Last year the writer and curator Jodie Dalgleish wrote an essay in response to the symposium: chalk: time ,sense and landscape A ‘summary, interpretation and inquiry’ of the sounds, images, and themes of the day, the essay was published in EyeContact and a transcript of the full essay is available here: Time Sense Landscape Essay: Jodie Dalgleish
Jodie has subsequently been working on a ‘sonic continuation of my recall and consideration of the one-day Symposium’, weaving sounds, thoughts and voices into a series of audio essays or reveries. The first ‘mix’ is now available and includes sounds and voices from the short award winning documentary, Notes on Blindness, which introduced the day. The film, based on John M. Hull’s autobiography of sightloss Touching the Rock (1990), has subsequently been made into a feature length film (of the same name) released in cinemas across the UK on the 1st July. The spoken thoughts of Dalgleish mingle with fragments of the film’s soundtrack, Prof John Levack Drever’s keynote address reflecting on John M. Hull’s writing and Nick Thorpe’s archaeological dig through the neolithic monuments and rituals of the chalk landscape. The sonic landscape concludes in dripping fragments of my own talk and the performance of rain choir.
Time, sense and landscape mix 1, by Jodie Dalgleish is available here.
Audio transcripts of all the contributions to the symposium will be made available later this year. If you are interested in learning more about this or would like a programme from the symposium please contact me via this website.
As part of tomorrow’s symposium, the archaeologist and author, Nick Thorpe will discuss the prehistoric use of chalk, not only as a place to leave a mark or a rock to carve into figurines, but also as the material used to create the first British monuments; a form of neolithic land art, existing thousands of years before Smithson. He writes: ‘hundreds of metres across, taking thousands of hours to create. The visual impact of these chalk monuments may have been just as shocking as modern art, permanently scarring the land.’ As ‘performance spaces’ these sites not only manipulated the visual landscape, but also how it was used and how it sounded.
See programme for full details of this talk and the other presentations at the symposium: timesenselandscape.com/programme
We are delighted to announce that, as part of chalk: time, sense and landscape, the avant-garde film artist, Guy Sherwin will be showing Connemara, a film unseen for over three decades.
Made on a trip to Ireland in 1980, the 16mm film offers a long, slow meditation on time and landscape. Static shots linger and stare into the landscape and upon the traces of human activity, whilst in the quiet collision of imagery and ambient sounds, place waits, returns and repeats.
Only screened a few times in the 1980’s, in 2011 EYE Institute Amsterdam ‘took the film into their archive and restored it with great care’.
The absence of the film extends to its documentation; no extracts are available and only one film still, a low resolution, pixelated haystack.
Sherwin, who originally studied painting at Chelsea in the 1970’s, has supplied one of his own drawings as documentation.
With this new print, light returns to Connemara, as Sherwin projects and perhaps sees his film for the first time in thirty-five years.
In his book Sand: a journey through science and the imagination, the geologist Michael Welland writes ‘deserts are landscapes of the mind as much as physical realities, places of metaphor and myth.’ It is fitting then that the title for his forthcoming presentation at Chalk: time, sense and landscape, is taken from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince:
‘Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams.’
As the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry remind us, the landscapes of the desert notoriously play havoc with all human senses. Rare sounds become amplified, aromas, other than some kind of unfathomable minerality, are entirely absent, and the range of what seems visible becomes exaggerated. Our sense of scale is comprehensively challenged – a single sand grain and a sea of dunes vie for our attention (and seem equally fascinating). The great chronicler of the deserts of the American southwest, Edward Abbey, wrote: “There is something about the desert that human sensibility cannot assimilate.” Our response to what is seen, and unseen, is very much subjective and cultural, the perception of landscape, time, and scale being quite different for the insider and the outsider. And then there are the stories that the landscape tells the geologist…
So looking forward to hearing the deserts tell their stories.
Ian Rawes, curator of London Sound Survey and one of the contributors to chalk: time, sense and landscape, has written a fascinating article on sound as it appears in the poetry of Chaucer. In an acoustical dig through the poem, The House of Fame (1370), Rawes unearths sounds that having once stirred the air, resonate and persist beyond the scope of our earthly ear. The poem begins with a dream in which an Eagle lifts Geoffrey into the air and whispers into his shell like:
Sound is nothing but broken air and every word that is spoken, loudly or softly, wisely or obscenely, is by nature just air. When men pluck harp strings, whether heavily or gently, with this stroke the air breaks as it does when men speak; so now you know what speech is. Now if you throw a stone into water, you know how one circle causes another, propagating outwards by the others’ movement, multiplying until the disturbance reaches the surrounding banks. In the same way, every word, spoken loudly or softly, first moves the air nearby, which in turn moves air that is further away. So in the air, my dear brother, every parcel stirs up the next and bares speech upwards, magnifying and amplifying until it reaches the House of Fame – take it in all seriousness or in fun.
The complete article is available here
It is with deep sadness that we have learned of the death of keynote speaker, John M. Hull.
John was Emeritus Professor of Religious Education at the University of Birmingham and Honorary Professor of Practical Theology at the Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education. Widely published on the subjects of religion and blindness, in 2012 he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the RNIB. Born in 1935, John developed cataracts in his youth and lost his sight completely 1983. In the book Touching the Rock, John describes and reflects upon his journey into blindness, a journey that not only offers an insight into a sight less world, but also helps to extend our understanding of how the senses involve us in the world around us. In particular, John’s experience of sound and listening reveals sensual landscapes, which transform our physical and emotional presence in the world. The following is an extract from a lecture given by John in 2001 and published in Soundscape: The Journal of Acoustic Ecology:
‘I learnt to listen to the sound of the rain. I can remember times when, in my study at home, I would become conscious that there was a storm going on. I would forget about my disorientated and vacated interior and would become aware of the wind, thundering upon the corner of the house, whistling through the eaves. And then I would become aware of the rain, splattering on the windowpane. I would stand up. I would press my nose hard against the window. And gradually it was as if the glass disappeared, because now my consciousness extended out from my nose pressed upon a panel of glass until it became un-conscious […] The rain had turned the light on […] And as I listened to [it fall], I realised I was no longer listening, because the rain was not falling into my ears, it was falling into my heart.’
We would like to dedicate this symposium to the memory of John and offer our sincere condolences to John’s wife Marilyn, their children and grandchildren.
The symposium will begin with a showing of the award winning documentary Notes On Blindness, made by Peter Middleton and James Spinney and based on the audio cassette diaries, which john used to ‘write’ Touching The Rock.