CORNISH JUNK over four decades
I am often asked by students where I find my raw materials.
I have been collecting Cornish junk for over thirty years, The sort of things I find, &where I find them, have changed in ways which reflect how some things have changed in Cornwall, over the last four decades.
The country side was a working landscape & a much scruffier place, back then. Farmers rarely threw anything away completely,”in case it came in useful”.Every farm had its dump,tucked away in some field corner or piece of woodland, materials saved for “CODGING”the Cornish art of make & mend.
Abandoned cars lay burnt out on desolate moortop sites. Rural lay-byes were littered with piles of junk & debris,dumped by fly-tippers. The ruined mines lay derelict, their shafts choked with the carcasses of busted machines. The beaches carried a daily tide of plastic & pollution .
One of my earliest “finds” from this “early period” was on a wild moortop site, close to some ancient standing stones. Here, near a modern communications mast,I discovered an elaborate engine casting, rusting out amoungst a pile of broken granite. The juxtaposition of these objects,which spanned thousands of years of human activity,prompted the idea of a future archeologist ,discovering the ruins of a vanished civilisation.
Times change, & we change with them. Few people today can be unaware of our fragile relationship with our environment? We are trying to clean our act up,the Environmental Agencies are doing a thorough job of tidying up the countryside. Many places have been designated”areas of outstanding natural beauty”,and the post-industrial sites have become World Heritage Sites,protected by UNESCO.
But anywhere there are people ,there is junk, & I have found it lurking in new places.
“There is nothing more beautiful than the chance encounter of an umbrella & a sewing machine on a dissecting table” wrote Isodore Ducasse, the Conte de Lautreamount,in the 19th century, a remark much quoted by the Surrealists ,fifty years later.
More than a century later,sewing machines are regularly encountering a multitude of domestic appliances,on scores of tables,on sports fields throughout Cornwall.The landscape is temporarily strewn with the detritus of our throwaway society. At the Car Boot Sale,unwanted artefacts &obsolete technology from the “middle period” are available in exchange for a few pence,for collection.
Solar Mask, Glasgow Museums 1991
Cornwall continues to change, developing Information Technologies offer new sites where socities detritus can be found. Although the “hard ” copies may soon be obsolete in Hyperspace,the internet provides the means of locating unwanted artefacts. Facilitated by E-Bay & other online “sites”,some of the exhibits, included in the” Botallack Hoard”(at the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro, from 10th April) were delivered to my door by the postman.
The flickering electronic technology is opening another horizon, & possibilities for a new future for Cornwall ?
“finger-dance of the sparking beads”, collection.David Kemp