‘… it is nessessary in an indivisible universe to believe that the principle of consciousness must extend everywhere. even now i imagine that i can feel all the particles of the universe nourishing my consciousness just as my consciousness informs all the particles of the universe.’
(jacquetta hawkes – a land – p30, cased edition, collins 2012 – 1st published collins – 1951, the cresset press)
project: the lossenham project
artist in residence: russell groves burden
date: (october 2020 – october 2021)
funding: the lossenham project
commission: to create a set of personal responses to the lossenham landscape in any media. to assist and collaborate with visiting artists.
location: lossenham farm, parish of newenden, kent, (ngr tq 84136,27895)
description: the lossenham project is a community heritage and research project that will investigate the archaeology, history, and landscape of lossenham and its wider setting. it includes a biodiversity component and a cultural programme. furthermore it is intended that contemplation, reflection and discussion transpire across a wide range of topics, including themes and ideas connected to faith, isolation, the human relationship to landscape and specific biomes, and to the strands of continuity that connect us to past histories.
geographic setting: on the eastern boundary of the high weald in kent, lossenham forms a ridge, running roughly south west to north east, situated between the river rother to the south (the course of which at this point forms the kent-sussex border) and the hexden channel to the north. the hexden channel is a tributary of the rother and flows into it just east of lossenham. lossenham thus forms a peninsula between these two watercourses and the surrounding (now largely reclaimed) marshes of the rother levels. directly to the east rises the high ground of the isle of oxney, divided between the parishes of wittersham and stone-in-oxney. the rother flows around the southern edge of the now landlocked isle and thence south to rye and the sea. beyond the isle of oxney lies the level expanse of romney marsh.
entanglement and release
shot underwater in lossenham’s main pond, this contemplation piece observes the sub-surface clouds of sediment as they lift and settle throughout the water column. a particle dance of entanglement and release through a matrix of materials derived from the base of the tunbridge wells sand formation
since early september 2020, repeated visits to the upper ponds have yielded qualities of water surface that capture the changing movements of air, cloud, light and leaf. sometimes gentle atmospheres, opening easily to the world. often a fascination, an indwelling sense of otherness. on occasion, a fractured and darkened threshold to the deep.
below the levels
a hexden basin mesostic. a piece of visual poetry inspired by the historic hydrological and geological conditions of rother levels and marshlands to the east of lossenham. the poem’s length of sixty lines has been drawn from the 600cm borehole survey performed on the levels of the hexden basin at lossenham during the autumn of 2020.
lossenham field notes
the year folded
gazing east, oxney rises over rother levels, water-fields, swards of sedge, and the black rill of the hexden. to the west are higher grounds, the wooded ridge of frogs hill and onward, the high weald. where i stand my feet have found peat-water sponging underfoot and, on occasion, i hear the slow rattling hush of reeds or the tonal rhythmic creak of wing joints. long since ceased are the sounds of sacred footfall, no bells ring here. just the countless dragonfly outposts and shallow snail wallows, and the loam-loaded, leaf-littered margins of wooded ponds. cloudy gnat gatherings hang hazy of over dark ribbon ditches, and there are great opening gestures of light. a constant flowing of discontinuities. the inconceivable compounds of uncertain boundaries.
the lengthened shadow
long branches cast their smokey penumbras over jelly-soft arils of yew, shade the countless, leaf hosted, spangle gall sculptures. the yellows and greens are now in quiet retreat and a crisping, oaken, leaf-paper canvas is emerging. there are lustrous fire-red punctuations of wax-fat berries and powder-dusted bruise-purple drupes. i stand witness to these small things as they disclose themselves in the warm, afternoon light, not simply to my eye but to some deeper imagination. the indwelling thread of a far longer poem. a poem grounded in place and the earthen past. of untold folk, the weathered field, and space to dream, or seek, or pray. entangled i stand, in a theatre of uncanny presence and distant whisperings. of people long gone, the slow moving waters of their times now far out to sea.
the distant image
a dew pond. secret vessel. a threshold at dawn pouring forth its droplets of obscuring mist. a lone tree standing silent in the grey distance, its stark watery reflection veins deep to earth. i hear the dull fog callings of dark birds circling, and then, appearing gradually, a slow procession of several forms, hooded, swaddled and sacked in dense coarse cloth, their leather wrapped feet tread a worn path by a quiet moving water, an unbroken channel that follows the grain of the mossbound land. reflected in its glassy surface i see a coarsely painted sky that repeatedly opens in small fissures and floods the eye in sears of stark white light. this is an old imagining, one that has risen through me from the nadir of this ancient place.
the unsure reflection
in the mirror of the iron-pool, on the surface of its deep, i am reversed. i stare at my air rippled image and as the wind stills, the sky and the deep become one, opening a vision to my origin. this is an unsure interface, a modulating meniscus between movement and stillness. sometimes a mirror to a life lived, more often a portal to an ineffable otherness, an invitation to light. whichever it may be, i feel subjected to the finalities of this place. i am enmeshed in the material. if i hold long enough in this evening’s slow spun awakening, the sky will eventually darken to reveal the countless scintillations of long lost stars. their nocturnal passage searing lines across the void. slow on their arcs, they will enter the dark contours of the land, passage through the earth to burn away our grim stygian dreams.
the leavings returned
amongst the trees, the cut green woodpile smoulders, slowly reducing to cinders and ash. the ash an in-breath, a food for the land. the rising out-breath, an exhalation. a drift of carbon to circle the planet, close to stars. i learn so much from the slow progression of things, this unfolding and undoing. the cycles returning, the lichen on the bark, the fungi in the wood. this fraying and eroding. this patina-coated, iron stained, water worn beauty dissolving the land. all things are entangled in such small writings, minute geometries chanting phrases on the surface of existence. the endless undercurrent reverberating, never still.
the narrative absorbed
a grey ash-paste sky and a fine rain has flattened both colour and perspective. in these conditions this land is a thinner place, porous to the uncanny, interwoven with unspoken narratives, some gentle, some darkened, possibly in need of clearing. a day in which ancestral landmarks sit more naturally under the blurred folds of fields, their contours softened. within the forms of these entombed workings i sense a slower, alchemic way of life. a visionary world, where gods and events coincide and the mysterious is ever-present, hovering at the edge of appearance. the rain is audibly thickening on the spalted earth. all is saturated. the last of the fall leaves are pasted to the branches. the mosses are emitting an improbable electric green and through this sea of airbourne water, silver filaments are running fast, forming pools. i am looking for a way back, but beneath my skin, this particular enchantment has crept a little too deep.
the emptiness gathered
in still air and a liquidity of cool light, a chorus of insubstantial sounds sits close to silence. not one loud thing breaks or penetrates the gentle ticks, drips and fluttering hush. today, this rustling, fragile emptiness seems charged with potential. no ungathered energies to disentangle the space. a ground on which the unbound frequencies of past and future can collide in the dense chaosmos of all things now. i am standing amongst a billion stems and the tiny motions of untold happenings, watching the extraordinary fractal shimmer of it all. immersion is the temptation, but it is not the time for transcendental reveries. in image, sound and word i will capture and catalogue what i encounter and this self-imposed creativity will help keep such timeless disappearances at bay.
the bowed chime
time in the unfixed mind is so malleable. one focused hour of listening, collecting sounds in the field, has somehow opened to an age. the chatterings of birds, the ratcheting of cricket legs, all transient clusters of territorial tone and attraction beating out time in discreet segments, in an outpouring of moments that, gestating in me, have feathered out my sense of time. but i have purposefully attuned to this sound stream, gathered its moments to work with, to extend. later, i will bow a harmonic form to the air, a high, resonant, lingering vibration to thread its way throughout the sonic complexity. the long reverberant shivering of a clock chime maybe, released to ensnare those callings before they can fine away to thinner air. and i can imagine a further holding to entwine this soundscape, a lower, resonant frequency. a deep humming constant, to release the mind, invite a richer sense of place.
the hidden vessel
a flock of little egrets fly stark white against a grey sky. they land in a scatter. closely following, a great egret alights amongst them with little disturbance. white swans paddle a wide ditch and dark crow-like wings punctuate the distance. not all is so monochrome, the soaked greens and the pale buffs of reed-straw are lending their elegant tones. but last night was spent through the microscope lens and my thoughts are populated by a starry field of exquisite forms. of the minute glassy diatom shells that hide in this peaty land. impossibly ornate bifold sculptures, silica vessels, circles, crescents, vessicas, all tiny prisms shining, refracting their opalescent spectral colours against the black field of my condenser. a million could float in one cupped hand. i can hardly imagine the countless trillions amongst the tangle of ancient reed and root underfoot. i should probably return. i am lost to the day.
the after image
i stand in the lower field above the reed-line. a low vivid light is rising, piercing a filigree of skeletal trees on the horizon. i close my eyes and a black silhouette appears. burnt to my retina, its coral reef edges shift colour as i blink, deep orange then rose. i stare again at the trees, at the gleaming outline of a rising aura. it glows, over-exposing edges, bleaching the image. shutting my eyes again, the tree line shifts to negative, a perfect reversal. this imprint must be the original camera lucida, an after-image held in the dark space of my mind, archived in some category of memory, unlabelled.
the shifting vision
a northern lapwing flaps on the other side of the hexden. a black enveloping cloak of splayed wing feathers marked white underside, it twists and flops its form a few feet above the field. i gaze at its strange indeterminable behaviour, haunted by its thin bleating calls as it slowly fumbles through the sunlit air. it seems uneasy, or possibly enraptured by the year’s first warmth. pain and joy can appear so similar, but this shape shifter inscribes its folds and figures through the air with such a sense of unspoken language, holding no measure to this land or time. instead, obeying a deeper ancestral mystery, an unmediated relationship with the world, a stillness that dispels polarities, embodies the absolute.
the unheard heard
the small random sounds of the everyday hide themselves through their constancy. an acoustic field that unfurls itself in proportion to the quality of one’s attunement. to the focussed mind, an unmediated stream of disquiet that dwells on the boundary of the inaudible. this evasive continuum is not just the domain of tiny frequencies. the avian chorus at first light also falls away from awareness, disappears in the coarser workings of the day. but here, for me, the field has opened. i hear bubbles rise to air through the water-laden levels, their soft gloopy tunings softening the mechanical mutterings of insects. i am focused on the minutiae, the dissonant drift of this micro-acoustic ecology.
below ground, buried in the silent heart of matter, i sense another field. a primal level at which the shimmer of chaos finds its way to the edge of form. a subterranean story of inaudible resonance, where the elements of life seek to coalesce and our proto-mythologies begin to emerge.
garden of the silent ringing bell
project: artistic concept for the redevelopment of a walled garden on lossenham farm
fabrication: andrew baldwin
a reeded earth-sky portal
thresholds the walled garden
two wrought circles intersect
to form the first proposition
the vesica seed of life
and in the blood-brick ground
set high behind a long low froth
of slow growing evergreen
sits a wellspring
its waters overflowing
to a three-sided rust-iron pool
and floating above the upwell
a crystalline heart form
the lost geometry
of the hidden bell
ringing its frequency
in silent flood
its sevenfold surface
reveals past suffering
blooms of prismatic colour
born through flame
there are tangled metal rivulets
through cast glass billets
in square wall openings
of watery blues and earth oranges
and green growth banking up
climbing walls high and above
a long nestled seat
on thyme spalted gravel
the dark yew backdrop
frames fragrant colours
of insect hum
whilst water trickles
in the summer’s heat
the gestures are open
with space to breathe
and time for contemplation
for the imagination
to direct the heart
twelve images of the ashdown formation at cliff end, pett level. unseen at lossenham the ashdown strata sits directly below the wadhurst clay and tunbridge wells sands. the images reveal rhythms and traces of climatic and biological events on the wealden flood plain of the early cretaceous
• essays on early newenden, ake nilson (friends of st.peter’s church, 2013)
• the medieval traveller, norbert ohler (boydell press, translation caroline hillier, 1989)
• the other friars: the carmelite, augustinian, sack and pied friars in the middle ages, frances andrews (the boydell press, 2006)
• the history of the carmelite priory at lossenham, newenden, c.1243-1538, richard copley (archaeologia cantiana, volume 141, kent archaeological society, 2020)
• a land, jacquetta hawkes, 1st published collins, 1951, the cresset press, (cased edition, collins, 2012)
• flora britannica, richard mabey (chatto & windus,1998)
• the making of the english landscape (w.g.hoskins, hodder and stoughton, 1955)
• journey through the weald, ben darby (robert hale, 1986)
• the wealden district, r.w.gallois (fourth edition, hmso 1965)
• soils of romney marsh, r.d.green (harpenden, 1968)
• romney marsh: evoloution, occupation, reclamation, edited by jill eddison and christopher green, (oxford university committiee for archaeology, monograph no.24, 1988)
• hyperobjects, philosophy and ecology after the end of the world, timothy morton (university of minnesota press, 2013)
• realist magic: objects, ontology, causality, timothy morton (open humanities press, 2013)
• the end of phenomenology: metaphysics and the new realism, tom sparrow (edinburgh university press, 2014)
• intertwining, landscape, technology, issues, artists, john k.grande (black rose books, 1998)
• exact imagination, late work on Adorno’s Aesthetics, shiery weber nicholson (the mit press, 1997)
• deleuze and geophilosophy, mark bonta and john protevi (edinburgh university press, 2004)
• st john of the cross: reflections on mystical experience, alain cugno (seabird press, translation barbara wall, 1982)
• all the world and icon, tom cheetham (north atlantic books, 2012)