In light of widespread focus on control measures put in place to stem the spread of the COVID-19 disease I’m drawn to reflect on control as a mechanism and how decisions are made at the onset. Nature repeatedly reasserts its power over us where we’ve tried to take the higher ground, reclaiming its status as the overwhelming arbiter of control. When we seek to work against nature such as the introducing of species that wouldn’t ordinarily come into contact in the wild, and enabling humans to travel across the globe so readily, do we create sets of controls that when interact have undesirable and consequences. And if so, how many more seemingly disparate unnatural processes are closing in on each other.
Reservoir explores control as a wider mechanism through the flooded Longdendale Valley, to designs by Civil Engineer of note John Frederick Bateman between 1848 and 1877. A chain of seven reservoirs were created on the River Etherow to serve the communities and mills around Longdendale and Greater Manchester. At the time these actions would have resulted in significant upheaval to the communities that lived and worked along the river. Many buildings were submerged that can still be seen during low water levels.
My hope is to provide a contemplative perspective on the interconnected manifestations of control using a subject that avoids encouraging a polarised response.
Bottoms reservoir, being the reservoir depicted, was established as one of the lower reservoirs in the chain of seven to regulate the downstream flow during the 1860s and 70s. The site was originally home of two mills. Bottoms Mill, and Vale House Mill, both drawing power from the flow of the River Etherow. The new mills that were being built in the surrounding area during the industrial revolution drew many people to the area to form a workforce. As a result the population swelled and water for drinking become as much of a necessity as water for power.
We see evidence that the landscape has been altered through not just changes to the flow of water but the cycling tracks for recreation, the degradation of land at waters edge, and the adaption of local flora to this changed environment.
In the form of diptychs I have connected pairs of images physically so that connections between elements from each photograph might be revealed. This alludes to the interconnectivity that stems from any form of control as it expands, outwards forming new and more complex sets of control. And the long term effects of seemingly small or in this case seemingly trivial controls - due to them being long established, having wider and wider implications as time goes on. A butterfly effect.
Control is an adaptive mechanism that is sometimes put in place to bring about a certain set of circumstances. But who implements the control, and who do the intended consequences primarily serve? Do the regulators consider the ripples that continue to emanate long after the initial splash, and how these ripples interact with other ripples.