Tuesday, 20 November 2012

#14 Brood Chamber

When we shot the last Futurescope 'Skep Head' we had been thinking more about the image of the traditional beehive or skep woven from coils of straw and the way in which when Paton's and Baldwin's owned this site they had used this image (in much the same way as the Co-operative has) as a symbol and emblem of industry as if the hive itself were by metaphorical extension a factory or even a society in which the hierarchies of role and function were imposed. I have blogged about this before so I won't do it again. It was also largely about the disconnection between the handmade and agricultural and the machined and designed environment in which people work at Lingfield Point.
As well as the skep 'helmet' we used in this picture we also commissioned two skeps to resemble as closely as possible the shape and form of the Paton's & Baldwin's logo. In an unstructured hive like this the bees make honeycomb that hangs in layers from the top where the queen sits and which eventually fills the skep. Because the skep was circular we had the idea that if bees made honey in it we might use the upturned skep in Futurescope. One thing was clear we wanted this to be a simple picture: Just basically of bees.

We discussed the project with Colin who keeps the bees at Lingfield Point and he agreed to try keeping the skep hive alongside the traditional box hives. Colin who knew very little about skeps did some research into it and found this fantastic film “Heathland Beekeeping”. The first in the series can be seen here: 

At his suggestion I went one day and built it a 'beebole' to sit in to shelter it from the weather and I persuaded David Chubb who made the skeps to be our advisor. We expected to be able to catch a swarm in April/May. As a back up I set up a second skep in Cumbria with local beekeeper and friend Neil Cruickshank. In both cases they managed to get bees in but did not manage to persuade them to stay and then it started raining, in fact, it rained from April to September in what must be possibly the wettest summer I remember. This is bad news for bees, the straw got soggy, the skep was retrieved and dried out and the experiment was not a success. Stand by - we are hoping to give it another go next year.

David Chubb Beekeper/Skepmaker

As we came towards the shoot for the last in Futurescope series this plan had come unstuck and so I spoke to Colin instead about photographing the existing bees and their hives. 

We got suited and booted and lifted the lid to look inside. 

With Colin’s help I began to look at the interior structure of the existing hives and I was struck by the way in which it closely resembled the buildings of Lingfield Point itself. Each chamber is like a filing cabinet loaded with suspension files, each file or frame is prepared with a wax base upon which the honeycomb can be built and the weight can be staggering. From below the hive looks a little bit like the fly tower of a traditional theatre. From above it looks a little bit like the floor of a nuclear reactor. I was struck by the model scale of this architecture.

In fact all the hives are in quite good health largely because Colin has been feeding glucose directly to the bees, supplementing the pollen upon which they would otherwise have fed. The surplus honey has been harvested and in preparation for winter only the brood chamber itself remained installed. So this then is the honey which is the bees' and the bees alone and upon which their survival depends. The wax and honey in the brood chamber is a small store of nutrients which the bees will use sustain them through the cold winter. 

Throughout the year there have been media stories about the health of bees, bees that have experienced colony failure. Worried ecologists have pronounced the bees are dying, the end of the world has come and all sorts of people who know nothing about it are tweeting their concern, but here it is, bees die all the time, in fact one of the bees jobs is to take out the bodies of dead bees from the hives.  Another job is to mark and scent the routes the bees will take to the harvesting areas, drones harvest and pack the honeycomb while guards first take an interest in then attack anyone they deem to be a threat. In my case being chased into the path of an oncoming bus - that's one way of killing a man (much to Colin’s amusement). Its our management that is causing all this, if we looked after bees in a way that respected their needs and environment this wouldn't be happening but we won't so perhaps most of all we need to learn how to adapt to change ourselves.

These bees, Lingfield Point's bees, are Mediterranean in origin they are not native to the UK. There, where the climate would permit it, they would fly all the year round but here there is a direct relationship between the temperature of the hive and the activity of the bees. The bees communicate using chemicals and little dancing flight patterns. Instinctively they behave as a swarm as if they were one organism and to some extent when you look at them they look like a thick viscous liquid.

When we set up to photograph the bees we did it with theatre lights thanks to friends Quondam Theatre in Penrith. We opened the hives and bathed them in a wash of powerful light. 

The bees were active and curious but not hostile. We shot nearly 500 photographs of the hives from which there are some great images. But for the last series in Futurescope we settled on a crop from a simple image of the exposed brood chamber from above. It should, fingers crossed, go up on Friday.

Thanks to all at Marchday especially John Orchard and his staff and for this image Colin Hinde and the selection of friends who loan kit and expertise to make things happen Quondam, David Chubb, Smoky Jo, John Hayes at Service Graphics and Neil Cruikshank.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

#13 April 2012

John and I have been discussing how to end the series of eight photographs originally commissioned for Futurescope at Lingfield Point and we have been looking back. Earlier in the series we made an image about bee keeping which featured Lingfield’s then landscaper in his newly acquired beekeeping suit.

Since then the hives have thrived. Lingfield Point has made its first honey and beekeeping has been established close to the grow zone where Friends of the Earth maintain an allotment on Marchday’s land.

Since my earlier Blog entry (September 2009 #6 Beehive yourself) about Paton and Baldwin’s logo. Beekeeping has continued close to the 'Grow your own' allotment site and there are now discussions about other beekeepers operating in the area.

The allotment itself has been the site of extensive development since my photographs published on this blog (April 2011 #11 Grow Zone). Friends of the Earth have been very successful in raising funding for trainees to build raised beds and they have made a road (?!). By comparison with the photographs in the earlier blog these photographs show how much has been achieved mostly by the efforts of young people in the transitional labour market using the work as a training opportunity.

At the heart of the allotment is a fantastic plot maintained by a local resident whose year spent digging and composting is improving the soil into a brilliant growing medium in what were originally the subsoils deposited here after the construction of the site itself. His greenhouse is beautifully ordered as if it were a factory production line. I have put some photographs in, because it just has to be shared.

We are beginning now to work towards the seventh image in the Futurescope series and we have been thinking about agriculture and industry and the political and economic and social heritage of the last century which this factory represents.

As the original buildings are refurbished and let, new users and new companies using technologies not invented when this building was made are slowly filling the space.

The most recent area to be refurbished and let is on the top floor of the old main office building which has been called and marketed as 'Yarn'. By and large the companies are small, savvy, office based SME’s - sharing corridors, lobby space and an area for downtime. The floor has been fully let.

There is a huge economic gulf between what these businesses do and both scale of the industry that once happened here - and - the agricultural source of the raw material it handled.

The wool, cloth and yarn factory Lingfield Point completely expresses the 'modern' (That is to say 1930's to 50's) worlds of agriculture and industry a point made gloriously in Laing's fabulous letter press publication celebrating the completion of the factory.

which boasts:

“This factory for Paton and Baldwins Limited at Darlington is the largest and most up-to-date knitting wool factory in the world. It is of outstanding importance firstly as a great industrial venture, secondly as a fine example of factory design and thirdly as an achievement of constructional skill”.

On page five the book comes alive with a simple picture of a man’s hands handling unprocessed fleeces. It is an astonishing and arresting image chosen for rhetorical effect. The photograph reminds me of an earlier tour of the factory with John Grindley - the third generation of Grindley's to have worked here - as we stood in the warehousing he explained the effect of humidity on the handling of the fleeces and spoke of men who could tell the quality and breed of sheep simply by feeling the wool. Now economic conditions are such that farmers in the UK may burn fleeces as the cost of getting the wool to market means that wool can sometimes be supplied at a loss to the producers. I have even heard it referred to as hazardous waste. What a change from the 1950’s when Paton's and Baldwin's received an order from the Russian army for fabric for great coats and so on. The size of the order was such that it affected the global commodity price of wool. Paton’s & Baldwin's stockpile at Darlington increased in value on that day by £1M.

This factory building is an image of productivity from a different economic and political age. Branded with a beehive as a metaphor for the social vision that underpinned its building it stands now as an environment reclaimed from dereliction.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

#12 ‘What’s so special about a potato?’

I’m writing this on the 2nd June 2011 while I’m watching installers Danny Scott (who prepares for the install by working out in the gym) and Dave Hayes (who prepares by eating kebabs) get ready to hang ‘Potato’. I have already been treated to a comment from a member of staff at Lingfield (no names no pack drill) ‘What’s so special about a potato?’ I’m never ready for this kind of question - especially when I’m wondering why the riggers haven’t turned up at 8:00 on the dot and I’m exhausting all the possibilities as to why? They have had a crash, they’re coming next Thursday, and of course the answer… They’re not in a hurry or as anxious as me. It’s fine and everything is under control.

In fact this picture is late up. We seem to have had a month of strong winds with gusts at a minimum of 28mph daily which is too dangerous for the riggers to work at height.

The wind now is perfect for the first time in a fortnight and it’s a beautiful day.

So I while I wait to check if it will be put up straight (Oddly for a round picture it does matter and I have to drive to a nearby roundabout to check this.) I wanted to add to the blog to talk around how this picture came about and what it means to us. What is so special about a potato?

Well for starters we didn’t set out to make a picture called ‘Potato’.

Following our call out (see previous post) about the allotment project John and I joined a ‘boon day’ with about 10 people at the beginning of May to start off the new season’s growing with Darlington Friends of the Earth and allotment holders after Peter Roberts and Kendra Ullyart had put a call out to holders and warned them that we wanted to be involved. We had a brilliant spell of sunny weather at the beginning of May but plants had not quite started going yet after a hard winter. Nonetheless people’s thoughts had turned to growing and there was a feeling about getting things going again. The day was infused with the ‘rising sap’ and ‘sick of winter’ feeling that all growers get.

Everybody was working together to shift soil from the dumpy bags with which the project started (not a great success, too dry and looks a mess) into new raised beds and start growing for the 2011 season.

Rabbit control is a big issue with a number of fortifications (erm…. ‘enclosures’) taking shape and much discussion of rabbit meat/myxomatosis

The growers knew we were taking photographs which could be used for Futurescope and so it was, as it always is, initially a little awkward and contrived. I’m not an immediate people person but John is very good at making people feel comfortable despite the fact that he’s lying on the floor with a camera pinned to his face. As the day wore on the job in hand took over and they got more used to us the pictures got better.

Between us we took 406 photos and later in the day sat down to go through what we had got. Not really knowing whether we had an image that would strike us as ‘right’ and of course not really having worked out what ‘right’ was.

Odd because it starts with a situation and a group of ideas, involves some choreography and contrivance and then some post rationalisation - i.e. How will the picture fit in the sequence of eight pictures? It’s generally at this point that we give the picture a name. I’m haunted by the photographer William Eggleston’s memorable statement that he took photographs ‘to find out what something will look like when photographed’ because it is in the reciprocal relationship between the replication of the world and living in it that we generate ideas and action, discover meaning or gain perspectives that challenge and change our received ideas.

We divided the days shots into #1 those we couldn’t use because the people in them weren’t consented (a shame because some of these would definitely have found their way onto the shortlist), #2 Kids (All great shots but somehow not about allotments and growing plants), #3 Duffs (out of focus, tripped over a hosepipe etc.) #3 Lifestyle Shots - things that would look good in a magazine selling something. ‘Accent pictures’ if you like and #4 ‘Possibles’ and from those we looked at another group (#5) which ones we could crop into a circle. Despite the number of photos we have taken for Futurescope it is always surprisingly difficult to take a square picture for a round crop.

This was the shortlist, http://www.flickr.com/photos/vistaprojects/sets/72157626555485675/show/ all have an inspiring sense of purpose to them.

Of these we agonised over two finally choosing this picture of Darlington resident Judith Ithurralde.

Judith is slightly out of focus but the soil is really sharp and we liked the way in which this moved her into the background of the picture. Judith had brought seed potatoes to plant in her raised bed in an egg box and when we looked at the photograph seemed to be handling them as if they were as fragile as eggs.

It’s important to us that the images are about the place and the activity and not about the people in them.

The potato is so small but it’s at the heart of the picture. The sharp focus is on the soil which is heavy clay that the allotment holders have to work hard to improve. It was deposited there when Lingfield point was constructed in the late 1940’s.

So again why ‘Potato’? Firstly we wanted to give some profile and exposure to the allotment project. We have always had the idea that the images could develop and respond to what goes on at Lingfield and show on the outside of the site what is going on at the moment. There is a propagandist element to the project and it is important to us to promote and encourage this activity. More people could join and do this and we felt that the image would ‘promote the project’.

So if you do want to join and grow at Lingfield Point call Kendra Ullyart on 01325 469 582.

‘Futurescope’ was intended to catalyse action and activity around the development of the site particularly where green issues were concerned. The allotment project is unusual. Not many property companies supply allotments on a low cost basis working with volunteers and the third sector and there is a demand.

With growing started we felt that the image of the plant being cultivated would be there when the plant was growing and encourage others to join. I checked on it today and here it is! As the Summer wears on the link between the image and the plant will be maintained.

Secondly, there is the wider history and significance of the Potato. Plants and their relationships with people are fascinating. The Potato has been a huge benefit to humanity as a food but has also been at the centre of significant tragedies where a dependency upon it became established. Also for the past few years I have been following the work of the American writer and Journalist Michael Pollan. A chapter in his book the Botany of Desire is devoted to the Potato which anticipates the next phase of our relationship with it as GM technology develops. It’s astonishing that something so ordinary is now so extraordinarily important and controversial. http://michaelpollan.com/books/the-botany-of-desire/

What the potato does is metabolise sunlight, nutrients and water to make a starchy tuber.

Until we began to regard it as a resource at our disposal it just wasn’t important at all. On the face of it it’s a fair question…

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

#11 Grow Zone

We are looking to feature the allotment scheme at Lingfield Point in the next Futurescope. Its a project supported by the Friends of the Earth.

Its been a long hard winter and as plants start growing again we want to work with the allotment holders to make a new image as they begin to start work on their plots. (please get in touch if you'd like to be involved; details at the end of the post)

During January I had a good look at the allotments and all the stuff that's there tells its own story a bit more clearly when there are no plants around to distract your attention!

The structures on site 'speak to me' and they say:

1. Its windy
2. the drainage is difficult
3. rabbits (What's up Doc!)

Experiments have been tried and tested. The dumpy bags dry out too easily and this year new efforts are being made with raised beds. Gardeners are patient optimists.

The structures left there in February have something of deserted frontier town about them. The scale of Lingfield's buildings and the flatness of the landscape are completely out of scale with the intimate scale of the allotments but the contrast is inspiring.
This allotment in particular stood out.

This evening I'll be planting chilli seeds - my hobby project. Exotic? not really - they came from Lingfield point!

A little known part of what we do is running a veg box scheme. We started growing veg on an allotment in the late 90's and now its come to this!

Out with spades and in with tractors, accounting systems and delivery vans!
VistaVEG! a growers co-op incorporated as an industrial and provident society which Lynn has developed.

It started as a vista project and one of the things were thinking about when it started was the idea of developing a business model that could be franchised out as a template.

The idea was to promote the idea of farming on urban brownfield land and to make it productive both literally and emotionally.

The project would have two products 1, food and 2, to manage the appearance of landscape not with a design but with an autonomous business. I'm not sure we have got anywhere with this second part of the project people are really attached to mown grass (I don't know why) but its a long game, people change... I live in hope.

Its been a big theme in the work John and I have done together culminating in our proposal for an 'ornamental farm' but it all hangs on the close environment, parallel to ours, in which plants metabolise sunlight and make food.

If you are in the Grow Zone and want to work with us please get in touch or post a comment on this blog. christian@vistaprojects.co.uk. You can see some of the other stuff we do on the website at www.vistaprojects.co.uk or at www.landlab.co.uk

Thursday, 28 October 2010

#10 Hum by Liminal.

When we launched 'Futurescope' we felt, as we always feel, about all our work that we shouldn't stamp ourselves all over it, that we should share and not seek to carry the bill. We thought of it as a variety show that might have some guest spots, like Andre Previn appearing on Morecambe and Wise. So we made a call out for others to send us their ideas and a few people did! Mostly these ideas were rubbish but amongst them Liminal's proposal stood out. It picked up the trompe L'oeil theme we set out to achieve with 'sunflowers' but not in a way that either of us would have thought of. It also brought their preoccupations with urban soundscapes to Lingfield Point presenting as it does the drama of an image associated with aggressive noise in circumstances where it is mute.

At one time the building was anything but mute and as it happens the walls of the turbine hall are plastered with these posters.
of course these posters remind me of Peter Saville's fantastic 'Use Hearing Protection' poster for Factory records...
Its an image the 'bullhorn' I associate with alarm, with demonstrations, with control... and wierdly of seeing Mark E. Smith singing with one. It also (by dint of pure co-incidence in what is rapidly becoming a freak 80's time-warp blog entry) reminds me of the cover of my Penguin copy of George Orwell's 1984 (which covers alarm, control and demonstrations... in gruelling depth). Orwell wrote it as an uncannily accurate description of a postwar dystopia projected just ahead of the Millennium in 1948 the same year that Lingfield Point was approaching completion.
But enough of co-incidence its a change of tone for the project as it enters its second year and as the boom times of the last decade evaporate it seems really relevant... a silent factory calling for development and attention in a post industrial age. Its an image that collages the whole of the powerhouse wall and the circular image together. An image that is both urgent and eligiac. Although its so simple, so off the cuff, it has a really poetic character. That's why we loved it.

Frances from Liminal explains more about the thinking behind HUM! “As a collaborative arts practice that explores the relationship between sound and the environment, the Powerhouse and the circular image hanging on it immediately reminded us of an over-sized loud speaker. This, together with the image of the inside of a megaphone became the catalyst for HUM! As the Futurescope project has developed we noted that the image of the ‘Beeman’ made links to Paton and Baldwin’s original corporate logo of the beehive. So we called our picture HUM because its an onomatopoeic word for the sound that the turbine hall would have made; it is also the sound bees, which have been introduced to Lingfield Point as part of its sustainability ethos, make and the description of the busy workers who would have been employed in the building at its peak.”

The other thing the image calls to mind is Anish Kapoor's massively expensive 'Temenos' recently unveiled nearby in Middlesbrough.
Kapoor who emerged in the 80's alongside artists like Deacon, Cragg and Gormley is a sort of 'hole' master, an artist for whom surface is everything, an artist whose holes, like this one above in a private collection near Edinburgh, suck you in. Well here is another reason to like Liminal's proposal. This is punk rock to his prog rock. A digital photo - shot quick - printed big - stuck on a building and gone in three months.

It fits the the see it - think it - do it ethic we always wanted for the project. It comes right back at you.

In a really meaningful way it shouts.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

#9 Lingfield Lamb

When John and I first began to think about the project at Lingfield Point we were concentrating on ways of using the soft estate at Lingfield Point productively.

We had thoughts about establishing a tree nursery, growing biomass crops, grazing.... Sheep.... and right there the idea for 'Lingfield Lamb' was born. The idea of a named animal product associated with Lingfield Point. Because Futurescope isn't 'real' but exists as a rhetorical device it became a place to talk about it. We even thought about the idea of developing a brand for a product that didn't exist yet and putting that in the frame: more Duchy Originals than Fray Bentos we thought!

Despite the vast scale of the site at Lingfield, a very high proportion of the site is green or soft estate and there is a tradition stretching back to the 1950’s of high quality ground maintenance with promenading areas, playing fields and even an Italian sunken garden! This is especially apparent in aerial views of the site.

Dave Wilson who manages the landscape and who has previously appeared as the Beeman has a farming background and it seemed that there was something to think about. Marchday were interested in the ideas but we didn't really know how to develop them from nothing.

We felt that the business plans for the site ended at the perimeter walls of buildings. What was the business plan for the soft estate in addition to further development? Could it be possible to create new businesses producing food for consumption on the soft estate and altering and improving the ambience of the site for its workforce? This would be a 'city farm'.

We could see no practical way of opening a tree nursery, establishing a veg box scheme, establishing grazing or cropping other than to begin to use the device of Futurescope to produce images that made these ideas acceptable in what is a regenerating post industrial environment.

We are watching with interest an allotment project set as a partnership betwen Marchday and the Friends of the Earth as an experimental temporary growing space on the site and hoping that this can develop. Details here:http://www.downtheallotment.co.uk/content/allotment-land-darlington

As for Sheep and Grazing. Those who know me, know that sheep and grazing get a frequent mention when I'm pitching a scheme for landscape and they have learned when to apply a gag to stop the pitch going bad! Here are a few selected examples.

I first explored the idea in a disastrous 'public art' proposal for the never to be realised Tyne and Wear employment site in 2004. At the prompting of Mick Marsden, soil association rep for the North East and formerly of Byker City Farm in Newcastle, this was transformed into a concept for a butchery business selling locally and responsibly produced meat and providing training outputs in the transitional labour market.... The gateway features to the site would be cattle grids I explained...

Stock control, fencing, stiles, tethering posts, ha ha's and self-closing wooden gateways would replace the tedious ubiquity of the standard suite of urban street furniture brushed stainless steel, granite and asphalt... A la Gillespies, BDP, Edaw et al and... ta da... there would be no need for mowing!

The heart of the idea was that it would look like 'the countryside', that the 'design' would be produced by management (revenue rather than capital spending) and that the projects would be sustainable providing:- employment, produce and income or at least defraying costs. One of the concept aims was to improve the ambience of the site for everyone. To try and do this with a business rather than a big stainless steel thing. The ambient effect of this activity would hopefully be appreciated and engaged with by the people who would later work there and hopefully form emotional attachments to the site.

It sounded good to me until I pitched it to the regeneration people at South Tyneside. That was a reality check. I suspect that they wanted a big shiny stainless steel thing that in some kind of non specific way would say... Forward with South Tyneside! They did conceed however that it would aid traffic calming if fibreglass sheep were installed around the site!

The grazed car park idea got another outing with de Matos Ryan's (http://www.dematosryan.co.uk/) competition proposal for the remoddling of the Beamish visitor centre for which I acted as a public art consultant... how they must regret that! I don't think the car park was solely responsible for the pitch going bad but it is conceivable that it played a part. Nonetheless here is a visualisation of what the car park would have looked like if A. they had got the job and B. we hadn't been looked at as loonies! Stuff 'em I liked it and besides Beamish already own three farms. How straightforward is that!

Since then sheep have been 'proposed' to developers and local authorities one or two times.

The fact is however that Vista Projects has developed a Vegbox co-op in a scheme led by Lynn (http://www.vistaveg.co.uk/ if you are interested) and I have kept sheep as pets - our children loved them. So I know in a personal way that these things can work. Of course not in the 'expert consultanty' way that offers reassurance to the key people who, if they were to adopt these ideas, could really make a difference to the sustainability agenda.

So the thoughts about lambs as a product and specifically a food product with the idea that lambs raised on the site could be butchered and sold as food and the idea of creating images of lambs in this environment was among those that we included in our original list of images.

We wanted to make the suggestion that even in a modern environment such as huge refurbished offices it would be possible to manage landscape using agricultural processes.

The idea was simple, to juxtapose this environment with agriculture by herding sheep through new offices.

We are hugely grateful to everybody who made this possible (by pretending to work as normal!) and those who helped on the day. Taking the photographs was a load of fun and I have uploaded a flicker show showing what went on which you can view here. http://www.flickr.com/photos/vistaprojects/sets/72157624060537842/show/

Interestingly, in the offices that we used, all the meeting rooms carry the names of manufacturing processes relating to wool, carding, spinning etc. etc. etc. here are a set of images documenting these: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vistaprojects/sets/72157624121039426/show/

In each room there are huge photographs showing the previous life of the factory and as we drove the sheep through the offices we were struck by the extent to which their presence in the building touched upon the heritage of the site as described to me by John and George Grindley which is documented in earlier blog posts

This building was always all about wool.

During the shoot we encouraged the sheep to enter an orange lined breakout/meeting area by waving milk at them and as they did so bright orange light reflected upwards on their white fleeces. From this accident of light we selected the shot that we are using as Futurescope #4 Lingfield Lamb.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

#8 Who loves the sun? Who cares that it makes plants grow?

Futurescope #3 'Sun' will be a photograph of the Sun made by photographer Thierry Legault.

When we proposed Futurescope two years ago we intended to put an image of the sun into it at some stage.

We hadn't really decided what image to use this quarter until a few weeks ago. Our interest was in making a connection between plants/green space and solar energy upon which plant life (and therefore all of us, depend). We were also interested in the idea of placing an image of the sun on a building created to burn coal.

Until relatively recent times each civilisation has only used the energy of the sun only once as it falls on the surface of the planet. Our age has been different: we have used this energy twice.

We have used both sunlight and the solar energy stored/captured in fossil fuels.

Our economy is heavily dependent on the supply and consumption of these fuels and we have established a dependency on energy profligate lifestyles. Lingfield Point's 'Power House' is a 'temple' to that although the expense of running it is too great to bear now. Emerging carbon trading schemes place our use of fossil fuels at an economic premium and until very recently the environmental costs of exploiting this kind of 'stored' solar energy has not been a consideration and certainly wasn't an issue forseen by Paton and Baldwin when constructing the Power House sixty years ago.

The idea of including an image of the sun is part of the unfolding narrative that links to Beeman and Sunflowers, the previous images to have appeared in Futurescope. It is part of a speculative projection of a future world in which we would not be able to consume energy without dealing with consequences for ourselves that were not understood when this 'dependency' was established.

This is a future in which landscape (especially urban and post-industrial landscapes like that at Lingfield Point) would need to be productive without the energy of oil.

So back to the Thierry Legault's photograph. This is one of a batch of photographs taken by Thierry, showing the transit of the International Space Station across the sun. The first group were taken from the area of Mamers (Normandy, France) on September 17th 2006 at around 1:00pm local time and show the solar transit of the International Space Station (ISS) and Space Shuttle Atlantis. Thierry's website contains his photograph showing the making of the some of the pictures. Transits such as this have given him a lot of subject matter.

We think that Thierry's image is an astonishing and significant picture and feel priveledged that he has generously given us permission to use it in this project.

Thierry documents the process of how these pictures began to be made here: http://astrosurf.com/legault/iss_atlantis_transit.html

By any standards this account demonstrates that this is an 'extreme' photograph. The very idea of pulling focus on an object so far away takes some beating! The image is all the more remarkable because the photographer could never have 'seen' it through the camera instead relying on a series of assumptions. In someways it was taken 'blind' which makes its beauty all the more compelling. The sun is a wan lemony gold and the image of the space craft a minuscule dot silhouetted against the vast mass of of the sun which is over a hundred times greater than the diameter of the earth.

It has a quality of absolute authenticity that many other contemporary images of the sun do not.

When we decided to approach Thierry for permission to use the image, we had been looking at and negotiating for the use of images taken from orbiting telescopes whose imagery is not affected by earth's atmosphere. Thierry's image shows the visual effect of atmosphere in ways that the images produced by Hubble and the Soho project do not.
However having trawled through hundreds of such high tec tech images of the kind produced for release in the media we have become slightly suspicious of them and the pictorial conventions they observe. Thierry's image is astonishingly direct by comparison. It somehow matters that it was taken from the surface of the earth.

These other images are heavily produced to an extent where they might be regarded as a creative genre in themselves.

Hubble for example is perhaps best known for this image of the M16 'Eagle Nebula' NGC 6611, the so called: "Pillars of Creation." NASA, ESA, STScI, J. Hester and P. Scowen (Arizona State University). What is astonishing is the extent to which a knowledge of the history of the depiction of landscape is required to decide matters such as orientation, composition, colouring etc. in preparing an image for media release. When looking at this material we are looking at an interpretation of the material that is depicted. Not to mention the strapline 'Pillars of Creation' (they're only pillars because its this way up. Pinch yourself, remember there is no single downward source of gravity in the material that is depicted here! So 'pillars' is utter nonsense). It is well known that the universe is a volatile mix of energy, matter and time but still - crikey that's naff! Clearly they are not afraid of biblical hubris or undisciplined thinking at the University of Arizona!

Well if Thierry's photograph recalls anything for me it is Brueghel's masterpiece "The Fall of Icarus" which happens to be one of my favourite old master paintings. Icarus is to be seen upside down in the water a split second after 'splash-down' down legs sticking out of the sea having just fallen out of the sky (just below the ship in the bottom left in case you missed it!) The catastrophe that has befallen him has gone completely unnoticed by the farmer and everyone else in the picture!

It is a small incident that is shown as having gone largely unobserved by everyone except the artist.