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Dear Earth

'Dear Earth' is a site specific, text-based installation made with sections of bed sheets knotted onto a wire fence which forms a field boundary on the Dartington Estate. It was installed and deinstalled on 24th May 2022. It was approximately 1m x 14m in size. The images shown here are documentation of the work.

Informed by the graffiti found in the Temple in the formal garden, which reads 'Dear Earth, I couldn't live without you', this text based work was installed along the edge of a field on the estate.

I wanted to create a work which used both easily legible text and also referenced the historical relationship between land, language and textiles which exists across temporal, country and cultural boundaries of place as we currently recognise them- 'There are, among the Quechua of Chinchero (Peru), profound conceptual and linguistic links between the processes of working the loom and working the earth, both providing life's fundamentals - clothing and food. Here the word 'pampa' refers both to the agricultural plain and to the large single-colour sections of handwoven textiles. 'Khata' is a furrowed field ready for planting as well as the textile warp configuration ready for pattern formation.'
(Pollock, 1996 p207).

Following my case study on Cecilia Vicuna, I was thinking about the fibre and knot based 'quipo' language system, which the Incan civilisation used to record and disseminate information, often related to land use and property, as well as other important data and messages.

The re-presentation of the graffiti on the field boundary of one of Leonard Elmhirst's vast, 'improved' and hedgerow-less fields, recognised as the precursors of modern farming methods, can be read as foregrounding the complex history of the 'place' that is the Dartington Estate.

'Many artists take familiar sights/ sites and make them strange or legible in new ways in an attempt to undo what seems "natural", or to highlight the ideological workings of landscape... In certain cases, artworks involve "reading" the ways that the land has been marked, or used; in others, artists create new markings or material interventions, in the landscape itself. At play is an overall shift from representation towards presentation, or performance, one might say.'
(Scott and Swenson, 2015 p.4)

The use of knotted sheets opened up questions about the role of material choices in 'making meaning'. To me, the knotted sheets referenced houses on fire and narratives of climate 'disaster', but visitors to the sharing event identified them as bandages- symbols of care and repair. This dual reading underlined the power of materials to be active collaborators in the production of meaning within the work.

People’s disappointment at not having seen the work installed highlighted the potential of documentation as a device to provoke feelings of 'missing out’- perhaps a short-circuit to connect with our experience of impending loss in this era of mass extinction?

A comment from a passer-by who saw the installed work - 'I am just so sad to see it go'- felt like a gift of collaboration, and I intend to make a text installation with this comment in an appropriate site, to carry on the collaborative link from site to site (the graffiti from the Temple informed the field weave, and the comment from the field will dictate the choice of the next site, and so on).

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