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The sound and geometry of fotminne: walking ancient landscape to imprint foot memory

This practice-based project examines new ways of understanding how long-distance walkers move across the natural landscape. The Swedish neologism fotminne or foot memory is a touchstone, expressing the idea that the walker is imprinted with some kind of mark in their encounter with the land. Using the idea of foot memory, combined with geometric patterning and soundscape, the project asks if it is possible to map a remembered/rememberable path across ancient terrain. If such a connection can be made, might it have a role in sustaining a future landscape freed from passive nostalgia? Fotminne is a form of deep understanding, deep mapping; true foot memory is vested in entrenched knowledge and walks which can be replicated. The project is shaped by the organisational, schematic principles of patterned, geometric form. It asks whether walking in the shape of triangles, rectangles, or circles can imprint foot memory more readily. Does a long-distance walk of several hundred miles play a different role in defining foot memory.

In a form of archaeological excavation of the practice, what was on the surface is exchanged for what lies below, and vice versa. The purpose of this aspect of the project is to explore, in the context of climate change, whether it is possible to find a new, dynamic way forward, rather than to continually return to a position of mournful nostalgia where landscape is, inescapably, a place of loss. ‘Surface’ is etymologically derived from the seventeenth-century French word sur-face, or above the plane. Landscape is a sur-face over which we move. For this project, I have devised a neologism for the subterranean negative of sur-face. I call it sous-face, or underneath the plane, and I use interfaces, layering and folds in my work to investigate its potential to imprint memory.

The project has two key methodological strands, the first of which focuses on composed soundscapes and video. Some are created to embed the sense of being immersed in the landscape and paying deep, intense attention, while others are constructed to actually be a walk, using sounds and images gathered sequentially in the field. Field recordings, on analogue and digital tape, with manipulated pitch and speed, blended with geophony, biophony and harmonics played on a cello, produce not a metaphor for a walk but a finite, specific journey walked from one place to another. My poetry, mixed with the soundscapes, takes the form of sonnets, villanelles and paradelles. The text chronicles the walks and acts as a kind of literary geometry which is combined with experimental dance notation to map movement across the land. The second strand focuses on the creation of geometric book sculptures larger than the human form. Combining etchings, photographs, photogrammetry, ortho-photomaps and text, they invite the onlooker inside as a form of visceral, fotminne encounter with landscape: they are geometric books to walk in.

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