Compressed Time Frames

Here we are in Leeds and Dortmund, by way of this blog post, about our Compressed Time Frames exhibition:

The site-specific, site-displaced installation that was destined for Basement Arts, Leeds has been postponed. Our intricate assemblage of lost, nurtured and found objects combining sound, sculpture, and imagery almost became realised last month, but Covid struck again and the delicate filaments subsided once more.

At the centre of the exhibition is time, webs, and branches—and at the margins too—to break the binary, and , yes, branch out, and time out! We need more time, and so the double delay to our exhibition is in keeping with its message. Time compression inverted—the sense in this inadvertently goes back too to an earlier title we had for the exhibition, something to do with ‘inversions’, Basement Inversions – and here’s another version! If an exhibition is like a publication, we are uncharacteristically accurate, as our title is derived from compressed publication time frames—we have been framed, yes caught, in our title, turned untimely.


There is the tree-threading, and its indoor-sister, Ursula’s ‘Yarn and Branch’ sculptures—then there is the railway theme, brought about by Simon’s rail piece, and our railway derived title. What brings them together is the notion of the branch. Sculptures made with branches, whilst we, in Maryport, as far as the train line is concerned, on a branch line, like a tree branch it’s only a branch, off-centre, a connection close to the margin (of the country).:3

‘Railway Attraction’ is a piece that was part of Simon’s erstwhile Merz-Basement. The piece of rail was found in the vicinity of Holbeck Viaduct, Leeds. a fragment from a bygone age that sat within a bygone basement for many years. The oral history of the piece of rail found its way into his first Holbeck Audiowalk. In its previous basement position, it had accreted a series of objects and framings that made it appear as a kind of shrine. It was so well-hidden in plain sight that acute observers claim to have had no recollection of it being there at all. It was there all along. Its sonic properties were less overwhelming than he might have imagined though. Certainly not as striking as the metallic ring in Lee Dorsey’s ‘Working in a coal mine’—rather dull, in fact. But there it was, transported to a new context where it looked out beyond onto a coastline shaped by the iron and coal industry. A few miles to the south, a rail manufacturer sent thousands of miles of rail out all over the world.


Those egg-boxes resonated with Simon’s ‘Private Member’ sculpture, which is made of paper-mulch, just like Ursula’s egg-boxes. Also their relation to time and its frames, perhaps here in form of a time-box: venue of the storage of time-based products.T

Private Member has uncovered his mother. We call her ‘Top Secret’, or ‘Topsey’, for short. She is made from shredded and mulched data from a highly sensitive project Simon has been working on since lockdown. Under no circumstances must this data be viewed… ‘by anyone’! We may be lucky to catch a glimpse of her at some point and from some angle. Both she and Privey will be making an appearance at Basement Arts, together with their Box of Silence, which had its debut in Holbeck in commemoration of John Cage’s.Centennial back in 2012.

This Side That Side:

Ursula: The Solway reminds me of Germany, in a curious way—when I say I am from Germany, it is impossible to know whether this means East, or West Germany, and now when I say I am at the Solway, it is impossible to know whether this means the Scottish, or the English Solway—both sides are possible, in either case. Confusions are integral to these locations, side by side.

Simon: The sound piece, ‘This Side—That Side’ evolved out of several tests using a new instrument. After many years playing cumbersome acoustic instruments and pairing up with several eminent synth players, I was catalysed by lockdown to start working more seriously with audio synthesis myself and so I acquired a portable affordance with real knobs and pads, avoiding recourse to laptops… at all costs. An enduring fascination with the liminal, and with crossing lines of all kinds encouraged these first steps.

This Side—That Side


Simon’s ‘Web of Ages’ found an echo in Ursula’s nets. She used, nets around fruit and veg, which she liked for their resemblance with fishing nets, and for their spaces in between: between nets is where the ‘internet’ spaces are!

Also, in response to Simon’s cobweb, which has a history of staying and growing in one place for a long period of time, I decided to make a web.about my moving..

The ‘Web of Ages’ was tragically compressed by electro-static forces when Simon tried to rescue it from its former basement. Having been carefully removed from the ceiling and walls, it was laid out on a table to be somehow protected for its journey. The subsequent attempt to place it in a plastic folder resulted in an immediate and catastrophic compression. Cobwebs have an interesting relationship with static electricity, using it to pull passing insects towards them. The pull of the plastic was too much and the open web retracted into a dark, solid mass. The delicate task to re-frame it using found glass is now underway.


Ursula had been looking at trees, and layering yarn around them, to represent some of their vast networks of tree roots that they communicate with. So here was another web: Simon’s web, scrunched up by the passage of time was in the process of becoming invisible, whereas Ursula was making lines visible with yarn, that were invisible to us. The tree root network, we now know of as the Wood Wide Web, a mychorrhizal network is like a subterranean, or subconscious connection articulated. Freud arise!

A sheet of A4 charting bird flights across a window when Simon was unable to walk for a few days became the backdrop for the living ‘Web of Ages’. The sketch forms a yet to be realised score, that could become realised as the synth experiments develop. The silent lines, Cage’s silence in Holbeck become a kind of meta-constitutive silence.


As our exhibition has been postponed twice, are we now: post-time, outside the frame of time, bent? Framed out, timed out, on a frame train, rather than a freight train.

The only way is UP, is revealed by a broken hourglass made mostly of plastic. Look closely, there is no sand. Whichever way up you place it, time is up! This side up, that side up. But that is no reason to give up.


We were going to show our Compressed Time Frames installation in the run-up to COP26, and instead we will be going: to the actual event itself to highlight the compressed time frames we face in the environment. Our constant recycling of materials and ideas with reach full force as we make a public declaration of our love for this awesome planet.

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