Sunday, 27 May 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 unloads a carriage of Wood Street Indoor Market dreams

A point of view in the not quite so dark reaches of Wood St, E17 

Creating an art work, an installation in this case, might be considered as being an attempt to realise the truth or truths of a concept and, of these concepts, one is the realization there is just but an i and/or a p of a difference between concept and conceit.

The installation, Carriage, is now in situ, Wood Street Indoor Market, a task accomplished with the very generous support and assistance of Nicolette Murin and Helen Porter. In this emanation, Carriage is a glassy void, a space shop if you will, temporarily stationed at a frontier of (the) Outer London Fun(d), ready to sell you a pug. If all goes according to plan, strictly private views will be available this Thursday 31st May between 6.30pm and 7.45pm, wherein visitors will be invited to venture further into the allusive territories of Julian Beere, aka, Field Study's Man in E17. 

With thanks to David Dellafiora for the Retail Cargo Cult logo/sticker design.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 dons his marigolden gloves

Compost in the making - May 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 dons his marigolden gloves and delves into some darkness for the purposes of research into retail cargo cults for Field Study International.

There have been frequent reports recently, via EL Beeks (the East London Beekeepers), of honey bees swarming. I experienced being in the midst of a swarm forming anew from one of our hives during a hive inspection. The swarm clustered on a nearby willow dome and became enmeshed in the complex interweaving of the branches. This was the first swarm I had encountered as a beekeeper. I panicked and rushed to try and recapture the bees. There was actually time, while the entire swarm gathered, to calmly assesse the situation and prepare a better way of getting the bees free of the tangle of branches. We lost those bees due, mainly, to frustration at the arduous and ineffective process of trying to cut every branch around which the swarm had clustered. We stopped when we realised we could not cut any more branches without seriously damaging the willow dome.

I have been told when a swarm of bees emerges from a hive it clusters soon and temporarily nearby before flying further afield to another clustering point. It will stay at the second place for several days while worker bees scout for the final destination which will become their nest.

The unusual frequency of swarms this spring/early summer may be due to the very warm early spring weather followed by the colder wetter spell. Colonies of bees thrived and increased in size substantially during the warm spell and are likely to have experienced distress at the very wet weather and hindrance to foraging for food. The National Bee Unit issued a warning recently that colonies were likely to starve if the cold wet weather persisted. The distress may also have been due to overcrowding in the hive/nest. Overcrowding is one of the triggers for colonies of bees to create new queen cells. The production of new queen bees leads to swarming.

You Tube has a large collection of films to view about 'catching swarms of bees' or 'hiving swarms of honey bees'. The collection forms a fascinating educational resource in which the diversity of approaches to 'hiving a swarm' is expressed. Honey bees are less aggressive and less likely to sting while swarming although I am surprised at the number of video clips I've watched in which the beekeepers wear no protective clothing i.e. a veil and/or gloves.

I started wearing rubber gloves for bee hive inspections following a workshop about bee health and hygiene last year. Rubber gloves are washable and easily changed between hives; the same gloves should not be worn for two or more hives so as to prevent cross infection. About 10 days ago a bee managed to sting me through a rubber glove; an accomplishment I was very surprised by. Along with the reports of swarming honey bees around north and east London there is also news of beekeepers having serious allergic reactions to stings. The allergic reactions may be a consequence of being stung repeatedly. Here is a selection of the You Tube 'hiving a swarm' videos which demonstrate a few of the approaches to this task. The use of a sledge hammer in one of the demonstrations made me laugh out loud.

What is common to the selected demonstrations is the luring of the swarms into empty bee boxes via slopes, most notably that by the natural beekeeper, Heidi Hermann.

I've wondered about this phenomenon in relation to Miroslaw Balka's, 'How It Is' installation at Tate Modern in 2009. The Telegraph art critic, Richard Dorment commented on the 'undeniably seductive' depths of Balka's pitch black interior 'once you’ve taken your first step up the long, steep ramp'. Bees may be similarly enticed. When I visited 'How It Is', the darkness I sought was briefly experienced due to the light polluting dim wits who persisted in using their phones and other devices to illuminate the space. That said, when, for a moment, the offending lights were extinguished I did walk unwittingly into the far wall at the darkest reach of the space. When I exited I wondered if I had walked into the physical limits of the space or just the mental limits I had created. The sensation of reaching the mental limits might have been similar to that of reaching the physical - if there were actually physical limits to be found - a sort of 'Schrodinger's Cat' situation and paradox.

'Carriage' - 26th May to 1st June.

Signage in preparation for 'Carriage'

This weekend I hope to install 'Carriage' at Waltham Forest Arts Club's Pop Up Gallery (PUG) in Wood St Indoor Market. 'Carriage' will be an attempt to create a pitch dark interior. Miroslaw Balka's gigantic freight container involved visitors/participants in the darkness of, The Holocaust. My much smaller and much less serious installation is intended to involve visitors in some reflections and projections on the regeneration of Wood Street. 'Carriage' will include a field recording of a beehive and other allusions to the social phenomenology of honey bees.

Visitors might like to consider other dark interior fields in relation to 'Carriage'. My field studies are currently very much focused on cultivating an allotment. Some of the most important processes involved in the cultivation and nurture of the site are composting and liquid feed making. Below are images of the compost bays and some of the comfrey and/or nettle feed bins.

The middle bay of the composting area contains a hot compost heap, a heap that is made up in one session rather than, as the other two have been, built up more gradually and intermittently. The hot heap consists of alternating layers of stinging nettles, soggy corrugated cardboard, well rotted grass cuttings, old comfrey sludge and slurry from feed making bins. The heap was created less than a month ago, the layers stacked up to a height well above those of the heaps at each side. Since then the heap has reduced in volume by nearly half and the materials have been micro biologically cooked, chewed and digested to form what will (hopefully) be a relatively weed seed free and nourishing addition to the allotment raised beds. The 'cooking' can be felt as warmth, at the surface, radiating from the dark interior of the heap where so many of the composting processes take place.

Top - compost bays
Bottom - feed bins

The feed bins are crude pumps. The bins are stuffed with nettles or comfrey leaves (or a combination) which are then weighed down by heavy weights placed on top. Towards the bottom of each bin is a seive or strainer through and against which the rotting and foul smelling mush is forced. The product of this pumping is a very potent dark vegetable crude which can be diluted and given to the plants as a fertiliser. Although the fertilising elixir is diluted the process as a whole maintains a sense of being a concentration or condensation of some of the cycles of soil fertlity.

Below are images of a corner of the allotment that flooded during the very wet spell. This is the site of a new orchard with a variety of small fruit trees and bushes. As the flood water receded a new flood of stinging nettles grew up prolifically to provide tender vegetation to harvest for feed. I have found rubber gloves a close fitting but not completely reliable form of protection against the irksome stings for, to my surprise, as with the bees, there are, or rather, were some nettles able to pierce my rubber skin.

Pulling a nettle patch

Out of last year's compost, used to condition this year's raised vegetable beds, has come a proliferation of mustard.The mustard is the pale, prominently mid ribbed and veined leaves with serrated edges featured in the image below. The strong spicy  herb is growing so plentifully there is a seasonal surplus which is available to buy at Organiclea's local produce stalls at Hornbeam (Hoe St) and Leytonstone  (outside Matalan). on Saturdays.

When I visit 'Carriage', as a completed installation, it may be these realtionships I strain to 'see' as I peer into  the darkened interior of Waltham Forest Arts Club's PUG. Once the show is finished the cardboard boxes will be surplus to my limited storage space, and will be added to the next hot compost heap and those dark transformative processes.

Mustard, Nasturtium, Dittander, Spinach, Fat Hen, Chick Weed and others

Monday, 14 May 2012

Field Study's Man gets all charged up

Many thanks to David Dellafiora and the other 260-odd (259) students of the field for the wonderful, 'Journal of Field Study International - Field Report 2011'. As I opened the parcel and pulled the report out it positively crackled with collective creative cargo charges or particles which, like the 'Higgs boson', can only be known in the artful imagination of science.

This here snapographer diligently recorded the accord of the brimful and brimless before I (or he) got lost in the particularities of interconnecting field studies and their manifestation.  

I was and am inspired and invigorated by the acuity of  my fellow reporters and thus have set about with new or recharged determination to explore the field of retail cargo culture in Wood Street, E17.
I made haste to Wood Street Indoor Market to assist with the reception of a new artist in residence in the Waltham Forest Arts Club Pop Up Gallery. Once my teetering at the top of a step ladder skills had been exhausted I departed and arrived very quickly at a recently vacated unit or shop that excited me into a dancing frenzy of mock and reflective blu tacking - a sort of manic dot to dot dance.

Back at Beere HQ I contemplated the political connotations of those newly revealled though most likely only temporary splodges of blu tak. If I could connect the dots what would be revealled? Dots of a less bulky nature will be employed by Field Study's Man in E17's (horrible apostrophe emanation) 'Carriage' - 

'Carriage' is an installation of darkness and light moving slowly towards a field and feasibility study of retail cargo culture in Wood Street. Carriage is never open or closed, rather it is 'outside in' and/or 'inside out'. The 'outside in' hours are Wood Street Indoor Market opening hours. The 'inside out' hours are those of the strictly or very private view (31st May 6-8pm WSIM late opening) wherein just one person at a time will be permitted to enter (the) space. When Wood Street Indoor Market is closed, Carriage is outside of opening hours and so is only inside. 'Carriage' is guaranteed to disappoint.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 is on the look out

Monday 7th May 2012.

I inspected the honeybee hives in our apiary in North Chingford and discovered a dead hornet stuck in the upper side of the queen guard of one of the hives. The guard is a form of grill that prevents the queen bee from leaving the brood box. Whereas the queen bee cannot move up and out from the brood box this hornet evidently was also not able to move easily through the grill due to its size and/or harrying by the resident worker bees. Some honeybees elsewhere in the world have evolved a defense in which they form a ball of workers around hornets, engulfing and killing them en masse by "asphyxia-balling" – in effect, by heatstroke.

Obviously, the hornet had managed to get right into the hive via the entrance or a large enough hole somewhere about the increasingly weathered and worn out hive. My most immediate reaction though was alarm at the sight of a hornet even if dead. What species of hornet was it?

I am not sufficiently familiar with different species of hornets to be able to identify them readily. Recently I received a National Bee Unit call for vigilance concerning the likelihood of the arrival of the dreaded ‘Asian Hornet’, Vespa velutina. Some weeks ago, in response to that call, I set up hornet traps near the apiary. The traps contain the allure of rotting meat to which carrion eating hornets are attracted. On Monday however the traps had not caught any hornets or much else apart from a few large wasps and lots of little flies languishing in a sickly miasma of fetid corned beef and stale coca cola.

Was the grim discovery of the hornet in the hive the beginning of the end for our bees? If I were to believe newspaper reports I should have been looking to the southern horizon for squadrons of the dastardly critters flying in rapacious formation. I did not panic.

I completed the cull of new queen cells in both hives, a measure intended to prevent swarming, and proceeded to photograph the hornet and then search for a trusty matchbox in which to store the corpse for future reference and examination.

I felt quite the hero of the moment, a sentinel valiantly defending our beleaguered bees, ever ready to clang the online alarm bells of the nation’s beekeepers as well as carry out other grisly undertakings.
And here is the unfortunate visitor. After careful examination back at Beere HQ, I feel confident what I carried back is the less malevolent European Hornet, Vespa crabro.

This illustrated anecdote is intended as an addition to field studies and research into the feasibility of a retail cargo cult on or in Wood Street E17. Various emanations have been executed and others planned; each one an element to inform a Lost and Found in E17 report for Field Report 2012. A recent emanation is ‘Between Man, the birds and the bees’, for Artillery and their project in Edmonton. I have also contributed to Waltham Forest Arts Club’s concluding Turnaround show. The contribution comprises a slow and partial unpacking and unfolding of ‘to MOTHERHOOD from MATERNITY’ – a site specific study of Walthamstow’s eusociality.

Field Study’s Man in E17 will be visiting the Arts Club pop up gallery (pug) again later in May to present, ‘CARRIAGE’, a penetrating or penetrated study of a retail cargo cult space in Wood Street Indoor Market. This may, if you choose to imagine it, involve the services of a nest of hornet stings.

David Dellafiora recently announced the despatch of Field Report 2011 and I hope a Royal Mail delivery note that arrived today is for my copy of the report.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 reports from a bench

Report from a bench on Wood Street E17

My 'being-hole' flooded in the recent April deluge and so I am no longer able to commune with my many selves . As reported in a previous post, the experience of being so solipsistic hindered potentially worthwhile field study. How did the extraction of this singular self from the multiplicitous land of 'Being Julian Beere' come about?  I wish I could remember. The extrication probably involved inaccessible mental processes and confabulation and it is the latter, confabulation - the filling in of gaps in ones memory with fabrications that one believes to be facts (or purposeful fictions)- you will endure if you continue reading this post.

Recent field research found me traversing Patrick Keiller's, The Robinson Institute, at Tate Britain.* The installation occupies the Duveen Galleries and is, in a sense, a grand walking tour come illustrated essay on the subject of landscape replete with  a fascinating convention of artefacts drawn, I believe, mainly from the Tate collections. I visited to look for insights into the nature of cargo environments. The art is very smartly mounted on a fabulously severe free-standing framework of aluminium (or alloy) angle which has been welded and bolted together. The cool bare metallic projections, angles of incidence and trajectories are anchored to the floor by the weight of large stones or concrete blocks. The display apparatus was designed by Jamie Fobert Architects and made me think of  aircraft hangers - perhaps a reminiscence of a visit I made to a Boeing surplus warehouse near Seattle, or recall of Fiona Banner's, hanging and supine aircraft, 'Harrier and Jaguar'. Robinson Institute's, Section 5, 'Agriculture' saw me lost in admiration of the supporting structure before I found the artefacts and got lost (or tried to) in their fields.

In 'Agriculture', a number of art works by other artists (Keiller selected) orbit around a piece of Keillers own work, an extract from the film, Robinson in Ruins, in which a combine harvester and tractor work a wheat field. The film is a patient sustained study of a labour saving (or destroying) harvester as it proceeds to reap, thresh and winnow the crop, while the tractor towing a trailer collects the winnowed grain that is the wheat mechanically separated from the chaff.
This mechanised perspective belies the fact there are people operating the machines. At one point a (post human?) farmer appears to jump from the tractor and climb aboard the slowly moving harvester to sit with the harvester driver. I mused to myself on the improbability that there was just one farmer frantically hopping between tractor and trundling combine harvester such is the isolation of modern industrialised farming.

The contemporary itinerant Robinson observed how fewer people are to be seen working on the land, an observation that accords with one of the accompanying artefacts, 'Hereford, Dynedor and the Malvern Hills' (George Robert Lewis, 1815) when and where the harvest was a much more social event. All appears well in that picture - the farmers/labourers are well dressed and appear healthy. There are many people harvesting and plenty of sheaves of corn stacked up and away into the expanse of the field. Beyond there is a homely patchwork of fields, hedgerows and trees beneath a pale blue of a late afternoon sky. A group of men standing together appear to be resting and taking refreshment. What are they saying about the harvest? Who or what is the figure seated by the besmocked husbandmen? A cursory glance at kitsch reproductions of the image might miss this camouflaged and perhaps ghostly presence. Lewis has rendered the terrain and sheaves with intimacy, subtlety and delicacy, a closeness and involvement that contrasts with  Robinsons more distanced and remote rural observations. Is Lewis's vision an idealised one, an elegy and Keiller's filmic nepsis, a testiment to the degradation of the land socially and environmentally? Are the farmed fields in Robinson in Ruins still actually 'rural'?

Keiller's Robinson remains a stranger, always outside of the picture. It is not as if Robinson is a latter day William Cobbett meeting and fraternising with the husbandmen in the fields as he passes by, astride his horse, delivering his rustic harangues on the discontents of genetic modification, common agricultural policies, gang masters, seasonal migrant labour forces, and, of course, the rains of climate change. How could Robinson commune as such given the depopulation and lack of a horse? The medievalist William Cobbett might be imagined riding by Lewis' scene and delighting in the bucolic conviviality or perhaps not. Cobbett's 'Rural Rides' is an apt work to cite in terms of Robinson's agenda in revealling the then 'current economic and ecological crises, written in the landscape'.
The talk in Lewis' scene might be of e.g. a new canal, or some other new infrastructure nearby and the consequences for the farmers. In Cobbett's account, there is 'an accursed Canal' 'to convey away the wheat and all the good food to the tax eaters and their attendants in the Wen'**. The Great Wen is London, and it is the source of a 'hellish system of taxing, of funding and of paper money' - a canker infesting merry Englands Eden. The Lea Valley has a history of such disputes concerning new waterways and their impact on the rural economy and more local relevance might be drawn in by comparing Cobbett's medieval imaginary to that of William Morris. Is this comparison devolving history into heritage; a sort of cultural diversion, a resort to a mythical dwelling?

Robinson's mission was to investigate 'a perceived discrepancy between, on one hand, the critical and cultural attention devoted to experience of mobility and displacement and, on the other, a tendency to fall back on formulations of dwelling derived from a more settled, agricultural past.'
The art works are there to compare and contrast within that research context. 'Harvest Home' (JMW Turner) and 'Chicago Board of Trade' (Andreas Gursky)  are present within the setting of the wealth or surplus value that became art dealer, Joseph Duveen's (Lord Duveen of Millbank) philanthropic exhibition space. Is Gursky's image representative of an apotheosis of a 'hellish system'? Owen Hatherley regards Keillers installation as 'a concretely politico-economic interrogation of landscape and its production, leavened with a flirtatious humour'***, a discrepant flirtation with the global institutions who flaunt their prestige in museums and galleries the world over? Perhaps the installtion is an act of cultural  or contextual subterfuge although this notion may be confusing Patrick Keiller with the fictional character, Robinson.

How many of the visitors to or participants in, The Robinson Institute, stopped long enough in front of the harvesting extract to see that farmer move from the tractor to the harvester, to see the harvester make the traversal of the field - from the left hand side of the screen to the right? The answer, in my experience is, very few. Was that a trivial detail? What does the installtion require in or of the visitor to actually make it a concrete 'interrogation,' to separate the wheat from the chaff and get to the nourishing kernels? I wondered if there is no willingness to look further into the myriad contexts of the artefacts they will only serve as an Arcadian window display that relegates, The Robinson Institute, to a form of bricolage.

* - Patrick Keiller
The Robinson Institute, Tate Britain, 27 March -14 October 2012
** - James Sambrook
William Cobbett, Routledge Author Guides, 1973