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J a n e t  M c E w a n

Holding Movements

Holding Movements I: Describing the Farm


Helston Museum, located in the former butter and meat markets of Helston town, Cornwall, houses a rich and diverse collection of historical artifacts from the locale, including an impressive display of objects, images and relics associated with the world of agriculture which evidence the immense changes in farming in the region, within the living memory of many.


Due in part to the conflicting agendas driven by concerns around both food security and climate change, the 21st Century Holding is expected to produce diverse wildlife habitats, (and wildlife), attractive landscapes accessible to the public, historical features, ‘agritainment’, as well as wholesome affordable food, which meets rigorous health & safety and animal welfare guidelines, while promoting cultural values.

Arguably, in times past the farming community probably delivered these benefits informally, and most, though not all, farms have managed to accommodate the varied demands of the present; improvising and adapting in order to survive. Despite differences in scale and a shift away from the mixed farm, so well represented in Helston museum, one core skill requirement would seem constant; the ability to dialogue with the ‘natural’ world.


Holding Movements is a visual diary tracing seasonal events and phenomena in and around my home, between May and September 2011. Movements recorded within this time window range from the almost imperceptible to the dramatic, such as the complete construction of an industrial solar farm in neighbouring fields.

As I live on a small grass farm near Cornwall’s North Coast which supports grazing animals, the condition and rate of growth of the sward is of paramount importance, and features frequently in this journal of photographic images; mostly luminograms and solargrams. With exposure times from several minutes up to 4 months long, the sun has etched reports directly on to light sensitive paper and offers a counterpoint to the digital photographs which include images of tiny invertebrates extracted from a farm soil sample, with the assistance of Rothamsted Research in Devon, which is in the process of developing North Wyke Farm Platform; a unique resource for in depth agro-ecological research, training and knowledge exchange.


Holding Movements, not only documents an effort to connect with and describe a contemporary agricultural situation in Cornwall; the tangible challenges and opportunities, but also attempts to convey my observations and understanding of the farm as the physical manifestation of an ever evolving living system of exchange, informed by deeply situated, embodied and often tacit knowledge acquired in the main through working directly with the land over time. At this point in time I feel I have a very great deal yet to know.


Holding Movements is presented in association with the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution.

RABI is a national farming charity, which supports members of the farming community suffering need, hardship or distress.


Helston Folk Museum, Cornwall.

24th October – 4th November 2011


‘Farm as though you were going to live forever,  and live as though you were going to die tonight’


James Stevens. A Cornish Farmer’s Diary.  1877 - 1912


Installation images can be viewed:


Critical Response by Mary Fletcher>

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