When reading through ‘Wire’ (Farley, P. and Roberts, M.S. 2011), the Edgelands sound like the crossing places between different kinds of civilisation. The Edgelands are largely overlooked themselves but if you look closer they reveal themselves to be a no-man’s land. The wires mark the edges of these no-man’s lands and symbolise a ‘no trespassing’ mentality for any prospective strayers onto this imposing yet intriguing landscape. This mentality of course only servers to galvanise this strayers into trying to cross the threshold of the Edgelands. The gridlock of wires hold many untold stories surrounding them (mainly of teenagers attempting to get inside their perimeters). Occasionally these tales are evident on the wires: ‘ribbons and tokens tied to them as prayers or decorations’ – (Farley and Roberts, 2011).
Human intervention into a space even as devoid of so much life as the Edgelands can turn it into a place. This is because, whether it is a ‘Hush House’, the outskirts of a suburban city or the forbidden yet strangely enticing allure of getting to the other side of old nuclear sites’ wire boundaries, people inevitably find themselves there for a variety of reasons. For the outskirts of a city the reason is very sombre, because the wires are used to display sadness for the lost, loved ones who were victims of roadside accidents there. In contrast to this the one hush house, possessing an anechoic chamber where sound travels by itself very well, a play took place and so a much more jovial display was on show in this Edgelands.
One question is what to do with these spaces especially after they have become disused and therefore what kind of a place will it become in the future? Will they become places for art or will they continue to be crossing places or show grief for what had happened there already?
Another question is how to photograph these spaces in the meantime like the work of Frank Watson with The Hush House – (Watson, 2004)? It would seem clear to me that by photographing it like Watson did, with a similar ‘cool analytical stillness of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s studies’ – (Farley and Roberts, 2011), any distractions would be kept minimal and so not detract from the true bleakness of the Edgelands at their current state.
‘Power’ (Farley, P. and Roberts, M.S. 2011) reaffirmed my notion that the Edgelands were a crossing place. In this particular case of Edgelands, power stations were the backdrop in the landscape. It seems whether the Edgelands are massive in scale like these power stations or just wire borders, they remain largely unnoticed, yet their effects on civilisation remain important. Besides being a political point of conflict and because power stations are of such a huge scale, aesthetically too, they can raise contentions over whether they are more than just an eyesore or ruin the environment. I would say from a purely aesthetic point of view they can add some extra interest to the landscape; providing an (inescapable) background element for foreground subject matter but then again, I don’t have to live near a group of them! To liken them as religious symbols as Roger Wagner did with his synopsis of his Menorah (Wagner, 1993) painting: ’the smoke belching from the central chimney reminded me … than a symbol of God’s presence’ – (Wagner, 1993), I thought was a bit of a stretch; although they do possess some kind of majestic aura in my opinion. However, they can add meaning to the landscape when there is a foreground element present as John Davies has found with Agecroft Colliery, Salford 1983 – (Davies, 1983). Here, he cleverly uses a high vantage point to make the foreground elements of the cars, horse and people playing football on a field appear more natural and insignificant set against the enormity of the power stations in the distance. Wagner’s painting similarly also possessed a foreground element – this time of the Crucifixion but I thought it was implemented less subtly, being constructed from the ground level. This was presumably so the panting Menorah (Wagner, 1993) could stay in keeping with the way most people associate the Crucifixion in other paintings (at ground level). Comparing Wagner’s painting with Davies’ Agecroft Colliery, Salford 1983 (1983), the photograph made the foreground elements less conspicuous, which I felt added to the ‘surprise’ of spotting them when you ‘got over’ the majesty of the power stations.
Davies, J. (1983). Agecroft Colliery, Salford. [Photograph] London: Michael Hoppen Gallery.
Farley, P. and Roberts, M.S. (2012) Edgelands. 1st ed. Bath: Chivers.
Wagner, R. (1993). Menorah. [Oil on Canvas] Oxford: Ashmolean Museum.
Watson, F. (2004) The Hush House: Cold War Sites in England. 1st ed. Berkeley, CA: Hush House Publishers.