I am very excited to say my first publication is now available from Oystercatcher Press here.
Amy Cutler Nostalgia Forest
ISBN: 978-1-905885-59-6 40pp (£6 inc UK postage – postage elsewhere at cost)
‘Nostalgia Forest’ uses only text drawn from Paul Ricoeur’s Memory, History, Forgetting (2000). The diagrams are all sourced from dendrochronology (tree-ring reading) manuals. Cat-face scars, impact scars, and red-rot infection appear in the catalogue of figures for individual and collective remembrance, alongside a writing-through of Ricoeur’s text on the philosophical misfortunes of memory.
Amy Cutler edits the online series Land Diagrams, and has published poetry with Intercapillary Space, Renscombe Press, Lex-ICON, and The Bee Bole. She is currently completing a PhD in geography called ‘Language disembarked: the coast and the forest in modern British poetry’.
Amy Cutler’s works here are brain scans of arboreal memory, cones of time lapse poetry, fresh, useful, arresting paradoxes delivered direct to the hippocampus.
Times lived and unlived are here exposed to a tree-given grain, or what is only decipherable via model dendrochronological images, but reopened as dim memories or near oblivions by Amy Cutler’s deftly juxtaposed Ricoeurian captions. Though any forest memory may be at best like one of Aristotle’s ‘shaggy waxes’, these diagrammatic profiles offer intimations of calamity or nurture, or a tonal or atonal transversal of timber, itself an astute truncation of nostalgia’s own magnetic time-intervals.
Oystercatcher Press pamphlets may be ordered from 4 Coastguard Cottages, Old Hunstanton, Norfolk PE36 6EL.
Cheques payable to P Hughes.
To celebrate the release of the booklet, I’m also making some tiny (10×10) Nostalgia Forest canvas panels, in gold or ochre (with dendrochronological diagrams in black) – see below. Each one is unique, and they will each go out to anyone who pledges on the Forest Memory exhibition Kickstarter page - one of the incentives for anyone who can help with the costs of setting up the collective exhibition in June, ‘Time, the deer, is in the wood of Hallaig’, which will range from natural history specimens and museum objects to book works, wood works, and films and sounds by various artists. Full details of the exhibition are on the Kickstarter page, so please do consider supporting, or sharing it with friends and colleagues! I’ll be launching the ‘Nostalgia Forest’ book on the opening night/ first view of the exhibition, Thursday the 6th June.
Salon Particulier invites you to an evening event that brings artists, musicians, academics, foodies and a myriad of other specialists together to be stimulated, enlightened and fed, in an atmosphere of generosity and egalitarianism. In the spirit of the Salons conversation is opened up to the audience after the talks/musical performance and will continue to flow over an informal meal.
As part of Union Chapel’s Special Wednesdays we warmly invite you to our next salon loosely based around the theme of Exploration chaired by Salon Particulier’s EV Haines, with guest speakers:
Amy Cutler is a researcher and curator who will discuss explorations of the forest and concepts of environmental memory, presenting some of the materials from her exhibition under construction, ‘Time, the deer, is in the wood of Hallaig’ (a line by Scottish poet Sorley Maclean). As part of her PhD she investigated the idea of the forest’s witnessing of history in literature, heritage, and science. At the Salon she will explore how this is structured according to various principles of past and present, as well as traumas absorbed by collective and individual identity For the forthcoming exhibition she is dealing with natural specimens and museum objects alongside art / book works by Alec Finlay, Herman de Vries, Katsutoshi Yuasa, Richard Skelton, and others. The collection explores both the technologies of forest memory (such as dendrochronology), and its logics – from the call to humans to recollect the imperilled forest, to the use of the forest as an anthropological memory aid. She also runs the online interdisciplinary project Land Diagrams, which uses found geographical figures to prompt essays. Her first book is ‘Nostalgia Forest’ (Oystercatcher Press, 2013), which Gerry Loose describes as ‘brain scans of arboreal memory (and) cones of time lapse poetry’, and Peter Larkin calls ‘diagrammatic profiles offer(ing) intimations of calamity (…) in a tonal or atonal transversal of timber’).
Douglas White is an artist who will share his history of, and relationship to, found objects and how they relate to an exploration of physical and psychological landscapes from both a personal and professional perspective. White “seeks to re-enchant the world, scavenging the detritus of society and compulsively transforming it into strange, monumental sculptures. His work is driven by a fascination with the possibilities of discarded and overlooked materials and articulates an affinity with found objects, both natural and man-made. Exploded tyres, arson-struck recycling bins, decaying trees: the materials have often been subject to a violent change, revealing an inner delicacy or potency… his use of found materials and natural processes is intuitive and ambiguous, seeing aesthetic and formal possibilities where others see only junk, as White himself puts it, “finding something magical within the everyday and revealing it through an action.” White is represented by Paradise Row, London.
There will also be a special not-to-be-missed musical performance from a charismatic English singer songwriter (in the spirit of exploration more will be revealed on the night!)
We’ve joined forces with guest co-curator artist Jennifer Lewandowski whose interdisciplinary practice includes film, sculpture, installation, photography and experimental music and who is a keen cook. She is co-director of London gallery French Riviera.
We also eagerly anticipate sharing in the delights of award winning ice cream maker Kitty Travers, owner of La Grotta Ices, who has spent the past 12 years working in kitchens worldwide in search of the secrets to ice cream perfection.
The Salon takes place Wednesday 10th April 2013 at Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington N1 2UN
Doors open at 7.30pm, speakers commencing at 8pm sharp
Booking is essential as seating is limited ticket price £22.50 per head available here.
Ticket price includes the talks, musical performance and a two course set menu provided by Salon Particulier’s
Nat Breitenstein and Jennifer Lewandowski, with the addition of dessert from the fabulous La Grotta Ices.
Drinks will be available to purchase at the Union Chapel bar throughout the evening,
Vegetarian/special meals available strictly upon request no less than 3 days prior to the event via Salon Particulier.
For further information / enquiries please contact: email@example.com
Amongst the materials I will be presenting in the talk are a number of panels from Una Hamilton Helle’s ‘Becoming the Forest’ series (above), which will be mounted in the exhibition, alongside sections of her research on how black metal appropriates Nordic landscape imagery, particularly older images of spruce trees. I’ll also show images of part of this 8mm Brakhage-esque film with decayed leaves and spiders, by David Chatton Barker, which we will be displaying in its original film strip form in the exhibition (below).
Assemblage (Autumn Richardson & Richard Skelton): Antique wooden box; glass apothecary jars of found flora and incense; 26 texts printed on watercolour card; CD of music; found items (small stones, Bog myrtle).
There is now a Kickstarter page here for the forthcoming exhibition I’m curating, ‘Time, the deer, is in the wood of Hallaig’, as I’m asking for donations to help with costs around postage, installation, and display. The text and images follow below for those interested: there are also some sneak peeks of the belfry space and some of the items. The exhibition itself will be free and there’s lots of rewards for anyone who contributes at this stage, so please do contribute or share the Kickstarter link if possible with friends and colleagues (and watch this space for information on the private view, 6th June 2013!)
Small brass hunting horn from Epping Forest collection
In June 2013 I will be putting on a free public exhibition called Time, the deer, is in the wood of Hallaig, a line by Scottish poet Sorley Maclean. It will be on the topic of forests, history, and memory, and will range between natural history (specimens and found artefacts), social history (archival texts, photographs, and samples from museum collections), and art (book works, wood works, and installations). The exhibition will take place at this Grade 1 listed belfry in London (E2 9PA), which is also a community art gallery.
The Kickstarter is to supply the necessary funds which ensure the safety and appropriate display and transport of the objects, which will allow the museums and artists to loan them to us. The more funds we raise, the more exciting items we are able to include. There are also some other costs to cover – such as renting a projector for the film projection, and setting up the sound installation. The space which will be using is a beautiful old atmospheric belfry (some rough photos below from our early visits). It is full of nooks and crannies, perfect for innovative display, and will look amazing when lit with candles in jars and small lights to highlight the items.
A break down of the main costs:
SHIPPING - Certain of the works are fragile and will have to be carefully packaged and sent by post. Some of these will be international works, including wood cuts by Connecticut artist Bryan Nash Gill, and wood prints by Tokyo artist Katsutoshi Yuasa. These must also be safely shipped back afterwards. Non-London artists include Alec Finlay, Gerry Loose, herman de vries, Camilla Nelson, Colin Sackett, and Peter Larkin.
DISPLAY CASES - Certain items, such as the wood specimens from the xylarium at theKew Museum of Economic Botany, must be displayed in museum-standard conditions. This means a museum standard display case is required, with appropriate security, otherwise we unfortunately will not be able to include these (the wood specimens are amazing things and can be seen in my photos here). The same goes for some of the items from the Epping Forest archives, which include an antique hunting horn, and early forester’s diaries, maps, and correspondence. There is no alternative to these museum standard cases, so we need to hire a case for the length of the exhibition in June.
D.I.Y. INSTALLATION - Other materials will be installed in innovative ways, including in an antique Victorian writing chest. One installation will be a set of small texts attached to logs and to the antlers of a roe deer skull. Funds will be used to get hold of some suitable second hand wooden furniture on ebay, such as this cold frame, to use as innovative forms of display, perhaps using cheap Perspex glass fronting to protect the items. This will suit the themes of the exhibition, as the cold frame is originally designed for seeds and organic materials.
ADMIN - There are various extra costs involved in the printing of broadsheet poems, an exhibition essay, and exhibition signage, and a small cost for the free wine which we’ll supply on the launch night. The exhibition relies on the hard work and good will of a number of people who may have to ferry items (such as the display case) from one location to another, or promote and market the event, or generally make themselves available, such as for supervising the exhibition (we’ll need two people present all the time it is open to the public). I would like to be able to pay back any costs sustained where needed.
This will be a fantastic exhibition, showcasing some beautiful works, which will include a film screening, ‘Family Tree’, by Christopher Daniels (RCA), which will be projected on a loop on the belfry wall. The music and sound in the exhibition will be ‘Noon Hill Wood’ byRichard Skelton, ‘with its achingly beautiful interleaved bowed melodies, drifting through ranks of pine, larch and birch’. The exhibition will be freely open to the public and further promoted by association with various research groups (such as Landscape Surgery, where I study, and the Social and Cultural Geography Research Group), as well as with all the participating institutions and archives.
The poster will be designed for free by David Chatton Barker, who previously designed the beautiful Lore of the Land poster. We will try and get the word out to as many people as possible. We’ll also document the exhibition with photography of the launch and the installation, and hopefully arrange for it to be reviewed in several places. We hope for it to have a lasting influence as an innovative exhibition about the past and present cultures of the forest, bringing together historical research and museum materials with contemporary art and book works.
I am putting together a small London exhibition in early June called ‘Time, the deer, is in the wood of Hallaig‘ (a line by the Scottish poet Sorley Maclean), in the belfry at St John on Bethnal Green. It will include specimens on loan from the Kew Museum of Economic Botany and historical photographs from the Forest Memories database and from local archivists and historians: but it will also include book works, installations, and texts. Combining the fields of social history, natural history, and art – as well as evidence of the technologies of dendrochronology itself – this exhibition will analyse ideas of past and memory through forests, whether concerning antediluvian forests, submerged forests, genealogical trees, timber rings, veteran trees, plantation or old growth woodland, natural archives, wood collections, or books and prints. Please do get in touch with details of any submissions at my email address (above), attaching relevant documents.
The amount of visual feedback in Katsutoshi Yuasa’s woodcuts reminds me of some research I’m doing now on memory and ideas of oral transmission and lexical feedback in the forest: ‘All of the problems and possibilities of oral thought and transmission are present in the forest’ (Martyn Hudson). In Yuasa’s woodcuts, the techniques of digital and manual processing (the photograph is monochromised by computer, carved from a wooden panel, and then hand printed on paper) leads to a significant level of interference. This is carried also by the titling of his forest works, which persistently follow themes of noise, communication, and illegibility, with print titles including ‘Listen, nature is full of songs and truth’, ‘The world without words’, ‘Made in the conversation’, ‘Slow screaming’, and ‘Quotations from nature’ (while his first major solo exhibition in London was called Echoes from Nature).
Within this idea of “taking dictation” from the forest, the texts which I deal with in my thesis are also transcriptive responses to modern forestry and its levels of digital and lexical signification. As Craig Dworkin writes in Reading the Illegible, of the ‘medial noise’ in Susan Howe’s forest poems, ‘As in any system, however, noise proliferates hand in hand with an increase in the terms of communication’.
Some other upcoming news for interested parties: the Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila is speaking next week at Whitechapel art gallery about spruce trees and experimental cinema, particularly in her films The Horizontal, The House, and Hour of Prayer. The Invisible College are hosting an audio drift in their Kilmahew woods site on the 23rd March (with its ruined St. Peter’s seminary), created from oral histories of the woods by Michael Gallagher, a Glasgow researcher in audio media, telephony, and landscape. There is an account of the recently finished Montreal exhibition ‘First, the forests’ online here: this used archival and new materials to curate a synthetic view of the complex and larger phenomenon of forestry and nature (in four categories: Bureaucratic Forestry, Scientific Forestry, Tropical Forestry, and Economic Forestry).
Finally, I have written several translations of Basho’s haiku on the bee and the peony, which, along with many others, will be incorporated in Alec Finlay’s project at the National Fruit Collection in Brogdale, to celebrate cherry blossom season. The site – where each poem will be handwritten on a label alongside its translation, in orange and black, and tied to a cherry tree – will be attracting visitors over the next few months (see their Hanami season page here), and some of the versions will be published on Alec’s bee bole blog.
Having begun this post with degraded images of forests, I thought I would also finish by including some antique photographs of submerged / antediluvian forest which I’ve been coming across, whilst working on the rhetoric of arboreal records:
I am very pleased to say that Oystercatcher Press, that doyen of small series poetry, will be publishing my ‘Nostalgia Forest’ in 2013. Peter Riley has recently written on Oystercatcher Press for the Fortnightly Review here, discussing its range of concepts within the continuity of modernism. Oystercatcher’s recent Shearsman anthology, Sea Pie, brings together examples from all of its previous books, confirming its importance (it has also won the Michael Marks Award ‘for outstanding UK publisher of poetry in pamphlet form’). Some pages from Sea Pie are available online here.
”Nostalgia Forest’ (2013, Oystercatcher Press) uses only text drawn from Paul Ricoeur’s Memory, History, Forgetting (2000). The diagrams are all sourced from dendrochronology (tree-ring reading) manuals. Cat-face scars, impact scars, and red-rot infection appear in the catalogue of figures for individual and collective remembrance, alongside a writing-through of Ricoeur’s text on the philosophical misfortunes of memory.’
Further details (ISBN, etc.) will follow in a few months.
I’ve written a description of Monday’s Passengerfilms event, on film scores and coastlines, here on the Landscape Surgery blog, including the talks, the music, and the film we screened. For those interested in cinematic representation of shores, I’ve made some links from the materials to other historical films, from ‘Rough Sea at Dover’ to ‘L’Atalante’. The photos from the screening are available here. Coincidentally, sound artists Mark Fisher and Justin Barton’s audio-essay on the Suffolk coastline, On Vanishing Land, combines digital music with coastal ghost stories, and will be screening until the end of March.
The review follows:
Waves breaking on the shore appear in cinema from the pioneering kinetoscope nature documentaryRough Sea at Dover (1895) to last year’s documentary The Secret History of Waves (2012), and were a returning feature of this week’s Passengerfilms event. The screening combined archival coast footage with live music and discussion of film scoring and landscape.
The J. B. Holmes documentary The Way to the Sea (1936), a part collaboration with composer Benjamin Britten (score) and poet W. H. Auden (narrative), retold the story of the electrification of the London-Portsmouth line and the superimposing of the National Grid on the old Roman road to the sea. Starting in AD 286, it gave a rapid history of invasions and shipping, finishing with Auden’s eccentric address to this century’s leisure-seekers on the ‘last straight run to the rolling plain of ships and the path of the gull’. The text (‘we seek… the sea!’) is available in full online here.
Dr. Julie Brown, reader in music at Royal Holloway, discussed the remaining evidence of the scores of the Royal Geographical Society expeditionary films to Mount Everest (kinematographer J. B. Noel’s 1923 and 1924 films). As well as presenting the guttural Tibetan music which inspired the movements, she traced the history of the films’ exhibition in Britain, including live performances by visiting Tibetan monks, and played samples of her own reconstructed ‘palimpsest’ score.
Guitarist and viola-player Kieron Maguire then introduced ‘The Shanty of Living Cinema’, a collection of extracts from experimental coastal films with a live soundtrack by himself and Robert Parkinson (dulcimer) of The Cabinet of Living Cinema. His talk moved from the sea horizon to the fascination with sea creatures in surrealist cinema. The film ‘The Salmon Jumped Over the Sun’ (Guinane, 2009) uses a canoe to film the waves from a seagull’s perspective. Jason Eberts’ ‘Aqueous Duende’ (2010) injected billows of ink into water to revisit the underwater aesthetic of cinematic works like H. M. Lomas’s ‘Fathoms Deep Beneath the Sea’, Jean Painlevé’s ‘The Love Life of the Octopus’, and Jean Vigo’s ‘L’Atalante’. Finally, an extract from ‘At Land’ (1944), by high priestess of surrealist cinema Maya Deren, opened with images of waves breaking and descending back into the sea, as Maya emerged like an amphibian to climb driftwood. (This film is featured in a montage of cinematic waves on beaches here, alongside Peter Hutton’s film on shipping containerisation ‘At Sea’). The Cabinet of Living Cinema finished with an audio piece, Sound Journeys of Dorset, which recorded experiences of stone quarrying in the Dorset sea cliffs by rock climbers, wild gardeners, and shell collectors.
The feature film, Penny Woolcock’s ‘From the Sea to the Land Beyond’ (2012), was nearly dialogue-free, entirely composed of a hundred years of coastal footage from the BFI’s archives, in collaboration with the Brighton-based band British Sea Power, who composed the full score. Some of the original archival clips are also mapped out on the English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish coastlines here (click the interactive map). The use of collective filmmaking of this kind allowed the film to range across the many periods and themes of the coast (which Auden appeals to in his commentary), from boat building to beauty pageants, dancing halls to military armaments, and shipping containerisation to endangered migratory birds. Amongst the inevitable romantic themes – the derelict wharf; the lone lighthouse – were montages studies of historical change: phone networks, railway lines, shipping forecasts, and the changing practice of sea rescue across time. Motifs ran throughout the evening’s screenings and talks: the ebb of tourism, the rhythm of film scores, snatched footage of seagulls in flight, and, of course, the waves breaking on the sea shore, across the century of film.
For further information on this event’s materials please see here; to be informed of future Passengerfilms events (which are monthly), subscribe to the Passengerfilms blog, or follow them on Twitter (@PASSENGERFILMS) or Facebook.