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Exhibition ran: 7th - 27th November, 2004   [ Photos ]
12 - 6pm by appointment

Notes 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.

"Chat Moss" 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, e.g., as body as organization"
(Nietzsche, from the "Will to Power" notebooks).

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 - written, maps, 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 authoritative representation? 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 upon us.

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 above them.

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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