My activity as an artist has always been based on a radical critique
of received culture and normalised expectations of individual human behaviour.
However, my work is not a rebellious or boundary pushing practice – more
of a committed, dramatic offering of a life dedicated to the origination
of artwork – art as thinking well, art as manifestation
of meaning through matter and art as embodied action.
Live art has become my main medium for public engagement and drawing
has become the private foundation of all I create. My live art works
do not have communication as their goal (that would be to admit to a
full understanding of the issues at stake and I want for no such mastery
or closure). Rather, I attempt to explore and expose the human-nature
landscape to the point where it becomes fragile, fractious and perhaps
more ‘truthful.’ Pieces are usually site-specific and are
emphatically unrehearsed, once-only events. Each live action is a starting
point, an arrival into a new place of experience.
The human being is a particularly strange animal in the field of nature.
All is story, including nature. Some stories smell more than others,
some created us in the first place. For all this, the storytellers are
flesh and brain and can not escape self significance. The reflexive ego
as pencil tip is the starting point of a world mattering at all and is
the energy behind the boundaries of experience being drawn wide open.
DIATRIBE ON THE EBB OF OUR ESTATE 2000
live artwork and installed documentation for Between Nature Conference,
Lancaster University, UK
‘Diatribe’ – the passing of time through
discourse, to argue strongly against something.
‘Diatribe on the ebb of our estate’ was
a 7-hour action performed overnight at Castlerigg Stone circle (3000
BCE), in the Lake District, England. Unrehearsed, my concerns about the
difficulty of performance and nature were recorded via a clip mic as
I performed my response/resistance to being in one of the earliest sites
where human creatures marked the land - not in order to create shelter,
but in an attempt to channel social experience into a relationship with
the supernatural. The ‘diatribe’ was not in rejecting the
site’s historical significance so much as in rejecting the expectation
inherent in ‘eco-arts’ discourse that a germane performance
site or cultural desire at large exists for expressing a relationship
to nature. My raw anxiety and longing, given voice far away from the
safe framework of the city seemed the only possible starting point; an
experiment with living language.
The recording was transcribed onto the glass top of a museum case and
placed in the Ruskin Library at Lancaster University during the conference.
I wore military camouflage as the signature of ‘misplaced blending
in’, a balaclava to suggest ‘semiotic terrorism’ and
a police hat carrying my own constabulary badge - ‘the thought
polis’. The axe with the shape of my hand cut out of the blade
was a celebratory reference to the earliest technologies that shaped
human culture, and a reference towards postmodern deconstruction of concrete
thought and the autonomous object d’art. I lit a coal fire at the
gateway to the stone circle where a post card to and of William Shakespeare
was sacrificed prior to commencing the diatribe. These aspects of the
artwork linked it to the symbolic ‘ebbing of our estate,’ the
outmoded notion that the natural universe exists for us.
Excerpt from tape recording:
Midnight I stand, when every human mind is wrapped up in itself
Sleeping. My mouth is on the rampage, art my own special brand of education
to enter the wilderness. Get ready, we must return But only to a future
no-where: Your acceptance of how things are Is smothering you. The
thing you fear the most Is the ‘space’ you take place in
(and it is eating you slowly up). I’m arresting you whilst you
sleep, with handcuffs made of stone. These stones are also handcuffs
but its all we have. I refuse to repeat what’s gone on before.
I am sentencing you to sentences But here my voice is single, The only
other voices here are silence. There is no audience And this is why
this performance matters. It is and ever is (as opposed to was and
is not). It is still going, and I don’t care if you don’t
believe me. The act of hearing outside of your self extends on for
ever. Here the needle’s on the record player Except that there
is no song.
DRAWING IN WORLD 2003
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, for the
Land Art-Land Use Conference
This piece placed philosophical thought quite literally in the landscape.
My clothing was covered in quotations from Nietzsche and drawings which
explored his thoughts. The piece aimed to uproot the expectation that
art about the land must incorporate the material of the land as its medium
in order to express its concerns. It attempted to excite the idea of
the importance of humans engaging with critical thought as a methodology
of care for the non-human. The action was comprised of my ‘drawing’ or ‘tracing’ the
visual landscape around me with a large glass pencil into which I constantly
breathed. The result was an embodied drawing (human as pen moving within
nature as page) and a small amount of condensed breath (water as ink)
in the glass pencil.
My art practice also incorporates philosophical essays, activism, an
internet-based philosophical think-tank, and an oral history publication: “Libkovice:
Zdar buh” DIVUS, Czech Republic, 1997. My art practice also
includes works which are not about nature.
w : home website under construction
e : HRH.the at hesterreeve.com
Hester Reeve: A Near and Far Map at: http://www.lancs.ac.uk/depts/philosophy...
1] Elham Kashefi
2, 3 & 4] Bruce Johnstone-Lowe
5] Julia Linsley
All photographs provided by and copyright of Hester Reeve.