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Somewhere & Nowhere – Alice Oliver

‘Somewhere & Nowhere’ is a documentation of a road trip my father and I took across South Wales at the beginning of 2019. 

My father was born here and grew up in the town of Bridgend, but moved to London over fifty years ago and has not lived in Wales since. It wasn’t until I moved to Swansea a few years ago that the landscape of South Wales once again became a district of situation for my family.

It was important to show the chorus of memory and place, not just with the time-worn land and Silurian rocks, but also the Wales that is closer to us – the council estates and the pebbledash.  

The effect of such small and forgotten impressions on memory is well-known. Whether we like it or not, we are bound to the places that formed us and so the very shape of memory is that of the land. Even from a distant past, out of which nothing subsists, it is the land that may bear something – imperceptibly – from out of deep time, long untouched.

We passed in unison through this vacant terrain, along invisible lines, breathing older airs that we had been absent from. The further we went, the gentle tilt of the green hills retreated up into into the distant peaks and beacons, where the seconds grind the mountains down, down the valley and river, over the steelworks and the coal fields and the people, into grit and sand, washed away and blown out into the almighty recesses of the unquiet sea.

And while there is sometimes a sense of no time – of stasis – there is also the reminder that all time is running here, all at once, stacked and looped upon itself. Perhaps then, under all that is human, you find the true path of memory as it is eroded from the great ranges and edifices, transited into silt and dust, down the incline into nothing. It was in the car that he began to tell me the stories of his time there. Fragments only, but precious, to be kept.

I am a contemporary photographer and visual artist currently completing a Masters at the Royal College of Art. My practice often investigates our surrounding landscape, considering the notions of our sense of place, memory and relationships to the land. My work also often considers the interactions between the spectator and the art being viewed, exploring the temporality of spectatorship, often through the use of interactive forms of photography like installation, moving image and photobooks. /

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