30 Year Anniversary Event and launching Shifting Ground, a publication - September 22nd 2016: A really wonderful night at Dalston Curve with all the friends, colleagues and members of J&L Gibbons, celebrating three decades of remarkable, innovative, mindful work in shaping the environment of London and beyond. Lovely to work towards this night, where I gave a small contribution with this collective, multivocal reading, through the Shifting Ground publication. A beautiful object, it combines articles, reflections, dialogues, celebrates the past through future work and enterprise, and fortunately for me, contains a suite of my poems.
Very excited to be reading at the Garden Museum this week upcoming. The event is a chance for me to read some of the poems I've written during my residence with the amazing landscape architects http://www.jlg-london.com/ called http://thegreenerinfrastructure.tumblr.com/. The work of Jo and the team at J&L Gibbons has been a real inspiration and they published an extraordinary pamphlet entitled Soil last year, the poems from which I will be reading on the night.
We are all collectively responsible for our space, but there are those of us whose expertise puts them into moments of decision, in real three-dimensional praxis, and whose stake may not be immediate after they have left those environments but whose trace is essential to the feeling and experience of that place. In the urban context, where all, at some point, has been planned or shaped, even if accidentally, by the hands of money, so their role is a fascinating blend of immense power and fundamental invisibility, for the people who will use that space at least, once the architects are gone. This paradox is what attracts me so much to the work of J&L Gibbons and a progressive notion of landscape architecture. For I am, I must admit, quite frequently, unaware of the process of landscape, while being painfully aware of the evolution and environment of language in that very same space. So I believe this residency can be a symbiotic engagement on my part, learning to be mindful of this environmental evolution of the city, especially am ancient city like London, to see with new eyes through the work of Johanna Gibbons and Neil Davidson and their colleagues the changing of environments while tacitly recordings, archiving and reflecting on the language of that process, those spaces and the culture of its happening.
Like every profession or possession, familiarity breeds diminishing returns in the practitioners understanding of their own responsibility. The grind of unmediated human behaviour undoubtedly leads those who shape our environment to suffer the same prosaic reckoning as any other profession, just as a poet will write the same way for 40 years because he has found some recognition, so the unrewardable complexity of subtle, liminal, 'humane' approaches to the shaping of an environment seems a rare quality that would require great awareness, humility, passion, mindfulness and ethical self-interrogation. This is my meagre understanding is what defines the work of J & L Gibbons. In fact if I am now able to recognise different fundamental modes of landscape architecture, it is because of my being exposed to their extraordinary work. I had the privilege to speak in person with Johanna Gibbons and Neil Davidson at length about their work, where they fleshed out the content of this talk http://www.gardenmuseum.org.uk/page/grounds-for-optimism-designing-resilient-landscapes-in-london and (perhaps accidentally) exposed me to their remarkable humour, care, sensitivity and engagement with the very root of what they are doing. It so exciting to be in the presence of people at the height of their profession who have never allowed themselves to become lost in the necessary minutia of their task at the expense of the human experience, for all the complexity of that, that underrides their decisions.
I shan't now bring up individual examples of their working history, or their remarkable client list (though its worth looking it up http://www.jlg-london.com as it is all a matter of public record) as I want to save much of it for my work with them over the next year. Suffice to say, in beginning this residency, I am preparing myself for writing that brings with it a responsibility, and that is what I am seeking. Environments are shaped by language as much as anything else, though it hard to reckon, and over the next year I intend to improve my understanding of language in space, in the fundamental shaping of people's living space, and I hope, primarily to permanently refocus my own ability to perceive 3 dimensions and the human presence within then. I am in fine company to do so.