Anne-Marie Culhane and Ruth Levene present Flatlands
Anne-Maire and Ruth's first collaborative work was in 2012 was Timeframe a new commission for the National Media Museum in Bradford as part of In the Blink of An Eye which was an exploration of speed, time and movement.
Their current project (working title: Flatlands) aims to deepen their knowledge of farm landscapes, farming methods and farm workers and open up new space for dialogue, exchange and questioning in rural communities & urban settings. Anne-Marie and Rurh are aiming to create a body of work that is responsive to and shaped by the different farming methods and system they encounter in Lincolnshire as well as the land itself.
Anne-Marie : This project draws together a trio of threads that run through my work as artist, performer and project creator: a movement practice which explores the body in landscape; a fascination with agricultural ritual and customs and an established history of creating projects that engage a wide range of people with food, where it comes from and how it is produced.
I’ve been exploring agricultural customs through co-creating new seasonal and land-based events and rituals and contemporising old ones over the last 10 years. The Corn Masks project is one such project, inspired by corn dollies and harvest rituals that at times involves collaboration with other performers and social geographer Dr.Caitlin De Silvey. Lincolnshire ‘the bread basket’ of England is a great place to explore where and how these ritual or their traces remain and the potential for new ones.
Flatlands provides a rich opportunity to explore human presence and scale in the landscape. For the greater part of our agricultural history, farms have been sites of intensive seasonal human activity and social relationship. Nowadays, arable farms are largely devoid of human presence. I’m curious about how it feels to spend time in and move around these vast landscapes in the different seasons.
Food is human fuel. It exists in intimate relationship with every one of us as one of our essential needs. I want to find out where my food comes from, its provenance and the systems and structures that enable this food to travel from the soil and into (and out of) my body.
Ruth: My work often explores the different ways we move through and communicate across the land. Thinking about the how technology shapes the way we see and relate to the space and places around us. How does the speed, proximity, energy used, time spent, connect or disconnect us to a place? More recently I've started to look at how these technologies and systems shape the land around us.
In a project prior to Flatlands I collaborated with artist film-maker Ian Nesbitt on The Boundary; a nine day walk following the administrative boundary line of Sheffield City. During this I became acutely aware the rights of way and footpaths that created our only access to navigating the bounds of Sheffield. It often felt limiting and restrictive and revealed how small this Island of ours is, especially if we wish to wander beyond the set routes and paths.
On our first visit to Glebe Farm we came across a public footpath that cuts diagonally, crossing straight through the growing fields as part of the Danelaw Way, The farm owner is legally obliged to keep the footpath walkable for ramblers. He does this by sowing his crops in full and then spraying the path back into the land. This conflict of interest over land is something I want to explore. It brings together both an arcane attachment to the past and an ideological driven view of the future manifesting literally as a scar on the land.
The gentle curves of the river stand out strongly. The patterns and shapes created in the land are evidence of how things are done. Straight lines are easier to manage as is flat land. The combine harvesters are controlled by satellite (with an unbelievable one cm tolerance). The bigger the machines the greater need for larger, flatter angular edged fields. Trees, paths, rivers and pylons become things that get in the way. I want to explore the points of contention, the edges, the curves and the oddities that hint at the scale of the body.
We will be working on our R&D phase until Spring 2015 and subsequently developing a body of work in response to our findings.
Read more about current research by Anne-Marie Culhane and Ruth Levene here (A Provocation by Dr Jonathan Hale, part of A Place to Dance?).