Of the Elm Decline

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Of the Elm Decline

Towards a new versification: A line crossed, back and forth. Figures – datum and metaphor. Object and subject, inextricably enmeshed. The line scores, stitches, encloses, underpins. The bi-polar problem: Organic/inorganic, sentience/unconsciousness. The poem as interim report, the table as imaginative prism.

Of the Elm Decline is published in Memorious Earth : A Longitudinal Study.

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Archive, Sound and Landscape

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Over the years, quite understandably, Landings has received publicity almost exclusively as a musical work – but when interviewed I have always tried to situate the recordings within a more diverse series of activities which began in 2004/5 and continue to this day. Despite an exhibition of both sound and text at the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, in 2011, the ‘larger work’ of Landings has received relatively little attention. I’m therefore rather grateful to the work of two writers who have recently entered into a more holistic engagement with it.

The first is Robert Macfarlane, whose generosity to the work of others is evident in all of his books. In his most recent, Landmarks, he provides a keenly observed close reading/listening, remarking that “both sound and text are devoted to a kind of echo-location, used to measure the relations of distanced entities”. He goes on to describe how “the book possesses an archival intensity: long lists of the names of farms once active on the moors, retrieved from historical maps; or lexicons of Lancashire dialect terms, presented as litanies spoken against loss”.

The second is Martyn Hudson, whose in-depth academic paper features in the current issue of Landscapes journal. He too identifies the archival impulse at work within Landings, observing that “the entirety of Skelton’s corpus refigures the relationship between artistic practice and the detritus of the land and the lives lived upon it … his work is an inventory and a recalling of others – the revenants of the past who became emblematic of the lost of the moor.” He concludes by stating that Landings “provides the index by which the multiple narratives of the moor can be told, but also the beginning of a more comprehensive way of thinking about the deep mapping of land forms and the histories in which they are situated”.

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The issue of naming, and specifically of multiple names or pseudonyms, continues to be of interest to music journalists. Between 2005 and 2011 I used seven different names for the music I published via Sustain-Release. At the time I didn’t think that my use of multiple names was particularly novel, or desirous of attention, but it did at least serve the purpose of foregrounding the textual element of the work. In a recent interview, I described the act of naming as a form of dowsing. The work “moves along its own dark channels, and the act of naming is like trying to delimit flow or current patterns”. Continuing the riverine metaphor, I also described name-giving as a means of bringing the work to the surface. The first time that Landings broke ground was in 2006, with the composition ‘Stolen Ground’ – prefiguring my later concerns with theft and trespass.


 
Until that point it had seemed nebulous – the act of naming and the resultant exposition conferred a certain fixity, even if, in so doing, it diminished or reduced what the work could be. What was once subterranean, hidden, manifold, became exposed, visible, singular. Yes, I had found a channel, but if I was under any illusion that I had found the river, then there were clear reproofs:

“What have you given, that you have not already stolen? Flaunted desolation. Made your woe-songs in dull chambers, with dull strings. But our song is the river, the song of all deaths, the song of passings.”

It often strikes me that our most significant ‘works’ are those which are in some way unrealised. They resist any attempt to conform to a predefined outline or ideal, or to manifest in an articulate and precise way. They don’t quite align, are unruly or incoherent. Perhaps it falls to the work of future archivists to sift through our unfinished corpora, piecing them together into new, undreamed of configurations?

And My Breath Would Fail

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And My Breath Would Fail

For the past decade and more, outsider artist Julian Hyde has been amassing an archive of text and image from the urban/rural edgelands of Windermere, Cumbria. Earlier this year he commissioned the above piece, allowing me free access to his photograph prints and encouraging me to use them as raw material for a new collage. And My Breath Would Fail has now been beautifully reproduced in The Accidental Archive, a full colour A4 magazine featuring new work from Alasdair Maclean, Nick Papadimitriou, Neil Jackson, Craig Turnbull, alongside Julian’s own photography and text. The first 50 copies come with 5 limited edition postcards. Unmissable.

For more info, email julian[a]voicesinalane.co.uk.

Belated Movements

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Belated Movements for an Unsanctioned Exhumation August 1st 1984
by The Inward Circles

Lindow Man, discovered August 1st 1984. The internal rot of bog bodies. Bones decalcified from within. The transgressive nature of their exhumation. An auditory petition for reinterment. Edaphology: decay and transform. The fox as psychopomp (cf. Unindex Volume One : Ferae Naturae). A descent: ‘Llwynog fyddi’n tywyswr i’r ddaear dan ddaear.’ (Fox be my guide to the earth beneath earth). An urgent summoning call to the bones of wolf, lynx and bear. Reclaim the archipelago with great violence.

http://www.corbelstonepress.com/belatedmovements.htm

Memorious Earth / Ferae Naturae

A retrospective of my work with Autumn Richardson, informed by the south-west Cumbrian landscape, is on display at Abbot Hall and Blackwell from January 16th to March 14th.

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The catalogue of works is as follows:

ABBOT HALL

1337 (2013)
Wooden box, text, glass phials, dried flora.

348,168m2 (2015)
Text, caliper, glass phials of water and silt from Devoke Water.

A Partial Bibliography (2015)
Texts, sheep bone, oak leaf, bird’s nest.

Bark, Xylem (2013)
Booklet and music (Duration 12:06)

Relics (2013)
13 texts (420 x 594mm)

Rowk (2013)
Film and music (Duration 44:53)

Succession (2013)
Music (Duration 60:05)

The Singing of Minutiae (ii) (2013)
Text, glass jars and phials, found flora.

Ulfr Haugr (2015)
Wolf skeleton (on loan from Kendal Museum).

Ulpha Publications and Editions (2010-15)
Wolf Notes ( Folio Edition, 2010; Art Edition, 2011; Pamphlet, 2011), Ulpha Wheel (2012), Relics (2013), Wolfhou (2013), Of the Elm Delcine (2015).

Wolf Notes (2011)
Music (Duration 44:30)

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BLACKWELL

Become a Ford (2013)
12 texts (148 x 210mm).

Before the River (2015)
Become a Ford (Pamphlet, 2013), Hem the Margins (Pamphlet, 2015), two jars of water and silt from Devoke Water.

Elements in a Private Ritual (2015)
Water from Dunnerdale Beck, dried oak bark, dried birch leaves, dried nettle, silt from Devoke Water.

Limnology (2012)
Book and music (Duration 28:48)

Limnology (Art Edition) (2012)
Portfolio, music CD, postcard, lithograph, various prints.

Nimrod is Lost in Orion and Osyris in the Doggestarre (2014)
Music (Duration 58:24)

Relics (ii) (2014)
Small wooden box of acorns, five heather roots.
Wooden box, four phials of oak and Caledonian pine bark, sheep bone, usnea, robin pellet, owl pellet, birch leaf, three hazel twigs.
Unidentified bark, oak leaf.

The Singing of Minutiæ (i) (2012)
Unidentified aromatic bog plant in flower, bog myrtle leaves, English blue-bell flower casings, red campion flower casings.
Unidentified feathers, alder catkins, unidentified grass panicles, oak bark, magpie feather, English blue-bell seeds, jack-by-the-hedge seed pods, juniper, pheasant feather, unidentified grass head, alluvium, bracken root.
Usnea, thistle and bark.

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Over the past eighteen months I had the opportunity to visit the collection of the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry, and the Collingwood Archive at Abbot Hall. The result of this research is a ‘Museum of Ferae Naturae’, produced in collaboration with the Notional Research Group for Cultural Artefacts. The exhibition explores the persecution and veneration of animal life through artefacts and documents held in the MOLLI collection, as well as the Kendal Museum.

A book of the Ferae Naturae exhibition is published by Lakeland Arts.

Nimrod is lost in Orion and Osyris in the Doggestarre

Nimrod

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Nimrod

Once a place becomes part of one’s inner landscape, the imagination – knowing no bounds or decorum – stitches it into its own patchwork of memory, dreams and reveries. It is subsumed into a greater fiction, and roads or trackways to other places, real or imagined, appear. Nimrod is an accretion of these imaginal processes – an auditory, textual and visual entanglement of the real and unreal, a blending of document and invention.


 
The excerpted texts that make up the accompanying book come from a range of sources, united by a hyper-sensitivity to nature itself; a desire to understand and come to terms with its ‘hidden state’. They are figures in the landscape, some of whom construct elaborate systems of classification and natural philosophy, others who seem wounded by their very affinities, and others still who seem lost, or are institutionalised. The tone of the work as a whole – which finds its analogue in the music – is aptly evoked in Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poignant phrase:

‘nature in all her parcels and faculties gaped and fell apart’.

There is a sense of things on the verge of collapse, of despair and regret.The combination of music, text and image in Nimrod offer such a glimpse, that it can paint the picture of a wood through which slanting light dimly traces other forms.

http://corbelstonepress.com/nimrod.htm

NB: My thanks go to Julian Hyde, and Rob & Barbara at Fireside Books.