Doing As Learning | Learning As Doing

 

For me, the two periods of fieldwork – during the harvest season of 2010 and the sowing cycle of 2011 – have been by far the most emotionally intense time on the Air Pressure project. That said, the heaviness of those experiences was lightened by the warm relations that sprung up between Rupert and myself and between us and Hayashi-san, Matsui-san and Professor Hiramatsu. The farming family, too, further reduced the weightiness of any burden by their good humour and generosity towards us (and, for want of sounding patronising, by their example of a dignified solidarity in the face of great odds).

In the UK, we have been working on the material we gathered in the fields around Toho. We produced what we now colloquially refer to as “The Soundfilm”, which was shown at the Documentary Now! conference at Westminster University and again at the Phonography Colloquium at Goldsmiths, at which Rupert, Professor Hiramatsu and myself also spoke. The film was additionally exhibited in the Special Interest category at the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Ethnographic Film Festival. I presented a paper – a keynote address – about our work at the Rhythm and Event symposium that was held at King’s College on October 29th, focusing upon those aspects of the site and our representation of it that I thought most clearly resonated with the themes of the day.

Later in May, we were invited to submit a track for The Wire’s cover CD compilation. As someone who has been reading that magazine for a long while – since the August 1985 issue with Sonny Rollins peering over his spectacles, in fact – getting the track accepted and, finally, bending to pick up the finished article from among the pizza delivery flyers and bills on my doorstep was a grand moment.

At the moment, the focus is the forthcoming exhibition, but we are also working on a CD release with Gruenrekorder. The designers at Flatlab have taken responsibility for the booklet that accompanies the CD and this is currently looking very exciting indeed. With the CD, we have composed 10 tracks that present different scenes from the farm. These have, metaphorically speaking had to be put on the shelf for a while as the exhibition has taken precedence and priority, but we will be finishing these off over the next winter month, before they are sent for mastering.

One of the things this whole elaborate process has taught us is the extent to which this project and its complexities lend themselves to this multi-faceted approach, where different emphases can be explored through different vehicles and where it is only through an engagement with the whole that the fullest picture can emerge.

Another thing that has been important has been an acceptance of the extent to which the truths of our exploration of the farm site in Narita can only emerge through a reflexive process of doing. In less stilted terms: hard-drives full of sound and video material, diaries and sketch-books, inchoate ideas, memories of the people we met and the place we lived in, all of these, can only really have their potential realised through some practical operation that depends for its success on the gamble of an initial creative hazard (composing, writing, editing) that once hesitantly ventured is then developed amongst ourselves through a process of reflection, discussion and adaptation.

I have just uploaded this single screen film in a smaller frame size to Vimeo and you can look at the work here.

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