The Alum Chine is the name of a pathway through the Westbourne pine forests to the beaches on the other side. ‘Chine’ meaning ravine where water once flowed, and ‘alum’ because it is the place where the first chemical works existed in Britain- to extract, manufacture and mine alum and copperas or green vitriol used to fix the colours and tan the leather with a black dye, used in the textile and dyeing industry in Dorset in the late 16th century. However, by the mid 17th century mining had ceased due to the fact that it became increasingly uneconomical to extract the deposits. This story of the earliest mineral and chemical manufacturing in the UK has been all but lost to history. These days, ferrous sulphate (copperas) is used to treat anaemia-something I have suffered from and have to take. These pine trees grow tall and strong on the iron rich deposits left where alum and copperas were first extracted, as trees (that can also suffer from iron deficiency) need iron to produce chlorophyll- the pigments and processes used in these photo etchings, explore the colour and chemical industry, and echo the histories of the place as the image is ‘fixed’ and pigmented with green/ blue inks and hand made pigments (created from collected stone and earth from the alum chine itself). The inked photo etching plates are used as outcomes as well as printing matrices. They will eventually fade if left out in the light for prolonged periods, much like our forests which are rapidly disappearing around us. They remind me of our place in the world and the anthropocenic layers we are creating for posterity, in the midst of a rapidly changing environmental crisis. These places can always renew themselves, and adapt to new conditions, even perhaps recover. The question is, can we?
My work is concerned with auratic translations, interpretation and fiction in our encounters with the landscape. I use photographic installations, projections and print editions to explore notions of the politics of place, resistance and ruin. I am interested in the spaces between what we know and what we think we know about the world, and have investigated these ideas in a series of installations and prints over the last few years.View all of victoriaahrens's posts.