ON TO DISCIPLINE (my head is my only house unless it rains*)

“I repeat myself when I’m distressed, I repeat myself when I’m distressed, I repeat myself when I’m distressed, I repeat myself when I’m distressed, I repeat”

Discipline”.  King Crimson. 1981.

Time spent versus time used.  By the weekend this was my realization.  While I left the field fallow, it had matured from this relative non-use; it had grown fertile with potential.  This providence would not have occurred had I not left things to lie for a few days while back in the city.

I had been at The Good Hatchery residency for a few days working things out when it came time to head back into Dublin.  I had a couple of reels in the can and had retired to planning mode for the last two reels (as I mentioned in my previous posts, I was there documenting the landscape on 16mm fim).  Although not as isolated as I had imagined before my arrival, The Good Hatchery, after a few days alone, provides a head-space that begs for comrades, if not respite now and again.  Finding the right balance between introspection and activity becomes key.  As I mentioned in my last post, introspection, which sometimes leads to repetition oddly enough, can bring on stasis.  The goats, cats, and swallows could go either way I guess, especially those swallows.  Maybe I was getting restless?

Swallows looking out.

Ruth and Carl, with Pete from Monster Truck Gallery, showed up in the evening, and after a bit food was eaten, sauna was had, bed lay ahead.  The next day we headed back into town for some social graces.  Ruth had a piece in the group show Conjuring for Beginners at the Project Arts Centre and Carl was gearing up to de-install his show at Monster Truck.  A new horizon was needed to force a move back to the field for some decisive moves.

The community in Dublin, to an outsider looking over the fence, appears supportive and tight-knit.  As a foreigner to this city’s art scene, it felt good to be in a new space looking at energetic work by fresh faces.  After meeting more Dubliners and playing my best fly on the wall, the night wore on sure enough to bring on the next day.  Morning coffee from the smiling faces in Lilliput brought some warmth to the old noggin as I went out for the daily stroll of urban visuals, as opposed to the rural field I had been sowing the last week.  It was good to be back in the city for a day, but I was ready to return to the residency for the last few days of my stay.

Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar.

"Conjuring for Beginners" exhibition (Installation view at Project Arts Centre).

Ye olde neighborhood shoppe.

So I found myself back at The Good Hatchery for the remaining stay of digging, fishing, and mining…searching for the last few images of landscape.  The sun and rain was on full repeat over the next few days: expansive and bright blue skies backed with rainy and blanketed grey above.  It was on the clear sunny days of biking the countryside that brought the connection to cumulus overhead and loam below.  The large expanse of bright cloudy sky seemed a nice alternation to the tactile, particulate close-ups of peat I had been filming.  As above, so below…or so it goes.  The task at hand now was to just harness the mechanicals and pull myself towards the field to produce, rather than simply to rely on absorption for germination at a later stage, or to get stuck in this continual loop of headspace sun and rain.  In the past, it has proven beneficial to use dedicated time to develop and let the production flower at a later date, the slow burn so to speak. The time was now to get the reels in the can, to harvest those clouds while the sky allowed, and sift the soil while I could, photographically speaking.  I would continue to shoot a few feet of film over the next few days whenever the image produced itself.  Sometimes singular opportunities present themselves when you let them.

Earth and sky.

I was speaking with Carl one day. I had lent a hand in the offloading of his show from the gallery to storage, and we were unwinding a bit in the kitchen upstairs.  There might have been other folks wandering around downstairs.  He asked how my time was going so far while on residency.  I replied with questions of discipline. While sitting alone in my head at the residency, I realized I was putting pressure on myself to get more done than possible and too much thought was leading to even more thought.  I remembered when in the comforts of my own studio the process of making is much more second nature; to know where the right tool is, to know how much time a task might take, to know when your window of working might fall.  These vantage points were missing from my routine, and it felt as if time was passing slowly, over and over again.  That the distance from point A to B had doubled somehow, those clouds seemed to stand still or at least to exist in a slow loop.  The nature of acclimating to the new environment had not been considered but the slow osmosis was nevertheless generative.

Waiting for the kettle to boil, I attempted to communicate this to Carl.

Getting from A to B.

Carl at first thought that I was referring to discipline as punishment rather than craft or cultivation. Funny.  I usually start with a short period of structuring and organizing not only thoughts but also the spaces of work, then some wandering both mental and physical. Some off-the-cuff decisions eventually made to jump-start coincidence if all goes well.  I realized while here, that discipline is in order when you only have to answer to yourself and are granted the requisite time to act. Providing yourself with a regime by which to work at your duly allotted pace. This is time spent rather than time used. Can’t forget  those fallow fields.  The discipline of working erodes as time passes, but if time is spent perhaps discipline is honed rather than lost to allow for time to contain, rather than merely inform. Inhabiting this container is a much different kettle than merely living in it.  Time alone could be a double-edged sword.

It was in these times of habitation, watching the rains fall beyond the kitchen window or the clouds go creeping slowly overhead, that I picked up on what I was putting down.   I had come on residency to pack it all in, but to use every minute was much too much.  I had landed with such a long to-do list that it was as if I were building castles made of sand.  Only after playing the waiting game with the rains did I realize that it mattered not that at the conclusion of my stint my list of tasks got marked through.

I quickly unpacked all this extra baggage and left it for dead and buried.  Consider this an offering to my misconception of outcomes.  The discipline I needed to cultivate this space was in service to a) evaluating what landscapes emerged from my wandering and b) the distance I had from these landscapes and textures.  I was surely gaining on that vanishing point simply by being there.  Discipline in this instance did not entail the ticking off of one thing after another for the sake of production, for that would leave to an excess of crop possibly.  What it did prove was awareness of the mystery of place, and to be okay with outcomes of hazard or provisions.

Discipline can be tricky turf if thought about too hard.  Take what you need and leave the rest for the second harvest.  I really only needed enough to make do.  Providence comes from small moves, and when those moves are in the right place it is more likely to happen.

On the road in County Offaly.

*subtitle lifted lovingly from Don Van Vliet


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