Anne Waggot Knott
Anne is a geographer and artist based in Cumbria. Her interdisciplinary work focuses on our physical and metaphorical journeys and connections with the landscape.
If all had gone to plan for this exhibition, I would have invited you to go outdoors and poke around the fells and lakes of Cumbria, to seek out fleeting glimpses of wild, dark, mysterious environmental artworks inhabiting our mountains and meres. I would have tried to get you to understand our chocolate box landscape in a new way.
Covid-19 put a stop to all that, for now.
In March 2020 my working parameters changed overnight, physically and psychologically. Initial disappointment gave way to a realisation that this was a unique opportunity to explore an unprecedented situation. For thousands of years, art has been pivotal in recording crises and social change. Soul-searching, I realised this was such an important time for artists to be working.
Instead of lakes and mountains I looked to our domestic environs and anchored my project around a family of four old, mismatched wooden chairs. Chairs are very symbolic, grounding us in our environment to pause, think, connect with others. They became my miniature landscapes.
I started documenting the pandemic using them as both canvas and inspiration. Their structure invited craft-based approaches and the thought that they were once used for now much-missed social gatherings was evocative.
How do we furnish our lives during such strange times?
Gradually I themed the chairs: one for lockdown, one for movement, a third for natural habitats and a fourth for the human body. It was strangely liberating to respond with no studio and very limited materials to such an unpredictable situation.
This exhibition offers reflections on this significant piece of past and thoughts on this uncertain future. Both can be beautiful.
Anne Waggot Knott / 22 May 2020
This chair was my visual journal for lockdown. I returned to it periodically to attach elements of importance. It is a set of prompts, experiments, spin-offs, a dumping ground for thoughts and emotions. It is ambiguous: nothing is clear. Clarity is a rare commodity right now.
The grid structure of Keeping things for best is meaningless borrows from Foucalt's concept of Quadrillage, using the built environment as a method of social control during the plague in Paris. The empty chairs speak for themselves. In contrast, the captions and the title are lifted lightheartedly from the headlines in various middle-class UK style supplements. Some people will curate a perfect lifestyle despite our desperate circumstances!
Thoughts generated by my journal chair for lockdown also inspired the following short film, Words are Weapons ii.
The chair for lockdown needed an antithesis, an embodiment of what we cannot achieve in our current capacity: movement. I started to covet extensive movement after a few weeks - cravings for travel and exploration. You always want what you cannot have, in an increasingly crazy sort of way.
This chair is an achingly cool 1960s model with a pattern of six intriguing holes in the backrest. Perfect for miniature explorations by these wild creatures, this mama and her bébés. I cannot stop the wild things creeping in. Together we created a story of movement, observation, capture and imprisonment.
We have hunkered down, nesting and making home like never before. We have planted ourselves. We have watched through the window, from our daily walks, as nature luxuriates in this slower pace of human life.
Our homes are little stage sets, capsules for performance, for rest, nourishment and repeat performance. Eat, watch, sleep, repeat.
>> the human body
My fourth and final chair deals with us, the humans, in a physical sense. This crisis brings a huge question to the fore: how do we feel about the fragility of the human body? About our connection to the world? We all encounter the death of loved ones at some point but it is often so very private and personal. Only something on this scale forces Brits to consider the act of death collectively in such a raw way, as a community, as a nation, as a human race.
Anne Waggot Knott 2020