I don’t think there is anything quite as inspiring as the great outdoors, particularly when its multifaceted appeal isn’t just limited to the organic forms of the environment itself but also its history, such is the case at Snape Maltings and Orford Ness in Suffolk.
Now nature reserves and part of the National Trust, during the Second World War these became military test sites. Further shaping the naturally shifting landscape, which is heavily made up of shingle, thanks to the ballistics testing and firing trials on the bombing range, it is now the site for the fourth annual SNAP exhibition featuring work by Anya Gallaccio.
The ambitious contemporary visual arts component of the Aldeburgh Festival, and running from 14th-29th June 2014, this will be the first time SNAP has developed a project with a solo artist, and is a project that has come to fruition thanks to the contributing support of 14-18 NOW, WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, the Arts Council England, and the National Trust.
A former Turner Prize nominee and with numerous exhibitions at the Tate Modern, Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art under her belt, it will see a series of Gallaccio’s photographs referencing the almost abstract quality of early war photographs and their perspectives of land from the air, placed within the landscape itself. The result is an exploration of organic matter, its structure, the forces of decay and destruction, and the intriguing beauty that an location with so much to say has both on and off the page.
Such is the intrinsic interest of the location that when asked if she intended to create something beautiful through her photographs, Gallaccio seems surprised, saying: “Beauty, is a very subjective idea. We are surrounded by trauma, the earth is constantly being churned up and displaced, whether by design or nature. The site does not resonate the violence of the energy that it has absorbed.”
Eager to highlight that it is not simply the photographs but their placement within the environment that they depict that influences the viewing experience, she continues: “I do not know if the images will be beautiful, and I am not sure that they will look beautiful in the landscape as they will look out of place. It is a simple gesture to amplify the essence of the place, the shingle.”
It is this duality of creating something and then also featuring it as a living installation that characterises Gallaccio’s work, making her the ideal candidate to execute the project which is sure to be a dramatic feature in the Suffolk landscape: “I have used photography fairly consistently. I made a piece tense II (1991), where I printed six large black and white photographs of flowers, which were bolted to the floor of an abandoned warehouse under broken skylights and left to endure the weather.”
Ultimately, Gallaccio’s own reasons for wanting to take part in the project reflect what this summer’s viewers will no doubt take in abundance from its execution: “It is such a weird and beautiful landscape, the shingle and the weather make the landmass unstable, which of course was intriguing to me.”
by Bonnie Friend
SNAP Art at the Aldeburgh Festival is from June 14 -29, 2014 at Snape Maltings and Orford Ness in Suffolk.