Joshua Bilton, Hannah Hughes, Eugenia Ivanissevich, Tom Lovelace, Barbel Praun
An experimental Risograph publication project curated by Rodrigo Orrantia
Shul, “a mark that remains after that which made it has passed by––a footprint, for example. In other contexts, shul is used to describe the scarred hollow in the ground where a house once stood, the channel worn through rock where a river runs in flood, the indentation in the grass where an animal slept last night. All of these are shul: the impression of something that used to be there. A path is a shul because it is an impression in the ground left by the regular tread of feet, which has kept it clear of obstructions and maintained it for the use of others. As a shul, emptiness can be compared to the impression of something that used to be there.”
Walking along the East Anglia coastline from Sheringham to Dunwich you can see for miles and always infinitely out to sea. I became increasingly sensitive to the shifts of light that coloured the eroded cliff-face and landscape ahead of me. Rebecca Solnit speaks about this blue of the distance, on the horizon, a blue that you can never arrive at because it disappears as you step closer: ‘the blue at the horizon, the blue of land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance. This light that does not touch us, does not travel the whole distance, the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the color blue.’ This blue is never fully there but casts everything ahead of you as you walk.
Horace-Bénédict de Saussure invented the Cyanometer at the end of the 18th Century, a circular piece of card with a range of dyed blue gradients from white to black that was used by explorers and mountaineers in the early 19th century as a form of measuring the blueness of the sky during expeditions. Its popularity as a scientific tool gradually faded and it became known and valued as a poetic attempt to measure what we cannot touch.
As I walk I keep thinking about this desire to measure what we cannot touch, about falling out of love and how empty that makes you feel, about wanting to reconnect and fill up again, about the psychology of these eroded landscapes and how they allow you to throw yourself into them, unclaimed and uninhabitable, so unlike the city. I keep thinking about how people are losing their homes here, mass migrations arriving on shore lines, and Britain’s current state of redefining itself as an island, separate and dislocated from Europe. Some or none of this may be in the work but the act of walking and making interventions along the coastline is, in a way, an attempt to process thoughts around what supports a body, what holds it up, keeps it going, makes it lost, helps it belong. As I walk on I notice the shadow spaces that form along the coastal cliffs are like small cavities, cavities being defined as ‘an empty space within an object’. The idea that the body, land and country is not solid – that the ground we walk on is full of cavities that may swallow all things we call home – is so present in these eroding sites.
The body of work begun here for the Material Immaterial publication will be expanded over the coming year through a number a further walks, performances and interventions along the coastline.