climbing a mountain and making day

coinciding with making day, i am going to be starting (and hopefully finishing) my climb of carrauntoohil in the macgillycuddy reeks next saturday (highest mountain in ireland).  although i decided and arranged to climb the mountain months ago, perhaps because it falls on making day i am asking myself all sorts of questions about how the climb might be related to my work on landscape, body and gender. part anticipation and preparation, i am doing some research reading of ‘the living mountain’ by nan shepherd (1977).

the living mountain: i guess the obvious place to start to think about landscape and gender in relation to climbing a mountain is nan shepherd’s ‘the living mountain’. the book describes her relationship to the cairngorm mountains in scotland where she spent her lifetime living, writing and walking.

blurred lines and the middle: even though the book is divided into 12 parts their themes, weather and colour etc crossover each other blurring lines between neat classifications and decisive parts of the book. i touched on some similar points about things not being one thing or the other last year in my ‘from the middle of the road’ short video and just yesterday i found myself texting someone that i was stuck ‘between here and there’ when my car broke down on the way to kilkenny and i spent the day in what could be described as ‘the middle of nowhere’ waiting for car parts. of course yes – the middle is a powerful place to be, i hear you deleuze and guattari! and where did i read recently that standing on the faultlines is the most dangerous place to be (oh yes it was in connection with the killing of the journalist jamal khashoggi) …. it seems like i digress. but these metaphorical positions are bodily positions and related to landscape, body and gender in many ways.

being in the middle, inside and compound views: one of the most striking points that is made about reading ‘the living mountains’ is that shepherd’s writing describes being on the mountains rather than any sense of trying to reach summits and being on top, which is argued as a male motivation for walking on mountains. instead she wanders without a clear destination in mind. i argue that this is not quite the same as walking aimlessly because she has a reason for being there. she also describes the mountain as having a middle or ‘an inside’ below the surface which she gets glimpses of from time to time. and in describing views, again tying into my work ‘landscape and i’ work from last year, she never gives a single view but a compound view of something as seen from many different or multiple perspectives.

bodily thinking and mountains: shepherd writes that on the mountains ‘the body may be said to think’. i touched briefly on some points about phenomenology in my presentation of body as site last week and shepherd’s position supports a phenomenological approach which at the time of her writing was at odds with the prevailing cartesian philosophy that divides mind and body. merleau-ponty was also writing about body as subject, arguing that we are ’embedded in the flesh of the world’ in ways that exceed and inform our rational mind in his phenomenology of perception (1945). likewise shepherd writes that the body is not ‘negligible’ but ‘paramount’ in our understanding and connection with the world.

‘and’ and ‘into’: in shepherd’s writing, some words seem to have significance in their repetition and use. ‘and’ as a conjunction is used as a way to make connections with things without hierarchy. ‘into’ is repeated becoming like a verb as a way of connecting to the inside, rather than the surface or the top.

so for making day?: i don’t expect there to be any real way of communicating to the making session. that said, i will try to make contact prior to the climb. in terms of making i will be carrying my phone by way of collecting and gathering as ultimately its about experience….. i think shepherd would agree!

making though! and just to keep you in the loop of what i am working on. with ‘compound eye’ and ‘in/complete landscape’ in mind, i have been working on 2 camera video work to play on separate screens simultaneously (yet to edit but have some capture) and i am also working on some ‘compound’ print work. both strands i am really excited about. although i am really at the gathering stage, i feel its got potential to go somewhere. here is some process shots of my print work which i will post about next week.


link to nan shepherd:

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