fells, the Northern
shores of Morecombe Bay and the Solway Firth, etc., to make
a large and divergent region which has been shaped by the
climate and by human occupations within it.
This proposal seeks to suggest that apart from the chocolate-box
image, the Lake District (as indeed all environments) is itself
a continually changing work of human art, accumulative of
the riches brought to it over two and a half centuries of
human/physical development, of writing, of painting, of radical
thinking and of personal self-exploration.
Many of our most influential and radical writers, thinkers,
poets, artists and cultural theorists have been inspired by
and drawn to the Lakes, from Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey.
De Quincey, Ruskin, Tennyson, Turner, Hazlitt, Shelley, Keats,
Emerson, etc., through to more recent figures, such as Kurt
Schwitters, Adrian Berg, Andy Goldsworthy, John Hilliard,
Melvyn Bragg and Fred Hoyle to name a few. Our awareness of
the aesthetic of the landscape as being profoundly political
and economic has been shaped, to a great extent, by their
works, stemming from their reading of Nature as process, as
metaphor, as school, and from their recognition of the ‘inseparatability
Following the Wordsworthian imperative that poetry (or in
this instance the arts) should disclose in the workings of
the universe, analogues for the workings of the human mind
and soul, i.e. nature underwrites the evolution of human culture,
we propose an ‘installation/intervention’ (for
want of a better definition) which is dependent on and which
emphasises, the primacy of process allied to an abandonment
to the risk of the instant.
Throughout, "Heaven Dips" will be based on the
premise that all primary sources/signals are seen as potential,
immanent not fixed, in constant flux and thereby capable or
open to continual change. The chaos in unseen energies, the
collusion and collision of the elements will be the triggers
for all subsequent events. Environmental and climatic changes
would drive and activate a series of processes, beginning
in the land itself, from there via various editing and mixing
facilities to be transmitted to a selection of end-user sites
- public spaces, educational institutions, clubs, galleries
and the world wide web.
Six contemporary Aoelian Harp-like devices would be designed
and made, each constructed and strung to complement a specific
location and to capitalise on the prevailing winds of each
site. Electric pick-ups and radio microphones would be connected
to each, therby enabling the sounds to be routed to a mixing
desk or a series of mixing desks. Locations will be determined
by several factors of contextual continuity i.e. cultural/historical/economic
significance to an areas evolution (or decline). Accompanying
each harp, located nearby, would be a discreetly installed
thermal imaging camera (heat seeking video camera as used
by the Emergency Services, architectural surveyors and environmental
agencies in the search for either heat loss or pollution)
continually capturing the changing landscape (rural &
urban) and the events that occur within it. Thermal imaging
is a unique film process which enables the viewer to detect
heat thereby producing images which transform naturalistic
images into near negative images. Images of the everyday become
evocations of ‘future ghosts’.
Sonic and visual signals will be transmitted via radio mics
to pre-set mixing desks and receiving sites for further transmutations.
Similarly six sonar microphones would be lowered into a series
of Lakes, Tarns and rivers to gather and transmit the sounds
of any unseen underwater activity. Again thermal imaging video
cameras would be located nearby overlooking these sites. Audio
and video signals would be transmitted to several venues say,
in Cumbria and London, where they can be intercepted and transformed
using video and audio mixing desks, en route to video projection
sites, the internet, etc.
Possible sites for location of Aerial / Aoelian Harps and
thermal imaging video cameras;
- Hardnott Roman Fort and Pass (main East-West route to
& from coast).
- Workington, Iron Beach (industrial heritage).
- Sellafield (present & future heritage).
- Jenkins Crag, Langdale (the beginnings of mountain climbing).
- Kirkstone Quarry (working quarry bridging old industry
with current economic climate).
- Dove Cottage, Grasmere (Wordsworth's home & birthplace
of English Romanticism and the seeds of ecology).
Possible sites for location of sonar mics and Thermal imaging
- Haweswater (man-made resevoir in which the flooded village
of Mardale is intact).
- Wastwater (deepest Lake in England).
- Rydal Water (Wordsworth's favourite Lake).
- Cragwood on Lake Windermere (apart from being the tourist
heart of the Lakes, Windermere hides on its shore the site
of Cragwood where there are a series of partially submerged
huge slabs of rock, all meticulously carved with large inscriptions,
immaculate Roman letterforms cut in secret by a stonemason
called Longmire in the 1830's. [Longmire was also a poet
& a wrestling champion!] These bear either treasonable
criticisms against the government of the day or appreciations
of influential figures of the time such as Newton, Davey,
Nelson, Jenner, Wordsworth, Sir Walter Scott and even Robin
- Whitehaven (once a major seaport influential in bringing
growth to the county).
- Grizedale Forest (a tarn within the forest; to reflect
on its history of change from agricultural to forest and
to cultural centre).
Possible end-user sites;
The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal; Abbot Hall Art Gallery &
Museum of Lakeland Arts & Crafts, Kendal; Dove Cottage,
Grasmere; Tullie House Art Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle;
Grizedale Forest, near Hawkshead; public and/or gallery sites
in Manchester and Liverpool; Euston Station concourse; Piccadilly
Circus (using large back projection screens); Tate Modern
at Bankside (projected internally or externally); the Lloyds
Building; Canary Wharf Building; Leicester Square; Royal College
of Art; the I.C.A.; World Wide Web; etc.
All of the above are intial ideas and are not fixed; further
research into contextual appropriateness will suggest others.
Another possible end-user site might be a "live"
venue, indoor or outdoor, where all the signals can be fed
into a series of mixing facilities, transformed via effects
in real time to create a live event, a new aural and visual
environment, a concert of sound & vision ... Also all
elements could be transmitted via the internet, inviting users
to access and re-mix/respond in real time and return their
transformed material to a central "response bank".
These could become the basis of a new work - edited, mixed
for a book, a CD-R, a film, etc.
Such a project would also extend our area of practice from
the studio to public places, thereby giving wider access to
the public and avoiding where possible the usual elitist aesthetic
ghettos of the "art world".
"Heaven Dips" can be considered as a form of cultural
and environmental acupuncture, an aerial or antenna focusing
on temporal moments, charting the ceaseless changes and movements
within and on the land, the water and the air. Harps driven
by the winds, pulses of unknown origins rising from beneath
the waters and electronic scannings across variable terrains
will cause any person or animal entering these environments
to make an unwitting transition from spectator to participant.
All audio and visual signals having been transformed via various
treatments, will on one level capture the essence of the ‘economy
of nature’, whilst on other levels will pose questions
about our socio-political responsibilities to our environment,
issues of heritage, ownership and access, aesthetics of place
and of economics, thereby creating links between a known past
and possible futures. The familiar will be re-animated through
a re-contextualisation of the given elements. Anchored by
a contextual reverence for culture the "Heaven Dips"
will also explore notions of the ephemeral and the enduring.
From the animate, organic, random flux of nature, energies
will be transformed into new visual and sonic contours of
the everyday media landscape.
Russell Mills and Ian Walton