Friday, 19 June 2009

#4 A blow to the eye!

When John and I were discussing what the first picture should be we felt that it should have several properties. Although we want people to become involved in making the pictures the first one has to set a standard and level of expectation about what could happen with these pictures as their content is not pre-determined. So for us first of all, the entire image itself needed to be different from a normal picture.

The idea of Futurescope is that it would be like looking through a distorting mirror and would not be like looking at a 'normal' picture.

John and I wanted Futurescope to have something of this about it as if , when you looked, it might appear to be looking through a hole in the building itself towards a distant framed vision of a future landscape and environment.

We were thinking about reflecting pools, we were thinking about telescopes, we were thinking about distorting mirrors and we were thinking about technology. There are some great panoramas of Mars that have this distant and remote manipulated character about them. The odd thing is that a very small machine made the baseline imagery from which these images are composed but it is possible to imagine, whilst looking at them, that the machine is big in relation to the planet it is photographing!

We liked the idea of a distorting ‘Trompe l’oeil’ effect so that when people saw the picture it would not have the usual pictorial impact but would still have recognisable content. We also wanted to deal with how the image could be ‘composed’ in relation to a circular shape.

Trompe l’oeil means ‘a blow to the eye’ - a term used in art to describe a picture that is so ‘real’ it can deceive people into thinking that they are looking at real things and it has a great tradition of being used in paintings that relate to architecture.

At some point in these discussions one of John's assistants came up with a device that would manipulate the polar co-ordinates of square photographs and turn them into circles. So we started working with the idea.

One of John's photographs of the sky with meadow grass in the foreground really hit the spot and this was the starting point for the first image. It makes a great comparison with the Martian picture!

Then we got back to talking about energy crops - finally - settling on Sunflowers.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

#3 Sunflowers

One of the themes that we identified for picture content in Futurescope is growing crops for both their appearance and their food value. Productive parkland if you like.

We have as a family quite a bit of experience of growing sunflowers and first tried it on our allotment at home. My eldest son was four at the time and alongside the onions, potatoes, raspberries, cabbages etc. that we were growing for the table we made him a flower bed full of the kind of plants that like to ‘show off’, pumpkins, sweet peas and, of course: sunflowers. It was a boiling summer and we went away on holiday so when we came back the allotment was massively overgrown. Most impressive of all was my son’s flower bed.

When he saw it he turned round and said that ‘all his plants had escaped!’ The pumpkins had climbed out from beyond the border of the bed and the sunflowers were at least twice as tall as he was. It had all looked very different only a fortnight earlier.

The energy of plants is fantastic and thinking about the idea of plants that could be used as a crop something that would look both decorative and be productive we thought about several for Futurescope like Hybrid Willow and Miscanthus which are grown as biomass crops for carbon free energy production. We thought about rape (and rapeseed oil) and flower cropping. We had discussed sunflowers specifically in relation to our ideas for the greenspace between Falkirk and Grangemouth.

I also remember driving through Italy on honeymoon over 10 years ago and seeing sunflowers grown as a crop for the first time.

During the day their heads would follow the path of the sun and it was almost impossible not to regard them as people with faces. We stopped and took loads of photos.
We settled on sunflowers in the end because they are so beautiful and because we felt that people would think positively about them. Hopefully people will think of them as something decorative and something natural that they themselves might have pleasant memories of.

We see this kind of planting and thinking as being a potential future for the management of urban green space and we think that there is a point where grounds management and productive farming could meet.

We think that this is the future of how the spaces between buildings in cities could be managed and we think that it is a positive future.

We are very optimistic about this future.

We have loads of Sunflower seeds to give away. Please plant yours and when you have photos post them to the Futurescope page on Facebook.

#2 What is Futurescope?

Futurescope is an outdoor exhibition of eight massive circular photographs one after the other over the next two years on the Lingfield Point power plant building facing the A66 devised by Christian Barnes and John Kennedy as Lead Artists in discussion with Tees Valley Arts.

Futurescope is intended to catalyse a ‘Cultural, Arts and Ecological Strategy’ for Marchday at Lingfield Point, Darlington and to inform long term thinking for the site.

‘Futurescope’ is predicated on the idea that we want to develop a relationship with Lingfield Point that lasts over time and to develop and share our creative vision for urban brown field landscape.

The images will be changed with the seasons.

The pictures will explore the possibilities of the site and its working environment in cultural and ecological terms. They will be selected/made during the life of the project (not predetermined) and could respond to developments on site.

The images will be cultural and ecological ‘propaganda’ about Lingfield Point intended to be visible to a wide cross section of Darlington’s residents and visitors.
We want to propose and envision behavioural change that will lead to the productive and economic use of the soft estate at Lingfield Point. From ‘Lingfield Organics’, to grazing by ‘Lingfield Lamb’, to wild flower and renewable energy cropping. We want to explore how such images can change our mindset and habitat and move to the negotiation of a new and stronger relationship with the people of Darlington and the Tees Valley for the Lingfield Point site. A relationship fit for purpose in the 21st Century.
We think these concerns are close to the development propositions that will make the site a success in the future. ‘Futurescope’ will also touch a building that is being considered for development as a cultural venue with a unique and highly memorable art project.

Put simply ‘Futurescope’ is about how we envisage that Lingfield Point could be reinvented, populated and managed. It is about the future and not the past. We really hope people enjoy it.

We see the opportunity for ‘doing business’ to continue into the extensive and under utilised soft estate in such a way that a perception of Lingfield Point and its accessibility to the community slowly negotiates new development propositions (including social enterprise) in a beneficial way that can be realised in the real economy. We think that the green parts have a greater value than is currently being envisaged and we feel that the soft estate (developed against an ecological, social and cultural agenda) can be central to the eventual creation of a live/work environment that realises the full potential of the site in an original and unique way.

‘Futurescope’ is wholly focussed on this idea.

We are excited and inspired by Marchday’s future vision for the site which projects an economic life for Lingfield Point beyond the oil age as an employment site where people live and play as well as work.

It is this that gives us our subject.

What will this habitat really look and feel like?

We want to engage with the company and local people in imagining and projecting this future. It is not a simple future.