Clearing, Cranleigh MapIn 2004, I was commissioned by Cranleigh Arts Centre in Surrey to make a piece of artwork which was informed by the village and surrounding area. I worked with marvellous sound-poet, Jane Draycott on the project, which resulted in a self generating media piece, “Clearing”.

We spent some time in the village, assisted by a group of young people, recording sound and video, collecting stories and memories from local people. We met and interviewed skateboarders at the local ramps, the park groundsman, local business people, pupils at the secondary school, residents of a home for the elderly.

Being visitors to an area and having to make a piece of work which comments or draws some kind of conclusion from it, is difficult if not impossible. Jane has a technique of working with found words, in the same way one might work with found sound as an indicator of time and place. We used this technique as the main method of our project, drawing together a number of phrases and topics which seemed to be present in the minds of different areas of the community.

Jane Draycott, DVD insert poemThe tale which we heard repeated most often was that of the loss of the local railway line, occuring in the early 1960’s as part of the Beeching Report and it’s conclusion to close 18,000 miles of rail lines across Britain. For younger people in the village, not even born at the time of the report, the awareness of this enforced isolation in still a present memory. We were taken to the dusty, former railway station platform, now a loading bay behind a supermarket, the rail tracks long gone and their route now used as a bridlepath, though one which leads nowhere.

I created a CD-Rom application which randomly generated sets of the material that we had extracted from our time in Cranleigh. The result combines audio, video and text, which each have a relevance to each other, but are refreshed each time the application launches. We made an edition of 50 of these CD-Roms, containing the disc with the application and content, a text piece by Jane Draycott, and a map and digital images created during the project. Myself and Jane took our artist copies and entrusted the remainder to the Arts Centre, I wonder whatever became of them.

I made a video version of the piece, which obviously omits the random generation of content, but looks similar to the original version.

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