Determined Pasts

blog by Anne WagGot Knott

Determined Pasts (iv) by Anne Waggot Knott

Pitted metal, sinking, taking its stories down. Broken remnants of an excavation that shattered our bonds with this earth.

And now we pit ourselves against the tide of time, to build a fire once more. Our fingers and minds picking and unpicking, scratching and collecting.

In order to get on with designing forward-looking schools activities I felt a strong need to first make some work about the industrial past of Bolton Fell Moss. This is enabling me to consider and process the history of the site, freeing myself to move on in my creative mind.

Art piece: Determined Pasts (iii) by Anne Wagott Knott

Often we only understand a place in the context of what we can see there now, but the now is built on layers and layers of history. To understand a place more fully, we need to go back in time. This is particularly true of a peat bog.

I anchored Determined pasts around rusted metal fragments scavenged from the peat bog, left behind when the peat excavation came to an end. I think I have coined a new term: peatcombing.  A Google search for the word reports that “it looks like there aren’t many great matches for your search”, which is a rare and rather lovely thing to read.

I embellished these industrial remnants of peat excavation with waxed linen, a natural, malleable material. The colours of the thread are inspired by field visits to the bog, evident in the flora and fauna and the huge sky it shares with all of us.

Determined Pasts (i) artpiece by Anne Waggot Knott

By weaving the colours of a bright future around the redundant machinery parts I am wrapping up the destructive, invasive history, swathing and choking it with our newfound determination, our will to change things for the better. I am packing it away into the past and changing its context, but preserving its memory for a new and thoughtful audience.

Borrowing from ancient craft techniques, like weaving and basketwork, lends these pieces the aesthetic of archaeological relics or talismen. They toy with our recognition of time, seeming older than their rusty components, like trinkets from a pre-mechanised age. They blur the boundary between artworks and artefacts, between gallery pieces and museum exhibits.

And so I look back into the past and forward to the future. Understanding the long, deep passage of time, well beyond our own generation, is crucial in our quest to protect and nurture our peatbog environments.

Anne is one of the PLACE collective artists working on Moss of Many Layers. As part of her work, she is running creative activities with young people from nearby schools, helping them enjoy and engage with Bolton Fell Moss, a peat bog in north east Cumbria. The bog has been intensively excavated and depleted, the peat extracted for compost over a number of years, resulting in severe degradation. It is now a National Nature Reserve, and is being slowly restored.

Determined Pasts (ii) by Anne Wagott Knott

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