Bram Thomas Arnold is an artist who started with walking and kept going, into performance; installation; drawing; academia; broadcasting and writing. His trans-disciplinary practice was instigated under Shelley Sacks at Oxford Brookes University before studying an MA in Arts & Ecology at Dartington College of Arts. Alongside a transient upbringing, moving from Switzerland through Belgium and Holland into England and Wales, his approach to study has manifested itself into a practice that does not restrict itself to traditional notions, boundaries, mediums or modes of practice: an ecological form of practice that is both Conceptual in its methods whilst being Romantic in its outcomes.
As an artist he has built a piece of road in a forest, learned to translate Lithuanian, carried 60 English novels to New York, and set out to walk from his home in London to the place of his birth in Switzerland. His ecological practice has been exhibited broadly in the UK as well as abroad in exhibitions from New York to St. Petersburg. Most recently his practice based PhD was published by the University of the Arts London in 2016. Elements of this work have been published in Digital Creativity Journal, Ways To Wander (Triarchy Press) and his text/drawing series How To Walk (2009-2015) won the Plymouth Contemporary Open 2015. He is currently Creative Fellow at Exeter University, Associate Lecturer in Fine Art at Falmouth and a practicing artist.
Previous exhibitions include: This is The Future, Chiltern Sculpture Trail 2003; British Art Show 6, Newcastle, 2006; Deptford X Festival, London 2006; Conflux festival of Psychogeography, New York 2008; Artisterium, Tbilisi, Georgia 2012; Performance Writing 12, Arnolfini, Bristol 2012; Sideways: a festival of walking, Belgium 2012; Remote Performances, Scotland 2014; HIDE, Secret Garden Party, Cambridge 2016; Hermitage / Taking My Own Advice, Newlyn Gallery, Cornwall 2016, Bibliotherapy for the Anthropocene, Plymouth Art Weekender 2017, A Transect for Trelowarren, University of Exeter / Eden Project, 2019-.
FIELDWORK Q&A – April 2020
How is fieldwork part of your practice?
It would be odd for someone who claimed to be an artist, a pedestrian and a writer to not have a practice that involved some sort of fieldwork. Sometimes the field is a library, sometimes an estate, sometimes a laboratory and sometimes, when it is most comfortable, most personal, it is a journey. The great thing about making a journey, going for a walk, is that you get to break all your own rules if you want to, that’s why I make up rules anyway, to find out where things flex and where things break, and what happens if something breaks and you end up on the other side of the hedge, or walk into a room, metaphorically, that you’re not really conventionally meant to be in.
I have spoken about my walking practice in oak paneled rooms at the Sorbonné in Paris, in rooms at Russell group universities with biohazard stickers on the doors, and in town council chambers. Whilst undertaking a practice based PhD in, loosely, performance-writing, my Director of Studies and I used to discuss how you didn’t simply need to know which field you were in, but you needed to know about the soil, and what geology was going on underneath, you needed to be able to describe the neighboring blades of grass whilst also knowing what was just the other side of that hedge way over there.
Fieldwork for me is more like a Venn diagram, than Lewis Carroll’s checkerboard landscape.
How would you describe your fieldwork activity?
W.G. Sebald once wrote that he undertook his PhD like a dog, looking for something in a field, to watch the dog was to have no sense that there was anything rational going on, but the dog would inevitably find what it was looking for with remarkable efficiency. Fieldwork is the process of approaching nested circles, and discerning or distilling relevance that traverses the fields.
How are you currently sharing your fieldwork?
To be honest I feel I am going through something of a step change at the moment. I am about to close my website for a while for a period of redevelopment and reconsideration. I feel almost the need to say I don’t have a regular outlet for my fieldwork, but that perhaps I need one, that perhaps this site is it, or perhaps it’s not.
I have recently shown some work from A Transect for Trelowarren as part of an exhibition at the Eden Project, and my iterative happening Bibliotherapy for the Anthropocene takes place on an irregular monthly basis the next one being as part of the OD Arts Festival in Somerset in May, though I may do a couple of fieldwork versions in Cornwall prior to this.
A Transect for Trelowarren