Alchemy of atmosphere …

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The real nature of matter was unknown to the alchemist: he knew it only in hints. In seeking to explore it he projected the unconscious into the darkness of matter in order to illuminate it.”

C.G. Jung. Psychology and Alchemy.

See more about the development of this project at AA2A here


The NOW Project: time, space and place.

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Extracts from a recent landscape art submission to Morecambe Bay Partnership.

During October 2017, I undertook a programme of site visits and detailed research, in response to an open call by Morecambe Bay Partnership for permanent and temporary landscape art commissions, at sites around Morecambe Bay. The commissions are part of their ‘Headlands to Headspace’ Project (H2H), and their brief called for artworks inspired by the landscape of the Bay that will celebrate and aid people to engage in, its cultural or natural heritage.

The importance of opportunities for local communities to take part in the development of artworks through activities such as public consultation or workshops, was emphasised, to develop a sense of ownership and inspire a new connection to local heritage and heritage sites.

By tapping into the genius loci – the qualities or spirit of this place, we were able to develop several interrelated concepts for community participation and landscape art interventions.

Our proposal, The NOW Project was submitted to Morecambe Bay Partnership at the end of October 2017. 

Please note that images used in this blog entry are concept visualisations, only.



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Morecambe Bay is a large estuary in northwest England, just to the south of the Lake District National Park. It is the largest expanse of intertidal mudflats and sand in the UK. The rivers Leven, Kent, Keer, Lune and Wyre flow into the Bay, and their various estuaries form a number of peninsulas and islands and create an eternally changing, elemental landscape. Morecambe Bay has long drawn artists and writers who gain inspiration from its sensual spell, which has recently been described as one of co-existing opposites, where experiences are of:

…past and present, then and now, buried and unearthed, permanent and transitory, real and unreal.” Andrew Michael Hurley, 2016

The tidal flows, rippling, shining sands; estuaries, headlands and farm lands, sacred sites and places of work, merge the enduring and the ephemeral, connect human and non human worlds.

The Bay’s register of historic assets is unprecedented, including historic promenades, follies and lookouts, Iron Age hillforts, a Bronze Age stone circle, the railway, and areas of industry. It holds a unique cultural richness; nationally important for its maritime and WWI and WWII heritage, with exciting archaeological finds, a concentration of ritual and religious sites and a traditional fishing heritage that is unique to the area.”

Our creative approach and concept were inspired by the character of the land itself and the many layers of connectivity that can be seen and felt in this magical and uniquely beautiful, time swept landscape.

There is a growing understanding throughout the world that ecological renewal and sustainability depend upon spiritual awareness and an attitude of responsibility towards the Earth. Through our interventions in the landscape, we aim to gently encourage others to tap in to this understanding, and to reach beyond the everyday time-bound world into a greater realm, rich with meaning and inter-connection.

Here is a selection from The NOW Project. Each item/component has been designed to connect in time and space, to create future facing legacy, that is responsive and sensitive to the area’s heritage.  We want to stimulate intrigue and participation, and prompt fresh new stories that draw on local history and heritage.

In this blog entry we’ve included the core ideas from the submission, and added in some others, for good measure.


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We learnt that ‘Muchland’ was the name of a medieval manor in Low Furness on the north coast of the Bay. Today, the name seems to summon up a land of plenty. Once the seat of the Lords of Aldingham, Muchland incorporated the rocky promontory called Birkrigg Common, near Ulverston. From the Common there are stunning views all around the Bay, over Furness and into the Lake District National Park.

In Birkrigg’s Muchland we have used vintage road signage to reveal interwoven threads of myth, legend, history and memory. The signs are deliberately ‘out of place’ with an archaic, puzzling presence, as there are no roads or any need for traffic rules in this area of common land.  Although the destinations on the signs relate to actual sites and histories, place names are intentionally cryptic. Through this blurring of fact and fiction, we want to foster an atmosphere of  ‘magical realism’ that can open up imaginative interpretations, detective work and exploration, creative writing, map-making or story telling by visitors.

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So, for example, some of the cryptic directions on the vintage signpost illustrated above, refer to the following:

‘S5374′ is the unique number of the flush bracket or benchmark, of the Ordnance Survey triangulation station on the Common, whose National Grid Reference is precisely known. Trig points are slowly disappearing from the UK countryside as their function has largely been superseded by aerial photography, digital mapping, and the use of lasers and GPS.

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In the example shown, we’ve suggested a way to repurpose the trig point by cross-referencing it with a weather vane, to sense and evidence the direction of the wind. The design integrates the silhouette of a traditional “nobby”. These inshore sailing vessels have been used as fishing boats around the coasts of Lancashire and the Isle of Man, since the 1840’s. With our addition, the trig point is transformed into a shrine to the wind.


Birkrigg trial 5 xImage: genius loci, the ‘Spirit of Birkrigg’ (2017).

According to Norse mythology, ‘Sol’ was goddess of the sun. The digitally created image above, is an imagined portrait of Sol that I made after walking around and experiencing the area. I adapted a Google satellite view of Birkrigg Common, by digitally adding simple elements and shadow. I placed Sol’s ‘eye’ at the Druid’s stone circle, from where networks of ‘neural’ pathways radiate. The ancient sites higher up on Appleby Hill and the limestone ridges, became her ‘forehead’ and ‘cranium': where memories lie beneath the surface. The OS trig point is situated towards the rear of the ‘head’ land. Sunbrick lies to the southwest of her ‘ear’ (see ‘Muchland’ map pins below). Bardsea can be seen to the northeast.

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This attempt to envision the ‘spirit of place’, has been influential in our  approach to the project.





‘Eye of Sol’. Like other standing stone configurations in Cumbria (and indeed throughout the world), the Bronze Age circle at Birkrigg exudes an ancient mystery and its functions of ritual, alignment and communion with universal elements.  

Birkrigg stone circle smallThis proposal involves the fabrication of a  temporary geodesic structure, whose geometry is derived from the dimensions of the ancient circle, to encompass the inner ring of stones. When covered, perhaps with a cut bracken ‘thatch’, the dome structure will form a shadowy, atmospheric enclosure.

A small opening at its apex will allow a ‘sun spot’ to form on the ground within.

geodesic birkrigg 2Depending on the angle of the sun overhead, the movement of the spot of light around the twelve stones will draw attention to the Earth’s rotation, and convert the circle into a kind of clock or sundial, or a ‘temple’ to the light.



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‘White Elephant’. During our research we learnt of a legend of a circus elephant  buried somewhere on the Common. The legend captured our imagination, and in response to it and the continuing plight of these magnificent creatures today, we propose to place a larger than life sculpture of a white elephant on the shoreline, nearby. It will be a magical, yet troubling figure, with potential to stimulate empathy and concern for its seemingly lonesome, melancholy predicament.

The white elephant in this visualisation has been scaled up from a tiny antique ivory carving so that the shift in scale will give the large sculpture a deliberately uncanny quality.  Fabrication could involve 3D print technology, and have an appearance evocative of ivory.


Engaging with the present moment: mindful activities

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment. Research has found that when people intentionally practice being mindful they feel less stressed, anxious or depressed.

(e.g. see

This core aspect of the proposal is for an innovative art led survey to be mobilised in Spring 2018. The NOW team will work alongside members of volunteer networks, special interest and resident groups, to collect moments and memories experienced during a single day around the Bay:

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On ‘Bay Day’, participatory workshops and playful art making, employing drawing, craft and map making, story telling, photography, making collections of found objects and materials, audio or video recordings, will reveal ways that this unique environment shapes people’s lives.  Symbolic communication, cross-reference and geometric alignment will be additional generators of process.

The NOW team of artists and community volunteers will continue to work together to distill the Bay Day material, turning heritage into art. A series of linked exhibitions will present the resulting artworks  at unconventional venues around the Bay, indoors, outdoors, and online, during the H2H summer festival in 2018. The exhibitions will convey a multifaceted, kaleidoscopic ‘moment in time’, by sharing contributor’s experiences, collected on a single day, here, and NOW.


‘NOW’: Taking our lead from the ancients and from recent research into mental health, we propose a new, permanent landmark, whose legacy will be to celebrate the NOW Project’s ethos of mindfulness: of being more fully present in the moment.

Referencing the area’s geology of limestone, sandstone and slate, three stone monoliths will be placed in geometric alignment to specified locations around the Bay, to create a contemporary earthwork, or henge (images below). One of the stones will bear the deceptively simple inscription ‘NOW’, expertly carved into its surface by a local mason, once in situ. Via our process of creative engagement, a story or message will be devised by the local community, about living NOW. Together, we will create an ‘alphabet’ of expressive symbols to communicate the message, which will be inscribed into the other stones.

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The monoliths, each standing at least 10 feet high, and their site, will become catalysts for multi-context observation: a landmark from which to make new connections, both spatially and metaphorically, and to engage with the poetics of time.

They will also act as reminders to passers-by, to be mindful of NOW moments. Especially those who may be feeling weighed down by the past or fearful of the future. We intend that the ambiguous sense of alignment, the awesome size, weight and enduring qualities similar to those of ancient standing stones, will activate inventive readings and contemplative, spiritual encounters.

By embodying both transience and permanence, the landmark will become an enduring memorial to the present moment.

In the concept sketch above, the location is a National Trust area close to the summit of Arnside Knott where there are views across Morecambe Bay in one direction, and the Kent estuary in the other. Soft, sunken landscaping referencing archaeological dig technique, emphasises the geometry of the site.

The example below, indicates how the community inscription,  made up of bespoke symbols – contemporary ‘hieroglyphics’ – will have the potential to connect over thousands of years, and convey an enduring message celebrating life, in this place, NOW.

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(NB: the symbols used in this visualisation have been chosen at random, to give an indication of the scale and possible style of engraving, only)  


Going back in time… a chance to look at two projects from the archive.

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Back in April 2006, I asked a group of local craftsmen to create the three contrasting houses of folklore, in a gallery setting. The project was stimulated by council plans for urban renewal at a site nearby. The research stages of the project  brought valuable opportunities to observe each craftsman at work, to document their embodied skills, and listen to their opinions about relationships between art, craft and making a living.

The ‘pig’ scale of the finished installation allowed each perfect little house to be experienced close up. People could pat the thatched roof and sniff its grassy scent, slide their hands along the cool elegant surface of the polished wood, examine the slate’s veins of fossils, or count the run of the dry gritty bricks, as they imagined living inside each space. To add tension and context, a looped film sequence of the recent demolition of three 1960’s residential ‘slum’ tower blocks nearby, was also shown.

Here is a short video about building the houses over 3 days in the gallery.

The skills of the craftsmen were self-evident and brought tacit integrity to the work. The communal familiarity of the story, and the sensual intimacy of the installation combined to show visitors to the gallery that the materiality of man-made things: in this case the houses’ qualities of construction, materials, odour, touch and feel, are our practical means to objectify myth, morality, identity, community and  social values.  How ideas, experiences and emotions are made tangible …… real.

After three weeks, I became ‘The Big Bad Wolf’ when the houses were broken up, to make way for the next exhibition.

Project Credits:

Project concept, design and management, photography and video creation by Fiona Candy. Thanks to Barry Milne, Barry Turner, Dominic Rogan, Harold Wignall; Ben Casey; John Turner Ltd; Jenny Rutter at Pad Gallery, Preston; Arts Council England. “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” played by Henry Hall’s BBC Dance Orchestra (1930).

You can see more about this project, and others at:   (NB: the a-brand site requires Flash. Click on the hammer on the workbench for Huff & Puff)

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‘Visiting Exhibition’

Where visitors were both spectators and exhibits.

We made 100 individual photographic portraits of visitors to the Harris Museum and Art Gallery during the week before Christmas. These were later brought together at life size, to form a 35 metre digital inkjet montage, displayed on the connective central stairways of this well known, imposing public building.

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Other visitors responding  to the finished ‘people-scape’ in situ,  told us that they recognised several of the people in the photographs. They were “familiar strangers”, having previously been noticed in the building or out and about in the city. The stairway portraits revealed subtle inter-connections between the people using the building and confirmed their subjects’ mutual status as rightful visitors and members of the Harris’ community.  Each seemed to be enquiring via the directness of their gaze, about the intentions of others,  as they travelled up and down the stairs, past the photographs. A chance to politely stare at fellow members of the public.

The images also recorded clothing, jewellery, hats and hair styles. At the end of the project the Harris agreed to archive our visual study of the ‘social persona’ of this public building, within their social history collection.

 Project credits

Creative production team: Fiona Candy, Andy Mairs and Susan Rathmell. Thanks to Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Market Square, Preston, UK. Arts Council England, Artech. 2002.

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In memory of my lovely friend, Susan  Rathmell.


Walking in Circles

Mindful walking: revealing embodied, grounded geometries.

In the Motion Capture Studio, at University of Central Lancashire.

We used motion capture technology to transcribe walking movements,  as steps were overlaid in time and space. In this case, multiple reflective markers were attached to each foot.

The delicate qualities of the spiral form made visible in this way, appear as though ‘stitched’ in to, or ‘woven’ on to the ground, with each footstep.

Once  the palimpsest spiral is completed,  the other ‘end’ of it begins to unravel…

The first mo-cap sequence zooms in from various angles. And in the sequence below, the walking is seen from one side only:


Standing at the Centre: connective geometries.

In Mo-cap studio.

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The Vintage Gaze

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An ongoing series of images: visualising experiences of time and memory …

I have been using digital manipulation techniques to merge printed photographs from (in these examples) late 1940’s fashion publications, archival material, internet imagery and my own photographs. This digital collage re-uses, re-edits, re-visits. It looks at world events and objects that may have been witnessed, remembered, imagined, anticipated, feared, or considered impossible, by the once youthful, once fashionable models, who appear to be gazing out, through and across time.

Please click on thumbnails to enlarge. See more examples at my AA2A profile here.

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Toeing The Line

“A journey implies a destination, so many miles to be consumed, while a walk is its own measure, complete at every point along the way.” Francis Alÿs.

One of a sequence of video stories I’ve made about walking along life’s path…

Often my work has related to clothing in action –  being worn – and its relationship to the human body moving in space, through time and place. In this sequence I am looking at feet and shoes, the signs and metaphysical messages on the surface of the ‘ground’ and the rhythm of embodied time as it is paced, lived and experienced.

This sequence was filmed in Preston, Lancashire, UK and in Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Mandvi in Gujarat in India, during February and March 2013.

‘”Dolna” sung by Shreya Ghoshal, from the Bollywood movie ‘Morning Walk’ (2009)

Memento Mori.

Tracing movement.

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Watch ‘Memento Mori’ video here:

Walking from campus in to Lancaster, we (Malé and Fiona) worked with an iPad and a handheld audio recorder with binaural microphones, as well as our mobile phones. From the outset we resolved to allow the research to unfold as we made our walk, and to take influence and context from Barthes and Derrida, for whom photography was a medium of suspended mortality—every photograph or record made, a memento mori.

As we walked along the way, looked, listened and opened up to the experience, we learnt that the traces of movement that came to our attention were perceptions of something altered or dishevelled: where we saw or felt a shift in what would otherwise be constant and unchanging. We captured these traces as static images, video and audio data. Together we explored repetition and the pace of rhythm with our bodies, words and voices: “ribbon…rhythm…band…bond”.

By moving in step along the trace we made, we ceased to be dots of data moving in the landscape. We became the trace, the landscape and the path. We began making and editing the video even while we were ‘on the move’ and the iMovie app and its touch sensitive iPad interface allowed us to edit the material of time with our fingertips. Malé described her sensation of the editing process as being “like working with plasticine”. The interaction with the iPad reminded Fiona of the haptic gestures of stitch or collage. The process of making the video heightened our combined awareness and facilitated reflection on the apparent tensions between tracing live movement and the production of recordings.


More about this and other Mobile Methods Experiments here:

This video was made by Malé Luján and Fiona Candy as an outcome of the Mobslab Experiment: ‘Captured in Motion’, a one day collaborative workshop at the Centre for Mobilities Research, Lancaster University. The main aim of this Mobslab project “was to understand how the world is constituted in and through movement with ‘mobile methods’. This pilot project seeks to explore and showcase the utility of different methods and technologies. A deeper understanding of how the material world and social relations are made in and through physical and virtual mobilities ( and immobilities) is important not only in the context of academic research, but for policy, design and everyday life. The aim of the participatory research is to enable important insights and methodological innovation.”


Mapping multi-sensory modalities: a research event exploring the theme of body cartographies curated by Dr Rachel Sweeney at The Capstone Theatre, Liverpool Hope University.  March 2016

The Earthtomes event revolved around a live Butoh performance led by international Butoh artist Joan Laage. Image of performance below.

Butoh performers: Rachel Sweeney, Sally Dean, Dominique Baron-Bonarjee, Lee Berwick/Digidub.

Eight artists were selected to present time-based and site-responsive works engaging in themes of cartography and intracorporeality and that integrated body-centred approaches within digital media.

Featured Artists: Annalaura Alifuoco, Silvia Battista, Dominique Baron-Bonarjee, Fiona Candy, Kris Darby, Jonathan Gilbert, Simon Piasecki, Rachel Sweeney

For Earthtomes I provided radio headphones so that participants could experience a sequence of audio stories that I created using original recordings combined through digital collage.

The immersive sounds of footsteps brought attention to the presence of the body in motion and the acoustic qualities of places, spaces and moments – as they are stepped into life.

Participants could explore the theatre building and its surroundings as they listened. Access to drawing materials encouraged the production of tactile cartographic responses to their individual multi- sensory experiences of moving in acoustic space.



Tree of Life.

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The Lucombe Oak, Dartington Hall.

In June 2016, I was privileged to attend Schumacher College at Dartington Hall near Totnes in Devon, England. It is the centre of the Dartington Hall Trust, a charity specialising in the arts, social justice and sustainability. Inspired by  founders, Dorothy and Leonard Elmhurst, the Dartington Trust is currently working towards their vision to be a pioneer of deep personal and societal change. This is influenced by the Elmhirsts’ original concept of “…expressing a ‘many-sided life’ and an ethos of openness, creativity and ‘learning by doing’.” (See Dartington Hall and Schumacher College websites for more information).

The gardens at Dartington have a magical beauty and shifting atmospheric moods, texture, form, light and shade. Many of the trees are extremely old. Pathways with flights of rhythmic steps guide visitors through the terraced gardens. Tacit, aesthetic metaphors are present in the garden’s landscaping, re-enforced by considered placements of lyrical sculptures and materials.

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Anthropological studies of indigenous peoples have used the term ‘animism’ to encompass beliefs that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical (or material) world, and that souls or spirits exist not only in humans but also in other animals, in plants, rocks, landscape features such as mountains or rivers, or other entities of the natural environment, including thunder, wind, shadows – and trees. By taking up this focus, I’ve been able to learn of the growing understanding throughout the world that ecological renewal and sustainability depend upon spiritual awareness and an attitude of responsibility towards the Earth.  I’ve been making artworks  that can engage audiences via authentic sensory experiences, and  rediscover a symbiotic relationship with animate nature. Both for myself as well as for others.

Lucombe oak1Dartington brought opportunities to  experiment and trial techniques on the estate. ‘Lucombe’ is a hybrid form of oak that keeps its leaves in winter, and a magnificent specimen grows at the edge of the Tiltyard in the grounds of Dartington Hall (pictured above, in daytime, June 2016). For more information about the location of the Lucombe oak tree, a Dartington Estate map is here.

To explore possibilities and trial techniques, digital imagery was projected onto the trunk and into the canopy of the Lucombe oak, at night. This included anthropomorphic imagery, aiming to stimulate empathy for the energy and spirit of a living tree, and to question limiting interpretations of the sentience and agency of non-human entities.  Both video and still imagery were trialled.

Many thanks to Anna Goodchild for her generous, creative support and night photography skills. See more of Anna’s work here.

I’ve included a small selection of photographic moments from this activity. In this context, the photographs are an additional outcome: my primary purpose was to trial relevant techniques for working in the outdoors that have the potential to augment multi-sensory aesthetic experiences for audiences, in real time, in-situ.  As well as to learn about the world and have fun of course, through art practice. Thanks also to the staff at Dartington for their assistance.

The female imagery was re-purposed from ‘Gaze’ (March 2016), which used digital collage to visualise some ideas about time. You can learn more about Gaze and the development stages of the Anima Mundi project, here on my AA2A profile.

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