If Ever You’re In The Area was held in two phases at coastal locations and art venues in the East of England during 2005 and 2006. Created over an intense period of two years, this complex and collaborative environmental project is an exploration of war, migration, identity and fear of invasion (see also essay by Laura Early below).
If Ever You’re In The Area started with a solo show at firstsite, Colchester, (18 June- 23 July 2005) and five temporary installations at Bawdsey on the Suffolk coast, a landscape dotted with the remains of military installations and ravaged by coastal erosion. The central work Lines of Defence was available on-line throughout 2005, bringing together a local and on-line community following the fate of an installation of lettered flags on the cliffs, which disappeared with seventeen metres of land. The work now exists as a 30 minutes time-lapse film and image archive.
Introduction by Laura Early, firstsite
Every victory leaves another resentment, another defeated and humiliated people. Another place to guard and defend and fear. What I learned about war before I came to this lonely place were things any child could have told me.
Jeanette Winterson, The Passion
Over an intense two-year period, Bettina Furnée has produced a significant body of work under the title If Ever You’re in the Area: an exploration of war, migration, identity and fearing attack. It began with an exhibition at firstsite, Colchester (18 June – 23 July 2005), an occasion that marked a physical movement for Furnée’s work, from external locations to a traditional – and indoor – context. Site specific interventions are another feature of the project. Developed along the East coast, they have incorporated chosen audiences and places. In the final phase these two aspects come together, with pieces being sited inside and outside for an exhibition at the Naze Tower, Walton-on-the-Naze (10 June – 16 July 2006).
Text and collaborative working are central to Furnée’s artistic practice, and become uniting factors between the different elements and settings used within If Ever You’re in the Area. In this publication, produced at the project’s culmination, its entirety is brought together; gallery works, interventions and installations can be considered side by side, forming one distinct visual language.
The words, poems and fragments that are the textual basis of each artwork have been assembled from various sources. Together with the work of professional poets, the artist drew on responses gathered at community events organised to enable direct interaction with those ‘in the area’. This collective quality of Furnée’s collaborations gives an authenticity to her narrative; a sense of personal legacy lies within If Ever You’re in the Area.
The coastal sites used are places resonating with meaning: where military structures of watchtowers and bunkers remain; erosion of the coastline reveals natural invasion; and local communities hold on to memories of former conflicts. Lines of Defence, sited at Bawdsey in Suffolk, is one such example and central to the body of work. Here individually lettered flags were positioned on the land’s edge, disappearing to visually record the seventeen metres worn away over eight months.The progress of Lines of Defence, along with other works, was tracked during 2005 on the If Ever You’re in the Area website: a platform to access and engage with the project as a whole. As Furnée’s flags were lost to the sea, their finders were asked to send her a message of discovery. This element of unexpected, but welcomed, participation has existed throughout the project. An active, even performative quality is evident too. From an invitation to place pebbles in and around a constructed cenotaph at firstsite, conversations held over tea, to the signalling by individuals at the Naze Tower across the sea to others in the Principality of Sealand, If Ever You’re in the Area has constantly involved as it evolved. More significantly, such direct perspectives have not only fed into the work but also seem to have validated it.
firstsite is privileged to have been part of the realisation and presentation of If Ever You’re in the Area, and to be producing Furnée’s first publication. The artist is grateful to Arts Council England for their generous support through Grants for the Arts, and to Elizabeth Fisher for her essay locating the project within a wider historical and contemporary art framework. Poets Simon Frazer and Tony Mitton, whose texts are reproduced throughout this book, must also be acknowledged for their valued contributions.