In Land, An Island

Residency (large photographic survey, writing, ephemeral sculptures, short films, dedicated swims, collection of natural objects). 2016

In Land, An Island was a fully funded, solitary one-month environmental arts residency on a remote island in Lake Superior, USA – a 91-acre ‘unsettled and undivided space’. The residency was used to develop new geographic methodologies and artistic taxonomies to explore ideas of displacement.

Writing from the residency:

Traces that last only as long as the earth will hold them

It is not I, or others, who make the pathway – it is the composition of the earth and its matter responding to my journey, and those who went before and follow after. Leaves are crushed, moss squashed and twigs broken – all signs of passage – without the qualities of these materials that yield under my weight I would go unnoticed. I find the path of least resistance in the water, a body like mine, supporting my actions as I reach around the island with the swell, carried with the snakes and fish and circling eagle. I notice I have travelled by arriving somewhere else – to go back is to go forward again.

It is the environment that records my actions – both in a pathway and rise in water temperature – my impact causes materials already present to change. In a million years, we won’t be here to notice the natural order thrive in our absence. I am optimistic for another earth, an earth that recreates a balanced ecology – a life system with no name, no reference, and a process that does not recognise knowledge. It is the correspondence between things that will endure.

Swimming against the tide in Lake Superior, I’m thinking – as I cross by foot to the other side of the island – where is the wilderness I proposed to explore? I return to camp to watch the mainland four miles away. At the water’s edge I follow the rock underfoot, underwater, surfacing again to sandstone; and the water disappears to reveal the bedrock of the lake and leaves me standing on the flattened summit of a small peak. The real wilderness lies below the surface of the water, deep under the skin of the lake inside me – where my concern is shared with every breathing body.