Guest Blog Alert.
Howdy, my name is Mark Lyken and I’m an audio and visual artist who until very recently, 10 days ago in fact, was based in the sunny South Side of Glasgow. Regular collaborator – artist filmmaker Emma Dove – and myself have moved down, lock, stock and barrel full of equipment to Dumfries to begin a joint six-month public art residency for the lovelies at the Stove Network. We’ll be posting regular rambling updates, sharing discoveries and hopefully stimulating discussion over the course of our time here.
Now the thing about residency applications is that at the point of writing it’s dangerously easy to suggest relocating for the duration of a project largely because the part of your brain that deals in that kind of reality is sporting sunglasses and sipping Mojitos, quietly confident that it’s highly unlikely your application will be successful. This is the same part of your brain you’ll find waving it’s metaphorical arms in a blind panic when you get a call from Matt Baker actually offering you the gig.
I’m joking of course, (mostly…) in actual fact the move down the road went like clockwork and by Saturday afternoon we were unpacking the very last box, chucking a tent, torch and radio in the car and heading for the Sanctuary 2014 event at Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park. Although we were a bit knackered post-move it was a really inspiring event with a relaxed vibe, sound-tracked over the course of 24hrs by a multitude of different roving radios all tuned into The Dark Outside FM broadcast from the hill top Murray’s monument.
All the different models of radio being carried around added very interesting modulations and directionality to the music being received. You might for instance walk past a stationery boom box with decent bottom end with your own trebly handheld radio and become a momentary human high pass filter as you moved in and out of someone else’s earshot, Doppler effects abound – in short, marvelous. There is something about listening to (largely) electronic music when surrounded by very large swathes of nature (or better yet a forest if you happen to have one handy) that seems very fitting. I know it works equally well in urban environments but I do love a bit of electric with my organic. I imagine this is why wooden paneling on synthesisers just feels so damn right.
But I digress…. Personal highlights for us was catching Jeff Barrow of Portishead fame, along with fellow Drokk band member Ben Salisbury, playing a short live performance (that slotted into a ten minute space in the Dark Outside FM playlist) in front of Robbie Coleman’s circular blue neon “enclosure” sculpture (with added dive-bombing bats.) Throughout the night Glasgow label Broken 20’s TVO Orchestra and Erstlaub, along with friends and audience members, performed a partly improvised, partly self-generating set from 10pm to 6am. Yup, that’s 10pm to 6am. Unfortunately it was a cloudy night so you couldn’t see the stars but that didn’t make the location and the event any less epic. Roll on the EAFS Environmental Arts Festival in 2015.
So, down to business. “Who the hell are you two and what are you doing here?” Well, our collaborative practice involves film, music, sound art, painting and sculpture, which gives us a number of ways to respond to an environment, place or situation. At the core of our work is an interest in exploring relationships to place. Our most recent work – “Mirror Lands” a film and sound installation for the “Imagining Natural Scotland” initiative – explored the delicate balance between nature, industry and rural life on the Black Isle in the Highlands. This piece focused around the local area of the University of Aberdeen’s Lighthouse Field Station in Cromarty, finding radically different relationships to place even within that small geographical stretch. During our short time here to date, we have found that events and connections seem to be spread across a much wider area and we have been wondering how that might affect peoples over arching ‘sense of belonging’.
We have always had a vicarious relationship to Dumfries and Galloway through a large circle of friends in Glasgow originating from D&G. What seems to single this bunch out from other friends, other than a worrying tendency for fire poi, is a stronger than average connection with home. Whether that is simply popping “down the road” for the weekend or just in general conversation, home seems to be ever-present. We are at the very beginnings of our project but the idea of migrations to and from Dumfries feels like an interesting starting point.
What drew us to the Stovies in the first place was their refreshingly broad definition of public art and true to that initial impression our remit for this project is wonderfully open, the only real proviso being that the work should be relevant to the people of Dumfries. Our process is a very intuitive and socially engaged one and we work best when there is time to gather as much material as possible and see what emerges.
Whatever form our research and final work takes, it will debut at the opening of The Stoves HQ and Creative Hub at 100 High Street Dumfries, once renovations are complete next year.
It feels like we have arrived at a very exciting time and we hope we can add to this growing buzz. More project-specific guest blog posting to follow and hopefully see you at the Stove’s “Parking Space” event on the 17th and 18th of this month.