by Derek Hampson
This work comes out of the AHRB and Arts Council of England
support for an Arts and Science Research project.
Derek Hampson is working with the geographer,
Dr. Gary Priestnall who specialises
in Geographic Information Science (GISc).
Both approach the problem of how to represent a place in the
landscape that goes beyond the objective representation typified
by the photograph or computer generated model.
is a work that seeks to create a complex representation of
a place in the landscape -
Chat Moss an area of flat non-descript
peatland between Liverpool and Manchester.
The site's non-descript
nature presents a fundamental problem to the artist;
how does one go about creating a work that is a just representation
of such a non-picturesque place?
The work has been informed by a phenomenological investigation
of both the place and the way in which it has been made enabling
a unique insight into the nature of the site and its relationship
to the work made.
The phenomenological investigation revealed a place that has
a profoundly temporal nature.
The temporal is expressed in the moment in which one encounters
it today, in this it is related
to the spatial, but also within
the idea of the historical that is embedded in the site.
Chat Moss was the location in 1826 of an intensive scheme
of surveying in preparation for its crossing by the world's
first passenger railway the Liverpool to Manchester railway.
One can see in this endeavour the beginning of industrial
organisation - which itself
gives rise to the possibility of the work of art without the
necessity of the artist
"The work of art,
where it appears without artist,
as body as organization"
from the "Will to Power"
To create a work that is a representation of a work (or
organisation) became the task
of the project, by working
from a variety of data derived from Chat Moss -
contour survey, aerial photographs,
direct experience. In many
ways this data reflects the entropic nature of the site,
the data has an existence but no meaning beyond itself,
it does not offer itself collectively to our understanding.
That is the task of the artwork to create meaning
from the data collected. The
framework within which this meaning would be established was
got at through one particular image -
an aerial photograph of the site.
The aerial photograph offered to the viewer the possibility
of being able to encapsulate the whole site with one view,
this seemed to potentially negate the actual experience of
the site which is not understandable through a single encompassing
glance. Yet the aerial photograph
exists as an unavoidable fact,
how could one at once incorporate it and yet nullify its seemingly
The answer was to metaphorically flip the image 180� and raise
it in the air so that it was now looking down on the viewer,
rather than the reverse. The
image was no longer evidence of an encapsulated representation
privileging the distant viewer,
rather that relationship is reversed the image looks down
From this thinking came the decision that the work would be
constituted as a ceiling installation.
This decision came quite early on in the life of the project,
a large part of the subsequent work was taken up in confirming
and investigating the validity of this decision.
As with the site itself the artwork was also approached phenomenologically,
by which understanding of the nature of the ceiling painting
was explored. The ceiling creates
a situation in which there is no up or down no top or bottom;
it is uniquely a form of work in which the relationship between
the image and the viewer does not conform to the body matrix
of the viewer. In addition
the ceiling operates in a uniquely phenomenological manner
encouraging the projection of the viewer into the scene presented
The ceiling work developed a programmatic intent during the
course of its construction around the theme of looking that
encompasses the artist, the
viewer and figures and objects depicted within the work.
The figures in the work are engaged in a process of programmatic
looking through which Chat Moss is captured through measurement.
In the same way the whole ceiling invites the kind of projective
looking mentioned earlier in the way in which the viewer encounters
the work. The artist has been
engaged in an intensity of looking that translates itself
into the work's compositional
structure in which the temporal and spatial aspects of the
site are encountered to create a work that functions as a
true simulacra of the site.
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