The Shack in The Swiss Alps
All work and photographs © Lucy Gregory
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About the work
Extract from MA Dissertation:
The Shack in the Swiss Alps: An Interaction Between the Real and the Virtual, 2017
There is an abandoned film set in the woods local to my home, where filming for a blockbuster took place several summers ago. Two years have passed since the filming ceased and the shack in the Swiss Alps is slowly disintegrating. I have been observing the degeneration of this strange, liminal structure for some time now, as I walk through the snow-covered forest floor each week.
As the site is approached a large orange wall of foam conceals the way in, held upright and in place by a rudimentary steel structure bolted together. A man-made construction imitating a piece of rocky, jagged landscape on the front face is attached to the real trees either side. Expanding foam balloons and swells like mushrooms over the entire frame - ugly, jarring and artificial juxtaposed with the colours and textures of the encroaching foliage. Orientating through the two large, movable rock doors the shack comes into view. Despite the sunshine and the feeling of the warm air on my uncovered shoulders, the light dusting of snow on the sloping roof remains flawless, untouched and un-melted. The same substance coats trees, branches and piles of logs in the vicinity - as if this peculiar place has its own microclimate of plastic and chemicals.
Importantly, this chalky spattering doesn’t seem to end in a neat line relational to the blind spot of the lens or where the camera stops panning, but coats ancient trees up into the canopy level, invading and poisoning adjacent grasslands on the haymaking fields. Perhaps I am observing the aftermath of an explosion? The semi- permanent sludge has solidified and crusted over like a scab, destroying all romantic visions and imaginings of gentle snowfall in a silent and deserted woodland. The white gradually fades out as I walk deeper into the dim forest, further down the stony track - out of the sun and into the cool air, enveloped by shadows and ferns. An atmosphere of a sticky parasitic substance calls into question the true ‘edge’ of the film set. It is not just the constructed elements within the rock doors but perhaps the whole woodland is activated now.
The concept of the threshold is important, and this essay aims to question where boundaries lie, referring specifically to the experience of looking and advancing through an ambiguous space built to be viewed on a screen, grounded by the logic of cinematic framing devices. Boundaries are only produced in the process of passage: not so much defining the route, but it is movement that defines and constitutes boundaries. These boundaries, consequently, are more porous, less fixed and rigid than is commonly understood - there is already an infection by one side of the border of the other (1). The fakery of representation can generate a new reality - the set now moves forward with its own agency and new history in the forest, abandoned by cast and crew, and estranged from its timeless and spatially flat cinematic representation, moving formlessly and intangibly through digital networks, compressed from light in the lens of the camera, to data, and finally, light is extended again as a cinematic projection with the human eye at the center of the system of representation. The mountainous illusion is constructed from stage flats on stands, and also a deeper architectural space of the shack (wide enough to walk into). The structure itself backs onto a flat section of grey, plastic, craggy mountain face, and I am considering this building to be a stretched façade. (A façade is usually a single skin or layer, like a veneer. There are flat elements within the set but the shack itself is architectural - its structure warped and foreshortened, taller than it is wide, lingering in a position between surface and structure.)
Behind the wall the ground sharply slopes away into wasteland below, the shack teetering dangerously on the edge of existence and destruction, reality and virtuality.
(1) Elizabeth Grosz, Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Real and Virtual Space (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2001), p.64.
Text source: Artist website