FINAL MAJOR PROJECT. WEEK 13.
I’ve been thinking again about the Land and the politicisation of it. Land is commodity, status symbol, nation and home for some. A place both of belonging and a utility of division. Borders, Land Rights, Rights of Way are methods to contain, separate, and control. Our governors are in love with these methods, even though they are frequently signs of ‘the last gasps of a dying political system’ (Jones, 2016, pg. 67). The division of Land is a weapon to underline who is ‘worthy’ to live, move, or have access to a certain place. And a way to define those who are deemed not ‘worthy’.
In England, this is our prevalent way of behaving. We are a land content to maintain binary perspectives and hostile environments. We talk of a united kingdom, but we act in terms of ‘us and them’ wherever we can. In 2004, Trevor Phillips, then Chair of the Equality And Human Rights Commission, stated that the Land is used as a form of ‘passive apartheid’ (reference XX). White rural residents treat ethnic incomers with suspicion, believing they belong only in urban contexts.
It is my belief that all forms of borders, solid or otherwise, are what Nick Hayes calls ‘plastic contrivances’. Not necessarily things of permanence, rather they are built on ‘the echoes of the ebb and flow of the politics that create them’ (Hayes, 2020, pg. 265).
My M.A. project origins came from an act of national division. From the awareness that, after the 2016 E.U. Membership Referendum, I was no longer fully accepted in the country I had been born in. That the city of my birth (Leicester), the mixed-heritage genes (English and Italian), and the name on my passport were no longer the signs of belonging they once were. Instead, they had become markers for prejudiced attitudes towards the ‘other’. Ones that I had grown up with in the 1970s and ’80s but which, in the ’90s and early 2000’s seemed to have been overcome. Now, despite any progress, they are once again becoming the main dialogue of England. I have always wanted to challenge that in the work. Not overtly perhaps, but to lean on ‘a spine – an underlying theme, a motive for coming into existence’ which ‘doesn’t have to be apparent to the audience,’ (Tharpe, 2006, pg. 144). The thing that ‘keeps me on message, but is not the message itself’ (Tharpe, 2006, pg. 146).
This is why I am convinced that the elements of the land and countryside that have appeared in the work make sense to the formulation of a project – to me, at least. They are not only backdrops but equal characters. Even more so now when the land offers up its harvest of nourishment and sustenance. I see the use of Land in my work, in the countryside, as a way to ‘repossess’ it. Photographing the ‘others’, the outsiders, the diversity of the people I’m working with as they are actually in. It is to deliberately pass across the threshold between the urban and the rural in order to state that ‘we belong’.
Hayes, N. 2020. The Book Of Trespass. London, Picador.
Jones, R. 2016. Violent Borders. London, Verso.
Tharpe, T. 2006. The Creative Habit. New York, Simon and Schuster.