Among The Dead Dunes Some Trees Glow Like The Sun…

 

Among Dead Dunes

Primordial Arboreal Gold

Washes Upon Baltic Geographies.

Millennial Boundaries Shift

With Faint Traces

Of Ancient Rites,

Through Weaving Light & Shadow

We Can Glow Like The Sun.


I was privileged to stay nearly three weeks in Lithuania spending much of the time exploring aspects of its heritage and landscapes.  The first week was spent at the wonderful Nida Art Colony, a creative center from which I explored the landscape of the Curonnian Spit.   Located on the Baltic coast, the spit is about 98 km long, the northern part of which is within Lithuania and the southern part in the Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation.  I was drawn back to the Curonnian Spit, in part due to my interest in a Neolithic amber hoard, within which are a range of unusual figurative forms, that had been discovered in the 19th century at Juodkrantė.

However I very quickly became more interested in a series of tensions and entanglements that the forested nature of the landscape and the elemental nature of amber began to reveal.  The Curonnian Spit has a remarkable natural and cultural significance in part recognised with its inscription as a World Heritage Site in 2000 and its status as Kuršių Nerija National Park and as the Kurshskaya National Park of the Russian Federation.  So interesting tensions can be encountered between geo-morphological forms, climatic processes and the movements of other species which do not recognise political boundaries and the management of designated landscapes.

The landscape of the Curonnian Spit has been subject to major changes in character, sea level, deforestations, erosion and drifting of sands, and then reforestation and management. People have responded for millennia, and in part caused, some of these changes. For millennia they have encountered timeless gifts cast up from the sea. At times they reworked these gifts, and sent them back, perhaps in an attempt to make sense of or intervene in the world of change around them.

While there I worked on a piece through researching the history of the landscape and those who have dwelled within it for nearly 5000 years and by creating a series of small temporary installations in the landscape. This resulted in the development of a piece Among The Dead Dunes Some Trees Glow Like The Sun which was performed the following week in Vilnius.  The 12 minute performance explored the ongoing inter-relationships between people and landscape, and invited us to re-imagine the way we interact in the future.   Rather than try to reproduce that performance here I show some of the elements which I responded too.

Concert-Natura

Located in rural Catalonia, nine kilometres north of the city of Tarragona, is the Mèdol quarry.

The quarry is up to 20 metres deep, 200 metres long and 40 metres wide, it is thought that 50,000 cubic metres of stone were quarried from here !  It dates to the Roman presence when Tárraco (Tarragona) was the provincial center of Hispania and is thought to have been the source of much of the stone for many of the great public buildings in the city.

What is striking as you enter the quarry is the huge pinnacle of rock, L’Agulla del Mèdol, which the extraction of the quarry respected through out its use and which has survived intact to this day.  A solitary and mysterious figure, it dominates the space,

but as you move further into the quarry you are met with dense vegetation of oak, olive and mastik trees, it feels like a lost world…!

Mèdol quarry was inscribed in 2000 as part of the UNESCO world heritage site Archaeological Ensemble of Tárraco.  Further details about Roman Tárraco can be found at the El Museu Nacional Arqueològic de Tarragona (National Archaeological Museum of Tarragona) website.  More information about Roman quarries in North-East Hispania can be found in a published thesis by Anna Gutiérrez Garcia-Moreno, Roman Quarries in the Northeast of Hispania (Modern Catalonia).   The thesis is an fascinating study of the minerology, techniques of quarrying and the cultural background to their use in the Roman period and beyond.  There is an excellent account of the subsequent understanding by archaeologists of El Mèdol, which is unexcavated, in which it is noted that between 1931 and 1934 it was the focus of a

‘concert-natura’,… which was supposed to give El Mèdol an international reputation as the Auditori Natural de Catalunya (ibid 147)’

Its amazing to think that there still remains such striking evidence of Roman activity in the landscapes of Catalonia but no surprise that they continue to capture the imagination.