Hammer, Ben Dolman 2012
Hunt Gather Forage
To hunt is our most basic primeval instinct, before we became farmers and settled into permanent communities we led a nomadic life constantly on the move hunting, foraging and gathering food living in temporary shelters. The pursuit and capture of prey required skill, patience, agility and speed. To hunt fills one full of adrenaline, its has highs and lows as the prey is tracked down and killed or as often happens escapes at the final moment, a moment of hesitation. The hunt started as a means for survival, a ritual and tribal activity and when we no longer needed to hunt animals for food after we domesticated our live stock the hunt became recreational, a sport for pleasure but the animalistic, ruthless and instinctual behavioural traits of early humans remain. Gathering and foraging on the other hand are more passive pursuits of the nomad, the chanced opportunity to collect basic and humble things that can in the long term be more substantial than the main prize of the hunt.
The camera is my spear and bowl, traveling through the land hunting down new locations, gathering images that record the changing world around me.
The central images in the selection are the trophies of the hunt, mounted and lifeless now, the moment frozen. To either side of the central images of the triptychs are incidental photographs, images that were forage rather than hunted down. They were not the intended prey but chanced upon but they give the central images a heightened and deeper narrative. The earliest images made by humans were cave paintings of the hunt and the images of the hunters were left as hand prints dipped into pigment and pressed onto rock surface, the mark of human kind. The photographs are todays cave paintings and the hand print is the human mark on the landscape. The hunt became a central ritual in most societies and they created gods to give themselves luck for the hunt, the gods created became the foundations of different religions that formed the base and structure of past and present civilisations. In western Christian religions we have the holy trinity based of the triangle which one of the strongest geometrical structures and is used in architecture, engineering and pictorial compositions. The number three is a natural number, the first prime number, the sum of one and two, a triptych. Three is the first number in early counting systems that noted the ‘many’, more than one and two, the point where there can be infinite possibilities.
The central theme of the work is LAND, a land that is no longer wild and untamed that our ancestors once hunted and gathered in but one that is now shaped, sculptured, exploited, abused, neglected and worked by humans. My land is England, a land that is often portrayed as a rural idyll of rolling hills, pastures green flanked by solid old oaks, the land I see now is industrialised and its use no different to the declining mill towns of the north and the coal pits of south Wales valleys. The land is made human the human is the land.
In Arcadia the central image seems at first glance wild, but the hedges were planted to define an area of private property, the tall grass has been walked through trodden down leaving a path bisecting the pasture that will be cut as hay. In the hedges either side of the clearing humans have left objects, offerings, off casts from their throw away society. Humans have sought to tame the land, in Grass a image that stands alone in the exhibition a field of wheat a genetically modified wild grass grows on reclaimed land that once was marshland and now is protected by embankments defining a perfectly flat horizon.
In the land there are passages, routes where we circumvent natural obstacles but there are also barriers that are used to deny access. In Land triptych the central image invites you in whilst the adjacent images impede passage with ramparts and moats, the land is in conflict.
So what is my prey in this new land, it is us human kind, our marks, traces and interventions. Do I seek nature but the green normally associated with nature no longer seems a soft and gentle colour from memory but instead it is vivid, a vivid viridian and lime green feed with fertilisers and pesticides. In Foxes triptych the farmer has written the following slogan “Do our politicians think foxes are more important than people” marking an end of the hunt.
The final selection is now ready for hanging, a couple of changes have been made. The single image has been updated to Grass so there is a better continuity with the central images, a green vista.
Land : Click on image for larger view
Arcadia : Click on image for larger view
Foxes : Click on image for larger view
The White Cube Hang
For my virtual exhibition I used Maya a 3D software application to visualised the hanging of the ten selected photographs that allowed me to look at the overall layout, explore different group arrangement and the scale of the images. I have placed a figure in the rendered installation as a scale reference.
Whilst playing around with the arrangement of the images I asked myself should the arrangement be linear with all the photographs the same size or should they varying in size, the intimate next to the large and immersive.
In the end I decided to go large as this is a virtual exhibition, there was no expense in the printing and mounting of the work. Allowing myself to present the large I could explore if it had an immersive feel about it referencing the work of Jeff Wall and Andreas Gursky and their massive photographic wallscapes. I was also influenced by Wolfgang Tillmans work plays with scale and subject in an inventive and engaging manner. Often when I go to see a exhibition by a single artist whose work is displayed in a linear manner I get visual fatigue regardless of the quality of work and become desensitised to the imagery. Employing different scales and themes of work in the hanging of the exhibition might break visual desensitation and break the constant but it must be handled with care or it could quickly undermined the work and the hang becomes more important and dominates the individual photographs, the installation can become a gimmick or just plain confusing..
The Space : The White Cube
Arcadia Triptych : A conventional layout images in the classic 4x5 ratio and sized according at 4' x 5'
Foxes : The arrangement of the images is based on the religious altarpiece triptych with the central panel flank by two smaller supporting panels paying reverence to the central subject.
Grass : The final and only single hung image in the installation is the key and the reset button. It is the most minimalist photograph just grass under a large sullen sky.