Chris Turnbull's on her work 'Land,mark'

Fieldwork 2016, Landmark, Chris Turnbull

‘the rock’ - Chris Turnbull

The first time I saw this rock was with my son. I was attracted first to its shape and colour; he was attracted to its
size and surface, and climbed onto it.

This rock is made up of deposits slowly gathered through glaciation; it has been shaped by uncontrollable forces
such as ice, water, and wind, combined with the energies of movement. The rock is a visible presence, its size
suggests unchanging solidity and a sort of timelessness. It is situated at the edge of where Fieldwork and the
neighbouring property share a common boundary, perhaps it was part of a wider boundary/shore of two glacial
lakes, aeons ago. Yet, boundaries are transitional spaces, too, suggestive of states in change, even if slow or
proceeding in ways we do not see or imagine.

The rock is complex enough as a rock. As I worked on it, I started to see (and feel) that its tilted, bulby, granular
and flat elements were themselves composites of multiple surfaces — upon which insects land, pollen and seeds
settle, lichen emerges from symbiosis, a variety of species navigate sensorily or mark, and my son (and any of
us) might clamber.

Constructing a poem, for me, starts with movement - typically outdoors - and then a run through the mind-mill
into a series of notes interspersed with other notes in a ratty old book. I start with hand-written text and
eventually move toward the computer and its virtual space as defined by boundary marks (margins, screen
edge, window, wall, door). I write virtually onto this ‘page’ and then print it off. I am always trying to work off the
page; I find the surface of the page somehow not enough for words which, for me, are themselves constructed
objects that interact, producing a visual presence, sound, meaning. I may play around with text size and font,
but rarely above 14pt. It seems too big. I tend to move toward the small and smaller, toward seeming
invisibility. I play with space and shade.


It wasn’t until I had started to cut out stencils and gather materials (paint and ink) for writing on the rock that I
realized how uncomfortable I felt inscribing large letters onto it. It may be partially because the rock itself does
not need the letters I put on it. It’s big enough, and interesting enough, on its own or in relation to the variety of
things around it. However, its size became a bit of a challenge. What are some of the elements of the rock that
make it so intriguing? What pieces of its story could words emphasize — what interactions might the letters and
words — their own suggestive surfaces and depths, their measurements — themselves encourage?

you th
are is



Maybe the installation starts with you-who-has-a-pronoun (and likely a name). Or maybe you is a group of you.
Then are you this? Or are you both singular and plural, both are and is? Always? Are you sometimes I and
sometimes you? Is it this? Is this erratic? What is th(are)? There? It’s very erratic, gathering meaning that is not
fragmented, that does not come from a variety of directions, that is solid. Add to the mix our own perspectives
and we find we have to move around, look a little closely, pay less attention to what is immediate. The rock is
erratic, too - it is an erratic. If you’re not erratic, what are you?

There is no assumed direction or required reading on this rock. The pieces build on each other; they can break
down or can be recomposed; some letters aren’t in the pattern you might expect. As a result, the process is
deliberately slow and you may not find all the words (you don’t need to try to find all the words). There are some
discrete fragments scattered on the rock; they are difficult to see because they are small or blend in with the
rock’s colouration. One of them, “just/before/the hour/the news” has been placed on a patch of lichen, an
ecosystem in and of itself. What does the hour or the news have to do with the rock? Whose news? “The news” is
a composite; it is a variety of stories batched verbally or visually at a common time and place. We rely on its
consistency and immediacy, and use it to inform our relationships with other (mostly human) elements of our
world. The hour — as a unit of time — and our estimated measurements ( “just/before”) are variable
constructions; the rock, too, is a gathering of news, mostly non-human, and made up of the very old and the

In an assumption that most people would really love to climb this rock, I have stencilled (using colours of pink,
green, grey, black, and white) a sound poem that runs up and over — it could be read in either a N-S direction, or
a S-North direction. Either way, I encourage it to be voiced, with as many voices in chorus as possible. Or, if not,
read silently in tandem with sounds and presences of what lives and moves through the Fieldwork space as a
whole. You will have to move to read it. The sound poem starts or ends in poetic grandiosity with epic
invocation: Sing —

Sing-ing touches on the chorus that got us “here” and represents continuity, taking its cue from “land/ing”. It
touches on measurement and units of time that seem so concrete, among other things. From here or maybe
before, you may run into multiples of shadow text — one of them from Canadian poet and artist a rawlings’ play
“How to Manage a Conservation Conversation” (in o w n: Cue Books 2014). This piece follows the rock toward
the tree at its base. It was written in the shadow that the tree casts, but the movement of the sun during each
month and season, and the changes that the tree itself undergoes, will shift the readability of the poem and the
appearance of the rock — except at a certain timeframe of the year, when the piece will be covered in shadow
again. In a similar way, other pieces on the rock will also be covered at certain times of the year — in fall (moss
and needles) and winter (snow/ice). These elements will shift the poems’ meanings or make them illegible in
places; some poems will be rewritten; they will shift or emerge into new forms and meanings.

This rock is a place — a remnant of a process and a reminder of processes. It is “here”, on the surface of the land,
clearly visible. Sometimes it is writing and words that are blurred — a smear on the surface of the writing, not
this rock.

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