Alongside the daily traffic of extreme cyclists, roaming sheep and warbling grouse, the wild terrain of Ilkley Moor played host yesterday to the latest instalment of Norwegian-Finnish duo Karoline Hjorth and Riitta Ikonen’s Eyes as Big as Plates project.
Using the area’s abundance of natural heather, bracken and moss, the artists are working with older people from West Yorkshire to create wearable sculptures and then photographing them as they become a part of the landscape.
I was lucky enough to join Karoline and Riitta, and their extremely accommodating subject Jean, as they took the three-day shoot to the hills above White Wells. Having been up since before sunrise conducting a shoot with another subject Stephen, the pair’s tireless energy and passion for their project staved off the chilly moors air, and the sight of a statuesque woman standing on a hill clad in what can best be described as a giant bird’s nest attracted a fair amount of attention from the many passing ramblers and dog walkers.
“Is this happening for any particular reason?” asked one curious walker, which was rather a difficult question to answer. In my capacity as marketing intern I was ready with a suitable answer geared towards promoting the Eyes as Big as Plates sharing event on Saturday; but as an art appreciator and spectator my response would have been far too long-winded for an outdoors conversation on a cold day.
Seeing Jean posing on the moor, with Riitta occasionally adjusting her bracken dress, and Karoline painstakingly composing the shot; it just made sense. At some point Jean stopped being an incongruous human figure against the lush green backdrop; she became a part of the scenery, a folk creature occupying the cave above. As Jean herself reflected after the shoot, the stillness imposed upon her by the cumbersome nature of the bracken sculpture forced her to appreciate her surroundings like never before, and notice the sounds, scents and minute details of a terrain she’s walked on a dozen times before but never truly seen.
For me, this is what Eyes as Big as Plates does best – it demonstrates that, despite our best efforts, we are as much a part of the natural landscape now as we ever were, and in using older models, people with experiences and stories to tell, they seem perfectly at home amongst the weathered rocks and battered trees that make the moors as wildly beautiful as they are.
Yorkshire Dance Marketing & Development Intern