The Boundary chronicles the seventy-five hour walk around Sheffield’s metropolitan boundary line that was undertaken by artists Ruth Levene and Ian Nesbitt in 2013. Shot over nine days this multi-media exhibition sets out to explore issues surrounding land use, heritage and sense of place by combining mediums such as photography, film & audio and research.
Dominating the exhibition space is an audio-visual journal of the pilgrimage. The decision to convey each of the narrators through their own dedicated speaker creates the presence of two unseen characters describing their trek around the furthest reaches of our city’s metropolis.
The project proposed a strong premise and subjects discussed throughout ranged from the physical experience of our two nomadic protagonists to the ethereal musings of half-formed ideas that never quite reached completion. The artists themselves observe that it is a project which spawns more questions than it answers and so we are presented with ponderous stills and video of the sights of The Boundary and a myriad of observations of the man-made claims to the land, in the form of signs and paths, and the natural landscapes and wildlife. The result is a journey that feels personal yet somewhat passionless, and one can’t help but wonder what the project could have resembled if the artists had chosen to engage with the human element of the city’s boundary.
Levene muses on the things discarded on the city’s boundary lines whilst we are shown houses and communities in the background of shots, yet they’re never the focus as if it is the communities on these boundaries that have been discarded from the project. The piece often portrays The Boundary as somewhat lifeless through shots of endless landscape with no focus, discussions of the afterlife and ominous imagery paralleling the famous red coat scene in Schindler’s List, solidifying its gaze away from the places on The Boundary that serve as a community and a home.
As the piece offers little conclusion it serves to remind us that just as the artists circled our city to observe the journey itself, it’s also the nature of contemplations to be something that is travelled regardless of whether a destination is reached, and it is through the artists’ own words we are told that with no revelation and no flash of light, travelling in circles seems to make a lot of sense.
Keep an eye out for the next exhibition at Bloc Projects on their website.
Words by Sian Ellis
Images & video courtesy of Ruth Levene & Ian Nesbitt