Working in the industrial site, CUF, an important part of the chemical and textile industry in Portugal from the 1800s to the early twentieth century, the residency offers an insight into a utopian vision of labour and progress and the legacy of this history in the toxic landscapes left behind. Barreiro, on the other side of the river Tejo from Lisbon, is full of the abandonned ruins of this history, while also maintaining a thriving manufacturing and chemical sector that still operates today, against the backdrop of an apocalyptic stretch of unusable land, where reds, purples, greens and pinks, the residue or caput mortem of this early industrial processes (such as evaporation pools for the production of sulphuric acid) remain. Pyrite was mined in the central belt of Portugal and spain and brought here to extract its precious minerals. The etymology of the work ‘pyrite’ comes from the Greek ‘pyrites lithos’, meaning a stone or mineral which strikes fire. It is hot here, forest fires break out in the south, materials are melting. It is used for its sulphur and iron oxides which are used to make fertilisers among many other things. At the turn of the century it was also used in the textile and copperas industry, and as a source of ignition for early firearms. More recently it is being used to make solar panels. It is in part highly toxic as it contains traces of arsenic, which means there are areas that are out of bounds to human habitation until decontaminated. Often called ‘fool’s gold’ for its gold like appearance or shine, it has, in fact, been found to contain small particles of actual gold, but these are very difficult to extract. It is, therefore, what is called a coupled substitution- equally desirable and toxic, useful and destructive. These photographic film stills, projections, object images and photographs, contain traces of caput mortuum (the residual dust from the chemical sublimation of pyrite and iron oxides) found at the industrial park here in Barreiro- dark red, purple earthy particles that coat the landscapes of the industrial site. I am looking to work with these traces of ecological and extractivist history at the site, while alluding to the journey across land and sea in a film I made during my four day trip to get here sustainably.
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?
‘A stone tape is a material object that has “recorded” the energy of a past event. Widely popularized by British author Nigel Kneale in his 1972 teleplay The Stone Tape, beliefs in the recording ability of objects and environments span the practices of heritage preservation, paranormal investigation, sound and media theory, and spiritual pilgrimage. But if materials do, in fact, record the past, how do contemporary encounters act as instances of playback?’ (Center for Documentary Art)
I am using my family archive of slide film images from the 1970s to revisit and record the rocky coastlines of the south west, and then employ tactile processes to mould this encounter into the photographic prints.
These pieces create installations that are immersive and yet distancing, as colours are inverted and distorted. Photo etchings made in situ, with mineral pigments and photographic processes, allude to histories of cartography, geology and mythology- the pieces converse with the still images that balance in the spaces of the gallery. The tilted nature of the work references our altered perspectives, and the freefall we are experiencing in light of the climate crisis, as Hito Steyerl alludes to in her essay on vertical perspectives:
These sculptural, still images respond to our encounter with deep time and how these minerals that are used in every aspect of our lives, creating a forensic new pellicule on the surface of the prints, and bringing back a history and hierarchy of colour and its use in art practice. They balance precariously on the edge of plinths echoing the topsy turvey relationship we are encountering with landscapes in the process of radical change.
The installation is called GROUNDING (2021)It is made up of 12 large scale photo etchings, ground rock pigment, two C-type photographic prints, articulated and supported on wooden stilts
This installation piece brings together a series of image-objects that challenge our fragmented relationship to the landscape, using handmade photographic pieces and printmaking techniques to do so. In this way Victoria explores the tactile nature of these processes and brings elements of the landscape into the space of the gallery- inks are imbued with ground minerals from the places they allude to as the photographic plates are exposed and developed in situ, and in the studio.
‘Grounding’ (2021) is an imagined response to the Anthropocene and our relationship with natural formations that exceed our ability to comprehend space and time. They are fragmented and etched images of deep time geological formations, caves, coastal rock formations and mountains both on the South West coast of the UK and in the Altiplano in the Andes in South America, where Victoria grew up. Both places were in part formed 145 million years ago, during the Jurassic period: one into a mountain range, the other into an eroding coast line- yet both denote boundaries, liminal spaces at the margins of maps, where, by exposing ‘deep time’, archaeologists, paleontologists and geologists uncover the earth’s history. Victoria spent the last few years travelling to these precarious places, creating prints and collecting photographic images and mineral pigments, to use in this installation. The images allude to the peaks and troughs of the disappearing and changing landscapes and depict the process of using the minerals collected there: the iron ore, red mudstone, chalk, shale, and the dark blacks of the inking up process, as a tool to print and frottage the surface of the image. They play with notions of the impossibility of taking in the sublime view- the way we remember or encounter these spaces in smaller fragments, often through a screen. Much like our memories, they stimulate stories, narratives and myths over time. Victoria feels a responsibility to expose these narratives and to maintain an intimate relationship to nature, one that does not contribute to our ecological demise, but finds alternative and sustainable non toxic print methods to create images of landscapes that are in the process of erosion. This installation then becomes a memorial and witness to our estrangement from nature and a material reminder of where we come from. The mineral powders leave marks on her hands, just as the marks on her fingers are left on the surface of the prints, leaving a forensic trace of her encounter with these spaces of deep time. It is a recognition of the transient, the fragmented- giving nature itself agency and the voice to visualize the layers of history it preserves in its microscopic wake.
WITHOUT HORIZON, WITHOUT SHORE, Lambeth County Court SE11 4DZ
with Victoria Ahrens, Carol Wyss, Victoria Arney
Hypnos and the Dissolution Process (2021)
6 monitor video collage installation, sculptured book pieces, photoetchings on stilt supports and photographs with hand applied rock pigment
In Greek mythology, Hypnos, the god of sleep, lived in a cave at the base of the river Lethe (Forgetfulness), a place where night and day meet. In this multichannel video installation, moving and still images merge in a hypnotic and mesmerizing scene. They overlap and dissolve, revealing and obscuring the rocky sea caves and coastlines of the South West of the UK and the mountain ranges of the Altiplano in South America. Both geological landscapes belong in parts to the Jurassic age, 145 million years ago, united by the rock formations of deep time deposits. Victoria spent the last few years travelling to these precarious places, creating films and collecting photographic images and mineral pigments, to use in this installation. Her works, both photographic and filmic depict the processes of using the rocks, amongst them: shale, chalk, iron oxide deposits, pink granite, mudstone and yellow sandstone as a tool to draw and frottage the surface of the photographic image, drawing on histories of colour photography and the loss of touch that the digital implies. Her hand, blue, with the inverted colours of touched negatives, detail the sensual and embodied process of hand pigmenting her images, a mediation of surfaces. Each screen, adds a layer of strata to the installation, with minimal sounds of the sea, the rocks being rubbed together and the action of her hand placing and rubbing the pigments onto the photographic surface. At times, these merging screens, dissolve the differences between the still and the moving, instead inviting the viewer to a soporiphic, and otherworldly encounter with landscapes that are in the process of slow change. These are landscapes where the human and mineral collide, where histories of art, markmaking, the cavernous and the underworld collapse, in a close observation of the surface and depth of these rock formations. Caves as underlands express those inner and hidden crevices of our mind, of death and burial, as well as myth and intrigue: places that refract and reflect light, places where night and day meet, places we forget are there. Constantly evolving, looping, the video installation reminds us of our incidental place in the world, our bones formed of the same minerals that we overlook in the natural world. These are dreamscapes, yet real places that conjur a liminal dialogue through time- deep time, the unfathomable time span of geology, as well as the accelerated viewing of the digital world in the Anthropocene, where our experience of the natural world is often through the screen. As we descend into the dreamscape are we forgetting the sense of real touch and the significance of the weight of our ecological histories?
video projection, Hypnos and the Dissolution Process (2021), looped collage of still and moving images, inverted colours (16:9, 14′ 08 mins)
Exogene (2021) Photographic C-type print on copy paper, hand pigmented with sandstone, and photo etching on wooden stilt supports
By A Long Chalk (2021)
Chalk is a material with a long history of associations with art practice. Formed during the Cretacious period (Creta is the Latin for chalk) 145 million years ago at the end of the Jurassic era, it holds in its structure the fossilized homes of millions of empty shells of sea creatures that accumulated in layers at the bottom of the sea and have slowly stratified and been exposed by climactic shifts or mined for human use. My project embodies this history, and its use in photographic etching/ transfer processes- where the latent image of the photograph is etched onto the surface of an aluminium plate with non-toxic light sensitive material. The chalk is brushed onto the surface to ‘reveal’ the image before it is developed in water. In By a Long Chalk, my photo etching plates and photographic transfer images were made in situ- on the shores of the Jurassic coast in Dorset. It is a place that is crumbling and exposing its chalk and shale (black chalk) underbelly, as rocks erode, landslides occur and climate change accelerates this process in the anthropocene. Here, in Chapman’s pool, in a small secluded rocky bay, I expose my images to the sunlight, and develop the photographic plates in the salt waters of the sea. On their surface remain the invisible traces of the place, microscopic infra-thin water particles, marine algae and entropic handmade marks. After printing and transferring these images onto copy paper, I brush, drag, draw and mark the surface of the images with the chalk rock and shale I collected there- leaving traces of the million-year-old fossil shell powder on its surface. In this way I am returning the materiality of the haptic to the surface of the image, completing a circle of embodied practice. The pellicule of chalk dust, black chalk (shale) and white chalk, lightly obscure the image, leaving a forensic dusting, with fingerprints and smudges on its skin. This references the painstaking geological and forensic techniques used to expose our past- and to determine our constant and unabating destruction of the landscapes that support life on earth. The folds on the surface of the image are reminiscent of maps, literally unfolding the narrative cartography of the place. Photography is in a unique position as a recorder of these moments, creating fragments of its own, that resist and raise the possibility of totality and wholeness, while exhibiting a presentational force. I feel a responsibility to expose these narratives and to maintain an intimate relationship to nature, one that does not contribute to our ecological demise, but finds alternative methods to create images of these landscapes that are in the process of disappearing before our eyes. This series becomes a memorial and witness to our estrangement from nature, and a material reminder of where we come from. The chalk leaves marks on my hands, just as the marks of my fingers are left on the surface of the photographs twice over (on the plates and on their prints) leaving a forensic trace of my encounter with these spaces of disappearance. If photography mediates between ‘its state of being and its state of becoming’ and allows for a re-cognition of the transient and fragmented, then these redrawn photographic pieces give nature itself agency and the voice to visualize the layers of history it preserves in its microscopic wake.
Here and There at WINDOW ROOM (Philadelphia)/ PARKHAUS 15 (Orlando,FL)
22nd May 2021- live streaming
Ebb and Flow (2021)
Split screen, inverted colours
Video collage, audio
(6 mins, 49’’)
Otherworldly walk into and out of the landscapes in duplicate, the Doppleganger out of synch, a glitch in the technological sublime landscape, that serves to create collages, dreamscapes and jarring encounters with the ebb and flow of the place. Playing on the history of the stereoscopic view of 19th century landscape photography, the moving images move and meld, blend and mirror, mesmerize and subvert- left to right, right to left- there are absences too, that create book folds, or double page spreads. The inverted colours are punctuated by sounds that echo the natural or the digital, the voice of a child reminding us of a more innocent encounter with the landscape. Ebb and flow, fast and slow- the tadpole, the doggie, a dead pigeon.
In this series of prints and print-objects, Deep Time, I have been further motivated to explore these constructed landscapes as a way of understanding that which stands still, yet still changes, often imperceptibly- restaging combinations of transfer prints and photo-etchings, as sculptural framed pieces, to create impossible relationships between distance and nearness- what is in reach, tactile, mobile- and that which is unfathomable, beyond our reach and longed for through the screen. The outside has come inside, at a time when the outside, and far away can only be interiorized and imagined- these screens beyond the screen, narrate a new articulation of space in the gallery.
Using photographs, digital prints, and photo etchings as well as screenprints, I have been making a series of image-objects that reflect on our relationship to the outdoors, and the mineral. Looking at images I took before lockdown, of vast outdoor spaces, and having time to look deeply into their make up both conceptually and materially has meant creating sculptural prints that create a tension between outside and inside, between close up and far away. Where Longinus’ sublime moment was a rhetorical device, a pregnant pause, we have been obliged to pause, to look again, to look a thousand times. So we notice, the detail, that the closer up we come to it becomes more and more abstracted.
ACTS OF SPEAKING FOR & SPEAKING THROUGH at KELDER PROJECTS, Islington, London
Guest Curator: Lee Campbell
12.03.20- 19.04.20 | 18.30–21.00
“KELDER Projects is a curatorial research space that aims to expand on traditional modes of display and in turn offer up alternative ways of disseminating contemporary art.
The purpose of the space is to test contemporary curatorial theories through experimental and discursive projects that seek to make sense of our contemporary position through research. By creating a place for discussion, KELDER acts as a collision point for interdisciplinary practice – a place for collaboration and exchange.”
KELDER was founded as a non-profit organisation by Rudi Christian Ferreira and Adrienne Groen in 2016 (https://kelderprojects.com/About)
Thursday 2 April, 18:00–21:00
An evening of intimate performances by Claire Makhlouf Carter, Adrian Lee, Alexander Costello, Lee Campbell, Hällsten and O’Neill and Victoria Ahrens.
Topophilia (2020) : an (un)choreographed walk in the landscape. Photo etching plates and fragmented photographic images of a personal ethnography create prosopopaeic objects that shape our relationship to ‘place’ in this physical sound piece about deep time.
Topophilia: from the Greek topos ‘place’ and philis ‘love of’ it denotes a strong sense of place or a love of certain aspects of such a pace/ or the affective bond between people and place or settings. First used by WH Auden English poet in 1947 in his introduction to John Betjemen’s book of poetry, ‘Slick but not Streamlined’. The word was then popularised by Yi-Fu Tuan, a Human Geographer, in his book Topophilia: A study of Environmental Perception, Attitudes and Values, published in 1974. Gaston Bachelard refers to ‘a felicitous space’ (1957). This performance is a mixture of song lyrics (I feel for You, I think I love you by Chaka Khan), stories, anecdotes, movement. It has been created virtually as a response to the work I was making for Kelder Projects’ Radical Ventriloquism exhibition/ programme of performances, and live work, curated by Lee Campbell. This is also a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where your home is now the only ‘safe’ space available-a space we must learn to love, and find new meaning in. Also it refers to the longing for outdoor space that we all took for granted.
Topo philia, Topo philia
I feel for You
I think I love you
Don’t Stand So close to me (Corona Chorus) (2020)
Sliding photographic prints, performance (1 minute)
On Exactitude in Science by Jorge Luis Borges (translated by Andrew Hurley
In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.
——Suarez Miranda, Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658
For this exhibition Victoria Ahrens looks at the notion of contemporary cartography as a metaphor for the constructed and imagined landscape. Where the stars and the compass once served as our guide through terra incognita (parts unknown), layers of data collected from satellite imagery now map our every corner of the earth. These composite images often prolong cartographic anomalies, or paper towns, added to maps in the 19th century in order to guard cartographic copyright. When these are found and eliminated from the map, ghost imprints of images are left in the data. Here, Ahrens looks at this notion of ‘unmapping’, as projections and photographic prints reconstruct personal ethnographies of places she has encountered, places that are meaningful historically, and cartographically to her. The nature of these fragmentary topographies means it is impossible to grasp the landscape in a single view, to map it in its entirety. Like the stories we tell of places unknown, narratives are folded into the creases- like ‘maps’ – they accumulate data, fold time, and create mosaics of places that perhaps never existed, except in her imagining. Like Borges’ tattered ruins, these are relics or memories of encounters with Parts Unknown. Grounded in truth, they do not however, hold true, as the images take cartographic processes back to their hand made and printed roots, working as entropic records of our existence and referencing the ways we have found to guide ourselves through the landscape.
Close Encounters (2020) Two photo etching prints, marks from in situ exposure and development- ink mixed with earth from the Altiplano
The two photographs of the Altiplano and its salt lakes come together to create an otherwordly and haunting image of the volcano- the marks on the print indicate and point to the space of their making in situ- exposed and developed in the landscapes of the Altiplano, the piece overlaps, touching, and reminding the viewer of the touch of the plate to the landscape itself.
1. Parts Unknown, Sedimentary Sublime (2020) Overlapping digital prints of photo etchings made in situ- Jurassic Coast, Dorset
2. Touching Peaks (2020) large scale digital transfer prints overlapping of hand made photo etchings made in situ (Altiplano, South America)
Enter Artspace installation shot
video installation: Ground Truth (2020) Layered digital print on copy paper, folded, projection on loop (melting glaciars). The two extremes of the country (Argentina) where on is moving on tectonic plates, and the other is melting and fragmenting. in this way the map is never static or fixed but has moving edges. The piece looks at the errors, lacunae in the official maps, referencing the historical cartographic copyright traps added and sustained in contemporary maps that are now being identified with digital technology. We are now unmapping the map.
Touching Peaks (2020) Large scale digital transfer prints of photo etchings made in situ, overlapping
Parts Unkown, lacunae (2020) Dorset coastlines, in an overlapping piece that interrupts the continuity of the landscape- where the margins and liminal areas overlap, they create a lacuna or moment of pause in the image. This reimagines the space in the colours of the earth, mixing this in the inking up processes to leave the dna or fragments of the actuality of the place on the surface of each print
Triangular wooden supports reference the earliest contours of basic mountain mapping and drawings, but also speak to the Scheimflug principle, where a triangular perspective is practiced by aerial photographers- photographing the landscape from the air requires a complex mathematical calculation of angles in order to flatten the image.
Parts Unkown, publication (2020) newprint, images and text edition of 20
Starting to produce work for my solo show in Denmark in March
Based on the notion of phantom mapping and projection mapping- where copyright traps were drawn into early cartographies of newly explored topographic landscapes- these paper towns or phantom mountain ranges have often been translated onto contemporary maps, such as google earth and gps guides. Once discovered the data is not easily removed, leaving ghost traces on the map. These are composite images of the source of the Amazon on Peru, folded and digitalised and projected onto, these photographic objects sew uncertainty into the visual plain- and project imaginary moving images onto its digital surface. A screen behind a screen, these different iterations create ‘false memories’ of that which did not exist in the first place. They display the glitches and interruptions in the data, working as ‘poor images (Hito steyerl) that attempt to guide the viewer. Photo etchings of actual places that have been exposed and developed in situ, complete the installation- creating a tension between the hand made, that which has touched the landscape and the screen based that has not. Haptic and optic meet to translate these into personal maps, ethnographic traces of places I have seen.
A year long project organised and curated by the International Association of Photography and Theory (IAPT), Cyprus- to explore the intersection between notions of archaeology, the archive, memory and memorial and contemporary photographic practice. A number of artists in dialogue with one another, addressing these issue in their practice were invited to participate in this project. The culmination of this was a publication, an exhibition at Nicosia’s Museum of Contemporary Art and a conference at the university exploring these concepts in relation to archeologies, writing and visual material in Cyprus, and across the world. My work explores the interstices between forensic anthropologists and places of disappearance through photographic archival images, C-type prints in a large scale and projections onto the surface of the image. In addition, a sound piece was created specifically for the exhibition in Nicosia.
El Lugar Perfecto (2018) C-type photographic print, projection and sound piece 300 cm x 110 cm (h)
Publication of Ar(t)chaeology as presented at CAA in New York
After Haroldo (2018) Sound piece, 7 minutes looped- readings from Haroldo Conti’s book ‘Sudeste’, layered with sounds of fishermen singing, river Parana, Argentina
A new series, ‘A True Date with a Palm Tree’ (2019) looks at the historical migration of the Date Palm tree and its colonial and anthropological significance in botanical, and archival photographs, while interrogating its place in landscapes of political uncertainty- in particular in the wake of increasingly closed migration policies. The project combines a series of photo etchings with photographic C-type prints, and photographic transfers layered on coloured wood open frames. In addition, an edition of 50 visual essays in newspaper form have been printed. Extracts of that visual essay can be read below.
This essay has been published in full on : http://vista.sopcom.pt/edicao/339
VISTA Journal: Revista de Cultura Visual, No.5 (2019)
‘Alien and invasive species‘ (2019) Photo etching on wooden hand coloured support, C-type print on90 gsm paper, and tracing paper print on wooden hand coloured support
‘Palm Reading’ (2019) Composite photo etching, C-type print on 90 gsm paper, and tracing paper print on wooden hand coloured support
Fronds (2019) C-type photograph, two photo etchings, each on hand coloured, wooden, open frames, layered.
To-ing and Fro-ing (2019) Salt print and photo etching on open coloured wood frame
A TRUE DATE WITH A PALM TREE
50 Newspapers, Visual Essay (2019) A True Date with a Palm Tree, Victoria Ahrens (2000 words)
In a hidden corner of Burgess park, South East London, dates grow from orange fronds under a fanning palm tree in the middle of a tiled water feature in Chumleigh Gardens. No one very much goes there. It is empty, and on a hot Summer’s day, I come across this peaceful place. Built in response to a site where alms houses used to reside before the Second World War, in 1995 a multicultural garden “was designed “to reflect the area’s diversity” (Bridgetonowhere.org.uk, 2019). This Palm Tree sits at its centre, presiding over the African, Oriental, Mediterranean, Islamic and English Garden. With their dates and coconuts, wax and oils, palm trees have come to colonize the four corners of the world. Native to the Middle East; spread by the Romans as far as the Mediterranean; taken and transplanted by early Spanish colonialists from the Canary Islands to the Americas and distributed by European botanists to and from colonies in Asia, Africa and the Antipodes, and back to Europe, palms have become the symbol of successful uprooted-ness: synonymous with tropical views, pre-lapsarian lands, and exotic holidays.
My grandfather was particularly fond of them. It is next to a Palm tree that he stands in this silver print from his archive of Buenos Aires at the turn of the century. A self-portrait, his Leica camera positioned, arms crossed, hat titled to the right. It is not, however, his shadow that looms, but the fronds of another palm- a triffid head making its presence known, foreshadowing the photograph, in place of the photographer. My grandfather was tall, dapper, dressed up to the nines and keen on gardening, on looking after plants and trees that reminded him of nostalgic memories of his native lands, of Europe. Curious then that he chose the palm tree to frame this image. Centred behind him, the shadows of the palm leaves cascade all around, becoming a shadowy garland, a victory wreath, tentacles of a living species embracing the soil.
H.R Ahrens- A date palm at Palermo, (a self portrait) Buenos Aires, Argenting (c. 1930)
Note the palm trees on the left, he wrote on the back of this photograph. Why was he pointing them out all the time? What did they mean to him? I will never know. Yet there he is again, in a garden in Palermo, in Argentina- el ingles, the Englishman, with his accent, taller than most others at that time at two metres, like a palm tree himself (not these small bush-like ones) but long limbed, with large hands, and a coconut head. He stood out; so do the palm trees, in this landscaped garden, with its manicured pines and geometric features. By 1910 the Phoenix Canariensis was “listed in the catalogue of plants at the botanical garden of Buenos Aires”
H.R. Ahrens, ‘Note the Palm Trees on the Left’ (a self portrait) c. 1930, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Palm trees, of course, are not trees at all. They can be dated back to fossils that are 80 million years old, from the late Cretaceous period. They are dinosaurs of the plant world and have a multitude of variations. They are considered to be the most important plant species in economic and historic terms. Palm oil, for instance, can be found in all of our basic household products, from medicines, to face creams, to cooking oils. Palms permeate our world, invisibly present.
I have some indoor palms that inhabit my sitting room. Two areca palms. Colonial reminders of other landscapes, fronds that span out, increasingly, to find the sun that dapples the wooden floors through the open windows. They are small versions of Dominican palms, bearing tropical seeds. I speak Spanish to them, to remind me of other places, to create a dialogue through space and time with their variegated, feathered leaves- a kind of palm reading. They curve upwards, butterfly palms in multiple stems, that open out into fans, open handed. Dypsis Lutescens, evergreen in the grey sunless Winter, these and other species settling in for the duration. I care for them and tend them lovingly. These palms remind me of my childhood in Buenos Aires, of my grandfather, of afternoons sitting under them in a park in the city to get out of the scorching sun. I long for them in the cold of Winter. Some say they are ‘going native’ here in the UK. Climate change is ensuring they proliferate. Fashions and indoor gardens dictate their popularity. I think of the artists who depicted them, and how relevant they have become: Ed Ruscha’s Palm Series; John Baldessari’s Overlaps; Sigme Polke’s Palmatum (1968)- American visions of palm lined, sun soaked boulevards in California. No longer alien and invasive, but actively cultivated now in the UK, they have found their place inside the house, as ‘plant-pets’ to look after, to talk to. They provide company, oxygen, the semblance of an outdoor experience amongst the urban brick environment.
In the end, though, my grandfather, uprooted, sent half way round the world to fulfill models of colonial economic expansion, understood his status, and translated this through these and other self-portraits he took in gardens in Argentina: alien, yet settled; foreign yet native. In this photograph (above) the palm tree and the man, over time, are becoming one, the silver print degenerated, blending both into a seemless white imprint- the palm tree perhaps symbolizing a victory of sorts: the alien taking root, going native, the colonizer as criollo, born and bred, beginning to feel at home. These species of migration, next to their native counterparts, are now part of the imagined views of these places, the longed for ‘other’ of tropical beaches, of hot climates, of Robinson Crusoe and Lord of the Flies. Like the only surviving Mauritian Hyophorbe Amaricaulis palm, however, they are also at times endangered and unsustainable in equal measure. Palm hearts, delicacies that ironically rip out the heart of the palm species. Palm oil plantations decimating the soil. In a climate of considerable push back on migration policies, nevertheless, these emigré species, aliens of another time, colonial left overs, ‘breadcrumbs’ of the Columbian exchange, migrants with roots, are, at least for now, here to stay.
 Carlos Thays, El Jardín Botánico de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires: Jacobo Peuser, 1919) p. 163
 My grandfather worked for the Vesty meat company in the port of Buenos Aires, importing and exporting meat
from Argentina to Europe, in particular corned beef that was given to soldiers in the first and second world wars.
 Norris, A. (2014) Ten Surprising facts about Palm Trees, Earth Matters [online] https://www.mnn.com/earth- matters/wilderness-resources/stories/10-surprising-facts-about-palm-trees (accessed 21/08/19)
________________________________A series of photo etchings, folded and turned into stand alone sculptural pieces- exploring the fragmentation and erosion of our coasts, and their significance as places where land and sea jostle for authority. These are places on the edges of maps, where maps would have begun, as early cartographers traces the shape of their coastline from the sea and land. In the anthropocene, these rock strata and geological formations hold the promise of our historical, geological, political and paleontological origins, while each fragment, as it disintegrates, carries that memory away with it, forgotten over time. As the coast lines and bodies of water, mountanous regions, erode and recede from the sea, new maps are needed where new contested terrritories appear. These composite images, adhere to a sense of photographic truth, yet like the edges of maps, they expose places at the margins of memory, of our origins, borderlands or spaces that denote belonging. Exposed and developed in the landscape itself, however, the plates are imbued with a sense of place, as collected earth and rock fragments mixed in with the printing inks, create an actual map of the place, a dna imprint on their surface. This material presence belies the disappearance and nostalgic memories that these reference, as places of my childhood imagining.
Parts Unknown (2020) Photo etchings on fabriano rosaspina paper, hand made book covers (composite of three) 65 cm (h) x 70 xm
This piece centres on notions of erosion and uncertainty. They are photo etchings I created in situ on the Jurassic coast of the UK and in Latin America on the altiplano of Peru and Argentina, where the oldest fossils have been found, and the coast line crumbles inexorably into the sea. It continues my investigation into landscapes of disappearance, places where myth, history and memory collide. Creating this piece by exposing and developing the photographic plates on site, I explore the notion of the auratic translation of the image, in which each print in the edition is imbued with the markers of the place itself. They can be seen as three individual portable photographic sculptures or books,or, as they are shown here, as a fragmented panoramic piece that works as a single installation_________________________________________________________
This exhibition will coincide with the display of Lindsay Seers’ Extramission 2 (The Trilogy) that became part of the Rugby Collection in 2011. Seemingly autobiographical yet incoherent, it tells the story of Seers’ upbringing on the island of Mauritius and addresses the artist’s early speechlessness; development of a photographic memory and eventual loss of this ability when she began to talk. Constructing memories, rather than documenting them, Seers poses the questions: Is the camera a tool for documenting and recording, or for creating? Is truth something that can be told or is it experienced? To these questions there is no convincing resolution.
This group exhibition will explore the production of fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted memories and we would like to invite artists to submit artworks that link with the theme in whatever way inspires them. This could include Imagined experience against lived experienced, Gist memory, walking memory, nostalgia or any other memory-based phenomena that are linked to the construction and discussion of false memory. Works can be both literal and/or symbolic or can be directly inspired by the themes in Lindsay Seers’ artwork.
Salt prints and photoetchings of fragmented landscapes, are held together in open frames. These are then hand coloured, alluding to the history of early ‘colour’ photography, using cyan, magenta, black and yellow- the same separations used in printmaking processes today.
Ground Resist (2019)
This series looks at the notion of the disappearing landscape, through photo etchings made in situ. In this way, photographs of the Jurassic coast are re interpreted and printed as composite solar plate etchings, using the sun and water at the site to expose and develop the prints. The plates are then imbued with the traces of the place itself, and work as a metaphor for the geological and paleontological remains that can be found there. These address not only our relationship to the past, but our encounter with the landscape in the present and future. The continuously eroding landscapes of the south west coast of the UK in turn reveal their secrets of our origins in their crumbling strata. In the Anthropocene, these non-toxic processes become ever more relevant, as does the memorialization and conservation of these originary landscapes. These photo etchings are further suspended from wooden rods, which echo the fragmented debris found at the site, and the way printmaking and photography suspend time. Printmaking processes often excavate and reveal in their surfaces, as marks left behind. In this way, these prints cross numerous boundaries: in place and space, from the Jurassic coast to the space of the gallery, as well as the contingent histories of photography and printmaking. Furthermore, the photo etching prints are hand-coloured, bringing back a unique quality to them, while alluding to the use of hand colouring in early photography before the invention of colour images. Here our origins can be found, and the crossovers between practices remind us of the expanded field that printmaking lies in today, as well as our role as artists in highlighting the political concerns of our time.
Not in my Garden (2019) Photographic Print on copy paper, wooden sticks, projection onto the surface (26 seconds looped)
___________________________________Another Land is an exhibition and events programme showcasing experimental visualisations of place in art and design research. Bringing together practitioners from across Kingston University, the Royal College of Art and University of the Arts London, contemporary works and events have been integrated into Kingston Museum, engaging with themes of past and present, real and imagined, identity and community.
Lleva y Trae (2019) Acetate transfer prints on fabriano paper, analogue photographs (180 cm x 160 cm)
Los Orígenes (2019) reversed looped video, digitalised 16 mil, waterfall
No lo contradigas, es la verdad (2019) Photo etchings, acetate prints (90 cm x 70 cm)
The exhibition and programme draw links between creative practice and anthropology, archaeology, architecture and geography, encompassing video, drawing, sculpture, installation, performance, photography and print. This is extended with a series of screenings of moving image works presented at the Stanley Picker Gallery, exploring concepts of human movement, environmental narratives and emerging worlds.
______________________-Biennale de L’image tangible 17 November-8 December
REVIEW of the show:
Alti/plano (2018-2019) Photographic transfers, screen prints and wooden painted stands, 170 cm x 150 cm (h)
Working with Julio Space in the 20th arrondisement in Paris, in a two person show for the Biennale de l’Image Tangible (2018) with Laure Tiberghien. Folded and transferred photographs of the Andes challenging the role of cartography in our sense of space and experience of place. The images juxtaposed as a single piece re create an imagined landscape based on actual photographs of the Altiplano of the Andes. These marginal spaces remind us of the failure to grasp the whole, as human perception takes in the view in small fragments. The sculptural triangular photographic pieces, re narrate this experience and as stand alone, abstracted and transferred photographic fragments, can be positioned in multiple compositions to unite these into a single, layered view.