The Hunter’s Log – Vehicule Gallery, Montreal, Canada. July 1974.
During 1974 I travelled in North America with Philippa Wild (we married in 1976) whom I’d met in Cardiff a few months earlier. We first flew to New York and then took a Greyhound bus to Montreal, where we stayed with artist friends. Over a period of two weeks, I had an opportunity to make a large installation in the main gallery at Vehicule, and to present drawings, notes and other artefacts on adjoining walls and in adjacent spaces. Visitors to the gallery could see the work as it developed and talk about it with me as I worked. Some materials I had brought from the UK (photographs, seeds, human hair, small stones…), others I collected in the urban and rural neighbourhoods. The installation was called Resting Place. In a sense, it was a resting place on a journey that would take us across Canada to Vancouver, down the west coast to San Francisco, through the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, to Mexico City and back to New York and home in the December snows. I’m including here notes made at the time, to give a flavour of my thinking as I worked on the construction:
My approaches are similar to the methods of early explorers, cartographers, naturalists and alchemists. When it’s feasible to proceed in an exact empirical way then you can use linear logic, fact and precise observation; when the territory is foggy, unknown, without fixed reference points, you have to proceed in illogical jumps and leaps, cartwheels of imaginative interpretation.
It is possible to think and perceive WITH and THROUGH physical materials (wood, stone, paper, string, soil…). We each construct our own world with the materials available to us (both mental and physical). These worlds can be radically different to each other. However, the materials used are always drawn from the same pile.
The hunter tracking a deer, fishing for trout, or trapping rabbits, spends many hours alone reflecting, waiting and planning his strategy. The art of hunting is both the art of patience, the art of anticipation and the most difficult art of revelation. The hunter sees tracks where we see only soil. He sees a grouse where we see only tufts of brown grass. He sees the salmon where we see only the flicker of water. In a sense he creates his quarry – the hunting song, hunting magic or just plain whistling are his weapons. He whittles a carcass out of sensitivity and patience. Likewise the artist can only reveal what has lain hidden. He can only combine materials in a way which has always been possible. He can only interpret the world as far as it allows him. He can only create the world which has always existed.
As part of the exhibition I made two actions: one, entitled Early Bird, the other, Transplant. During the latter I ground down one plant each day and used the liquid generated to nourish the other plants in the row of pots. After about ten days only one plant was left, nourished by its nine neighbours.