Pentland hills, which rise just beyond my back-garden. Couple of Iron age hill-forts on the site, I am not familiar with the local long term settlement pattern here, but that will change over- time.
I had no idea what I was doing yesterday staring out the window, listening to the storm or why thought drifted to the Christmas card and picture of one of my partners Victorian relatives.
It seemed to be rather a mindless drifting off moment. Although my suspicion that I can be quite single minded in moments of absorption and relentlessly pattern match in such moments, lead to taking a less than perfect picture.
Scanning my environment because I am uncertain about an aspect of it and the objects I focused on within it, while not offering reassurance do tentatively suggest something about its past and its present.
As someone with a background in history I like context and value the moment things are situated in, as someone with a background also in Ethnology, I am not unaware of the role of ethnicity and tradition, in maintaining a relationship with the past.
Considerable tension in this perspective and a considerable tension and argument within early medieval history in this regard.
Do the historical sources first written in the monastic settlements on the fringes of northern Europe shed light on a much older culture and offer us a window on the Iron Age or do they reflect the relentless ordering of the past in a christian present?
Being in a situation clearly has an effect on my mind but the situations I find myself in do seem to be filled with objects and memorials that suggest a significant relationship with the past and tradition.
Also a tendency to frame such questions as pagan past, christian present. The two terse documents, one secular one ecclesiastical I am focusing on (In the rare moments when I am not lost in space not starting out of windows) are both dealing with the same problem, regulating dispute on territory held, with the aim of ensuring the smooth running and maximum exploitation of resources and stability within local population groups engaged in production.
Very small scale localized society in terms of both settlement and ritual practice in the 6th and 7th century. Church is far from uniform or regularized entity and this distinctive pattern of small scale settlement and localized ritual practice is the standard form of settlement associated with the Iron age across Europe.
The space and situation early monastic settlements found themselves in suggests that tradition and past cultural practices may still have relevance within it’s perception of it’s present state.
The issue, that given the nature of the historical sources and late context, a tension is always going to exist as the past is not fully open for excavation, archaeology providing the only framework for movement and comparison with historical sources.
After taking the above picture, I played with the contrast then left it for a couple of weeks. When I returned to it I did not at first remember where I had taken it. My habit of photographing through perspex at bus stops lead me to think that I had taken a picture of someone standing at a stop, gazing into the distance.
I had however modified my practice and adapted it to a slightly different space. Its a structure for storing trolleys in a supermarket car-park and the subject a tree.
Despite knowing the original context every time I look at it now it’s not a tree. It still takes me some moments to move from retrospective thought based on past history, experience and habit to experiencing the image in its original form as it was captured in the moment.
Past imposes itself on the present creating a somewhat fluid and altering state.
It may be impossible to escape the moment but I see no reason to imagine in these moments that some historically pure form exists and can be isolated and extracted from its past. Situation history finds itself in an uncertain unstable mix of the past and present.