Making Space:Sensing Place

In October 2009, along with artist Thurle Wright, I was awarded a Making Space:Sensing Place Fellowship; part of the HAT: Here and There International Exchange Programme, managed by A Fine Line:Cultural Practice. The Fellowship includes residencies with Britto Arts in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with Arts Reverie in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with The V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, London and with The Harley Gallery, Nottinghamshire. Working and collaborating with artists and craftspeople from the UK, Bangladesh and India, responding to the collections and spaces we encounter and sharing these experiences through a touring exhibition and educational workshops.

This blog, which is still developing and being added to, is a record of my experiences during the MS:SP Fellowship. Steven Follen.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Gone Country

I made a journey outside of Dahka today to see examples of some other metalworking I had come across in my research.r
Its good to get out of the noise and busy-ness of the city. The place I was heading to was a very small 'hamlet' some 11/4hrs bus + 3/4hr auto rickshaw + 1/2 hr cycle rickshaw + 3/4 hrs walk away from Dhaka.
The journey included walking across some scary bridges and through wonderful landscapes.
People were working in the paddy fields, the pace of life seemed completely different (although no less harsh).
The space, the sky, the greenery, the lack of fumes and dust and the relative quietness made you unclench your shoulders and breathe deeply, even my ears began to relax.
Along the way men and women were attending their fields of rice, planting out and watering using baskets and ropes.
Watch them working here: Watering paddy fields.

I liked the visual pattern of the rice against the sheet of water and the reflection of the sky. the raised lines of earth that divided the fields forming tracks and paths.
I think I felt at ease as the East Anglian landscape in the UK has similar features; flat, angular fields divided by raised banks.
We walked through a village and several smaller hamlets, the walkways between homesteads are raised so that people can still move easily during the floods.
The Houses too are built on manmade mounds of earth in an attempt to protect them and the residents from the rains. Each dry season families dig clay and re-deposit it on the mound to raise the height or increase the size of their plot in an attempt to protect their property from the waters which fill Bangladesh each wet season. The ice melt and rain water run off from the Himalayas, brought to Bangladesh by large rivers including the Ganges, combine with the tropical storms which blow in up the Bay of Bengal and mean that the water levels rise considerably. Bangladesh floods.
Everywhere there were boats and indicators of life surrounded by water, It made me wonder what it must be like to live here during the monsoon and the floods. I guessed that the sunken boats hadn't been abandoned, they'd been left in the water so that the timbers didn't dry out and shrink, so that when needed in the wet season all the joints would be water-tight.
Materials and crops were stored and drying along the way. These are stacks of jute.
A rice harvest, drying in the sun.
Hay and goat pats. The pats are used as fuel for cooking.
Pats drying on a special rack