- Between Basketball And Swimming (Things On Which I’ve Stumbled), ‘The Beautiful Game’, Hannah Maclure Centre, University of Abertay, Dundee. (July 31 – October 30)
The phrase ‘between basketball and swimming’, is an extract from a longer quotation by the artist Eva Hesse (Seventeen Magazine, September 1954) where she talked about a drawing that she had done:
‘The Tree stood alone, straight and firm like so many, and I tried to compare it to human beings. I did it at camp between basketball and swimming.’
For Hesse, at this point in her life, art was something that happened between things— but there is an intensity to her voice which reveals the urgency she felt at having to “compare” The Tree not to one human being, but to many human “beings”. I like the sentiment: on the one hand hierarchically ambivalent, on the other, deeply motivated and philosophically serious.
The idea of “being” between things was, in the broadest sense, what the work for this exhibition was concerned with: a neon line drawing of a mountain bike route which is neither the map nor the territory, but some other imagined space (The Forest of Pretty Things) and what Robert Smithson might have referred to as a “psychic drawing” of those things on which I’ve stumbled; an ensemble work which organises a set of “interviews” and transpositions between objects and encounters from “out there”, an ensemble which significantly incorporates drawing and poetry by primary school children from Downfield Primary School in Dundee. The work proceeds on the basis of this proposition: Artistic practice is a mode of thinking, and art may be a theoretical object itself creating an array of critical engagements and interpretations which allow for different relations—different kinds of thinking, language and registers of affect—between each moment and its form.
Pressed flowers, brake pads, candles and roots and brown paper bags. Templeton Woods, Dundee.
I run mountain bike skills sessions for primary school children under the auspices of the organisation ‘Active Schools’. I’m helped by Shelley from ‘Active Schools’ and Phil, one of the teachers. These are held mostly on the trails and in the mud and roots of Templeton Woods, near Dundee. I do this voluntarily, as do I hope the children, in this case Adam, Jo-Marie, Jordan, Millie, Ross and Scott from Downfield Primary School in Dundee.
I completed mountain bike leadership training at Scotland’s outdoor training centre Glenmore lodge, near Aviemore, a qualification created specifically ‘to be used for the benefit of others’. So that’s what I try to do, and that’s how this started. What continues to evolve are mountain bike skills sessions over the course of anywhere between five to seven weeks, where the mountain bike is in the dual role of “Trojan horse” , for poetry, general literacy and visual arts activity.
Mountain biking gives a sense of freedom outdoors—a feeling of speed and exhilaration—and the emphasis is on introducing children of mixed abilities to the skills required to ride bikes safely in “natural” but demanding terrain. The other creative and imaginative aspects of the activity—writing poetry, drawing, naming and describing things—fosters a spirit of reflective understanding, while the activity in its entirety promotes self-esteem, resilience and physical and mental courage.
Additional pictures and poetry by the children may be seen under ‘Downfield Primary School’ in the ‘Active Schools’ page.
Glass bead, salmon tin and wine glass bowl. Jerusalem and Abernyte.
I was on my way to the church of The Holy Sepulchre to pray, in proxy for my mother, who would have liked to have been there. As I walked below the windows of the Armenian Convent the glass marble fell to the pavement in front of me.
Brake pad and bearings. Strathmashie Forest, Badenoch.
It’s a spring evening after a day of riding trails and I’m sitting with a cup of tea at the picnic table in front of the bike shop at Laggan Wolftrax, kicking back with friends and “doodling” with small bits of bike stuff scattered on the table.
Cable tie’s. Deuchny Wood, Perthshire.
‘I walk to slow things down, to see (the woodland differently), to take photographs, not to ride, my focus, related, but with a different purpose—self-conscious, searching, trying to replace my seeing with something else. I work my way up the downhill track marked by splashes of red paint, finish to start, pulled-away by older lines as I wish. These are coated in pine needles, loose sticks and small rocks. Time slips by. I’m unconcerned; there’s nowhere else that I have to be. At the start I turn around and return back down the hill, studying the lines as I go, from one section to the next, waying-up the possible consequences of one decision over another: over this root or that; front end here or an inch to the left or right; to carry speed here, to scrub it off there; to keep to the left of that rock … how “to flow” then, down the whole track as smoothly and as quickly as possible … and how my body is to transfer whatever raw physical power it has into a trajectory with a little bit of grace. As I get near to the end of the track I find a black sun (star shape or figurine) on the woodland floor: cable tie’s laced together. I like the object, but what I like more is that I should find it here, as an unintended gift’.
Nose Piece (silver gaffer tape). Bonneville, Salt Lakes, Utah, U.S.A.
This was an object I made to protect my nose while filming a sequence of to-camera performance works on the salt flats. I was in Utah helping another artist but the opportunity arose for me to film a piece of work as well. The Forest of Pretty Things, the neon, had it’s origins in a map (a trail near Aberfeldy in Perthshire) so I took the trail back “to ground” , so to speak, by marking it out (from a sketch I made from memory) and walking it on the salt flats. The finished to-camera performance work lasts eleven minutes and was filmed at mid-day when no shadow was cast by terrestrial objects. The human body is seen in a near infinite space where all that is supposed to be solid appears liquefied in the intense heat. The work has never been shown.
Raspberry Taproots, Whitehills, Perthshire.
Pot. Whitehills, Perthshire.
It takes about fifteen minutes to push your bike up to the start of the singletrack descent that I made in a local wood, and at last count, one minute twenty-six to descend. As with rock climbings “pitches”, mountain bikings “lines, sections and trails” are given names; are titled in much the same way as art works are. The 1:26 at one stage goes between two trees, distinctive for their position in relation to one another: one is called Eva, the other Robert. The pot was found while I was raking a section of the track.
UP: Go, over grass and nettle to three steps jutting from stone wall / climb and lift yourself and the bike into the wood / face tree / go twenty-nine paces L of tree and climb over two fallen into Dirt Bowl / FO and climb seventy-four to tree on R /go L twenty-five and go over drop-off (track forks) R line is sixty paces / L line is nineteen / Untitled, 1970 / go thirty-nine through grass and wildflower between tree’s Eva and Robert to trunk across track / FO forty-seven to gap in wall / Grassy Meadow / climb eighty to tree and FO seventy-one L on Bro’s Line / FO forty-eight to other side of The Pillow / go twenty-three and climb over drop-off and FO twenty-eight to end of section / FO one-twenty to start between two trees / Major Tom
DOWN: Major Tom / clip in and drop at speed into first turn all loose / carry speed L to clear log and float over roots / see fallen tree R at lip of slope shift down brake see berm off brakes flow in R foot down and cant L focused on exit between bush and rotting tree / pedal hard into The Pillow and through soft / brake into switchback and shift up into Bro’s Line / drop fast off-camber at speed over branch place front on toe of root look up see marker tree stay off brakes and let speed carry through soft / flow tight around tree R with weight over front / rear end drifts into line / carry speed over log / stay high and keep L down and traction into hill carrying a lot of speed into Grassy Meadow toward gap in wall / brake line up front end and push into tight entry/exit over wall between two small trees go R letting rear drift into line / shift up / loft trunk and style-it-up between Eva and Robert / keep R down carry speed and empty tanks through flat section of Untitled, 1970 / sharp turn R toward hip-drop / bike over R body upright looking ahead L foot pushing into track see two stumps on other side of drop-off / brake early and land before stumps / go between on the brakes see exit R of tree / off brakes look up and pedal hard / brake late unweight rear and drift sharp L / pedal out and flow into Dirt Bowl.
Green hair band. Ben Bhraggie, Golspie, Sutherland.
see: ‘Golspie’ 8th April, 2009
Burnt piece of wooden gate. The pass between Meall-nan Caorach and Meall Reamhar, Perthshire.