I’m not often in the lovely county of Suffolk, but this week I’m planning on being there three times. Tomorrow, Cally Spooner and I are driving to Aldeburgh Music for a bit of a look around and a few meetings. It’s a long drive through some very winding roads so I’m keeping a nervous eye on the weather. The worst case scenario is that they shut my kid’s schools, which they seem to like to do at the first sign of a snowflake, and if that happens they are going to have to come too. Hope she, and the people we’re meeting, won’t mind… I suppose the really worst case scenario is that it’ll take many hours of driving and sliding over snowy roads! Hopefully not. Then, on Friday I’m heading over to Smiths Row Gallery in Bury St Edmunds for the launch of their new exhibition. Our Development Manager Niki Braithwaite is the new Director there, covering Alison Plumridge’s maternity, and it’ll be her first PV in the new job so I want to go and say hello. The show looks really great too and has been co-curated with Cambridge’s Super 8 group. I think Simon Mullen, who did the films for our music festival in 2011, has something to do with Cambridge Super 8, but I’m not sure. Then next Sunday I’m heading down to Saxmundham to see Ryan Gander, who came up to Wysing recently for a chat. He’s got some very exciting plans going on down there, so I’m going to find out a bit more. In between that I’m in London and am of course very much looking forward to Edwin Burdis’ event at Wysing on Wednesday. He has made a truly epic new work and I can’t wait for everyone to see it.
Now come along. Cain with his thorn-bush straddles
the confines of both hemispheres already
and dips into the waves below Seville;
and the moon last night already was at full;
and you should well remember that at times
when you were lost in the dark wood she helped you.
And we were moving all the time he spoke.
So, it’s been snowing and a hard frost has set in. The wind is bitter and the sky pale grey and feeling very low. Full of more snow. Thankfully, I’m in my cosy office watching Peregrines fight off Crow attacks in the field opposite, gangs of Redwings and the occasional Jay scoffing the last of the berries, and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers shinning up tree trunks. It’s been lovely driving to work when the frost is at its hardest and the light clearest. My car cd player is out of action so I’ve had to resort to tuning my radio to find something not totally annoying to listen to, which usually means Radio 4. But random tuning can provide moments of surprise, or maybe serendipity. I caught Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco (1980) , a piece composed for eight-track tape by the modernist composer Jonathan Harvey who sadly passed away earlier this week, on my drive in this morning. Nothing could have been more in tune with the landscape at that particular moment. Icy.
Really looking forward seeing Luke Abbott and Sam Willis at Wysing in a couple of weeks. Should be pretty magical. Aiming to do it in Amphis if it’s not too cold… Listen here: http://lukeabbottmusic.com . Also here for a Sam Willis mix.
So, I’ve been ill and not venturing out much. I did however go to Elizabeth Price’s talk at Tate Britain on Tuesday evening. In fact I spent almost two days at Tate Britain this week – first at a very enjoyable event with the Plus Tate partners and guests, and then I brought some people from one of our Collectors Collectives to see the Turner Prize and the talk. It was a really nice thing to do because they had done a studio visit with Elizabeth, and Philomene Pirecki and Nic Deshayes, when they were all in-residence at Wysing over the summer. Elizabeth was right in the middle of editing The Woolworth’s Choir of 1979 at the time and they were keen to see it finished and installed as part of the Turner prize. This is a group of lawyers and insurance brokers, some of whom had never been to Tate before. It went really well and they all definitely think Elizabeth is going to win the Turner Prize. Anyway, turns out that while we were waiting to go into the talk one of my group (of 10) recognised someone he used to work with – a solicitor – and started chatting to him. He was Elizabeth Price’s brother! Which reminded me of the time when we had a flower arranger – a lady called Joan – in to do flower arranging with some artists on a retreat and it turned out her brother makes a lot of Yinka Shonibare’s work. Funny. Anyway, the talk was really interesting because she approached it in two halves; during the first she showed us her working method in which she finds something she is interested in and compiles literally hundreds of pieces of information on that subject in an immense archive on her computer hard-drive. This is information that may or may not emerge as content in one of her videos and is only likely to emerge if that set of information relates in some way to another set of information. In the second part of the talk she expanded on how the information is given a voice almost, through text, music and movement. It was fascinating to hear it described, and see clips of all the recent videos. After the talk we went to the pub and I got chatting to her parents who’d also come along. When her father told me that was is a retired headmaster I suddenly realised where this thirst for knowledge had come from. It’s like she has created a library of information on these subjects, from every possible angle, and uses video as a way to allow this information to speak.
Took a drive into the Fens yesterday, destination Wisbech “Capital of the Fens”! The landscape really is extraordinarily flat; land reclaimed from the sea in the 1600s. The soil is still rich and we passed fields of pumpkins looking very orange against the slightly sinister black soil, and heaps of sugar beets piled up along the side of roads. Even though there hasn’t been much rain recently a lot of it was flooded, with willow trees sticking incongruously out of the water. Driving through the Fens feels like disappearing into another world, one where places have names like Wicken Fen, Red Fen, Grunty Fen and Witchford, which we drove back through just as the moon was rising; low in the sky, red from the reflection of the sinking sun and enormously full. At this point the conversation turned to witches and my daughter stated that witches didn’t exist. She was shocked, incredulous in fact, when told that not only did they exist but that a witch will be speaking at Wysing in a couple of weeks, at the launch of our new residency The Forest. Wisbech is right up by the mouth of the Wash, historically a wealthy and prosperous town and one full of beautiful Georgian buildings. One particular street of Georgian houses with the river Nene running down its centre, down which ships used to pass, is unspoilt and stunningly beautiful. The town itself has fallen on hard times in recent years and has an air of desperation about it, with people sitting around the streets drinking cans of strong lager. Wisbech Museum is a purpose built museum, built in the mid 1800s. Like visiting Wisbech, going into the museum is like stepping into the past. All the vitrines were purpose built out of dark hardwood and the handblown glass that covers them is a lovely thing in itself, never mind all the treasures inside. They’ve got some fantastic things, not least a number of Bernard Palissy (1510-1590) dishes. Worth going just for them; they somehow symbolised the journey.