Tam O'Shanter: the relationship between place and identity 2015
The notion that identity and place are intrinsically linked lied at the core of this investigation, bringing forth a personal need to seek an understanding of the relationship between self and geographical location. My past is literally sited in place. Tam O’Shanter Bay is a beach positioned along the Bass Strait that sits beside the small community of Lulworth, my hometown. A long association with the area has meant that a strong sense of connectivity and attachment towards place has developed over time. Immersion of self within the environment plays an important role in considering the relationship between identity and place. By exploring these ideas through a series of site-responsive approaches, I sought to reach an awareness of the way the relationship functions.
To undertake a project that is so inherently personal presented several challenges - homesickness caused from absence from site being the most evident. Although uncomfortable, the act of coming and going from site throughout the project reiterated the importance of the relationship with place, as separation from the area allowed room for an understanding of its individual significance.
The research began by recording the place in moments of time, observing the landscape and its subtle changes. Contemplation, observation, consideration and documentation of the location have lead to the acknowledgment of a feeling of ownership in relation to place, whether warranted or not. Upon realising this, the act of making interventions within the natural landscape became an avenue to portray this. The first two pairings of work presented were made with the intention to convey these feelings. Firstly, an almost organic marking in the sand that could speak to the human need to create boundaries and borders within the natural environment. Secondly, a forceful intervention intended to suggest ownership through disruption of the landscape.
Personal history is embedded in site; therefore these investigations have become integral in both my creative considerations and everyday existence. The action taken whilst creating the third pair of images transpired to be a surprisingly beneficial personal experience. On the second year anniversary of my Mother’s death, I walked a line in the sand with only reflection and my thoughts for company. I had stumbled across the term “rituals of possession” in relation to Richard Long’s work, leading me to appropriate the idea and Long’s process into a ritual of remembrance.
What came to light throughout the project is that relationship with place is fluid and shifting. There may be slippage in my understanding and experience of the space, but I like to think of this as an evolving relationship. The fourth pair of images might be suggestive of deflation, disappointment. As written by Stephen King: “homesickness is a real sickness, the ache of the uprooted plant”. One important difference in the way I now see and understand the site has been the realisation that I am to an extent tethered to, defined and dictated by it. Acute homesickness and nostalgia brings forth limitations and discomfort in life. Although beautiful, my relationship with place has negative elements. This work endeavours to communicate a small aspect of the complex relationship that exists between place and identity at a point in time.
Emily-Rose Wills November 2015
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