Walnut tree of touch (a potential blanket) as part of For cover (1/3)

Walnut tree of touch (a potential blanket) is a installation, consisting of a set of double-sided printed cyanotypes (36 sheets of Moleskine Cahier, 28x36cm), piled up and held on top with a hand-sized pebble in a heart-shape. They are placed on top of a closed manual sewing machine (Phoenix 355) with tressel and in a mid-century wooden table form. The front drawing is opened out and it reveals an assortment of sewing utensils: needles, spools, yarn. The work is place on a spring meadow, amid some grasses and white wild flowers. The v-belt of the machine is hanging slack, the plug for the electric lamp is hanging half-way down to the foot pedal.

This work was printing across October 2020 on the mature walnut tree in my parents’ garden. I had experimented with a series of cyanotype printing processes using hedges, trees, leaves etc. and different papers. The Moleskine Cahiers has been my go-to sketchbook for a few years, the thin, heavily-sized paper offers a translucency, rubs and transfers easily, and holds notes and sketches effortlessly. I experimented with single-layers, and single-sided prints. The double-layered double-sided prints I settled on take the paper to its physical limit: the washing of the exposed prints requires attention not to destroy the paper, it dries well and reveals the tears and cracks in close-up. (I would coat a single-side twice, exposure, fix and dry and then coat the second side twice)

The printing was using pegs to fix the paper to low-hanging leaves and branches, the intensity of the sun variable, the exposure time generally between 20-45 minutes), some were printed during high winds, some gathered rain. I placed a few on the ground, some flipped in the process, exposing the back, one I forgot overnight. In some the chemistry disentangled (or perhaps reacted differently with the paper’s seizing?).

For a long time I considered this a gallery-based 2-D curtain, reconstructing the tree in the centre of a room, Im Walde as wall-based installation surrounding it. Over the course of the coming months care and maintenance became themes of all these works and my stay here. I explored ways of building a curtain, sewing air into it, make it see-through, perhaps it could be a quilt, but how could I sew in negative space, make it malleable, make it possible to disassemble, keep modular and unimpaired?

I experimented with paper clips and pegs to make a make-shift shape to cover myself, and was content with that as a possibility, so the pile of prints contains that potential, it can be enacted.

The digital version has a sound piece alongside it. Here I developed what I had been calling Instructions to Touch as time-based portrait, as narration of the process of making in at once strongly chronological form (the numbers point to the chronology of narrating) and yet fragmented (as I would delete and edit the narration).

I installed Walnut Tree on 15 May and had in on site for a couple of hours, to explore its siting, reach and resonance. We played the audio through the phone speakers, it is currently in English, the language in which I art, for the site this however does not make sense. And perhaps the contextualisation isn’t necessary for the encounter in situ.

Luminous cover (Trafodecke 1) as viewing device

Drawing/contact explored a number of routes around viewing devices and visual games: these were called kaleidoscopes or peripheral vision; some of these were digital, others analogue, some involved others: I posted out three singular prints on A4 copy paper to await a return, they returned as a viewing device box, the Boris box, spikey; and the other was a set of chemical experiments on a kitchen stove).

(see here for all posts concerning kaleidoscopes)

In the making of the Trafodecken, the transformer blankets, I ended up with numerous close-ups, onto the indexical tracings, the effects of weather and enviroment, or skimming the surface of the paper into the wooded distance. As they were made on tracing paper, the translucency of the material played with sun and shade. The stiffness of the dry paper would hold shape well.

I hung them into trees, across low fences and pollards, installed in a holiday rental kitchen space, used them as zoom backdrops (with my dad modelling the cosmic weather forecast), but overall, I remained uncertain as to the status of the work: was it process or object, and if object what and where?

After BoW 4 I envisaged to resolved the scale and ambition of site along with a sense of immersiveness (or rather, what become with Laura Marks a notion of the haptic and the erotic). My approach was to create a ‘drawing’ of the site, its processes and how it interrelated. This would be an assemblage (other suggested to call it a map). The viewing devices and visual games resurfaced at this moment and I begun to think of how the idea of ‘climbing into’ the rolled up covers could become them being utilised as a viewing device, a kaleidoscope.

One day I tried out two locations on the meadow/forest edge: first a tree at the entrance (too close to the blanket on the transformer station; also too much a site for dog toilet to feel confident about stepping close). Then I found two bushes a bit further along and I propped the two sheets of blanket 1 (the luminous one) into the bush, one facing skywards (which was a direction I employed with a series of viewing devices), the other skimming horizontally along where path, trees and meadow meet. They are loosely rolled, the luminous ink stains, which resulted from a week of solid rain) to the inside. The sun would fall onto and into them from the top left, tracing branch and leaves as well as the various layers of the paper itself. The view hole fairly small compared to the inside of the viewing device. There is a sense of careful stepping in and towards the two devices, for one you reach up, for the other you crouch a little. I am wondering if for a show it would like a little stepping plate on the ground (or if that would detract).

The development process of final placement and form is here:

1. viewing device images in production process

2. site 1 (abandoned) next to the path

3. site 2 (chosen) further along the meadow edge

4. install process

5. the viewing device in use