'Suspended State' (Field Notes Feb 2010)

This is my first field-trip since October into the heart of the ‘Suspended State’ – the Midlands - an area I have visited and re-visited throughout the economic, social and organic ‘cycles’ of the last few years.

It is interesting that the term cycles should become appropriate for the re-start of the work, as well as part of the overall and inclusive rhetoric of this particular photographic enterprise. While the underlying context to the work is economic, social and historical (referencing the ‘cycles’ of each); it has also come to signify the eternal cycle of construction and destruction - depicting the inevitable organic cycles which are disrupted by society and then return. The cycle is also seasonal. Today it is spring, it feels like spring, and it is another beginning for me with this work.

The cyclical element to the subject I am photographing has been manifest throughout - from as early as 2004, when I started to look at the landscape with a critical eye. The type of (or method of) landscape work I have undertaken is largely determined by the seasons – the ‘correct’ light is seasonal, the necessary barren and austere look of the landscape is best reflected when it is dry (seasonal). But, I also have to fit this work into the relentless melt that is ‘teacher-time’ – so, determined not only by seasonal and organic time but by the calculated measurements of the academic calendar. But, in many ways, returning at definite points throughout the year(s) can add another dimension to how I look at and conceptualize the landscape – I feel the sense of time and change - or lack of change.

Today, in the terrain vague of Mullingar, all cycles are motionless. This place I have known since it had a definite use-value. It was agricultural land - just far enough away from Mullingar town to give it the colloquial identity of being ‘countryside’. Yet, this place has become just another testament to the years of misplaced desires - bad policy, bad planning and vested interests. It is yet another abandoned and desolate nothing-land – a dumping ground of relinquished pursuits. Here even nature seems uncertain whether it is indebted to once again battle its way to the surface.

The landscape is not only in a state of abandonment, it feels dislocated and discontinuous from both nature and society, from both time and meaning. It has an overriding feeling of ‘aftermath’ about it - like how it must have felt for photographers drifting through Dresden and Nagasaki after the horrors of war, contemplating the intentions and meaning of what had come before. Yet, this, thankfully, is not a post-war landscape, it is not scorched earth (in that sense), but, as I survey the lifeless ground like the lonely figure from Beckett’s post-apocalyptic ‘Happy Days’, I cannot help but feel like this. I find myself desperately trying to establish meaning and purpose to even my own act. But that voice somewhere in the back of my mind is relentless - (")I need to photograph this!(") This state of mind will, today, determine my approach - whether I like it or not.

Sidenote: Listening to a Newstalk debate, as I drive towards Longford, about the recession and the best option for recovery. A Fine Geal TD uses the word “apocalypse” to describe the “state of mind” of the country.