Christo and Jean Claude never explained, interpreted or gave meanings to their work; they didn’t need to. We will always obligingly do that for them. Writers and art critics have theorised about their ideas, conjuring a complex set of social, political, philosophical and psychological reasons why we should be interested in the art they produced. If I list many of the customary arguments here, you might consider them to be pretentious, meaningless drivel. And who knows, you may well be right. What I know is, I love the mystery and sense of wonder they created by using the unbelievably simple device of concealment, and for some reason it is far more effective if the object is relatively well known and familiar in terms of scale and shape.
This photograph was taken on the Ten Mile Bank Road near Little Downham in the Cambridgeshire Fenlands. This steep embankment is designed to protect the agricultural land and the isolated houses from the potential flood waters of the River Great Ouse. With climate change, sooner or later we will all find ourselves living behind some sort of artificial embankment.
Modern technology insists on ever-higher pixel counts as if the weight of detail was the most essential component in a photograph. If only we could witness more, ‘capture’ more, encompass more, our desire for evidence would finally be sated. The tsunami of information swamps us, flooding every nook and cranny of our lives, absorbing and occupying our natural capacity. The increasingly futile quest to record the minutiae of the visible world is a ‘will-o’-the-wisp’, a shadow play, a distraction. When the fog rolls across the Fens we stop looking, the obsession with calculation, measurement and accounting stalls and we are free to see.
At first sight, this looks like a mirror image, but it is a photograph of one of the arrow-straight tree lines seen across the Fenlands. Why there are two rows of trees planted side by side, I really don’t know; it is unlikely to be an aesthetic decision because it is so difficult to walk between them.
Anthony Trollope (1815 -1882) writes about the Fen landscape and he says, ‘a country walk less picturesque could hardly be found in England’. Trollope was familiar with the fens through his work as a surveyor for the Post Office but was unimpressed by the landscape. I think he was wrong, the Fenland landscape can be absolutely wonderful, as you can see here. There is a poetry in this place, you just have to open your mind and heart, you will see it.
Here is something a little out of the ordinary, definitely not my usual offering, but I thought I might share this with you. I created this video with my daughter, it was recorded two years ago on a handheld mobile phone; so all credit to her directorial and editing skills. I put down the audio track in the house because here in the Fenlands it is always windy and you wouldn’t have heard a single note. Did I hear someone say that would have been a wiser option? 🙂
For those who are interested, this is a Gretsch open back banjo, which I have now replaced with a Deering model. Recently, I have focused all of my energies on playing acoustic guitar and learning the Travis finger picking style. I have to say that the rhythmic style of frailing or clawhammer style banjo really helped with the finger picking. Sadly, I haven’t picked up the banjo for a year… the rest of the family are just quietly delighted.