"The Field Working Project was conceived in March 1971 as a gallery installation project with slides consisting of documentation and records of journeys made in the West Country landscape. The initial project lasted for three years and was based on journeys that I made, starting out from London accompanied by David Toop, (whose figure appears in many of the photographic documents of the early workings and which is often mistaken for the artists own image).

The project was initially made possible by John Latham and his family who, from time to time, made available to me their Barn at Buckfastleigh as a centre for the journeys. The Project consisted of thirteen Field Working Documents. (later similar projects were constructed over subsequent years involving journeys made in different parts of England, Wales and Scotland, accompanied by various people).

In this initial project the journeys were extensively planned and researched ahead of time, involving the study of Ordinance Survey maps, train and bus timetables, and historical texts, in order to discover remote places off the beaten track where our presence would be fleeting and unnoticed.

 

The Moor

 

The Field Workings, 1971-4 Detail.
Field Working Paper 10. 20th June 1972
photographic images and texts

 

Some of the journeys involved minimalist object installations on arrival but which were always removed and taken away. The main intention was to document an event that did not happen as it were - epiphanously: we went there, we arrived, we left, the place remained the same, as if we had never been there. 

In writing the documentation of the journeys later, from my initial reveries at the site, narrative abruptly jolts to a halt in a kind of freeze-frame and speech and the subject is eclipsed.

My companion on these early journeys was often recorded in my net of documentation - textually, photographically and somewhat on cassette tape. However my own image was never in the picture. In the writings that I made in situ, the "I" was often present, but this presence was written out in those later revisions to remove too much of that which was personal - the subject. 

This was because by that time I was beginning to question the hierarchical relation between artist and observer and the so-called correct place of view assigned in traditional painting. The documents produced as object offer a distancing from the scenario through a fragmentary presentation - a shifting field of positions for view through both looking closely and at the same time distanced: one becomes aware of looking and being looked at looking.

The image or presence of a woman in those photographic records would have changed the whole event - the image would have transformed the event or non-event into a problem.

In Brecht's well known strategy of distanciation which he applied to theatre, his point was to liberate the viewer from the state of being captured by illusions of art which encourage passive identification with fictional worlds, instead the viewer was to become an active participant in the production of meanings across an event which was recognised as representation but which also referred to our understanding of social reality.

These concerns began to affect my conceptualising of art projects at that time and led me into critical debate. So the Field Working Project became for me a battle over representation and the construction of meaning.

It is worth noting that from the start my technique with the camera was decidedly un-photographic. Photography for me was always a means to an end in ways which had very little in common with the variety of attitudes that professional photographers might bring to bear on the landscape. This also became rather a discursive battle over the subsequent years."

From a recent statement by the artist.

 

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The Field Workings, 1971-4 Installation.
Installation view Arnolfini Gallery 1973

 

Install1

The Field Workings, 1971-4 Installation.
Installation view Arnolfini Gallery 1973

 

 

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The Field Workings, 1971-4 Detail. Collection of TATE GALLERY.
Field Working Paper 7. 24th April 1972
photographic images and texts

 

TDurgan fw

Field Working Paper 1974 (Durgan) Installation. Installation View Hayward Gallery. Collection of The Arts Council of England
60 colour photographs and texts mounted on board, parts of trees and an audio tape.

 

 

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Installation view,Field Working 9 1972, Richard Saltoun Gallery 2016

 

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Installation view,Field Working 7 1972, Richard Saltoun Gallery 2016

 

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Installation view,Field Working 7 1972, Richard Saltoun Gallery 2016

The Field Workings 1971-74