david harbott

I have a long standing interest in mapping going back to childhood when I taught myself how to triangulate. I have been considering the potential powers and pitfalls of digital mapping as it has grown exponentially over the last decade. For a number of years I have been exploring place and depictions of place in relation to a sense of belonging. I am concerned at how the geographically small spread of the view of the world from our corporeal senses collides with the globalised view point of technologies based on geostationary satellites (all of which are owned by the US military).

I have developed methodologies and personal techniques for working with non-art people; with residents, with communities, working amongst a range of interest groups, responding to local knowledge and impressions, from specifics like botany and archaeology to un-formalised knowledge bases accumulated by years of care and involvement in said places, by dog-walkers, by birders, by military re-enactment enthusiasts .. all of whom (including me) build cultures of value, sometimes easy to recognize and assimilate, sometimes not!

I have an enduring interest in observation because it comes before knowledge. Across art and science almost every discipline requires an outward-looking element upon which to build and reflect. But drawing, in one very significant way is different: observational drawing exists within observation, not as a result of it. What is observable, in a way, brings things into the field of the known, or at least the potential to be known. I am interested in the thought that what is yet to be know is present all around us in the known, the familiar, the intimate and everyday. Thus an enduring aspiration for my art practice is to reveal the yet-to-be-known through an intensified and sometimes augmented observation of ‘ordinary’ things. Currently I am exploring associative compositional forms, in which what is noticed / observed is given priority over perspective. I am being influenced by C16 ink drawings by Kaihō Yūshō, where witten text and drawn marks exist in a unified aesthetic space. I am interested to conceive of drawing as ‘data’. For the artworks to function in this way I produce works in series, often considering series’ of works as one work. I borrow aspects of methodologies from social science, biology and ecology to produce aesthetic conceptual spaces that stimulate novel readings. These series’ of works also function to create a miniature discourse around certain phenomena. Works can be read in relation to one another, meaning is established relative to the difference, similarity or repetitiveness of the artworks within the series.

Imagine you are standing tummy-deep in the sea, for this purpose pretend its not cold, think about what you can see, imagine the waters surface. It is not flat calm, nor is it threatening, the waves gently lift and fall, there are small sub-waves travelling across them. There you are half a bodies height above the ocean, that vast bulk of water. What you see is nothing, nothing human, no history, no culture; nor is it animal, not alive; nor is there difference between one cubic centimetre of water and the next. You are in an absolute wilderness. This experience is akin to Deluze’s ‘virtual’ which conditions or lies behind, possibilities. It is possible that any one bit of sea (how ever tiny) could relate to any other, but in themselves none do .. there is a no thing-ness within the sea .. it is down to you (active subject) to make a taxonomy of no-thing!