Jennifer Steinkamp’s Blind Eye 1

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Vital…being a manifestation of organic life: supporting, or necessary to, life giving, invigorating: characteristic of life, or of living things: animate, living: full of life: lively, energetic: capable of living.   (Chambers English Dictionary)

In preparation for Lockdown 2, I’ve thought about what got me through Lockdown 1:  a pension, good health, comfy home, an allotment, the voices of friends on the phone and the bonus of their faces on Zoom. The knowledge too, that other things were growing during this period, like Riversmeet Productions * winter cabbages, and my play about the Middle East, Blood, Gold and Oil. 

In short, vitality; for there’s no growth without it.  When people start to get depressed, it’s vitality they’re short of. Other people and creativity provide it. But don’t creatives need to be alone?   In the act maybe, when the current of energy is between the self and what’s being done. The work will then need to connect with others in a circuit. If it doesn’t, it shorts.

I think of Freud writing about ‘the lonely psyche’ – how we look out for others to relate to, and when our batteries are re-charged we can keep going on our own for a while.  For me trees and visual art (art that I choose, and trees that nature chooses) are sources of vitality.  I went to the Haywood Gallery show Among the Trees. It was lovely, as Heathcote Williams’ poem Tree Power declares –

As we came from trees it’s no wonder
We turn to them to recharge.
They’ve silently witnessed our history
And they’re ourselves writ large.

I enjoyed this mixed media exhibition as I might a family photo album – a curated forest, the ‘wood wide web’. Yet the vitality of art and the vitality of trees do not make vitality to the power of two.  These were representations, tributes, not love.  No pheromones.  You couldn’t smell it.  Heathcote Williams again.

In the Musky bouquet of an ancient wood
The very nature of thought is changed.

Then I got to the last room. This forest sized wall installation made something new.  Jennifer Steinkamp’s Blind Eye 1 was a thing in itself.  Defined as computer sculpture, the artist fed images of a year’s growth of silver birch trees through a programme that condensed it to three minutes.  It revitalised me and I left with a spring in my step – animate, living: full of life: lively, energetic…’


Jan Woolf




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