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Proposal: Advanced Studio Practice

Working title: The river got straightened out


This project is an investigation into a local watercourse that I have lived close to for over 20 years, the River Erewash. Over the years this river has been slowly straightened to make way for wave after wave of transport infrastructure. The irony I want to exploit is how the name Erewash means ‘wandering’ in old English but it seems to require a new name now that it is far straighter. I want to explore its course, the flora and fauna that lives in and around it, as well as human history and literature that has been inspired by the river. My aim is to connect myself to this natural force and create renewed awareness as to how it has been exploited over centuries but how it continues to flow regardless of what we throw at (or in) it.

Research plan for primary research

I aim to walk the full course of the river from its source to where it enters the River Trent at Attenborough Nature Reverse and collect materials along the way as well as record video and gather a photographic record.

I will also connect with local organisations (e.g. wildlife organisations, conversation charities, literary societies, landowners) to get a deeper understanding of the status of the river both through history and the challenges it faces now.

Research plan for secondary research

I will research artists who are inspired by the natural landscape and use natural materials in their work, particularly the mundane and often overlooked, e.g. Nick Rands and John Newling.

I will investigate artists who have an interest in psychogeography such as Alison Lloyd, Iain Sinclair and Patrick Keiller.

I will read up on environmental writers such as Robert Macfarlane, Will Self and Roger Deakin and the literary giants DH Lawrence and Lord Byron, who were both inspired by the river.

I will also look at natural forms that would provide a suitable material for an artistic outcome, e.g. mud, branches, water that could be gathered along the course of the river.

Finally, I’ll investigate current conservation issues and local development concerns, such as HS2, which will cut straight through the Erewash valley.

Summary of potential activities

Walking the river and recording video will be an initial experiment to see if I can connect historic and contemporary issues in a novel way.

I will also experiment with using natural materials for creating art, both 2D and 3D but also to understand whether sound/video installation could be combined with a more traditional outcome.

As the project has an environmental basis, it is critical that the sustainability of materials is a consideration so I will experiment with recycled and natural materials to see if they can create an outcome that is innovative in form and impact.

I am keen to express the scale of the river in some way so experimentation with scale and multiples will be carried out to understand whether I can expand the mind of viewers to appreciate the entire course of the river.

I am always keen to get my work out into the public arena and it seems appropriate to investigate whether an art work focussed on the river should sit near the river itself. This may not be practical or achievable but contact with local landowners may reveal an opportunity so it is worthwhile.

Resource plan

Given the uncertainty of lockdown, consideration will be made to complete work from home and use materials and techniques that are guaranteed to be available. Mostly natural materials will be used as well as digital technology which will help guarantee a workflow that can proceed regardless of the future situation. A home studio will be maintained throughout the project as a backup location for work.

Evaluation plan

Peer evaluation (with fellow students) will be used throughout the project as this has proved invaluable on all other projects. In addition, I have found that sharing of interim stages of a project on social media gives useful feedback – ‘likes’ give the confidence to proceed with an idea but I need to remember that too much positive feedback may mean that the outcome is too accessible so this channel will be used carefully.

I will consider sharing my ideas with selected third party conservation bodies. As well as fine tuning my approach this may also prove useful in developing my future network in that area, for future collaborations.

Critical interim evaluation with tutors at key stages will be essential to ensure I continue to interject artist research and other sources as the project twists and turns along its journey.

Time plan for stages of work

The dates below are preliminary and may well fluctuate is the current pandemic changes its course.

Project start22/02/21
Primary research22/02/21
Secondary research08/03/21
Initial experimentation08/03/21
Group crit05/04/21
Exhibition consideration26/04/21
Prototype outcome27/04/21
Final outcome initial31/05/21
Group crit01/06/21
Final outcome amends07/06/21
Show set up07/06/21
Opening nightTimed slots 14-16/06/21

Time plan for mounting exhibition

An exhibition is currently planned for June though this may be for private viewing only. This stage is dependent on the easing of lockdown hence will be added later.

Allocation of exhibition space10/06/21
Building of space & lighting12/06/21
Painting of exhibition space24/06/21
Testing initial outcome in exhibition space25/06/21
Placing outcome in exhibition space27/06/21
Interpretive text27/06/21

Other information

This project faces an initial challenge with travel up and down the river due to the current lockdown situation. This will be achieved by walking the route in short sections, avoiding weekends where possible and not using public transport. Thankfully, much of the river is quiet and ignored so proximity to other humans will be limited.

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