Thursday, 9 July 2009

Fields - enclosures, commons and change

One of the last things I did before I left Glasgow was sending off my previous sketchbook (Chile and after) along with all the prints from the assignment 3 to my tutor for the printmaking course. With the distance learning, all material is posted between N. and myself several times, and each time I'm holding my breath that the tube with the prints or the logbook and sketchbook don't get lost. In any case, this time I managed to scan in the recent logbook entries and some of the pages of the sketchbook that I would have liked to take to Germany with me.

It's the sketchbook with some of the Chilean field sketches and some further developments, and ideally I would have like to continue working with this book until it's finished.

So - the pages I hadn't scanned in before were those from an article I read in May which prompted some bigger questions around fields.

Well - fields - they are obvious and approachable. They simply ARE. Are the landscape patterns of my childhood, ever there and ever changing, in colour - greens, yellows, browns and crop rotation. For a while I had - but without success - collected some of the symbolism and mythology around fields, but all the stuff around harvest, fertility and abundance wasn't what I was interested in.

But then I read this piece on the English peasant poet John Clare, who arrived in London in the 1820s from a rural community in Northamptonshire which in the time of him growing up was going to undergo significant change following the enclosure of the English countryside (take this Wiki entry as a starting point on enclosure).

More so than Clare's poetry, it was something in the way the article itself was written that ended up making sense. It was a very descriptive exploration of rural change, of the change that was coming about through the abolishment of common land and the enclosing of individually owned parcels of property:

"The countryside of Clare's childhood was differently owned, differently shaped, differently peopled...a set of intricate concentric and adjacent circles: villages, each with their commons, their pub and church, the green, surrounded by fields divided into strips, the use of which was portioned out with some effort at equitable distribution of the best land."
(Adam Foulds, Everywhere an exile, Guardian Review, 23/5/2009, p. 20)


In contrast to the idea of fields of harvest providing a stable, always there and never changing presence, the article pointed towards the profound changes in access and even more so ownership over land. - Industrialisation and the industrialisation of the countryside, the making efficient and effective of rural land, and: supposedly idle and unproductive rural inhabitants, has in past been and is in present turning up side down those fields, those patterns that seemingly simply exist.

Let's think about the Highland Clearances, the Enclosures, the Levellers, the Zapatistas etc etc....

All this can take us further than harvest. Very good. Let's dig around a little more in such patterns and movements.

A photo? How about a scribbled sketchbook page?

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