Shepherd Gallery, Reno, Nevada, US
Daylight. We ( Dutton, Peacock, Swindells ) are visiting Conisborough Castle in Yorkshire, England. We have an idea we will throw something from the castle ramparts but immediately we become more transfixed by the site (and sight). This absurd attempt at preserving the past is in the most unlikely of settings; after all, this is a medieval castle in the midst of an (ex) mining-town/ housing estate. It appears as some kind of joke. The desire to hold on to romance, the medieval past (Camelot) and the necessity of 20th century urban planning become mutually disembodied.
Then the joke becomes more up to date, and bitter. Mining has become miming.
Soon though we are trying again, hurling texts off the castle ramparts, shouting stories through a megaphone over the surrounding estates, willing something to happen, something to trick us, trip us up, throw the narrative. To see the thing which intervenes between the text and where it lands. But, of course, all the stories are already thrown and were written to throw. Ridiculous characters play out an obscure narrative that veers wildly only to lead back in on itself. Everything is still normal.
What becomes clear though, once again, is that the process of making work is not clear, and so the pressure builds from within to release something (giddiness, anxiety, credibility). Emptiness and nothing are the claws of a brilliantly disguised trap.
Next day. We find ourselves standing on the walls of another castle. This time a ruined castle in the Peak District of England. We are here again – to throw text, like caution, into the wind. But an ambiguity is present within even this simple act, partly because the wind is in our faces and our words are forced back down our throats, but also because there is some kind of precarious balance here, a shifting power play between the thrower, the thrown thing and the space the thing is thrown into.
Once these dense texts have been called out, lightened and dissolved, the performance is over. We can stand, more relaxed, on castle ramparts. A moment that is lost as it becomes relegated to automatic pastness, a status of merely classifiable thing, image taken then. The ‘thing’ and ‘then’ attracted each other. If it was a thing it was then, if it was then it was a thing. Our sight is now cast out onto open country; on guard, look-outs looking for something to look at or for.
Then it happens. We ourselves are thrown by events.
On that night (it’s crystal clear now, and getting colder), rising over the brow of a hill (behind which the stars may or may not be visible), perhaps one or two miles away, appear the small lights of an aircraft. A few seconds later the lights pass overhead, low enough to see anonymous head-shapes at the windows . Sound follows in the plane’s wake. There is silence, then movement, then the roar, then silence. There is an ambiguous, repetitive, relentless circling between object and event which is almost predatory, yet it is still somehow, mutual. It’s the fascinating thing. The relationship between the plane and the sound of the plane becomes, if not an actual site of meaning, then at least a transient location for some kind of fugitive and as a consequence, an eroticised sense.
On this night, in a kind of frenzy, every small thing seems significant. An animal, say, a hare, is caught in the headlights of a car, transfixed yet also oblivious. Hilariously the animal is stunned at exactly the same moment a goal is scored in the soccer being reported on the car radio.
Perhaps also, somewhere in the city, a drunk stares right through his drinking partner, seeing only the doorway (or two) in which he is standing. In a moment of profound anxiety the friend feels as if he’s disappeared or eclipsed by invisibility. It is as if, through metempsychosis, he has indeed been absorbed into space.
It is here we begin to move, into the event (where time and space become object).
The desire to locate an object in such encounters and events is probably idiotic; but as a way of proceeding its all we have, so what the hell. It’s perversely this desire for or need of the object which lends such small events their particularity, in the sense that particularity is almost an object itself (some kind of isolated epiphenomena). Something special happens. It is the anticipation of gaining a result (an end) and being so far from it which becomes significant. Ultimately, anomalous lapses in the flow of things suggest significance, and thus attain a kind of objectification, if only for another time.
It is indeed some months later in this remote place we will begin imagining again and we will encounter an ambiguous image, a collection of young trees, a weakened and depleted forest.