Katie Anderson

Artist based in South West Scotland; interested in people, places, materials and collaborative practice.

Tag: environmental art

SOUND HORN | Wave Decay | SANCTUARY LAB 2017

Can an artwork retain an essence of the site-specific whilst re-locating?
Can a temporary artwork be a tool for exploring, or re-examining a site?

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The second installing of Wave Decay took place as part of Sanctuary Lab, a 24 hour experiment of sound, light and art in the Galloway Forest Park. The site I selected on recommendation, is the stunning and majestic McMoab Stones, for the most part solely used by Mountain Bikers with a taste for the adventurous, these beautiful granite rocks rise out of the landscape like huge stone whales. It is an awe-some location in all manner of meanings.

The work has been heavily redeveloped sculpturally, with a series of new speaker horns created as part of a VAACMA Award 2017, in sheet copper and aluminium. They were a joy to make and gave an interestingly alien shine on the place, like small space rockets that had landed in the landscape, reflecting the tones and colours of the granite, the trees, the sky.

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The conditions for Wave Decay 2017 were extreme, with heavy rain and strong winds – the site became increasingly exposed and wild as the morning continued as wet as it began. Wave Decay became an opportunity to watch the sheet rain move across the valley, and hear and feel the very essence of the place as a seeping cold, pervasive damp against all waterproofs.
The all pervading sound of Wave Decay echoing out through the rain lingers long after everything has dried out.

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With extreme conditions come a kind of extreme audience. Intrepid explorers intent on the destination appeared in twos and threes, wearing increasingly serious waterproofs and boots. We casually handed out transparent wedding brollies to hold back the rain from faces at least temporarily, and visitors moved cautiously at first, over the backs of whales – picking between the puddles and up to the ridges, as the sound moved over in a constant drone of sound.

The sound, whilst difficult to explain – even in situ – provides an opportunity to re-examine place through sound, as the everyday sounds are muted and replaced by constant tones that move with the visitor, the sound unique to each pair of ears, moving and waivering discreetly between the sculptures.

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It became apparent during it’s latest outing that Wave Decay is no longer the appropriate title, it started out as an exploration of decay in space and sound in the ruins of Milkbank near Lockerbie, but as it moved location clearly the name could not accurately move with it. The sound horns are the constant, and everything else adjusts in response to the site.

As the work moves on, it looks for both new sites and places to test, a new name – (perhaps the work needs to be renamed for each site, but to still have a sense of consistency across the installations), and potentially a new addition to the current sound. I would love to bring the sound of each site to following iterations of the work, and allow the sites, or ghosts of sites to work with the current tonal sounds. I would like to better share the human essence of the work, the playful exploration and the vocal ranges. The sound might like to be more human, or more animal – and better be able to share it’s sense of place. It’s a growing experiment, and I’m looking for new site locations, indoors and out, that could play host to Wave Decay’s Sound Horns. If you have ideas, responses or general interest please get in touch.

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Huge thank you to everyone who made the effort to join me out of the McMoab Stones in September on a dreich Sunday morning, to everyone I spoke to and those I did not, thank you. Also big thanks to Sanctuary Lab team, Robbie and Jo, to Michael, Matt, Colin, Mike and everyone who helped get the install up last minute, Justin for the international tech support help line, to the trusty Pick Up on it’s final mission, and to the funders for helping get this project off the ground.
This project has been supported by Sanctuary Lab 2017, and the South of Scotland Visual Artist and Craft Maker Awards funded by Creative Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway Council and Live Borders.

Wave Decay, Sanctuary Headed

Really excited to announce that Wave Decay will be making a second appearance, later this year at Sanctuary. Having first created the sound and sculptural installation in collaboration with Justin K Prim last summer for Milkbank House, (details available here) the work is now being redeveloped for a new location in the Galloway Forest Park.

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Full details about the project at Sanctuary here

Running on the Backs of Whales

Beautiful weekend was spent in Galloway avoiding the rain showers, running across the flat and empty Solway, and revisiting the Stove’s Ferry Bell in Creetown.

Also, very excitingly, I went to check out a potential new location for an installation work later in the year. ‘Like the backs of whales’ was the general descriptor we went out on the search for.

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And so it seemed. Huge granite spines crack open the surrounding greenery, heaving gently through the landscape.

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There’s a tiny human (full size) for scale reference.

The surfaces and textures are beautiful, and the sense of scale about the place before it opens up to reveal the valley and burn running below are perfect.

The site might be well known to you if you are a particularly adventurous mountain biker, as the McMoab Stones feature on the area’s more hardcore mountain biking routes, but it is a beautiful site to explore on foot equally.

There’s quite a bit of logistics and detail to figure out next, but I am IN LOVE with this location. (Thanks Robbie, for the hint.)

Stay tuned.

Wave Decay

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Site Specificity.

Step outwards and pause, listen.

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Sound. Wave | Decay.

The announcement of a new collaborative project with Justin K Prim, exploring a favourite, secretive spot in Annandale. Walk out into the world, neither rose tinted nor of true reality. Tune in to space.

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Keep your ears pricked. Approach with caution. It’s wild out there.

18th and 19th of August 2016. Annandale. Details to be announced soon.

With thanks to DGUnlimited and The Stove Network.

All Paths Lead to Morton – EAFS Offgrid

This summer welcomed the second Environmental Arts Festival Scotland – an international biennial of contemporary art practice in landscape – which for two months this summer absorbed me whole. My last EAFS experience in 2013 (blog here) shook and rattled my perceptions on place-based art in all the right ways, and has been an important part in prodding my reflective process into the art practice that it is today.

But moving on from the hectic, region trailing festival that was EAFS 2013, this year took a marked-ly different tack. Exploring themes of pilgrimage and journeying, hospitality and generosity and – my favourite – inventiveness and foolishness as a way of understanding the world (Have I reinvented that a little? Perhaps it has grown from the original intention), EAFS Offgrid 2015 looked as a large scale collective artwork in which all parties became part-artist, an experiment in co-created community, temporary place making and exploration of landscape.

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I had lots of questions during the lead-up to the festival. (Apologies to all who endured my constant questioning)

One of the most persistant was in the meaning of ‘festival’ in the first place. Contemporary associations of festival – through the prolificy of large scale music and arts festival – put us the audience, in a passive state, consuming entertainment, resources and activity, these are free spaces for new experience and free partying; but everything is largely provided for us, from music and activity to food and water, the festival crowd is encouraged to participate by consuming. This seems mis-matched for our free spirited and independant festival idealism.

The alternative? EAFS Offgrid, whereby attending a festival made you an active participant, a sense of generosity and hospitality grown by all involved encouraged an active bringing and sharing, from extra food to additional programmed content – some of the quoted favourite moments at EAFS were the ones we never even programmed. From this generosity grew an amazing atmosphere of a community, caring and growing itself and each other. The EAFS team looked to create a space to be activated by others; in this way everyone had the opportunity to be a participating artist at EAFS – and in this collective making, everything from eating to sign-posting could be considered and created as part of the larger EAFS artwork.

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Who can claim ownership of EAFS? Creating a community or a place felt less concerned with ownership of artistic direction, and more to do with a growing sense of collective intent (count the number of uses of the word collective in this post). Interpreting and understanding of the festival was a big question in the run up to the festival; how could we encourage a sense of shared ownership to grow ‘open-source’ interpretation, conversation and development of EAFS’ themes and ideas? The core team (artists, interns, volunteers and management) became the knowledge ambassadors, pioneers of information sharing to spread throughout the festival over the course of the weekend, conversing over hand outs and newspapers. My own corner fell to signage as installation, signposting as artwork. The role of art/ist as a communicator may have been over-stepped in my new found blackboard and road sign obsession (sorry to any who crossed my path late one night with blackboards under torch-light) but allowed for an intense period of questioning, development and ultimately understanding.

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To the artwork itself, EAFS as an installation created a central festival village, an information hub and home for just over a week. Some of our visitors never left this safe haven of conversation, freshly cut field and idyllic viewpoints. This was the cluster point, teams gathering before heading out, the return point for artists, performers and our four legged friends; all paths lead to Morton. The landscape was our context, and growing out from the castle and festival village were walks into the unknown – opening up a vastness of purple heather, braken, running water and clear sky. These were the lands of EAFS.conspectus 1

An early decision was taken for artworks to be minimal in their occupation of the landscape, long walks to distant locations or installation points yielded time for reflection, discovery and understanding of the place-context (nobody mention the partridges). The artworks themselves allowed for moments or glimpses into an artistic perspective – this was art as investigation, as questioning and framing. Art as walking, art as looking closer.

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One of the downsides of being so absorbed by organising was how little of the festival I managed to absorb, however my highlights included:

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Sitting high above the reservoir, hidden in heather – eating bleberries and listening to the rising sounds from the Art of Expeditions’s boat house.

Gathered around Andy McAvoy’s Tea Caddy, passing around objects from George Wyllie’s studio box.

Being entirely submerged in The Terrestrial Sea late on Saturday night.

Late night conversations by the embers of the River of Fire.

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The festival was designed to be light on the earth, leaving without trace – there was an importance to the act/actions of leaving. Within 24 hours there was hardly a mark of our being, and it somehow felt right – sat on the last picnic bench in the fading sun.

Food. Firesides. Conversing.

Rhythm. Sustenance. Placemaking.

Collect. Curate. Create.

Landscape. Our land. The Lands of EAFS.

 

 

 

All images my own. Huge thanks and love to Robbie, Matt, Jan, Debz and the super-cool EAFS team. This year I participated in EAFS as one of five interns supported by the (fabulous) Holywood Trust.

Some beautiful image blogs of EAFS available on The Stove blog, check them out here

There’s Something in the Water

New projects, new explorations.

Dumfriesshire, Moffat HydropathicJourney #1: To Moffat, in search of magic water. Chatting to my granny today about her father, who upon getting plurosy whilst in Dunbar one Winter was sent to the Moffat Hydro and made to drink hideous tasting water. And of a friend of hers from Lochmaben, who’s father whenever he felt unwell would send her to fetch a lemonade bottle of water from the well at Moffat. Whichever way you look at it, there’s something in the water at Moffat. The most well known source of health-giving water is Moffat Well, but further up towads Hart Fell is a lesser known spring with, depending on your research a much more ancient history.DSC_0635_lowres DSC_0634_lowres(I suppose John may have ‘re’ discovered it after a period of time.) If you’re wondering, the taste is not much better than my great grandfather suggested, but as the rain water has filtered through the changing layers of geological strata (input from a geologist would be appreciated to set me straight on my ‘crumbly, black, chalky rock’, my ‘pale blue, slate-y rock’ and ‘iron mineral-y deposit’ definitions), it’s definitely taken on the flavour of the land.

We gathered too many rocks, which are sat out in a neat row in the studio. This first journey, was in fact, a journey to the starting point, the source point from which all journeys will now emanate in the spirit of this project. The act of walking from my point, has always been to seek a moment entirely in the present – to move through space at exactly the pace of that moment, without past or future limitations, just the incline of the hill to slow the going. This project introduces a new layer, whereby journey through landscape becomes journey through myth, legend and ancient storytelling, placing ourselves to a degree within the narrative. It’s a fasinating, if difficult to grasp concept.

Have ancient feet walked over this path? How did the view differ to characters of legend?

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(probably more trees. a lot more trees)

What would Merlin have made of our windfarms?

Artists as activators

A few weeks ago, I took a detour on a trip from Edinburgh to Dunbar, to attend the first day of the Fertile Ground – Environmental Art for Change conference, led by North Light Arts and Chris Freemantle. It was an intense day, from ten until 7pm there were about 14 speakers, of artists, activists and locals intent of re-inventing Dunbar for an environmentally conscious future. There was a lot to take in, and I admit to sneaking off for a jaunt during lunch off in hunt of the harbour and the sea, rather than networking which is quickly becoming my least favourite thing about these events.

Part of me went for the fresh air, part of me in hunt of some salt water (more on that another time), but as ever the air – with it’s slightly wild wind – just helped to disentangle my thoughts a little, so I bounced back to the conference to find Matt and Robbie and drag them back to the harbour with all my new found questions.

What I was really thinking about quite quickly was about the role of artists as activators. Before (see previous post here), I wrote about the audience as ‘activators’ but the thread of conversation in Dunbar led me towards the way in which artists can become activators, engagers, inititating, inspiring change. I was thinking about local artists leading, potentially disseminating/translating the global to a local, community-based perspective.

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Matthew Dalziel spoke during his talk about he and Louise Scullion’s Tumadh:Immersion project, in particular I picked up on his thoughts about the amateur, and making space for unspecialised exploration and appreciation of the outdoors in one of their custom made tweeds e.g. the gathering jacket. More on that here

So, one of my first questions was a pretty big one – why art? Is art the most useful mechanism for this engagement within communities? Or perhaps, if not ‘the most’ useful mechanism, then what is it that artists bring to the table that can add a truly important dimension to active change? I guess I was trying to picture who I thought ‘should’ be getting on with this change. It’s perhaps funny that we could expect that there would just be someone, some other who would be out there sorting out these necessary changes for us as we move forward… be they councillors, government representatives, specialists, or some kind of other that separates a sense of controlling the space around us. Perhaps artists are useful in their humanising, stripping back or removing the other [man in the suit], the facelessness of percieved bureaucratic change.

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Jo Hodges spoke about her and Robbie Coleman’s project a New EIA for Natural Scotland during the artists presentations, which looked at reimaginging the planning process, more info available here

A particularly interesting point about artists, an ability to ‘engage on equal terms’, to explore collaboratively or collectively, not as architect but as instigator, connector, gatherer started to turn some cogs. Can we co-create the future of our places?

(At this point, I realised of course (with a bit of a prod) that I was talking about a very particular kind of artist, and a very particular kind of methodology and approach that I have been picking up on from artists who’s work inspires me.)

So what is it about public artists that can make them key ‘instigators’ of this change? What is inherent in their artistic practice that makes art an effective mechanism for engaging communities in a much broader conversation? What other people share these attributes and skill sets? (Planners and activists were both mentioned.) Why do some politicians/councillors/policy makers appear to lack these?

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Of course, the artist as activator needn’t – probably shouldn’t – work alone. The key skill holders, be they bridge builders, growers, are all a part of a much wider movement towards change

Agenda. This was a pretty fundamental one in our conversation, the personal agenda’s of those engaging with the community are important as to how well this relationship builds. The bridge builder that arrives and proclaims that what will fix the communities problems, is a bridge, is likely to be more personally motivated than then activator that arrives saying they want to explore and understand the problem first. Perhaps artists can also be guilty of the same problem though?

Approach. Less about a standard methodology, more about an exploration and questioning of the context/community/local.

Communication. Communicators. This has to be one of the primary roles of artists right?

Openness, questioning. There was mention during the artist talks that artist’s perhaps shouldn’t be expected to have the answers, but more to provide the right questions. We were thinking again, about how our own art practices were led by an investigatory questioning, a curiousness, without necessarily a specific end point (e.g. a bridge) in sight.

Of non-linear practices and thought processes, finding a more approachable method than one embedded in a standardised protocol. Community specific action over globalised strategy.

This is for us

Of ownership

ownership of vision

ownership of place

Of giving a sense of our own place within the wider whole, a personal, individual, tailor fit – shaped by people, not standardised policies.

Thank you to all the organisers, speakers and artists on the day, for finally kick-starting something of a thought process – I was quite miffed to have to miss the following day’s discussion!

Nithraid – Banners

It was something of a sensational day yesterday down on the Nith with the Stovies. The sunshine we craved may not have appeared, but the crowds came anyways. 14 boats left Carsethorn, and all but two made it to the finishing post – and to the site of the salt cows final resting place. Meanwhile, parades gathered force through the streets of Dumfries lead by a feverish Samba band, and banners unfurled off the Devorgilla bridge and down over the caul. Banner themed images reflect the end of the project I’ve had the most involvement in.

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It has been nothing short of epic. An amazing congratulations to all organisers and those involved!

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From Powfoot to Yorkshire then Skibbereen and back again

EAFS rocked up last weekend in Annandale and Eskdale – about as local as it get’s for me, and then to face the embarrassment that I actually didn’t make it to much, I blame fatigue after a week of madness and encroaching panic as the inevitability of the next projects started to wash up. However, I did make it to the Tidemarks reading at Powfoot Golf Hotel. On the one hand, it was really quite strange seeing art-people in what to me is a non-art space, I ride with one of my furry four-legged animals out at Powfoot a lot, so for me it is a somehow seperate space – but it was also quite interesting to hear how everyone else sees the stretch out at Queensberry Bay and the rough stony beach up below the Broom. Image

I was brought up with the knowledge that the Solway was a dangerous place, there are strong undercurrents, fast moving tides, dangerous sands – an inhospitable place really – and as such only ventured out onto safe areas when the tide was at it’s lowest. That has been gradually changing over the past couple of years, wading in the shallows as the tide comes in, exploring the fringes of the environment have increased as familiarity gave me (perhaps too much?) confidence. The flatness, the sense of scale is fantastic when you get out into it – it feels infinite. The light is beautiful at various times of the day and various weathers – it is both more wild and more calm out on the flats than it is on the shoreline. But I have already gone off on a tangent – Tidemark provided a creative writing platform for a mix of writers, both ‘independants’ and from various groups to come together, workshop a space and create individual responses – that actually came to feel like a collective voice. 24 voices contributed to the overall flavour. It was reflective, both natures impact on us and our impact on it. Image

Afterwards found me back outside following what had clearly been one of those beautiful evening skies as darkness encroached. I’m rarely down by the shore in the dark. It has been interesting how the festival has gotten even locals looking at their environments from new lights (in my case literally) and new perspectives, and has endlessly surprised those less local with our regions beauty. I’ve heard a lot of pride for our place over the course of the festival. 

It set me thinking. Talking as we were about geology at one point and the history of the place, and our horses field being so sandy when it is dry, due to it’s previous life so close to the Solway, and it’s dune-like hills. Lying on the top of the hill watching the sun set from a new perspective reminded me of writings about the phenomena written about by James Turrell and Antoine de Saint-Exupery about the sky appearing as a vaulted ceiling (the exact name for this has vanished). From that slight convex position I could completely understand what they meant. My dear ponies nearly had a heart attack though, it seems they are not used to people lying about in their field. ImageTurrell always pops up from time to time in my thinking, and this time may have something to do with my visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park last month. I was really excited to see Deerspace, on account of his works being hard to come by, but hadn’t accounted for the place being full of noisy children with crisp packets (note to everyone – stay well clear of that place on public holidays) so the appreciation for the space was somewhat lost in the pandemonium. However in some ways his work just set me up for ‘looking’ [what do I mean by ‘looking’ – more than just looking] at the space – his work was a viewfinder but once I had found the right focus could see without. His Skygarden work in Skibbereen – which was in the process of renovation when I visited – seemed to encapsulate my experience on top of the hill inspired by poets, he set up the structures for looking, the EAFS events set up something similar – less concrete perhaps, although Dalziel and Scullion’s Rosnes Benches surely must be on the same – structures for looking. Matthew Dalziel spoke at one of the events of his work being as the surfboard is when connecting with the waves.

I think we all understand. It’s just a shame all I can manage is garbled ramblings tonight… 

Is there a critic in the house? My repost from the Commonty

Here’s a first; thought I’d repost my commonty blog on here and attempt to merge my two blogging styles and personas somewhat more
It’s been a bit quiet on the commonty this weekend – largely because everyone was outside – absorbed by the environmental arts festival, and so I thought on offering up some reflections on a long weekend saturated with amazing art, discussions, explorations, journeys (both literal and metaphorical perhaps?!) and discoveries.


We would welcome reviews etc on the things you may have witnessed over the course of the last four days – what were your highlights (both artistic and otherwise)? – but in the meantime I would like to offer up a few initial reflections of my own – and others – gathered along the way.

Cinema Sark – John Wallace and Prof. Pete Smith – image nabbed from Twitter @LizzieDinnie



‘ How does place archive memory, how does memory archive place?’ Robert MacFarlane as quoted by David Borthwick in a shed in Cairnsmore. (As part of some of the great discussions held over the festival)


About looking. Art in the environment as a catalyst for looking at the environment (especially when you can’t find the art, but can find lots of beautiful land/scape) as suggested by Will Levi Marshall whilst on top of the wrong hill on Sunday. (It was a fantastic wrong hill though)


‘The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.’ RD Laing as quoted by Mike Bonaventura – on the scope and potential of environmental art discussed in the Robert Burns Centre last night.

James Winnett’s Fountain – as photographed by festival photographer Colin Hattersley



In some ways, part of the journey to these works became an extension of the work itself. The more out-of-the-way sites had a sense of pilgrimage.


There was a great sense of a collective sharing of the festival experience. I left all the discussions with more questions. There is a lot more to be understood. 


Perhaps we may not be able to change the whole world – but possibly out little impacts on a small scale – our ‘operating in the cracks between over-government’ still give us the potential for change (following on the climate change conversations in Stormont Hall).


As a participating artist – the positivity, the keen and the curious nature of folk and the welcoing attitude of festival organisers, contributors, audience members, visitors and the community/inhabitants was truly inspiring.


D&G has not just the potential but the capability to produce a festival on a par with the more art central regions – ‘be part of something amazing’ – so contributions are invited ‘if we don’t send messages, they won’t be recieved’ (thanks for that one Ted Leeming) and apologies for anyone mis-quoted or incorrectly paraphrased – it’s been a long few days!


Queues outside a phonebox – who’d have thought? Thanks to everyone who visited Clarencefield this weekend