Last weekend marked the end of the John Muir Artist in Residence period in Dunbar. It comes after six weeks of research – working with various groups in the community – and an additional five weeks of the GARDEN LANE: OPEN STUDIO installation in Dunbar Town House.
With my starting point being a connection to the local landscape back in April, I moved through a connection to the Backlands site (along Garden Lane, Dunbar High St), to the people I’ve been working with and, to their ideas. People were invited to share their views and desires for the Ridge’s new community garden known as the Backlands Development through ‘Garden Lane’ which has acted as a participatory art project.
GARDEN LANE: OPEN STUDIO presented images of the site in its current state, alongside a model of the space, while other interactive elements within the gallery softly beckoned the viewer’s attention. As one moved round the gallery, photocopied delicate line drawings of different aspects of the site were available for people to draw on. They were then pinned to a wall of visual ideas which were juxtaposed with verbal suggestions on bold colourful post it squares.
The remains of the Travelling Plant Menagerie (TPM) were displayed in a glass cabinet, almost like a tomb in which it can rest after its active, albeit short, life. The empty trailer sat in the window with a photograph of itself in action, on John Muir Day, ironically placed on top. Drawings generated by the TPM workshops hung like bunting at the back of gallery. On the surrounding walls were macro photography of Dunbar’s coastal geology hanging alongside my own botanical ink drawings which explored the rock’s texture. British Geological Survey map No. 33E was placed in between the two works and I grasp at some form of poetry by naming this combination: ‘from our geodiversity comes our biodiversity’ – as I consider the earth beneath our feet and the Earth beneath that earth.
Though I don’t know the science of this connection, there is no doubt in my heart that these rocks which are exposed to us by the mercy of the seas, and other natural forces, are a glimpse into what lies below our roads, houses, fields, gardens and woodlands. I wonder how these rocks contribute to the living landscape above ground, on a scale of deep time and I am happy to stay lost in the imagination of it.
Now there is the challenge to of gathering all of these elements together and creating a coherent response. Something that reflects the people I’ve worked with and the needs of The Ridge and North Light Arts. I am also hoping for something that honours my experience of this time.
No small task.
However, many themes have clearly emerged during this project and I rearrange the drawings and post it notes until I find a satisfactory combination. I feel so grateful to have all of this research returned to me after the de-installation of the OPEN STUDIO, particularly as I began some designs for the site prematurely without this information. Now, I sit in the comfortable Aladdin’s cave of my studio in Glasgow soaking up the scribbles and sketches of others and I trickle the information gently into my drawings.
I can’t help but feel nervous and apprehensive about whether I am truly doing the findings justice. In many ways this process and project could last the lifetime of the garden itself (!) and so interesting to me, is the process of becoming connected to these projects and then detaching myself after it’s course has run.
The final designs are an expression of that connection and, though I am still putting the finishing touches to them I will have them present at a small gathering at the Backlands on Saturday 9th July. From then, one the designs for the Lane will be implemented through a series of workshops, while the other two designs for a (mini) Edible Forest and Gathering Space will be handed over to the Ridge and North Light Arts, to do with them what they are compelled to. Perhaps some further funding applications and an extension to the organisations’ collaboration?
We’ll share the designs here, once their complete.