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October Blog from our Young Artist in Residence – theme of ‘place’  IMG_20211023_130710 Full view

October Blog from our Young Artist in Residence – theme of ‘place’ 

‘Place’ has become a theme in the month of October, as I have been busy preparing work to present in several places – both online and virtual, locally and worldwide! At the start of the month I showed my work on Interim Arts instagram as a takeover week. This continued on from working with them previously, which was a fun way to show how my practice has changed since finishing university. I am also excited to have a short version of my video piece ‘38 Dartmoor Climbs’ shown at Ursa Gallery in Connecticut for their exhibition ‘ECO’. The video will also be hosted on TSDAP’s youtube channel in collaboration with Ursa Gallery and Shim Art Network (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgbLcMDjApAUTDzJ45xFqqg ). To see my work more locally, Positive Light Projects in Exeter had their launch party on the 30th October, it included tours of the artists’ studios upstairs. I am currently adding works to the walls of my studio to give people an idea of my practice and what I get up to.

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Beyond preparing the presentation of my work in various showcasing opportunities, I’m thinking about place in my work. As the weather gets colder and wetter, the windows of opportunity to get out onto Dartmoor grow slimmer. My practice is linked to Dartmoor and its environment, so my focus on it in terms of ‘place’ has to shift in the winter as I am less able to get outdoors and climb on granite. This does mean however that I have time to explore the idea of environment and place in a new way. 

The seasonality and relationship to the outdoors of climbing has changed over time with the growth of indoor climbing centres. Due to the Olympics this summer and the increased visibility and accessibility of the sport, climbing indoors has exploded in popularity. I am currently looking at this relationship and division of the activity; how elements of indoor climbing replicate the outdoors, but how the connection with the outdoors has also been lost. Indoor climbing walls were historically built to train for climbing of rock outdoors; they were small in their numbers and were mostly only used by climbers who needed to train to get strong enough for a particular project. Now, most people, myself included, are introduced to the sport by climbing indoors first, and many of whom will never venture outside, either because they prefer the indoor sport, or because they are unfortunately unable to.

There are lots of interesting elements and differences of indoor climbing, such as route setting and the recreation of geology in resin holds, that I’m beginning to explore in the context of this. I’m also interested in researching why people climb indoors or outdoors, and if there is a difference or change in mindset between the two. Is there a greater sense of calm outdoors, or is this coupled with a greater sense of fear and risk? Is indoor climbing a more social version of the sport? How people interact with the indoors and outdoors might also affect their climbing style, or goals for the trip. In a broader theme in my practice I’d like to reconnect people to the outdoors and adventure, but also encourage people to engage with the movement and sport of climbing, all of which could be integral to this idea of ‘place’.

As I’m thinking about the different places, where my works are shown and contextualised also becomes an equally important and interesting element of the work. Could the granite ‘Feldspar Scores’ work equally well for indoor routes? How would the brightly coloured, blocky shapes of indoor holds look against the backdrop of the irregular, rough granite? Despite not being able to climb outdoors as much in the winter months, I’m excited to explore the presentation and activation of my works out on the moors.

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How does your relationship to place and the environment change over the seasons? I think it’s important to still get outdoors over the winter, even if it means finding different ways to spend time outside. Perhaps you enjoy visiting the beach for a walk on a stormy day, or a lunchtime walk around a park to see the autumnal colours?

Erika Cann

Written by Sue Turner

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