‘Our existence is ultimately dependent upon intimate relationships of reciprocity, humility, honesty and respect with all elements of creation… one has to align oneself within the forces of the implicate order through ceremony, ritual, and the embodiment of teaching one carries.’ Leanne Betasamosake Simpson.
Dumnonia is the title of an ancient kingdom that once encircled what is now Cornwall, Devon and Sommerset- the peripheral counties of England that remain strewn with Briton’s earliest attempts at rendering spaces for communion, ritual, and remembrance from natural elements. However, this project supposes Dumnonia as a ‘possible space’- permeable and transcendent, envisioning the interplay between Earth’s base materials, light, and time. Specifically, the geological, ecological, and anthropological currents that weave the breadth and depth of the planet. The photographs in the series foreground water, wood, and stone, which have long been perceived as conduits of energy and spirit, memory and wisdom, in the form of sacred wells, waterfalls, ancient oaks, chapels, and tors.
Despite the human experience becoming increasingly anesthetised by technology, these refuges and bastions of myth have retained their allure for pilgrims- spiritual and secular alike. One of the foremost concerns of Dumnonia is to consider, what quality do these sites possess, or what is it within us, that has called successive generations and countless individuals, to return seeking respite, grounding, or connection? In acknowledgement of human’s material and emotional dependency on the landscape, Dumnonia assumes interdependency as the inevitable, fated condition of all the Earth’s entities. In this sense, the project seeks to redress notions of human exceptionalism, and imagined separation between the anthropological, ecological and geological spheres of life- anthropocentric binaries that have facilitated the exploitation of Nature.
As well as sites where communion between human and landscape has historically been most potent, Dumnonia also foregrounds vistas that represent the deep, mineral and arboreal rhythms that contextualise the smallness of human histories within the vast sweeps of planetary time. For example, the geometric folding patterns within cliffs, alongside the infinite micro-transitions that play-out in a single scene much too rapidly for the human eye to perceive. In this way, utilising the freezing mechanism of the camera to depict the subjective and contingent nature of temporal perception, and how it might be conceived of in less anthropocentric terms.
Poems/ creative commentaries:
It’s ambiguous, what the stones meant to the first people who placed them there. Then, in a time before there were letters, to be strung into words that might have immortalized their intentions.
What time has permitted to abide; a hundred stones once stood facing one another. Then, within the great circle, two smaller twins were erected. Rings within rings, like the orbit of Saturn.
Approaching the stones at dawn, they possess the mossy presence of a thing that has endured. The sun never bores of painting them yellow and drawing a shadow out from the base.
The old crone kneels. Her fine-lined skin appears soft,
Crinkled. Like tissue paper.
But if fingertips reach, it’s course
Inside, concentric rings demark
Four, maybe six hundred years.
Woodsmen behead the Queen
Whenever her leafy top rears too high,
But her elephant bones remember
Their stance in deep soil.
The Knightwood Oak, also known as the Queen of the Forest, is a fine example of the traditional harvesting technique known as pollarding. Whereby, the top of the tree is harvested, but the foundation is kept alive to grow anew.
3.Cannon wounds pock the arch; the pillar hides a chute for wishing. Pins, locks, ribbons dropped inside, alongside a prayer for souls abroad.
The slit window glows and squeals with funneled wind. Bricks don’t prevent the sea; the air is salty inside. Mortar inhabited with moss.
Origins aren’t specifically remembered, nor altogether forgotten. A Father’s monument to a drowned bride, they say. A place to watch for squalls and wrecks, once.
4. The mouth only opens when tides permit.
See a joint of meat,
marbled through with tender veins
of fat. Yet, shale and sandstone
Are far slower to grow than bull.
Focus on the details and find
Neat overlapping triangles,
Like sheathed arrows, or
Fir trees vanishing towards the
Horizon by dozens.