Well Projects is excited to present ‘Crossings’, a duo presentation of new works by Verity Birt and Tom Sewell, curated by Kris Lock. Produced during a period of isolation in the surrounds of an unfamiliar landscape, ‘Crossings’ traverses the simultaneous feelings of estrangement and connection that hide in the uncanny threshold of encounter with a world beyond the human.
Exploring the nature of boundaries and permeability between species, the eponymous video work within the installation made by Verity Birt, opens with an image of heathland and rolling hills, as a dissonant chord plays over the patter of long grass in the wind. A rapid pan to the left of the screen brings a wider landscape into view. Describing a vegetal world populated by relics, beings and the scars of past events, the images within the film are framed by larger images, or overlaid with objects that spiral through a vast background. Through these interactions the entities that are present seem to fold in on one another.
The nature of landscape seems to induce a smoothing effect.
In this guise it resonates with the notion of space as a simple surface.
We travel across landscape; we travel across space.
The filimic mechanisms in ‘Crossings’ tell a story beyond a simple surface, the constellations of overlaid locations, plants, animals and objects become temporal interstices as opposed to a representation of spatialisation, within these folds can be glimpsed the radical incommensurability of a non-human collective history. Matter takes on an infinitely porous or cavernous texture, as the narrator encounters these histories there is a sense of metamorphosis.
I pick at the dirt under my fingernails
Lining my fingernails, catch skin
It starts to pollute my edges
Enters my blood stream
‘Crossings’ invokes an immersion in an almost somatic acoustic space. Populated by field recordings and whispering voices, these sounds take on a form of dimensionality as bees circle and birds fly overhead. Within this space a pattern of still image disrupted by sharp movement takes shape, each movement accentuated by a dissonant chord; a sound with a distinctly non living quality, something that stands out amongst the field recordings. These shifts draw our attention to the peripheries; something only present through absence can be sensed in these disruptions, leading audiences not to the comfort of sight but to the discomfort of the uncanny. Here can be found a contemporary world sprinkled with sites that have the power to ‘enchant’ – a state imbued with the interactive fascination and wonder that these uncanny encounters afford us.
Alongside the film, a series of structures populate the gallery space. Tensile armatures of willow convey both a sense of fragility and stability. These works by Tom Sewell hold a form that floats above a number of identifications; animistic shrine, a marking point or milestone, or an anthropomorphised dwelling to name a few.
A very particular selection of objects adorns these structures, agglomerated from material gathered on many walks across the same landscapes that informed the film. Within this selection, the neons of man made material butt up against the discarded relics of the natural both living and not living; hybrid projects that act to forge new links between plant, animal and tool.
These juxtapositions; a rusted billhook alongside a smiley sticker or a bright purple climbing rope threaded with the bones of some long dead animal, echo the uneasy anticipation present in the film and alludes to the silent registers that often go unnoticed. Registers that engender both a phenomenology and a politics that one can only recognize through a deep immersion in the landscape. This form of immersion provokes questions of dwelling, belonging and mobility; when traversing the landscape, impressions of the forces that shape these things begin to materialize. Struggles over place can be seen in the vast swathes of pink heather, regularly burnt to make the land more profitable. And in the bones of fox and stoat that litter the moors, culled in order to support the grouse hunting industry.
In ‘Crossings’ the works of Verity Birt and Tom Sewell hold a form of praxis – bringing together an enmeshed collaboration, a journey through the tangled histories of place and the entities that inhabit them, and a sense of radical permeability as the edges of things are unmade. Sites of enchantment are visible as these boundaries dissolve – in the uncanny absences, the structural repetition of object and image, and the relationships between encounters. Through unearthing these sites of enchantment we might hope to cultivate a new ethical sensibility, something that would help us to decode the contemporary present, and read the imperceptible tremors of an inconceivable future within it.