At the opening night of my exhibition, I wanted to talk to my guests for a few minutes about my work, its motivations and my intentions both for the work completed and that yet to be done. I wrote several pages of text that were organised into 8 topical areas, but it was never my intent to read a speech on the night. I used the written speech to organise my thoughts and the order in which I wanted to convey them, and to be used on the night as a reminder, a basic road map of what I wanted to say. Then on the night, I spoke extemporaneously, only referring occasionally to my notes as I shifted to the next topic.
I received a great deal of positive feedback on the talk and it was interesting how much the discussion of “place” resonated with people. The background on my work and how it was presented was also cited as helping people to better appreciate the exhibition.
I am posting here the link to the edited video as well as the original “script” I drafted. The talk clearly follows the intent of the script, but is by no means verbatim.
Dornoch Exhibition Artist’s Talk
- Thank you for coming tonight. I am honoured that so many of you have taken time to come see my work and, am humbled by the support of you and many others this community we have come to feel is our home.
- I am very pleased to be able to share with you some of the work I have been doing. And for those of you who are wondering, 13 photos and a movie: Is that all she’s done in 2 years? I can assure you it is not, and you don’t want to see the hundreds and hundreds of photos and videos I have amassed in the last 2 years. Perhaps later when this story has an ending there will be an opportunity to tell it in full, but for now…
- Most of you know of me as a golfer, a former Naval Aviator and as a photographer, and as someone who is passionate about Dornoch and the Highlands, but probably not too many of you know that my undergraduate degree was in Biology. It is precisely this confluence of experience and interests that led me to focus my MA work on Coul Links.
- When I began the MA programme, the timing of the decision process was such that had the original approval stood there would have been a body of work showing how Coul Links adapts to both natural and man-made or anthropogenic forces. As the decision was significantly delayed it became apparent that my project would not reach an ending concurrent with the completion of my MA and while I intend to continue until there is a proper ending to be written, my MA project was going to have to find a way to tell the story “so far”, and so I have spent a great deal of time getting to know and observing Coul Links from a perspective that not too many others have.
- At its most fundamental, I have undertaken a study of a place and have been in a sense surveilling it regularly for the past two years. I have done my best to observe and document from an objective point of view; to look past the controversy and to get to know Coul Links as it is. We live in a world that seems increasingly bent on hyperbole. I believe, however, that things are rarely ever as bad or as good as they first seem, or as opposing sides would argue. When I looked Beyond the Noise what seemed certain is that Coul Links exist today despite the controversy and it will change with or without development. And the truth is none of us can know to what degree the concerns or hopes will be realised until sometime well into the future. Coul Links are ever changing and like most natural environments adapt constantly. Nature has a remarkable capacity to respond to and overcome the most severe impositions and yet we live in a time where the cumulative effects of human impositions are stressing our planet.
- Along the way I made some interesting observations and discoveries and came across some research that had relevance to my work, and without getting too academic I want to spend a few minutes to discuss the concept of place.Place is more than physical existence and it has anthropological and sociological significance. In our busy, ever more mobile world, a phenomenon has been observed that we move through many spaces without really registering where we are. Marc Auge introduced the concept of “non-places”, spaces we transit, like railway platforms, airport transit halls, shopping malls etc. while physically being somewhere, they are spaces to which we pay little attention and about which we often are not aware. Jim Brogden takes a slightly different view and ascribes non-place status to abandoned or neglected urban areas, the voids amidst the inhabited and used areas.Coul Links was a largely unknown space, even to local people, and it was only after a development was proposed that it gained significance and went from being a non-place to a place. For most of the 90,000 people who signed a petition, they will never visit or know Coul Links as a place. It is an interesting reversal of the phenomenon, where a non-place has become a place.
- The more time I spent at Coul Links and the more I came to know it the more significance it held for me personally. I observed how people approach and use Coul Links and in truth how few people use it. And most of those who do approach it only from the perimeters and limited probing from the south. Very rarely did I observe anyone inside the perimeter zones, and as a consequence, my observations and points of view provide perspectives most will not have seen before. I flew a drone on a regular basis with pre-planned mission profiles that allowed for photographs and video of the same places from the same vantage points month on month providing a basis for comparison. I walked and explored areas that most others will not have gone and discovered places that were fascinating to observe and photograph.You may have noticed that the exhibition reflects these aspects. The outer walls of the columns are photographs from the perimeters, recognisable as being Coul Links, while the square format photos on the interior walls are intimate landscapes that do not necessarily reveal their location as Coul Links though in fact they are. The aerial videos provide a unique perspective that reveals the complexity of Coul Links and shows how dramatically the landscape changes from season to season and year to year.But it is important to acknowledge that for those that know and use Coul Links, each will attribute their own significance and have a unique relationship with Coul Links. This place has been many things over the centuries, and it has held significance of different sorts to different people over that time. It is wild, but not pristine and untouched. Just as it has been a battlefield, grazing land, a shooting ground, had a railway pass through it, been used as a tip, a tree plantation, a place for dog-walking, bird watching and quiet contemplation, and it may have even had golf played upon the links ground hundreds of years ago, I believe it can and will continue to accommodate multiple uses and hold significance for people who truly come to know it.
- I would be remiss without acknowledging people who have helped make this night and this journey possible. Richard MacKenzie helped me and turned me loose in his workshop to build these wonderful display fixtures. Jim Campbell turned up early this morning to help work out the electrical distribution for the lighting of the displays. Scotty Atchison and the Royal Dornoch Golf Club for the use of space in the Greenkeeper’s Shed to paint the displays. John McNaught at Highland Print Studio printed and mounted the large format photographs on display tonight. Thanks to the Dornoch Cinema club for the use of their equipment and to Carol Mackay and her team from the Courthouse Café for the refreshments and service this evening. I also need to thank my classmates, one of whom, Mick Yates came up all the way from Bath to be here, for their unending support and encouragement throughout the programme.And most importantly, my husband Jerry Horak who has been my most ardent supporter and assistant regardless of what “cunning plans” I concoct. He has schlepped camera kit, put up with my long days and late nights studying and the impact that had on our golf and every other aspect of our lives together, and done everything possible to support me and make my life easier over not only the past 2 years but the past 16 years.
And I want to thank you all again for coming tonight. I am really pleased to have you here and hope you enjoy the evening.