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  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

13/04/22 - What I Do

Me now, as this artist, this ‘research’ practitioner, I am a maker of many things and an explorer of varying materials. I work within the affective dimension in that I participate in material investigations, questioning outcomes and reflecting on action. For me practice-based research is important as it promotes the scientific artist within me. I am not a scientist, but I work as a scientist would, by exploring materials, techniques, and processes, gathering ‘data’ from the outcomes, and then acting on said outcomes. It is a reflective method, as seen with Graham Bell’s reflective cycles, reflection on action, action on reflection. I commit myself to working in such away as I believe it to be a strong and effective process of understanding information that is transmittable from material exploration. The processes I have predominately been working with are, digital and analogue photography, performative walking, sound recording and acts of writing. These explorations have been of stark contrast to my decade long practice of working with light and space within the clinical white cube gallery.

Below I have explained how each act of practice supports my research.


Photography

The photographic practice is not the central theme I am working with. Photography at this current stage is a mixture between, capturing and documenting environments as well as exploring photographic techniques to adapt visual outcomes. It has become a two-way function within the practice. The documentary side is a foundation in which I capture where I go and what I do and I use the imagery to communicate such acts, whereas the experimental side of photography is simply that term, experimental. I understand different processes to manipulate imagery and I think it is a good material to work with when wanting more immediate and intermate results. For example, I am wanting to capture landscape and showcase them in a way that lingers on ‘otherness’ and for me that would mean to develop the image of the landscape in an abstract composition using exploratory processes. Such exploratory means have been under and over exposing imagery during the developmental stages, using different chemical compounds and working with varying image capturing equipment.


Sound

Sound is the one material that is still very new to my practice. It is a format that I have always had some inclination to and would have explored much earlier within my practice as I believe it has a great ability to enhance the sensory experience(s). Sound is the latter; I see it as a material that will have a positive impact on the research practice. Experiences of sound will be personal and intimate but can also be as sole operative material or used collaboratively with imagery, writing, and/or walking.

I have been using recording equipment such as a TASCAM with an external microphone and a dead cat cover (to reduce wind noise). On each walk, I capture a variety of sounds, ranging from the trickle of a stream to a ten minute ‘walk with me’ and hear my footsteps on the landscape. These captured sounds can be shared with audiences through headphones to give out an experience that is (previously mentioned) intimate and direct. I want those audiences to hear what I encounter and with that they can have that brief transportation to a landscape.


Walking

Walking has been an act that has sat within my practice for some time. It may not be as visible and as celebrated as it is now, but I have always pursued audience engagement through walking with the work. My installations invited audiences to navigate spaces to encounter material light, but to get to the light they had to physically move themselves through uncomfortable spaces. I enjoyed building tight, tall, and long corridors that would restrict fluid movement, and at the same time it would acknowledge audiences’ willingness to partake in the art, or their determination to see the light (at the end of the tunnel). To walk myself is an adaptation of those previous installations of mine but far removed from the clean, crisp, clinical, gallery space, to probably what is the most extreme opposite. In some way it has been a big challenge, coming to terms with that difference in aesthetic quality but I understand that an evolution needs to occur within my practice.


Why do I walk then? I enjoy that freedom and privilege to just get up and go and explore. Whether that exploration be local or thousands of miles away, I take comfort in knowing that I can move within and through landscapes. The landscape I sit my work within, and those landscape are remote and wild and far removed from humanity. Natural landscapes are places that give me that space away from humanity and it is not because humanity is a negative thing, it is because I enjoy the moments of being within a natural environment untouched and seeing it as it is without interference from others. It becomes a personal and intimate experience which is shared between me and the land. Walking through and within that environment can be performative as it takes me that physical movement to navigate open space and recognise elements that could be dangerous, could be best left untouched, could be investigated or could also be collected. The journey of the walk is unknowable, I have control of where I will direct myself, but I am unaware of what I will come across, and the mysticism brings me back to those uncomfortable corridors I made for my audiences. They did not know what to expect through their physical journey and as with my walks, I do not know what to expect. There is thrill and momentum of anticipation as the walk plays out and I can allow emotion to be with me.


Writing

Writing is where I document my thoughts, feelings, and happenings. The writing is performative just like the walking, it is a collection of documents that shares my experiences and movements through natural landscapes. When I write, I try to keep it informal and communicate the language to an audience in simplistic terms. Those terms are generally within the context of a conversation with oneself. I believe writing in such a way removes the academic charade and instead gives an honest and personal account of my thoughts and feelings.

I see the writing as an archival document but also as a first-hand account of the methods/acts of practice I participate with. The writing becomes direct and autobiographical, but more in the form of autoethnography, in which it is about me writing through the journey and act, rather than about the reflective journey. It once again cements this idea that emotion and feeling is instant.


Wilderness

The four acts of practice are used collaboratively to comment on what remote wilderness is through my own personal interpretation. Personal interpretation is the key phrase within my research because I am the one who explores and investigates in my own designed methodology. I am there within landscape trying to feel my way through and within it, just having that direct contact with nature. It is for me a moment of release where I can escape and be free from human constraints. Not to an extreme sense or act of freedom but to one that initiates an ability to just step out of the entanglement of the working life and just sit or walk and reflect within an environment not polluted by humanity. It is quite difficult to find a place which is not affected by man so for me it is about finding those small pockets of nature between the man-made and to do so I must go on small excursions or as I refer to them as my own residencies within landscape.

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