11.8.14

Global Oracle



Global Oracle is a book-length poem, exhibition installation, and audio poem. 

The book is available now (morning star: 96pp, paperback, £7.50), and can be ordered by emailing info@alecfinlay.com

The installation is included in Counterpoint, as part of Generation, at Talbot Rice Gallery (01 August–18 October, 2014).

The audio poem, with sound design by Chris Watson, is available from iTunes as a free download from 13 August.


Global Oracle: a work of prophetic science is an apicultural model of global satellite communication and navigation systems. Here the complex navigation and communication systems of bees and humans are read together.



This is the most ambitious multimedia artwork I have worked on since Swarm (ASX), an apicultural model of worldwide speculative finance, which I made for the 2012 Sydney Biennale. 

Global Oracle was commissioned by University of Warwick Art Collection, as a permanent artwork which I will install on the campus in 2015. Once complete it will provide comradely outdoor companionship to Simon Paterson's wonderful Cosmic Wallpaper wall-piece.



The project is a technological pastoral, similar to some of the artworks I produced for Skying, which considered renewable energy, landscape, and aesthetics. 

In this new project five NAVSTAR-style satellites have been constructed, in collaboration with Spencer Jenkins and Old School Fabrications. Imagine the straw satellites, which offer themselves as nests for solitary bees, in flight among sycamore and sweet chestnut trees. 

The gallery installation also includes five traditional bee skeps, with their Omphalos-like forms, punctuating a wall text.



Global Oracle explores the relationship between bees, prophecy in Ancient Greece, and GPS satellite navigation systems, such as our contemporary oracle, Garmin. It offers a touching paean to dwelling, and an elegy for the fate of the bees, which is our fate.



The oracle at Delphi was sacred to bees, presided over by The Melissae – seers high on ‘green’ honey. Today our 'buzz' is the honey of star-fallen communication. The prophetic powers of our smartphones depends on an oracular swarm of satellites, with their wings tilted to the sun. These vessels are controlled by the US airforce – Delphi is now twinned with Schreiver airforce – who employ the same system for their spy 'drones'.

These themes are explored in the poem, illustrated with my sketches, and four 'bee-masts', digital prints made in collaboration with Hanna Tuulikki, which she has posted about here

An abridged version of the poem, with sound-design by Chris Watson, is included in the installation, available as a free download from iTunes from 13 August.


from Global Oracle

Bees are messengers

bees are oracular   
foretelling the weather

bees are atoms of delight
analogue to the stars

bees discourse the language
   of immensities


bees will wing us
guided by the daughters
of the sun

along trajectories
only open
to the thinking man


To the Greeks   honey was astron
To the Romans   Saliva siderum   star-fallen


aethereal fare
engendered
in the air

at star rise
especially when
Sirius shines
the honey falls
from the skies
as star-spittle

& dews
the leaves
of dawn




Bees become flowers –
flowers become bees –
habits engender harmonies



Bees need flowers
for nourishment 

flowers need bees
for reproduction 



Flowers and bees agree
timing is everything



The bee is a clock
whose dial measures
the day   & records
moments of plenty

the bee remembers
any point   within a day
in its body
                   exactly

the bee is unable
to count beyond
   that day

   the bee is
    ephemeros



Our oracles broadcast
from arboreal masts
hung with rich clusters
   of antenna

through that first darkness
which is always with us –
to the distant vessels
that turn in strict circles –
like the loyal geese
that are said to wheel
around-and-around
   the lost Atlantis


 















Satellites tune us
to the honeydew
of invisible signals
delivering the influx
   of information,
skyfallen words
& the rush   of ceaseless communication

foretelling indexed fortunes
meteorological patterns
computing shipping routes
& the price of rice
predicting our wants
as downloads & tabs

penetrating everywhere
& extending everything
wherever a mast or dish
interrupts the horizon



Over the past three years I have produced a series of art projects and poems relating to bees, culture and knowledge. These include artworks at Brogdale, Shandy Hall, Malham, Merzbarn, University of Stirling, Falkirk and, in 2015, at the University of Warwick. They can be viewed on The Bee Bole.

Bee-related artworks, including the 'bee-mast' digital prints, are available from Ingleby Gallery.

These projects were produced with the help of Luke Allan, Hanna Tuulikki, Amy Porteous, Hannah Devereux, Brodie Sim, Sarah Shalgosky, Chris Watson, Spencer Jenkins, Chris Ellis, Old School Fabrications, and Kathleen Jamie.







23.7.14

on (and off) mountains




Selections from a new collection of pensee on mountains, walking and viewing, a-ga, illustrated with photographs of word-mntn.





a-ga: Sanskrit, ‘mountain,
that which does not go’



the mountain is vulnerable :
with one hand
we may blot it out



we take to the mountain
for a change of air, meaning,
a change of breath.



the tiniest pebble
resting on the summit
is higher than the mountain




the deer’s place: wilderness



hills are for daydreamers;
mountains demand vigilance



he was a man of only one thought :
he had his moor on top of his mountain

(after Joë Bousquet)



a mountain can raise itself up
on a fault




a-ga, morning star, 2014; available now, £5 (plus postage)

The book was published for the exhibition Walking Poets, Dove Cottage, Ambleside.

word-mntn woodblock sculptures available from Ingleby Gallery

photography: Luke Allan, 2014



13.7.14

Rosary



A rosary is a traditional rose garden. 

Here, in the gardens of Castle Park, Frodsham, the trellis are formed from new-made oak ladders, pace Nietzsche's famous saying: we each have a ladder inside. 

The texts combine embedded poems, composed with 'rose' concealed within them – thus Cicero makes his appearance, twice – circle poems, and one-word poems.




the rose colours culture
colours culture the rose





     


an arch
is an open
invitation







tangled in this
retro season

romance blossoms
into reason

(4)




prickled damask
clusters

eros enflamed
flowers

(4)






a ladder
has branches
but no leaves




 


our hero
seeds

thorns that
bleed

(4)






hybrid electro-
sensation

radiant vibro-
colouration

(4)






petals blow
to-and-fro

see-saw torches
all aglow

(4)





morose stems
mourn

their drooping
blooms

(4)



Cicero sensed
glory follows virtue

as sun draws
shadow

(4)



Cicero searched
for Art

in Nature’s
part

(4)






ROMANTIC WANDERER
rambler




WILD-FIRE

briar



This artwork was created a few years ago now. The roses are maturing and the ladders gracefully ageing. The poems are weeded regularly.

Photography: by Hannah Devereux, 2014
Ladders: Tim Kendall
Workshop: Ken Cockburn
With thanks to Luke Allan

Commissioned by Castle Park Arts Centre







5.6.14

there were our own / there were the others

a project commissioned by the National Trust




2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. The British combatants who served in this conflict have all now passed on. Acts of remembrance continue, beyond the guiding influence of their immediate witnesses. How shall we fittingly mark this significant anniversary, given that we still live in an era dominated by warfare?

I have been invited by curator Tom Freshwater to work with the National Trust on a project commemorating the anniversary. Inspired by a phrase in Hamish Henderson’s ‘First Elegy’ – there were our own, there were the others – the work will consist of a programme of reflective memorial events at National Trust properties, over the course of this Summer. The events will resonate with the rich stories these places contain, and the communal memories of those who live nearby.





The project is a collaboration with poets Ken Cockburn, Heather Yeung, Luke Allan, and Susan Tichy. The events will include an installation featuring a selection of poems, reflecting on all aspects of conflict, drawn from a broad range of British & international poets. Two poems will be read at each venue, as part of a silent walk, and at selected venues the seeding of poppies will also take place. The poems offer the widest possible sense of ‘our own’ and ‘the others’, ranging across human experience of war over the last 100 years.

There has never been a more pressing need to reflect on the issues raised by the centenary. Our understanding of war is itself under siege. Even the terminology of warfare – ‘enemy’, ‘ally’, ‘combatant’, ‘victim’, 'collateral' – is in question. This crisis in perception is heightened by the paradoxical distance and proximity with which we receive accounts of conflict, beamed to us via new media, and in the reportage of war correspondents embedded alongside serving personnel.

How, in this moment, can we establish an authentic relationship with the wars of the past and the present? How can our culture reconsider the act of memorial itself? Taking the centenary as a departure point, the poem is nominated as an act of witness, fitting to all forms of remembrance.

The details of the project are now available here. A blog, with a journal essay by Ken Cockburn and photographs by Luke Allan and Hannah Devereux will follow later in the summer.


Hamish Henderson, Jan 1942


from End of a Campaign

There are many dead in the brutish desert,
    who lie uneasy
among the scrub in this landscape of half-wit
stunted ill-will. For the dead land is insatiate
and necrophilous. The sand is blowing about still.
Many who for various reasons, or because
    of mere unanswerable compulsion, came here
and fought among the clutching gravestones,
    shivered and sweated,
cried out, suffered thirst, were stoically silent, cursed
the spittering machine-guns, were homesick for Europe
and fast embedded in quicksand of Africa
    agonized and died.
And sleep now. Sleep here the sleep of dust.

There were our own, there were the others.
Their deaths were like their lives, human and animal.
There were no gods and precious few heroes.
What they regretted when they died had nothing to do with
      race and leader, realm indivisible,
laboured Augustan speeches or vague imperial heritage.
(They saw through that guff before the axe fell.)
      Their longing turned to
the lost world glimpsed in the memory of letters:
an evening at the pictures in the friendly dark,
two knowing conspirators smiling and whispering secrets;
      or else
a family gathering in the homely kitchen
with Mum so proud of her boys in uniform:
      their thoughts trembled
between moments of estrangement, and ecstatic moments
of reconciliation: and their desire
crucified itself against the unutterable shadow of someone
whose photo was in their wallets.
Their death made his incision.

There were our own, there were the others.
Therefore, minding the great word of Glencoe’s
son, that we should not disfigure ourselves
with villany of hatred; and seeing that all
have gone down like curs into anonymous silence,
I will bear witness for I knew the others.
Seeing that littoral and interior are alike indifferent
and the birds are drawn again to our welcoming north
why should I not sing them, the dead, the innocent?



Hamish Henderson (1919-2002) was born in Blairgowrie, Scotland. He served in North Africa and Italy. The extract is from his ‘First Elegy’ (Elegies for the Dead in Cyrenaica, 1948).

Henderson's Collected Poems & Songs is available from Curly Snake Publishing (2000). 

To read the project blog, follow this link:
http://www.therewereourown-blog.com/2014/07/june.html




22.5.14

Sweeney’s Bothy: Eigg and Canna


      
        Prelude: Isle of Canna




Tigh Ard, orchard

AMPLE
SAMPLE

blossom



POWDER
COATED

pollen




mountain
broken
clouds

cloud
broken
mountains



THE
CLOUD
CATCHER

rum




        care of
        a wood

        exudes
        birdsong



        Sweeney’s Bothy, Isle of Eigg, May 2014




        how beautiful –
        the islands

        that we’ve never
        been to




        the first lark
           sings
        from its rock

           for Hanna



        wind-
        less

        the sea
        sounds

        lift
        soft

        from the
        cliffs




        a modern
        fire lit

        from
        a tampon


        a modern
        log made

        from com-
        pacted nothing

  


        Electric Eddie shares
        the dark side
        of the islands
        best joke:

        well its dark
        on the light side
        when it’s night



        Sweeney says:

           sorrel’s all very well
           but how many spears
           to make a meal?

  


        doo-dee-doo-doo
        I’m showering
        in the rain

        just showering
        in the rain
        what a wonderful

        feeling
        just showering
        in the rain




LAPSE

wave


  
AFAR IN THE
CLEAR AIR

barra



SHARING
THE GIVE
& TAKE

&igg



EIRE’S
WAKE

iona



AWESOME
THREESOME

jura


  
THE YEARS
DISTILLED

islay




BLUE SKY
FLOWER

cielandine


  
HOT
METAL

stove




S U N

R Ù M

U U U




AS IF ALL
GOD WAS
AND WANTS

finger


Bidein an Tighearna
The Finger of the Lord





        poems & photography: Alec Finlay
        bowl (for Sweeney’s Bothy): Lisa Gormley


        with thanks to Lucy, Eddie, Bobby, and Iain.