The Field Workings, 1971-4 Detail. Field Working Paper 9. 20th June 1972


The Field Workings 1971-74

The Field Working Project was conceived by Yates in March 1971 as a gallery installation project with slides, consisting of documentation and records of journeys made in the West Country landscape. The initial project lasted for three years and was based on journeys starting out from London. The initial Project consisted of thirteen Field Working Documents. (a few more similar projects were constructed over subsequent years involving journeys made in different parts of England, Wales and Scotland.

Some of the journeys involved minimalist object installations on arrival but which were always removed and taken away. The main intention was to document an event that never happened as it were - epiphanously: one travelled, one arrived, then left, the place remained as much as possible as if no-one had been there. 

In writing the documentation of the journeys later, from her initial notes made at the site, Yates explains that narrative would seem to abruptly jolt to a halt in a kind of freeze-frame and speech and the subject were eclipsed.

Marie Yates' image was never in the picture. In the notes made in situ, the first person was often present, but this presence was written out in the later revisions to remove too much of that which was personal - the subject. 

This was because by that time she was beginning to question the hierarchical relation between artist and observer and the so-called correct place of view assigned in traditional painting. The documents produced as object offered a distancing from the scenario through a fragmentary presentation - a shifting field of positions for view through both looking closely and at the same time distanced: the subject may become aware of looking and being looked at looking.

She felt strongly that the image or presence of a woman in those photographic records would have changed and undermined the whole event - the image would have transformed the event or non-event into a problem.

In Brecht's well known strategy of distanciation which he applied to theatre, his point was to liberate the viewer from the state of being captured by illusions of art which encourage passive identification with fictional worlds, instead the viewer was to become an active participant in the production of meanings across an event which was recognised as representation but which also referred to our understanding of social reality.

These concerns began to affect Yates' conceptualising of art projects at that time and led her into newly critical debate. So the Field Working Project became for Yates a battle over representation and the construction of meaning.

It is worth noting that from the start, her technique with the camera was decidedly un-photographic. Photography for Yates was always a means to an end in ways which had very little in common with the variety of attitudes that professional photographers might bring to bear on the landscape. This also became rather a discursive battle for her over the subsequent years."


The Field Workings, 1971-4 Installation.

Installation view Arnolfini Gallery 1973


The Field Workings, 1971-4 Installation.

Installation view Arnolfini Gallery 1973


The Field Workings,1971-4, No 7. 1972.(detail of 9 colour photographic images and texts). Collection of TATE.



Installation views,Field Working 7 1972, Richard Saltoun Gallery 2016.


Field Working Paper 11. - 22nd June 1972 - River Mardle, Buckfastleigh Village, Devon.(7 b/w images)




Durgan Field Working 1974 - Collection The Arts Council