I was in residence in the Observatory during the spring. Mornings exploring the hills of the South Downs, afernoons working in the studios in the shadow of the Science Centre and nights under canvas camping nearby.
Whilst in residence I sought to experience the South Downs through the perspectives of passersby. I spent time sharing my surroundings with people through walking, talking and looking together, exchanging ways of seeing and trying to articulate where we were and how it felt. I joined local walking groups on their adventures and ran a project with St. Swithun's school pupils to make tools for seeing their surroundings differently. During the whole time I built up a collection of reflections and thoughts sourced from the people I met and this formed the raw material from which the work was made.
Those South Down chalk hills soaked up time and gave it no meaning at all. We talk about time in terms of perspective, distance, lengths of space - the terminology of hilltops, of present height and lost in the depths of time. Looking at the hills felt like looking backwards chronologically, and every walk on the chalk which lay just under the surface felt like scuffing away at thousands of compressed years with a foot that was infant in comparison.
The more I looked at the last part of land before the horizon, the more blue it became, the more watery it had become. The distant band of land became the sea, and that became the shallow underwater sea of 60 million years ago. Time, distance and water all collapsed into one.
Talking became the constant attempt to communicate these nearby distances, the means of turning a place into appropriate words, offering them up in the search for a common language. Through putting words to what we see and know, time scales could collapse together, our presence become omnipresent, the hills could grow fluid as if we were watching them form.
Language can be a distancing and a dislocating mechanism, a way of removing and reflecting. During the residency I talked with people to put words to what we saw and felt, and sometimes the words caught something that had been hidden, other times they reduced. How to navigate that? How can we speak a language which echoes the flux of the spaces we’re in?