what is the difference between a tale and the telling of it?
Val Diggle is a writer and artist, interested in the geopoetic relationship between histories and fictions in site responsive work about the past. and is currently a doctoral researcher at the University of Falmouth, UK
My text-based practice also involves the invention of images and objects in response to particular places and particular people, to build what Lev Manovich describes as an aesthetic layering of data. This practice aims to articulate the poetics of an environment that has been augmented by tenuous associations between sets of ideas, that also function as catalysts for the writing and the making – to illustrate this, previous work has included:
TRIG – a geopoetic response to the life of the Victorian explorer William Wills, sited at three points of a geographic triangle and structured by a ritual engagement with landscape and Devon dialect words, slipping into extinction such as kex, northering and halseny – the art of divining the future with a hazel wand
LIGHTWIFE – a response to the life of Mary Jane Hebden Bennett, the first lighthouse keeper in New Zealand structured by the spectrum and other scientific principles associated with what was, during her lifetime, the emerging practice of photography that became a soundscape designed to be listened to while cycling the route along Wellington harbour to the lighthouse.
FRACTAL CASE – work made in response to a collection of photographs - found in a recycling centre - that documented a journey I co-incidentally had made as an undergraduate, to the same Italian destination. Work here was structured around these images and overlain with poetry that dealt with the uncanny in remembered places, in what Dylan Trigg calls augmented familiarity.
This year my practice-based enquiry into the site of Glasney College and the figure of the medieval translator John Trevisa has established an explorative, choragraphic web of tenuously interrelated plausibilities. I am now curious to see whether the relationship between histories and fictions in creative work about a site and its past can be articulated as a digitized geopoetics when the results of this practice are archived as an inter-active e-book. I’m not trained as a historian or as a linguist, nor do I aspire to be. This isn’t a biographical work. The Trevisa project is an artwork that has features in common with the examples referred to earlier.
The term cultural imaginary is important here. By this I mean the term that for Claudia Strauss has come to replace ‘culture’ because that term is currently associated for some theorists with fixity, Otherness and homogeneity. I want my own chorographic imaginary to be the opposite of these values. My starting point was to trace the fragments of the medieval building, Glasney College, where Trevisa is likely to have been educated as a boy, which had been dispersed, post-Reformation, and incorporated into the vernacular buildings at the heart of Penryn. I imagined that in the process of writing tangentially and collaboratively, in response to the reconfiguration of these fragments I might also rehabilitate Trevisa into the cultural imaginary of the town, augmenting the familiar. I hope this will have a positive, socially cohesive effect on a particular community in a particular place, for whom the experience of being involved in the project might add to a storehouse of shared beliefs, fantasies and memories – an aura over the everyday, a constellation of cultural fragments.
REMNANT, FRAGMENT, TRACE, DISPERSAL and COALESCENCE are all important words for me.: i try to document the phenomenology of the remembering body as it encounters the augmented familiarity of the remembered place