Artweeks

The features in the landscape around here, including the fields, hedges and woods, have evolved over time through the intervention of the people who lived (and live) in this area. Our response to this living and created landscape and the smaller or larger changes that happen to it may reflect as much about how we individually engage with the world around us, including what our expectations about are for the 'natural world' and our values rather than any objective 'rightness' or beauty/ugliness in what we actually encounter.

When the wind turbines were erected here in 2008 there were many different reactions - "five daggers in the heart of the Vale" …."five beacons of hope" …. "wow - they're huge".

English artist Bridget Riley wrote - "For me nature is not landscape, but the dynamism of visual forces"

The 5 installations will be complimented by an improvised performance by artist and musician Chris Parks at the Aeolian Harp at 15.00 on Saturday 16th May and 13.00 on Monday 26th May.

There is also as opportunity to join a WeSET guided tour of the wind and solar farms on Saturday 23rd May at 11am.

The trail takes about 15 minutes to walk around and back. If you are unable to comfortably walk to the nearest wind turbine please drive carefully up the track to it. You can also make a longer walk past the solar farm which will take around 25 minutes.

The installations are

1. QR - WeSET Arts team

QR is deliberately provocative and informative. It enables people with QR readers and appropriate technology to access more information about this exhibition (and sounds of the sonic sculptures if the wind isn't blowing) from afar. It also challenges the notion of 'rightness' with a 'digital IT' installation in nature.

2. Field Notes - Will Menter

This piece was site specifically designed as a sonic sculpture that would 'work' with the shape and scale of the wind turbines. The ever-changing sounds are produced by the wind resonating across the clay flutes, which are designed over an octave.

Will Menter is an artist and musician now mainly constructing large, site specific instruments from natural materials. To contact Will or find out more about his work visit www.willmenter.com

Click below o hear a recording of Field Notes.....

3. Aeolian Harp - Chris Park

Chris Park is an artist, musician and storyteller whose influences and inspirations for this giant bass aeolian harp have come from folklore, pre-history and nature. The design of the harp itself is akin to an African Kora, a traditional instrument of West Africa, where Chris was taught to play one by Moriba Kuyateh. Any style of harp, left out in the wind can conjure haunting harmonics whose pitch and volume change, rising and falling, as the wind ever changes. Aeolian harps are designed to capture the wind and are named after the Aeolus, The Keeper of the Winds in Greek mythology. When commissioned to create a sound sculpture for the wind farm, Chris found a large hollow beech log and began to carve and experiment until eventually it began to play. The sculpture also speaks of the first ever harp, a British folktale that Chris tells and has adapted over the years, reminding us of the remains of ancient sea life that sits beneath the farm as coral rag limestone.' Click below to listen to the recordings.....

Chris can be contacted at www.acorneducation.com or on 07816591151

4. Gusty Gizmo, Bonus 1.3 MW wind turbine - Bonus engineers and designers

The wind turbines that are at Westmill are 50m to the hub with blades that are 32m long. They are coloured grey and the blades rotate at either 13 or 19 rpm depending on the wind strength.

This model was designed by a team of engineers and designers at the Bonus factory in Denmark just before the company was bought by Siemens. The design is a combination of both functionality and form. There are a dozens of different wind turbine designs - one with designed by Norman Foster's team - and they all have a different aesthetic feel, some more function than form. With this model the tapered tower and backwards tilting nacelle (hub) are all strong design elements. The line of the tower with all electrical accessories such as transformers placed out of sight inside the tower is intended to give a 'clean' look. The speed of blade rotation can influence how we perceive them when viewed from a distance.... 'busy' or 'relaxing'.

Up close, they are huge and powerful machines - particularly if there is a strong wind blowing. Standing in the shadow of the tip of the blade moving at 140 mph also gives strong impression of power and speed.

The colour is grey rather than white to fit with our skies are often greyish. There have been a number of different experiments at looking how to change the visual impact of wind turbines from optical patterning to break up their shape to grading of colours from earth to sky. As wind turbines need to catch the most wind they will always be situated where the wind is flows are optimal which results in a substantial degree of prominence in the landscape. Should they be made more of a 'feature' by brighter or more creative colouring schemes? What if the tip of the nacelle was painted with gold leaf like a church weather vane so it caught the sun?

The positioning and number of the turbines at Westmill is also deliberate incorporating both function and form. The turbines need to be a certain distance from each other so as not to interfere with the airflow to each one. They also are best placed across the prevailing wind direction. At Westmill they have been placed along the length of the field - to go with the grain of the site and contours, which is not quite at 90 degrees to the prevailing south westerly wind. During the planning application, at the public consultation, a number of layout options and numbers of turbines were presented - five in a straight line was the most popular. If there were seven turbines on the site would it look more 'packed'…. how different would it feel if there was just one turbine?

5. Landscape Interventions - All of us

From near Gusty Gizmo looking North you can see Coleshill village with the landscaped parkland of Coleshill House and the behind the ridge of the Cotswolds (including the line of pylons running west from Didcot). Turning clockwise, the woods of Badbury Hill (planted in the 1950s over an earlier iron age fort), then Faringdon and its Folly…… further to the East the cooling towers of Didcot power station, further on round, the line of wind turbines and solar farm nearby. Then the roofs of the industrial park, Watchfield and Shrivenham, traffic on the A420 and the start of the Berkshire Downs, the Manger the White Horse and Wayland's Smithy. On round to Foxhill, the 1940 hangars at Wroughton, the taller buildings of Swindon and further around to the West and Highworth and its church tower.

Except for the sky and the shape of the land all of the features that you can see from here are a result of human intervention, sometimes with an appreciation of the visual impact, mostly as function dictates. Except for the land itself, what we see is constantly evolving. Five thousand years ago mostly there would have been self sown forest. From then on Neolithic peoples began the process of intervention by clearing the forest to plant crops.… almost all the trees, shrubs and grass or arable crops in the fields you can see now have been deliberately placed there, some just a few months ago . Three hundred years ago you would be standing in the centre of a track leading to Coleshill House (burnt down in 1952), which was uncovered whilst constructing the access road for the wind farm; seventy years ago this site was an active RAF airfield - Arnhem Camp - now, bar the concrete fence posts at the field edge there are almost no traces of that activity.

The WeSET Arts Team can be contacted via adam@westmillsolar.coop

registered charity no. 1158820

Wind farm location: Westmill Wind Farm, Watchfield, Swindon, SN6 8TH - beside A420 and off B4508