Foray in a Modern Reserve: An Impounding Portrait of Landuse (2016 – 2018)
  • Photolanguage (Nigel Green & Robin Wilson) | Darwell, Ecclesbourne and Powdermill Reservoirs, East Sussex

  • Nigel Green / Photolanguage Nigel Green / Photolanguage Nigel Green / Photolanguage
  • Foray in a Modern Reserve: An Impounding Portrait of Landuse (2016 – 2018)
  • Photolanguage (Nigel Green & Robin Wilson) | Darwell, Ecclesbourne and Powdermill Reservoirs, East Sussex
  • “The first report was signed by the ‘Borough and Water Engineer’ and dated ‘this day of the 12th Day of November 1958’. This was a succinct survey by someone who knew where to look. It mentioned ‘bore holes’; ‘pits of puddle core’; ‘cut-off trenches’; a ‘concrete draw-off valve tower with overflow pass’; a footbridge with ‘moveable bearings’; and of a ‘site outside the water limits’ …”

    Foray in a Modern Reserve is an unfinished image and text ‘portrait’ and re-imagining of a modern natural and engineered landscape. It is vehicle through which to explore an experimental method of spatial writing at the intersection of archival research, visual and textual documentary and fiction practice. It developed as a result of journeys and research undertaken during preparation for an exhibition called East Sussex Modern (2016). We visited sites relating to the legacy of the Borough and Water Engineer Sidney Little (1885-1961) in East Sussex, U.K.. These included the impounding reservoirs of Powdermill (1932) and Darwell (1949). The landscapes surrounding the reservoirs have evolved into mature woodland nature reserves, and represent complex terrains of land-use and property ownership. Our landscape ‘portrait’ is a composite text, an assemblage of diverse texts of occupiers and users of these terrains over time. Our own, on-site observations and accounts of multiple journeys form a portrait of single, landscape site and narrative, as a complex negotiation between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’. Our account samples and interweaves many other texts, including Little’s technical descriptions of the sites; accounts of archaeologists; angling and ramblers’ clubs and local landowners; agricultural and land management manuals; as well as a broader sampling of academic studies into the area of East Sussex and the High Weald. In addition, imagery interplays with the text’s narrative structure, generating its own narrative and descriptive trajectories. Through the combination of different modes of the landscape’s description, through its successive spatialisation across different agendas of movement and occupation, the work constructs a utopic portrait of the modern reservoir reserve. It traces the intersection and dispersal of desire and agency across the terrain as an ‘inspection’ that must discover and construct its own object, and ultimately (in sections to follow) propose its own ‘solution’ to the landscape’s latent equations. 


    Photolanguage, a collaborative art practice between the artist and photographer Nigel Green, and artist and critic Robin Wilson, was established in 1998. Through the experimental use of photography, text and found objects we develop radical documentations of urban, architectural and landscape sites.  Our work has consistently focused on the remains of modernism within the post-industrial city and its hinterland landscapes, in project sites that have included the cities of Calais, Copenhagen, Gloucester, London, Malmö and Paris.

    Nigel Green completed a practice based PhD at UCA Maidstone on relationship between photography and the representation of modernist architectural space. His photographic work has been exhibited and published widely and in 2003 he completed a commission by Photoworks to document the power station complex at Dungeness in Kent. The accompanying book was shortlisted for the 2004 Arles Festival Book Awards. Having a long-term interest in French reconstruction architecture he completed a project for the Picardy based photographic organization Diaphane, which was exhibited and published in Amiens in March 2010.

    Robin Wilson is an artist, critic and lecturer in history and theory at the Bartlett School of Architecture.  He completed a PhD at the Bartlett in 2007. His work has appeared in edited anthologies such as Critical Architecture (2007), The Political Unconscious of Architecture (2011) and Camera Constructs (2012). He is author of Image, Text, Architecture: The Utopics of the Architectural Media (Routledge, 2015), and has published widely as a critic on art, architecture and landscape.


    Key to the work of Photolanguage is the construction of a particular relationship between the ‘real’ and the ‘represented’ at the intersection of the photographic image and text. Our projects draw insight from the reflective nature of site-writing’s engagement and re-presentation of site as a contested space of desire and identity.  Often working in the context of regional histories of architecture and land use, we seek to bring to the surface suppressed narratives of identity, to revaluate the outmoded, to construct new meaning from the overlooked in a way that questions established hierarchies and encourages a productive suspension of the borders between fact and fiction, evidence and associative fantasy.

    Land-use, Reserve, Thicket, Gathering grounds, Freewarren, ‘we’


    Karel Capek, War with the Newts (1936)

    Paul Nash, ‘Monster Field’, The Architectural Review, October 1940, pp. 120-1

    Man Ray, Terrain Vague, 1929

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  • Foray in a Modern Reserve: An Impounding Portrait of Landuse (2016 – 2018)
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