Melissa Moore / Land Ends
Somehow or other, belonging and function simply happens, where and how ever they were always destined to end up, as much component units alone by themselves, as members of vast complex mass[i]. – from ‘Standstill Voyage-Of-Discovery On-The-Spot’ by Douglas Park.
These photographs were made during multiple extended visits to Hornby Island, exploring the territory through a sequence of still-lives, landscapes and performative interventions. An interest in vernacular architecture prompted my initial visit to the west coast of British Columbia, Canada, and since first setting foot there in 1999 the scene offered an intense set of aesthetic experiences that lured me back, over and over. The small island lays bare the evidence of a whole ecology; the rest of the choir can be heard there.
Echoes and footprints of ‘Walden’ can be felt strongly on this Canadian Island, the restorative and redemptive value of nature and the importance of individualism and self-awareness and self-reliance is palpable right through the terrain, and simultaneous enchantment with the numinous landscape also encouraged research into the distinctly American literary and philosophical tradition of transcendentalism – including a path via Thoreau, Emerson and Whitman to the 1970’s stunning novel Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard.
The significance of creating space ‘with your own hands’ is embodied across a range of customary and countercultural buildings on the island. The unmistakable force of the surrounding nature also indicates how the landscape engineers the inhabitants, as much as vice versa. Away from an overabundance of human artifice, the cacophony of all other living things is perceived. An odyssey of back-to-the-land reveries is documented: a network of nature flanked by an inhabitation that tends towards a certain building style, a certain arrangement of tools, a concatenation of blossoming structures, an essential hoarding of every piece of scrap metal and other compendia of resourcefulness.
My body is proposed into this ecology and documented. As Persilia Caton notes: ‘Moore uses textiles and the mimicry of form to explore the human capability for environmental camouflage and social assimilation.’[ii] The performing body may begin as a tabula rasa, yet I keenly tend towards a certain dress and a variety of reciprocities between the individual and other makers of the environment.
The island affords certain perspicacity from being zoomed out. The impetus for many settlers in the 1970’s was the choice to step back from crisis and live sustainably. This social vision still thrives in relative seclusion, yet often a feeling of entropy permeates the island’s ageing structures. As the Fukushima disaster stuck, and protagonists of the Occupy movement inhabited elaborate cultural edifices, I nestled into the dilapidated structures of the island and its communal dreams.
We could ask the question of how do utopian social visions now get any traction when they are most needed – when we are awash with ever more pressing worries? However, the works themselves have only an elliptical relation to the real world of events. Rather, across all the pictures a simple fascination with the very nature and rich textures of the island is palpable, and an alternative dream rather than a document flowers.
Mark Cousins remarks that the world presented in Land Ends seems to be ‘curiously left over’, as it happens the summer photographs have the same subdued tones as the winter work, and somehow the ‘light is discouraged.’[iii] Amongst her powerful meditations on the act of looking and the nature of being, Annie Dillard remarks on a strange paradox of light: ‘We have really only that one light, one source for all power, and yet we must turn away from it by universal decree. Nobody here on the planet seems aware of this strange, powerful taboo, that we all walk about carefully averting our faces, this way and that, lest our eyes be blasted forever.’ – Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.
Melissa Moore is a London based artist. She studied at Manchester Metropolitan University; University for Arts Linz, Austria, and has a Master’s Degree with a Distinction for research from the Royal College of Art. She is represented by Metronom Gallery, Modena, Italy and Anzenberger Gallery, Vienna, Austria. She is an Associate Lecturer at the University of the Arts London. Her work resides in numerous public and private collections.
So far ‘Land Ends’ has been shown: Singapore Festival of Photography, 2012; ‘Reverie’ Metronom, Italy; ‘Portraits’, Theory of Clouds, Kobe, Japan; ‘Tarantel 1’, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany; ‘Center Awards’, Center, Santa Fe, USA; Bagni di Lucca Art Festival, Italy; Mt.Rokko International Photo Festival, Kobe, Japan.