Monday, July 16, 2007

Found ‘Still Life’ in the Landscape

A new year stroll along a local woodland trail resulted in an encounter with a couple of curious readymade ‘still life’ arrangements featuring discarded items of clothing - all clean and in a wearable condition, as may be readily observed - as their subject matter. The first intrigued me particularly through the manner in which a pair of jeans had been carefully folded and draped upon a convenient ‘plinth’, exhibited as might be an artefact or object of interest for the convenience of passers-by. For anyone even vaguely versed in the methods of contemporary artistic practice and display, such an ‘installation’ might not appear especially surprising, yet still the jeans’ presence, deliberately placed upon a pedestal thus, invites speculation as to the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of such, draws the beholder into their (human) narrative and might also encourage imaginative expansion of the story in anyone so inclined.

Further along the trail were to be found more clothes, this time a collection/selection of such, more casually scattered yet still with something of a suggestion of being composed, particularly the manner in which the sleeve of the dark blue top, set apart from the others, grouped, points to the red & black one, which itself is positioned at a narrow interval apart from the main group, establishing an element of spatial dynamic as might be expected to exist between the elements of a still life composition. The naturally scattered elements such as leaves & twigs also contribute to the picture created, the whole composition of objects and the ‘tactile space’ (see Georges Braque) of the ground.

Of course, it’s just as possible to view these discarded clothes not as in some way being artistic, their placement as being in any way creative, but their presence as being, rather, invasive, even destructive - simply alien to & littering the environment. The surprise element of seeing such vividly-obvious evidence of human presence along the trail draws one’s attention then to just how much other stuff has been abandoned by people along it (from such expected small-scale items as food packaging to those perhaps less so and somewhat larger including dumped & decomposing furniture and burnt-out vehicles) and its immediate wooded environs. Subsequently, one might then consider the fact that the trail itself is man-made (as indeed was the railway which, falling into disuse and abandoned, preceded it), facilitating human passage through the natural, ‘unspoilt’ environment and thus the potential for discarding foreign elements amidst it. This then inevitably suggests questions about larger, even more permanent man-made and wholly unnatural interventions in, intrusions into, the natural world and, perhaps, the environmental consequences of such. But still one returns to the original point and the presence of ‘art’ - deliberate or merely just perceived as such by someone possessed of the sensibility or imagination to do so - in the landscape.