land art

Sheila Macdonald's got her 'Ear to the Ground'


This piece - An Ear to the Ground - is about the art of listening, listening with intent, deep listening. These are currently old- fashioned ideas often overlooked in an age of audio overload. Keeping “An Ear to the Ground” is an open invitation to do some natural eavesdropping. A specific place to listen to everything within range including the silence and then be able to decipher information from this experience. Tap into the invisible world. Do some aural mining.

I see the ear as an organ of hearing and balance, an instrument, a monitoring device and a particularly interesting metaphor in this age of hyper-surveillance. The earth under our feet is a territory that hasn't yet been totally invaded by electronic devices. As gardeners discover, the subterranean life of soil and its attendant geology is like an underground factory, busy, intense, productive and invisible. If only we could hear what was going on down there. We use the term “underground” to imply a sanctuary or refuge from the mainstream, an alternative way of thinking. I considered burying an audio recording device inside the eardrum and then playing back the sounds coming from the soil but there were some technical obstacles to making that work this time around. And I didn't want to be guilty of installing yet another surveillance device.

Considering the size of the ear, (16' x 10' x 4'), I chose to build it using large curved branches from old eastern white cedars, Thuja occidentalis, which grow happily on our farm in the Lanark Highlands. Their curves are sinuous, eloquent and irresistible to me. This miraculous wood, once debarked and dried, is light enough to work with easily. And it resists rot for many decades, ageing over time somewhat like an old cedar rail fence. Constructing the ear was a two person job and my assistant, Murray Edwards, hauled long curved cedar pieces out of the woods, devised the scaffolding necessary to build the skeleton of the ear and helped me deconstruct and then reconstruct it in the Field.

This is a hands-on piece that asks to be touched, sat on, walked through and played with. The eardrum is meant to be played like a drum and by using laundry line as a membrane to connect the skeletal structure of the ear, I intended to create the impression of the Ear as a stringed instrument. Perhaps in high winds the ear sings or moans as the strings vibrate.

The pink Eardrum is a re-purposed satellite dish. All the news, views and entertainment that have been transmitted through this dish over the years add another subtle level of meaning to the ear as a communication device. Like a steel drum, the concave surface of the satellite dish has different notes depending on where you strike it.

Then there's the earring. Ring the bell. I hear it as a call to mindfulness.

I invite visitors to Fieldwork to think about using this ear as an auditorium where you can listen quietly, eavesdrop on nature, play the drum, tell stories, stage a music jam or an outdoor concert, create an event, have fun.

July 16
I just paid my first visit to the ear, almost a month since the opening of Fieldwork summer 2013. When I installed the ear the cedar structure was golden, the colour of cedar when first debarked.

Almost a month later the ear has turned to silver. After one month of rain and heat. This process will continue until the silver greys. Is this reverse alchemy?

Laura Hale - Thoughts About 'Repose' - A Series of Three Pup Tents


I arrived at FIELDWORK not knowing exactly what I was going to create for my installation. I did know I wanted it to be a site-specific, ephemeral artwork that responded to the local landscape, that it would evolve back into the environment with time and that I would use objects directly from the FIELDWORK landscape. I also arrived with the idea to use the pup tent structure as a starting point but I did not know what materials I would find to use in the creation of my artwork. The site and landscape would inform the material content of my work.

I had one week to finish my piece so time was a factor. I spent the first day walking the entire FIELDWORK area to get a sense of the landscape and what grew there. I was looking for multiples, patterns, textures and materials that I could work with and manipulate and also items that interested and inspired me. I explored, took photos and gathered items. I spent my second day exploring the collected items, altering, testing and manipulating them to see how they would react once removed from their environment. What would they look like when dried and shriveled? How much time did I have to work with them before they shriveled up? Did I have to keep them wet to work with them? There was not a lot of time for research and development and not a lot of room for altering my plans once the commitment was made of the choice of materials.

The materials I ended up using in my three pup tents were:
#1. Willow and dead leaves (Beech, Oak and Maple)
#2. Horse tail and Maple keys
#3. Birch bark and Pine bows

The pup tent structures and assemblage of materials onto the structures was done inside the barn studio then the completed pieces were transported across the road to the FIELDWORK site. When I got them outside and on site the scale of the pieces totally changed.  Susie helped me on the placement of the three pieces and suggested different orientations and configurations. We tucked them in under a beautiful pine tree, which gave them a sense of belonging, purpose and scale.

It is also important to me that there is some sort of public interaction with my artwork. Repose invites interaction by its very shape, a tent. I hope the viewer will intuitively feel the impulse to enter the shelter; a classic structure and shape that evokes memories of childhood couch cushion forts and backyard overnight camping adventures. I am anticipating that people will spontaneously want to enter the pup tent and interact with it, bending down and entering it, crawling through or spending some time relaxing in it. The experience of the pieces is extremely different from the outside than from the inside. The viewer will recognize the natural materials used in the creation of each of the artworks as familiar, from the surrounding landscape, but experience these familiar materials and foliage in a new way by the manipulation of its form.

Land art is my preferred type of art to create. I love the exploration and discovery of landscape and the challenge of collaborating with the found materials to create a new form. I am also excited about witnessing and documenting the evolution and change of the materials in unexpected and uncontrollable ways and the idea that the work will return to the landscape that it came from. Thank you Susie Osler and FIELDWORK for this amazing place.

- Laura Hale


More of Laura's work can be found on her website

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